Tuesday, June 23, 2009

'Killing God', Youth and Faith

There must be a word for surveys which are commissioned to provide headlines for a newly launched product. The latest one is a survey of 1000 teenagers attitudes to faith, commissioned by Penguin, for the launch (tomorrow) of a new book for teenagers, subtly titled 'Killing God'.

Church Mouse and A Better Hope have commented on the findings, which include:
  • 66 per cent of teens do not believe a deity exists
  • 50 per cent have never prayed
  • 16 per cent have never been to church.
  • Teenagers rated family, friends, money, music and even reality TV shows above faith.
  • 59 per cent of children believed religion has had a negative influence on the world
  • 60 per cent only go to church for a wedding or christening
  • Only 30 per cent of teenagers think there is an afterlife…
  • … while 10 per cent believe in reincarnation
  • 47 per cent said organised religion had no place in the world
  • 60 per cent don’t believe Religious Studies should be compulsory in schools
  • 91 per cent agreed they should treat others the way they wished to be treated themselves
Other links:
reviews of the book here and here.
Derren Brown blog
Telegraph, including responses from the CofE and British Humanist Association.
this link has some of the author's reasons for writing the book.

I'm saddened, but not massively surprised by the findings. It would be interesting to know what else they didn't think should be compulsory in schools, for comparison. I don't know many teenagers that love dressing up for someone else's party, so if their main exposure to God is attending other people's weddings and baptisms, then you can hardly blame them for not being in the Almighty's fan club. As with the wider population, events laid on by the institution in church buildings aren't that relevant, the best vehicle for the message of Jesus is a community living it out in the real world.

Whether we have the time to do that with all the other items on the agenda is a moot point.

Update: 'inspiration' for the title might have come from Philip Pullman?


  1. "91 per cent agreed they should treat others the way they wished to be treated themselves". So they don't believe in your particular deity! but they have an interest and belief in values and altruism. That's not just more important, that's impressive.

    You need to recognise that a great many people, especially young people, will no longer swallow the god myth whole. You might not like it, but it's good solid critical thinking at work. The fact that values doesn't drop away as a result shows that we don't need religion to be good, and maybe that's what really scares you - that not everyone needs a god to be good.

  2. Hello anonymous
    Did I say I was scared? I'm sure there are plenty of myths that young people - and older people - swallow whole. In many ways we're a much less critical society now, and much more inclined to trust experience and intuition.

    I do recognise that people don't swallow what you call 'the god myth', but I also recognise that a lot of people do get it, once we remove enough of the churchy packaging and they actually see what's inside.

    I have also seen faith motivate and change people for the good on countless occasions, so it may not be a necessary condition, but it's certainly a sufficient one.