I think I’m glad I picked atheism as the main theme for this blog, even if I so rarely bother writing about it as a topic. I still think the best approach is to just live like I do, as well and joyfully as I can, and show that atheists are capable of such things.
So today’s article features a fear that parents have unwittingly given their children a watered down faith that will undermine the very foundations that made Christianity as “great” as it is. These kids with a “God is my therapist” upbringing are not going to take kindly to the “real” faith that should be teaching them “God is so good you have to fear every aspect of Him (and yet love him like he really is your father) or else you’ll go to hell for all time.”
Yeah, I can see why there’d be some conflict between belief patterns. Kenda Creasy Dean, author of Almost Christian, helped gather information for the National Study of Youth and Religion and was so appalled by the results she felt compelled to share that feeling with whoever feels like reading her book. She also managed to find some people who weren’t getting that watered down religion.
In “Almost Christian,” Dean talks to the teens who are articulate about their faith. Most come from Mormon and evangelical churches, which tend to do a better job of instilling religious passion in teens, she says.
Gee, I wonder why. It couldn’t have anything to do with being so rigid and home-school obsessed could it? Nah…
No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.
Well, that’s nothing to complain about, I suppose — purpose and hope, I mean. I assume that kids who can see a future worth living in are going to be more willing to help create one. Connection to community is also important. It doesn’t even matter what kind, so long as the connection is a positive one. I had a lot of family when I was growing up and later I was into 4-H and Band, and the like. As far as personal stories go, you’ll feel close to anyone who has had similar experiences and similar upbringing. It’s easier to understand where they’re coming from if they came from the same place you did, after all.
“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says.
“They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”
My parents weren’t praying that I’d be a good, well-behaved, kind and generous person but I still became one. Some people just become what they are because it’s the only way they could possibly turn out. Other religiously raised kids find all kinds of shit to get into and rebel and turn out rotten. Was it religion that did it, or parents being too strict in general, or just general badassery? Who knows? Are those kids getting any studies written about them? What kind of trouble and tragedy are they causing?
On that topic,
Churches, not just parents, share some of the blame for teens’ religious apathy as well, says Corrie, the Emory professor.
She says pastors often preach a safe message that can bring in the largest number of congregants. The result: more people and yawning in the pews.
“If your church can’t survive without a certain number of members pledging, you might not want to preach a message that might make people mad,” Corrie says. “We can all agree that we should all be good and that God rewards those who are nice.”
Corrie, echoing the author of “Almost Christian,” says the gospel of niceness can’t teach teens how to confront tragedy.
“It can’t bear the weight of deeper questions: Why are my parents getting a divorce? Why did my best friend commit suicide? Why, in this economy, can’t I get the good job I was promised if I was a good kid?”
Dean wants more parents to be “radical” in the way they preach and teach faith to their kids. Take the risk and stay at a church losing members, volunteer in some poor country, yadda yadda. But here’s the kicker:
it’s not enough to be radical — parents must explain “this is how Christians live,” she says.
“If you don’t say you’re doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people,” Dean says. “It doesn’t register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots.”
That’s right. Finally some evidence to back the premise that the only reason some Christians do anything nice is to show the world just how fucking Christian they are.
So these parents will basically tell kids that Christians only do nice things to show they believe the right things. Then I suppose they can let them make the next connection that people who aren’t Christian can’t possibly be nice people. That’s swell. That’s going to go a long way toward improving how atheists and other cultures are viewed, I must say.