Chapter

Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism the New Religion of American Youth? Implications for the Challenge of Religious Socialization and Reproduction

Christian Smith

in Passing on the Faith

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2007 | ISBN: 9780823226474
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823236640 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fso/9780823226474.003.0004

Series: Abrahamic Dialogues

Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism the New Religion of American               Youth? Implications for the Challenge of Religious Socialization and Reproduction

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For the last four years, through the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), the author has been intensely researching the religious and spiritual lives of teenagers in the United States. This chapter explores some NSYR findings about the religious and spiritual lives of U.S. teenagers that have implications for the challenge of religiously socializing youth and shed light on the question of internal secularization. The guiding question is this: What are the prospects of success for established religious communities in contemporary U.S. culture seeking to induct their youth into the beliefs, commitments, and practices of their historical faith traditions in ways that will both form the lives of their youth as individuals and carry on with significant continuity those collective faith traditions into the future? The chapter begins by exploring some of the social and cultural difficulties and challenges that faith communities face in this task. It then describes one of the major results of faith communities’ general failure to successfully meet those difficulties and challenges: a pervasive, functional, religious belief system among teenagers called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It concludes by suggesting ways that, from a sociologist's point of view, faith communities might respond to this popular “alternative” de facto religious faith and better form and educate their young people.

Keywords: religious life; spiritual life; American teenagers; youth; religious faith; internal secularization; National Study of Youth and Religion

Chapter.  8019 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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