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Finding faith: Journeys from birth to adulthood

By MISSOURIAN STAFF
news@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Americans are fickle when it comes to faith.

People are leaving the faiths of their fathers and mothers — converting to new faiths or dropping religious affiliation completely — at unprecedented rates. According to Pew Forum's recent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, 16 percent said they no longer worship in any religious tradition, the highest recorded in U.S. history.

And while religious belief and practice remain high — 92 percent of U.S. citizens on average say they believe in God or a higher power — people increasingly are shopping for, rather than inheriting, their faith.

Teens and young adults are at the spiritual ground zero for these transitions, with one in four adults age 18 to 29 claiming no religious affiliation and only one-third attending religious services, according to the Pew survey. By the time they're in their 30s, almost half of those surveyed attested to a religious affinity, although not necessarily the one in which they were raised.

The search for God can be painful or pain-free, but for most youth, it's a journey that begins at birth and continues over the next several decades. Although not always easy, the rituals, relationships and events along these spiritual journeys can become the most influential in a young person's life.

The Missourian sought to report on a few of the spiritual treks and rites of passage affecting thousands of mid-Missouri children and young adults each year. This series examines a handful of these journeys, from the choices parents make at a child's birth about which faith they'll learn to the commitment young adults make when finding a faith for themselves.