With millennials, there's also a high level of interest in the mystical, transcendent dimensions of faith, according to the NSYR
study--perhaps in response to the more communal focus that emerged after Vatican II.
Dean writes, "The faith most teenagers exhibit is a loveless version that the NSYR calls Christianity's 'misbegotten step-cousin,' Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, which is 'supplanting Christianity as the dominant religion in American churches.
The second part of the book, "Claiming a Peculiar God-Story," looks at those teenagers described in the NSYR as "highly devoted" (only eight percent of those interviewed) and asks how they came to be so different from their peers with regard to faith.
I asked the author and head researcher Christian Smith about that, and he said it was because the NSYR researchers were so absolutely stunned at how poorly Catholic kids did relative to other Christian denominations and relative to the researchers' own expectations.
That comes not only from the NSYR but from other studies on millennial youth, which suggest that the more that kids are barraged with information from the Internet, from media, and from electronic devices they're plugged into, the smaller the circle of voices they trust.
Sources: The NSYR
, based at the University of North Carolina, over the past six years has been surveying 3,370 teens and their parents by phone and has interviewed 267 teens in person.