A growing number of young people — largely millennials, though the trend extends to younger Gen Xers, now cresting 40, and down to Gen Z, the oldest of whom are freshly minted college grads — have turned away from traditional organized religion and are embracing more spiritual beliefs and practices like tarot, astrology, meditation, energy healing and crystals.
Today, young people still seek the things that traditional organized religion may have provided for their parents or grandparents: religious beliefs, yes, but also a sense of community, guidance, purpose and meaning. But it can be hard for young people to find those things in their parents’ religions. So they’re looking elsewhere.
On top of that, a lot of younger people feel alienated by mainstream religion — by attitudes toward LGBTQ people and women, by years of headlines about scandals and coverups, or by the idea that anyone who isn’t part of that religion is inherently bad or wrong.
One of the big draws for younger people about spiritual practices is the ability to “pick and choose,” said Jim Burklo, a progressive Christian reverend who works with college students as the senior associate dean of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life at USC. Spiritual practices appeal to the commitment-wary: You can get a little into crystals or astrology or tarot, or a lot into it. You can buy a few rose quartzes or light a few candles and if it’s meaningful for you, keep it; if not, it’s not like you went through a full religious conversion.
Astrologer Chani Nicholas said social media has helped guide the way for a lot of young people. Nicholas is based in L.A. and has just shy of a quarter million followers on Instagram. The majority of her social media following is people ages 25-34, solidly in millennialia.
Before the internet, people who held beliefs outside the mainstream — religious, political or otherwise — lacked a public way to connect with one another. With social media, she said, divinatory practices like astrology, crystals and tarot have been able to take up space in a public conversation. It helps that they all look great on Instagram.
Leah Garza, who makes crystal jewelry, said that growing up she was never particularly religious; her parents were Christian but not devout when she was growing up. As she’s advanced her spiritual practice, she said she feels even more disconnected from traditional organized religion.
“Unlike in certain dogmatic religions where there’s a right and wrong way to be a practitioner, there isn’t that in these nondenominational spiritualities, which I think is so beautiful,” Garza said. “There isn’t one way to be a human being.”
Full story at The LA Times.