I'm working my way, these days, through the book Soul Searching, a sociological study of the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. The authors interviewed teenagers across the country to get a sense of what they believe and how they've come to those beliefs. While individual kids continue to identify themselves with particular traditions or denominations--Mormon, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or, to a lesser extent, Islam, Buddhism or various pagan and new age beliefs--the authors identify a composite understanding of God that they've labeled "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism." Catchy, yes?
While the First Church of the Moralistic Therapeutic Deity has yet to be officially convened, the authors offer the following set of beliefs. Please rise as we recite the creed of the faith:
1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
Not quite as compelling as the Nicene Creed: "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen . . ." Not even as sexy as the American creed that has guided civil religion over the past couple hundred years: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." If the value of a creed is in its elegance, then signing up with the First Church of the Moralistic Therapeutic Deity is roughly akin to skipping past Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech to embrace the interracial vision of Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along?"
Nevertheless, a creed is a creed, and the five lines laid out in Soul Searching function as such. So, what do you think?