In a country that is becoming increasingly theocratic, there may be hope on the horizon. I am 22 years old, part of Generation Y, which has now been named "The Millennials" (because most of us have come of age - 18 years old - in the first decade of the new millennium.). The Millennials are defined as anyone who was born since 1982. Most Millennials are now in middle school, high school, college, or the young adult world. Most of us are not even married yet. We don't hold the reigns of power yet... that still belongs to the Baby Boomers... but it won't be long before the Boomers get too old and the power of this United States of America falls into the hands of the Millennials. For those who believe in civil rights and separation of church and state, this will most likely be a good thing.
Growing up with the Millennials, I have seen first hand what is happening in this generation and why we are different from generations before us in an important way. We are the most progressive, integrated, tolerant, and least religious generation that has come in a long while. While I will admit that there are small pockets of religionist Millennials, it should be known that the vast majority of these Millennials are this way simply because they were both indoctrinated into extreme fundamentalism from birth AND because they were cut off from the main surge of Millennials, which tend to reside in the public schools and public and "liberally religious" Universities. The majority of Millennials seem to fit into our main "culture."
Like pretty much all generations of young people before us, we have designed our own culture... which is currently baffling the older generations not used to Millennial morals and social practices. We are the generation of the internet. Millennials are extremely active in blogs and forums and are fond of blabbing in front of their webcams for YouTube. We have made up our own terminology for new and old topics... most of which is our new invented "texting language." Some of it is off the internet though... sort of... we don't seem to ever be totally "off the internet."
Some examples of our "lingo":
"tweet" - To post a short message on Twitter.com
"sexting" - a taboo practice (even among Millennials) of sending a naked photo of yourself to someone in a text message. - Most of our generation finds this behavior "slutty."
"emo" - a subculture in the Millennial population which is a subcategory in the "goth" culture that not only dresses "vampire-like" but differs from normal goths in their emphasis on constantly putting on an air of extreme melancholy including pessimistic attitudes, almost never smiling, and cutting themselves (not because they're mentally ill but because they think it's cool).
"douchebag" or "douche" for short - an insult that refers to someone who's being an idiot or an asshole.
"creeper" - another name for a pervert that is either... 1. a stalker 2. too sexually aggressive to the point of being creepy 3. way too old to be dating the Millennial he/ she is hitting on, etc.
"attention whore" - someone who will do anything to get attention... and always has to be the center of it
"69" - (I don't know if this one originated from us) - sexual position of two person oral sex - at the same time.
"noob" - someone new to something, usually used to make fun of them
"word vomit" - saying something stupid without thinking
"my bad" - an apology
"dissed" - someone said an insult or comeback that made you look like an idiot
"planking" - a strange "sport" involving climbing on surfaces and trying to balance on your stomach for longer than someone else.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.
The point is, Millennials are both similar to and different from previous generations.
Millennials are prone to the normal adolescent stupidity and rebelliousness.... but... there is something different about us. Of all the generations that have come before us in recent times, we seem to be the most literate about and accepting of other cultures, lifestyles, etc.
For example... when I was in high school there was an openly gay "flamer" in the class below mine. Here's what's interesting about that.... most of the Millennials that were in the same school as him didn't give a damn. In fact, girls especially seemed to take to hanging out with him. One of the most amusing memories I have of Deven was that although he was a big guy that looked like a football player in a pink polo and make up, he was always being pushed around by a pack of girls half his size: "Deven, I don't care! You're going!" "Deven stop that!" "Deven come here!"
Furthermore... gender roles are lessened in my generation. Guys who were singers or in the band were not made fun of, and girls that were jocks or in the computer club were not assumed to be lesbians (most of the time).
Probably the most visible change, however, was with the overwhelming "color-blindness" and religious acceptance among us. Interracial dating was looked at as not a big deal. There was a popular black drummer in jazz band who had dated about a million (exaggeration) white girls... and no one cared. No one cared if you were a Jew and there are several out atheists and pagans that wander about .... and very few Millennials harrass them about it.
In contrast to what the media likes to portray us as.... we are not apathetic or selfish. Millennials are usually very interested in other cultures and points of view, active in politics, and deeply caring for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Yes... we do indulge in fornication and pot and booze... but I can't understand why so many boomers are bashing us for that when they were doing the same thing in the sixties and seventies "flower - child" era.
Why do I think Millennials are hope for secularists? Well... thats because one of the most striking trends is the vast and growing number of Millennials sickened and disillusioned with religious right Christianity... which appears to many of us as hypocritical, bigoted, and totally out of step with our generation. Yes... most Millennials are "Christians" but I use that word tentatively because although most of us claim we are "Christians" very few actually care much about their religion. They pray and usually own bibles... but few of these "christians" ever read their bibles... and even fewer go to church... except on Christmas Eve. Among Millennials saying "Oh my God" or "Bless you" are just knee-jerk exclamations that don't really have any religious meaning left.
But even more interesting is how many Millennials belong to unusual categories with regards to their views on religion.
A vast majority of us scowl at the idea of obligatory prayer or bible reading in school and we think creationism is so ridiculous that we like to make fun of it. Millennial Youtuber Making Fun of Creationism
The Internet has exposed us to a lot of different ideas...
and the result is that the prediction of some atheists... that religion would die from the internet... appears to be coming true.
My generation has more people willing to openly call themselves "atheists" "agnostics" "spiritual but not religious" "religious but hate religious institutions" "pagans", etc than any generation before us. And the numbers are growing at a rate that should truly alarm the religious right. They may think we're stupid, lazy, selfish, hedonistic, apathetic, children now... but they don't seem to realize just how much power we are gaining even now and will continue to gain. I say that religion (at least fundamentalist religion) dies at the feet of millennials.
According to the Alternet article Goodbye Religion , the statistics from the Millennials don't look good for Christian Righters:
"If you've been paying close attention over the past decade, you might have seen any of a growing number of cases that conspicuously defy these stereotypes [see above mentioned stereotypes of Millenials]: stories of teenagers who have strong principles they're unashamed to display and which they're committed to defending, even at great personal cost, against the bullying of a hostile establishment."
- Millennials are not afraid to express their opinions.
"Americans are becoming less religious, with rates of atheism and secularism increasing in each new generation. This demographic transformation has been in progress ever since World War II, but in recent years it's begun to seriously pick up steam."
- The Death of Religion is accelerating in the Millennial generation
". In the generation born since 1982, variously referred to as Generation Y, the Millennials, or Generation Next, one in five people identify as nonreligious, atheist, or agnostic. In the youngest cohort, the trend is even more dramatic: as many as 30% of those born since 1990 are nonbelievers. Another study, this one by a Christian polling firm, found that people are leaving Christianity at four times the rate that new members are jo...."
- Christianity is driving us away big time
"(89% of Generation Nexters approve of interracial marriage, compared to 70% of older age groups) and same-sex marriage (47% in favor among Nexters, compared to 30% in older groups). When it comes to issues like whether gays and lesbians should be protected from job discrimination or allowed to adopt, the age gap in support is even more dramatic (71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44%, respectively)."
- Millennials are far less likely to hold the old stereotypes and far more likely to view these old stereotypes as bigotted and out of synch with the times.
"And young people have gotten this message loud and clear: polls find that the most common impressions of Christianity are that it's hostile, judgmental and hypocritical. In particular, an incredible 91% of young non-Christians say that Christianity is "anti-homosexual", and significant majorities say that Christianity treats being gay as a bigger sin than anything else."
- Millennials get the impression that Christianity is a "grumpy old geezer" system
"Younger folks favor full access to the morning-after pill by a larger margin than older generations (59% vs. 46%). They reject the notion that women should return to "traditional roles" -- already a minority position, but they disagree with it even more strongly than others. And they're by far the least likely of all age groups to say that they have "old-fashioned" values about family and marriage (67% say this, as compared to 85% of other age groups)."
- Millennials are disgusted with the older generations' woman-hating.
"...Today, 17% of Americans say they have no religion, and these new "nones" are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation -- roughly four times higher than in any previous generation."
- The percentage of non-religious Millennials is almost twice that of the American population in general... and growing by the year apparently.
"In fact, there are indications that it's a vicious circle: as churches become less tolerant and more conservative, their younger and more progressive members depart, which makes their average membership still more conservative, which accelerates the progressive exodus still further, and so on. (A similar dynamic is at work in the Republican party, which explains their increasing levels of insanity over the past two or three decades.)"
- The trend of conservatives "turning off" Millennials is accelerating out of control.
"39 percent of Southern Baptist churches in 2005 reporting baptizing no teens. (source)"
- This one came from a christian source
So... maybe we are "apathetic" - if by "apathetic" conservatives mean that we don't give a fuck about their old geezer "values." - Then yes... we are VERY "apathetic."
So... if you ask me... hope lies on the horizon with the Millennials. We are a rising force... and at some point, America will have to deal with us.