Monday, January 18, 2010

What Teens Think About Religion

Christian Smith's Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers was important for all of us trying to understand today's teens. Now his new book Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults looks very good. Scot McKnight is reviewing it here.

McKnight bullet-points Smith's conclusions re. "what emerging adults think about religion." Now pay attention, everyone, as you read the following, which totally resonates with my little window as a community college philosophy professor.

The most commonly voiced themes are these:

1. Religion is not a very threatening topic.

2. The majority of emerging adults are indifferent to religion.

3. The shared principles of various religions are good -- all good. In fact, they say religions share the same core principles.

4. Religious particularities are peripheral to what is most important.

5. The point of religion is to make people good -- make good people -- make people better morally.

6. Religious congregations, therefore, are elementary schools for morals -- and once you've been through elementary school you move on.

7. A family's faith evokes a sense of dependence; therefore, not good.

8. Religion is not the place of real belonging.

9. By and large, friends rarely talk about religion.

10. Religious beliefs are "cognitive assents" but not "life drivers."

11. What seems right to me is what is right and authoritative.

12. Take or leave what you want in your religion.

13. Evidence and proof trump blind faith.
14. Mainstream religion is fine, probably.

15. Religion is personal, not social or institutional.

16. There is no way to know what is true -- in a final way.