Sunday, September 5, 2010

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

A recent study shows that Christians, especially teens and young adults, are only “almost Christian.” When I first came across the article on Mark Driscoll’s Twitter, it definitely disturbed me. The more I thought about it, however, I came to realize that this trend is nothing new. A brief history of religion (Christianity in particular) reveals that fervor is cyclical, like so many other movements.

One of the great American myths is that the founding fathers were Christians. False! Most of them were actually deists. Deism is a religious philosophy that was popular during the Enlightenment and is comparable to modern agnosticism. It separates faith and science, relying largely on reason: Thomas Jefferson even took a pair of scissors to his Bible and cut out anything that defied natural laws.

Fast-forward a hundred years to the Victorian era and the predominant religious fad was moralism. Clergymen, especially Anglicans, emphasized the loving aspects of God’s character. Christians were encouraged merely to be good and charitable. The lack of true morality, one founded in justice, provided the perfect incubator for Darwin’s evolutionism and Marx’s atheism.

Researchers are beginning to notice religious apathy in my generation and have termed it “moralistic therapeutic deism.” In the age of heightened self-esteem awareness, it makes sense that we would want our faith to make us feel better. Our parents’ religion seems disconnected to us. Thankfully, it isn’t time to give up on my generation as a lost cause—we’ve still got another 50 years to work on a revival!

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