Religion and young people in a modern world

Róisín Cullen

Kanye West has recently switched his attention from the red hat wearing leader of the “Free” World to a different kind of controversial figurehead, God. 

“If I talk about God my record won’t get played.” Kanye’s lyrics in his 2004 hit “Jesus Walks” have since proven to be far from the truth. “Jesus is King” currently tops the Gospel charts and holds steady as the number one Top Christian album.

Kanye follows peers Elvis Presley and Calvin Broadus Jr. (Snoop Dog) in his brave journey from the popular charts towards the spiritual side of music.

As a member of perhaps the most influential family of the Instagram era, the self-proclaimed “number one human being in music” has the ability to hold the public’s attention and perhaps to be the modern day Messiah he feels he was born to be. He boasts far more power than the disciples of old.

“The Bible had 20, 30, 40, 50 characters in it. You don’t think that I would be one of the characters of today’s modern bible?” said Kanye.

The popularity of “Jesus is King” presents us with the age old question- Is there a place for religion in a modern day world?

A quiet baptism in an ancient Armenian church does of course have the power to gain millions of likes. However many young people have found alternative solutions to the religions they were christened into.

Now a lot of people choose modern spirituality, mindfulness or have simply navigated their own way to meaning in what can often feel like a meaningless world.

However, others choose to return to the traditional way of doing things, in a time when religion can often be more shocking than atheism. 

Perhaps the difference between this new generation of Catholics and the regular mass going generation before them is their exposure to other world religions and their ability to research and question rather than adhere to a belief because of societal pressure.

Emma Byrne, age 21, stressed the importance of research and working on one’s own personal relationship with God.

“I’ve believed in God for most of my life, but didn’t actively pursue a relationship with him until I turned 16. I realised that if I’m calling myself a ‘Catholic’, I should probably look into Catholicism and see what it actually entails. I looked into other faiths too, and examined different belief systems.” she said. 

Kanye considers his religious faith his most valuable asset during times of trouble- most publicly naming Jesus as his escape route from a life tainted by a sex addiction. 

For many religion has always been seen as a comforting constant in times of personal grief and turmoil. Eoin Walsh, 21, feels that every young person can benefit from simply “talking to God” and taking a moment of silence in a noisy world.

“[It] allows me to connect with people who I have lost in the past like my father and my grandparents and this I find has really helped me through times when it is difficult… It is one of the very few things that you can rely on to be there 24/7.”

Walsh explained that there can often be many misconceptions about life as a religious young person. “Even though I am a gay man in 21st century Ireland- I always feel welcome and able to become involved in my parish.” 

20-year-old, Stephen Meehan echoes this need young people have for a constant. “I think that it’s very important for young people to have some sort of belief system in their lives, whether that be spiritual or religious, it’s the perfect way to find solace and purpose in life.”

Róisín Cullen

Image Credit: AtefKhaled