Soul Searching 8: Not Too Religious

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Continuing to look at the major themes uncovered in the one-on-one interviews in the book  Soul Searching by Christian Smith. The first of these themes we’ve been sorting through is the idea that religion exists in the background of most teens lives. It isn’t something of primary importance in practice even though, statistically speaking, most religious teens would say that it is. (Full Series)

Emerging from the interview is that though many youth claim that religion is important to them, they also thought it important to clarify that they did not see themselves as “too religious.” What did they mean by this?

  • I’m not a big religious person where I go around preaching all the time, like this kid in my school who carried his Bible all the time and said really scary things, like whoa. I’m not that religious. (16-year-old white conservative Protestant girl from Virginia)
  • I’m not religious as in, you know, holier than thou or sanctimonious, praying all the time and whatnot. (17-year-old black Protestant boy from New York)
  • I think it’s important to keep tradition, but I don’t think it’s too important to do, to like dive too much into it. (16-year-old Asian Hindu boy from Michigan)
  • I mean, I go to church but I’m not like, “Oh my God, I have to do what God tells me,” I’m not, no I’m not like that. (17-year-old Hispanic Catholic girl from California)
  • I mean, I believe in God and Jesus but I’m not like, holy rolling Christian type person. (16-year-old white mainline Protestant boy from South Carolina)
  • I’m not a big religious person where I go around preaching all the time, like this kid in my school who carried his Bible all the time and said really scary things, like whoa. I’m not that religious. (16-year-old white conservative Protestant girl from Virginia)
  • I’m not religious as in, you know, holier than thou or sanctimonious, praying all the time and whatnot. (17-year-old black Protestant boy from New York)
  • I think it’s important to keep tradition, but I don’t think it’s too important to do, to like dive too much into it. (16-year-old Asian Hindu boy from Michigan)
  • I mean, I go to church but I’m not like, “Oh my God, I have to do what God tells me,” I’m not, no I’m not like that. (17-year-old Hispanic Catholic girl from California)
  • I mean, I believe in God and Jesus but I’m not like, holy rolling Christian type person. (16-year-old white mainline Protestant boy from South Carolina) (Kindle Locations 3004-3013)

What do we take from this? It seems that most teens are comfortable putting religion in the background of their lives. I suspect this is true of their parents as well. It also seems that we’re seeing a kind of embarrassment at being religious, and a general sense that being publicly religious is in bad taste. Am I reading too much into this?

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