For Humanist Network News  
Sept. 1, 2010

A CNN article about how more teens are becoming "fake" Christians is making the rounds. It discusses Professor Kenda Creasy Dean and her work on the National Study of Youth and Religion:

The study included Christians of all stripes — from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can't talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.

Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good — what the study's researchers called "moralistic therapeutic deism."

It sounds like a positive thing… The teenagers might believe in a god (for whatever reason), but it doesn't mean they're following the awful dogma of the Christian church. Maybe it's because they understand how silly it is to believe that every Muslim, gay person, Hindu, atheist and liberal Christian is living a wicked life and must be eternally condemned. Or that gay marriage is something wrong. Or that atheists are evil. Or that they have to fall in line with Republican Party ideals.

I don't know why they bother to call themselves Christians at all. I wasn't happy when Anne Rice said good riddance to all those negative aspects of Christianity, but stopped short of dismissing faith altogether. But it does seem like this is better than the alternative, right?

[Director of the Youth Theological Initiative at Emory University Elizabeth] Corrie says she sees no shortage of teenagers who want to be inspired and make the world better. But the Christianity some are taught doesn't inspire them "to change anything that's broken in the world."

Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on, she says.

Considering that Christianity has some of the problems in the first place, that's not surprising.

And isn't it sad that their church doesn't challenge them? Or answer their tough questions? So many pastors are so used to spoon-feeding lies about the "truth" of the Bible, or why abortion can never be a viable option, or that morality and faith are somehow intertwined… teenagers see right through the bullshit. They constantly come across people who aren't Christians, but manage to live wonderful, productive, happy lives. There's a disconnect. And the church hasn't done a good job addressing it.

One other note: The article is all about "fake" Christians. Which means there's some "True" Christianity that's not being followed.

We've heard this all before. Is Fred Phelps a True Christian? Ted Haggard? Joel Osteen? Benny Hinn? At some point doesn't it just seem like Christians say that everyone who doesn't practice Christianity like they do must not be doing it right?

If the takeaway from this article is that a lot of younger "Christians" now believe in the gospel of "doing good," then we're moving in the right direction. The next step is for them to dismiss the notion that they have to believe in Jesus or go to church or pray to a god to be a good person.


Hemant Mehta is the Chair of the Secular Student Alliance (SSA) Board of Directors. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and also is an SSA representative to the Secular Coalition for America. Hemant received national attention, including being featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, for his work as the "eBay Atheist." Hemant's blog can be read at, and his book, I Sold My Soul on eBay, (WaterBrook Press) is now available on He currently works as a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago.