In my series of reflections on the evolution of American religious identity from the 1950s to the present, which draw upon the Putnam/Campbell book American Grace I have noted that we've seen the nation's religiosity swing back and forth, from highly religious, to not so religious and then a return back to conservative religious values. That last more conservative era of young adults began to end early in the 1990s. Since then we've seen the pendulum swing the other way, and it is seen expressed most clearly in the movement away from "organized religion."
The question that lies before us is why this is happening, or more specifically -- what markers are there that suggest a trend. Robert Putnam and David Campbell point to attitudes among the rising generation toward homosexuality and marijuana. And, not surprising those who take a more liberal view of these two issues tend to predominate among "Nones." That is, as the authors note: "liberal views on sexual morality contributed to their disaffection from religion" (p. 130). This likely isn't news to many. In fact, while I don't care for the Kinnaman/Lyon's book UnChristian, they also demonstrate that those most disaffected by organized forms of religion find the church's views on homosexuality distasteful.
Consider what Putnam and Campbell write:
We make no strong claims about causation here, and we do not believe that it was simply differences over public policy that weakened the ties of this generation to organized religion. Rather, we suggest, the dramatic contrast between a young generation increasingly liberal on certain moral and lifestyle issues (though still potentially open to religious feelings and ideals) and an older generation of religious leaders who seemed consumed by the political fight against gay marriage was one important source of the second aftershock. (p. 130).
This change of attitude has led to increased unease about mixing religion and politics -- and thus engaging in culture wars. By continuing to fight these battles the church seems likely to continue pushing younger folks away.
Do give a little context from the news to bolster this change of attitude, I'd point to the debate over abolishing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military. According to the Pentagon Report, about 70% of rank and file military have no problem or are neutral regarding the presence of gays serving openly in the military. Where the problem seems to lie, is among older officers and the large contingent of evangelical chaplains (and certain members of Congress).
Whether older generations or culture warriors like it or not the times, they are a changin'." The question is -- how will the church respond? And if it seeks to keep gays and lesbians at bay, push the upcoming generations further away from the church?