Friday, September 22, 2006

Church of the Lazy Mind

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?

7 comments:

Craver VII said...

Yeah, be careful not to step in any of that...

Cute god. Is it real?

Pete Juvinall said...

"Cute god. Is it real?"

Lol. Can I pet it? Does he bite?

Macon said...

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?"

Now that, my friend, is a superb analogy!

Mr Steve said...

Back when I was a public school teacher I gave my 10th grade students an assignment that required them to create a personal manifesto, a statement of belief. It was my way of getting to know my students, some insight into how they think and what they value. Most students really took it to heart and had some really insightful and profound statements to make. I think partially because no adult in their life ever asked them for their opinion. I will always remember the one kid who closed his manifesto with "I believe my mom when she tells me that I am special."

To help us all get along I propose
American Constitution 2K (my interpretation of how the average citizen probably views the constitution)

1. A president exists who orders the nation and watches over human life in it.
2. The government wants citizens to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of citizenship is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. The government does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when it is needed to resolve a problem.

and if you are Frank Capra:
5. Good people go to Washington DC to be part of the government; when they die they go to heaven heaven; a bell rings everytime an angel gets its wings.

Stacey said...

I sure wish this was one of those things that we could say is just hype - but in my teaching years (salute Mr. Steve), my heart broke to see just how well this creed is followed.

Translation of the creed to life:
- I should have anything I want without trying
- the world owes me because I breathe, so I don't have to work at anything
- Honesty is not "nice"
- morality means nothing unless it somehow serves me

Anonymous said...

Dave,
I'm not sure I understand the reference to "as taught in the Bible and by most world religions." Also, what is their basis for the reference to "heaven?" Sounds like this is a Christian oriented group that is searching for explanations for what is going on in our crazy world.
Just a thought.

Margaret Feinberg said...

postmodernism is messy stuff. it messes with the way we think, feel, interact and believe.