(Soul Searching, Full Series)
Of all the themes uncovered in Christian Smith’s research, this next one is one of those that seems to me to be a particularly American way of viewing religion. The majority of American teens view religion as something that helps you accomplish your goals. It has a pragmatic value for making you feel good and resolving your problems. Religion does this, according to teens, not by making external moral demands for change, but God is like a cosmic genie that helps you when you ask, and give you comfort when you need it. In this way, it is God’s responsibility to help humans, not humans’ responsibility to respond to their Creator.
I think the most obvious causes for this is what sociologists have identified as the parental use of religion for pro-social outcomes with their children. That is, parents use religion as a way to create desired behaviors in their kids. When I was a youth pastor, I saw this from some parents all the time to help their kids be more healthy, safe, and successful in life. I had one father in particular accuse me of not being supportive of parents because I would not go along with the legalism he wanted to impose on the entire group. Continue reading