Research Shows Majority of American Teenagers Believe in God

In Christian Smith's new book
( [email protected] ) Mar 03, 2005 04:01 PM EST

After four years of in-depth research, Christian Smith, a sociologist of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and his co-workers published their first finding: "The majority of American teenagers believe in the existence of God."

In Christian Smith's new book "Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers", Smith unveiled the results of a nationwide telephone survey that investigated more than 250 teens and their parents.

"This research is like a bomb. It only comes out a little bit too late," said Kenda Creasy, Dean of Princeton Theological Seminary. She said that this research disproved the notion that most teenagers in America are simply not interested in religion anymore. To her surpise, the truth is that most teens believe in God because they have inherited their faith from their parents.

In the survey, Smith found that 80% of the 267 teenagers from age 13 to 17 years old have confessed their faith as a Christian, Catholic, Orthodox, or Judaism, among which, most of them said that they had inherited their parents faith.

80% of the teenagers in the survy are members of their local churches, and they said that they seldom, or never doubt their faith. 71% of them have different depth of "proximity" with God. 65% of them pray for several times a week. 61% of them "definitely" believe that God can make miracles happen.

The discovery that satisfied the people of the religious world even more is that comparing to the atheistic teenagers, Christian teenagers tend to be more conservative on sex and the other values, they also have better mental health and better grades at school. They are more compassionate for others, place more trust in adults, and avoid dangerous behaviors. (

On the other hand, Smith warned several serious problems. In his book, he said that many young people view God as "a combination of a Divine Butler and a Cosmic Therapist who's on call as needed." Many of them don't really understand the meaning and essence behind faith, pointed out by Smith, it seems very difficult for them to explain their faith clearly, or to testify how they are changed by their faith.

Smith analyzed that the shallow understanding and lack of understanding of faith is possibly a result of poor quality of education and youth programs, as shown by the study. Other possible factors include aspect in life that influences and competes for the young people's time such as friends, school, sports, and entertainment.

Even though the survey targets the young people, it revealed broader fact of the American Christianity as a whole. According to Soul Searching, a "Morallistic Therapeutic Deism" is taking place in America, which means that religions are transforming away from the essence of historical religious traditions and moving towards a new and rather different faith.