Honest answers are no reason to panic

There has been much angst in the blogosphere the past couple of days over a new Pew Survey showing that more Millennials are doubting that God exists than the same group did 5 years ago. Here's how the CNN religion blog put it:

The percentage of Americans 30 and younger who harbor some doubts about God's existence appears to be growing quickly, according to a recent Pew Research Center Survey. While most young Americans, 68%, told Pew they never doubt God's existence, that's a 15-point drop in just five years.

In 2007, 83% of American millennials said they never doubted God's existence.

More young people are expressing doubts about God now than at any time since Pew started asking the question a decade ago. Thirty-one percent disagreed with the statement, "I never doubt the existence of God," double the number who disagreed with it in 2007.

Much hand-wringing ensued. Was it the culture wars? The media? Permissive parenting? A self-centered society? Out-of-touch churches? Press the panic button! Sound the alarm! What should we do? WHAT CAN WE DO!

To which I want to say, are you reading the same survey I'm reading?

Listen carefully to the question:

"I never doubt the existence of God." Agree or disagree?

Frankly, I want to know who those 68% are (and those of other generations) who never doubt the existence of God. I wonder if they fall into one of these categories:

  1. People who have never thought about questions of faith one way or another in any depth.
  2. People who have never encountered something that challenges their faith.
  3. People who provide what they think ought to be the right answer.
  4. People who have forgotten that time in the middle of the night when they doubted the existence of God.
If the Pew people called me up right now and asked me this question, I would have to say that I have on occasion asked myself does God really exist. To which God usually laughs, which I find very reassuring.
The church has got a lot of issues related to ministering to young people. Worrying about how sometimes some of them doubt the existence of God is not one of them. Perhaps instead of asking ourselves, "What is to be done about it?" we can instead say, "Tell us about it." And then share our stories of doubt -- and renewal of faith.