Christian Smith is a sociologist who has spent years researching teen spirituality in America today. As quoted in Christless Christianity:
“Smith observed that most teens — including those reared in evangelical churches who said their faith is ‘very important’ and makes a big difference in their lives — are ‘stunningly inarticulate’ concerning the actual content of that faith. ‘Interviewing teens,’ he relates, ‘one finds little evidence that the agents of religious socialization in the country’ — parents, pastors, and teachers — ‘are being highly effective and successful with the majority of their young people.’ In contrast to previous generations that at least had some residual knowledge of the Bible and basic Christian teachings, it seems there is very little serious ability to state, reflect upon, or examine their beliefs, much less to relate them to daily life. Many young people seem to be living on the hype and the familiar circle of friends in the youth group, both of which eventually lose their influence, especially in college.
“Smith defines moralistic, therapeutic deism as expressing this sort of working theology:
1. God created the world.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.”