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."' She describes the "Guiding Beliefs of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism":
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.
Dean writes that she has come to only two firm conclusions after all her work on the NSYR: "Here is the first: When it comes to vapid Christianity, teenagers are not the problem--the church is the problem.
Reynolds has spent the last year and a half visiting parishes to explain the hair-raising results of the NSYR to parents and parish staff members in his Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Why were Catholic youth the only ones to get their own chapter in Soul Searching (Oxford), which discussed the results of the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR)?
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.
Despite the mixed findings, the NSYR researchers conclude that since most teens will come to church and learn, the church's main job is to better engage and challenge them.
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.