A new study has come out that points to some serious problems in the way America's young people view God.
A telephone survey conducted by the National Study of Youth and Religion finds that the majority of U.S. teenagers believe in God and worship in conventional congregations. Unfortunately, the study also finds that many of those teens have little understanding of the teachings of their faith and harbor a very unbiblical view of the whole scope and character of God.
Associated Press quotes the report as saying many young people were so detached from the traditions of their faith that they are virtually following a different creed -- one in which an undemanding God exists mostly to solve problems and make people feel good. In these teens' religion, truth in any absolute, theological sense takes a back seat.
The author of the study, sociologist Christian Smith of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says these young people view God as "something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist who's on call as needed." Smith says the trends discovered reflect the tendencies of teenagers' Baby Boomer parents; and although young people were the focus of the survey, the researcher believes its findings speak much more broadly about the direction of American religion.
The report on the survey speculates that poor educational and youth programs may bear part of the blame for teens' shallow and often faulty knowledge of their faith traditions. Other suggested possible factors included numerous things that compete for young people's time, such as friends, school, sports, and entertainment.
The research project was a four-year effort conducted by 133 researchers and consultants at UNC-Chapel Hill under Smith's supervision. The full results of the investigation are reported in his soon-to-be-published book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press), co-authored by Melinda Lundquist Denton.
National Study of Youth and Religion (www.youthandreligion.org)