Believe it or not, the 2000s happened more than 20 years ago. Paris Hilton is now not just the singer of Stars are Blind, she’s grown up to be a mom and NFT peddler too. And the Olsen twins are older than Bob Saget when he played their dad during the premiere of Full House. As time charges onwards children get older (twins get older too), 90s snacks become discontinued, and most importantly, values change.
Consulting company Gallup, recently revisited a poll regarding what Americans find important. They found some shifts since the first survey in 2001-2002—money, community activities, and hobbies all increased in value, as more respondents ranked them as “extremely” or “very important” to their lives. The two most popular values of respondents twenty years ago—family and health—were still the top dogs in 2023. And while some staples of life made less extreme gains, the only value to decrease in importance was religion.
Decades ago, money was listed as extremely important to 67% of respondents, whereas religion was only slightly less esteemed, at 65%. Now, money has surged in popularity, described as extremely important to 79% of those surveyed. Religion, on the other hand, has lost traction, as only 58% regarded it as a very important part of their lives.
Money increased in value across the board, and was slightly more important for younger generations than baby boomers (increasing by 14% for those aged 18 to 34 and 35 to 54, and only by 10% for those 55 and older).
It’s no surprise that money is an increasingly important fixture in Americans’ lives. Inflation makes it so that the little money that Americans do earn travels not as far, as even people with six-figure salaries report having trouble living comfortably and managing debt. Younger generations, saddled with greater student loans, impeded by recessions, and facing a steeper hill to building wealth are therefore more likely to value money because of how difficult it has been for them to attain it and see its fruition. Many Gen Zers and millennials work hard but still live paycheck-to-paycheck, reporting high financial anxiety and adding they don’t believe they can afford their dream future.
Money pays the increasingly high bills towards housing, rent, and other expenses like groceries that have ebbed and flowed over the past couple of years due to the cost of living. Religion on the other hand, does not. Increasing in value only for Republicans and Independents, the largest dips in religious sentiment came from Gen Zers and millennials (decreasing by 15% for those aged 18 to 34), women (by 10%), and Democrats (by 12%).
Money and religion are more or less linked in many cultures; a philosophical (and arguably less fun) version of cookies and cream, if you will. It’s complex in the U.S., while the nation was founded on the separation of Church and state, just flip over any penny or dollar to find the slogan “In God we trust.” Our pledge follows, one nation, under God, though given context, a God name-drop was not all that abnormal when the jingle was written.
Despite what some Christians might want you to think, America is not a nation of Christianity.
Yet the religion was more part of the hegemony not all that long ago, as in 1972 and even the early 1990s, 90% of adults in the U.S. identified as Christains, a number that’s since dwindled to 64%, per Pew. While dwindling in numbers, some extremely religious individuals have exerted a demonstrable amount of power recently, as Evangelists gain speed and push anti-abortion and anti-trans laws that are not largely reflective of the nation’s beliefs.
And money becomes the safeguard for laws pushed by reactionary religious groups, as in the world where corporations rule supreme, workers depend on their companies to step up to provide abortion access and participate in cultural discourse regarding LGBTQ+ rights.
Money is hard to come by and even harder to hold onto sometimes. For now, we’re simply losing our religion.