This chapter explores American adolescents' thoughts, beliefs, and feelings about and experiences of religious faith and spirituality, drawing from interviews of. Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is also about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents. [3] This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath. Moralistic therapeutic deism (MTD) is a term that was first introduced in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. The term is used to describe what they consider to be the common beliefs among American youth.‎Definition · ‎Authors' analysis · ‎Criticism.


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When teenagers discussed "honor," they were almost always talking about moralistic therapeutic deism honors courses or making the honor role at school, very rarely about honoring God with their lives.

When teens mentioned being "justified," they almost always meant having a reason for doing something behaviorally questionable, not having their relationship with God made right.

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For comparison with these tallies on religious terms, we also counted the number of teens who made reference to the key therapeutic ideas of feeling happy, good, better, and fulfilled. What we found — as shown in the following list — is that U. In fact, our interviewed teenagers used the single, specific phrase to "feel happy," for instance, more than two thousand times.

In short, moralistic therapeutic deism teen interview transcripts reveal clearly that the language that moralistic therapeutic deism U.


That is moralistic therapeutic deism defines the dominant epistemological framework and evaluative standard for most contemporary U. This, we think, has major implications for religious faiths seriously attempting to pass on the established beliefs and practices of their historical traditions.

What we are theorizing here, in other words, is the very real existence of a shared American religion that is analogous to the American civil religion that Robert Bellah astutely described in[6] yet which operates at an entirely different level than civil religion.

It is not uncommon moralistic therapeutic deism people to think of the United States as comprising a variety of diverse religions that coexist more or less harmoniously: Moralistic therapeutic deism the reality is actually more complicated than that.

On 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deism' as U.S. Teenagers' Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith

American religion moralistic therapeutic deism most obvious at the level of formal organizations, the plane on which denominations, seminaries, religious congregations, publishing houses, and other religious organizations operate.

But religion also often operates distinctively at a level "below" the organizational plane, at the level of individual belief and practice. Here religious faith is often eclectic, idiosyncratic, and syncretistic, inconsistently — from the perspective of most organized religious traditions, at least — mixing together elements as diverse as belief in infant baptism, interest in horoscope predictions, and the collection of religious kitsch.

This moralistic therapeutic deism the dimension that some scholars have called "lived religion" or "popular religion. Bellah very insightfully showed how religious symbols and discourse — appropriated and abstracted from the Judeo-Christian tradition — are mobilized at a national civic level for purposes of national order, unity, and purpose.

What we are suggesting here in our observations about Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is that, to understand the fullness of "religion" in the United States, we need to come to see yet another level or plane of religious life or practice operating in this social order as shown in figure 2 on page of Soul Searching.

At the "bottom" exists the eclectic, idiosyncratic, and discretely syncretistic faiths operating at the level of individual religion.

Even "higher" exists the nationally unifying political faith of American civil religion. It is not so much that Christianity in the United States is being secularized. Rather more subtly, either Christianity is at least degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith.

But situated between the individual level at the "bottom" level and the organized religions and civil religion on planes above that, there operates yet another distinct level of religion in the United States — the widely shared, interfaith religion of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Like American civil religion, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism appropriates, abstracts, and revises doctrinal elements from mostly Christianity and Judaism for its own moralistic therapeutic deism.

But it does so in a "downward," apolitical direction. Its social function is not to unify and give purpose to the nation at the level of civic affairs. Rather, it functions to foster subjective well-being in its believers and to lubricate interpersonal relationships in the local public sphere.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism exists, with God's aid, to help people succeed in life, to make them feel good, and to help them get along with others — who otherwise are moralistic therapeutic deism — in school, at work, on the team, and in other routine areas of life.

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Finally, to suggest that "religion" in the United States operates complexly and distinctly on different levels, however, does not mean that those levels never interact moralistic therapeutic deism influence each other. Purely individual beliefs, for instance, are shaped in moralistic therapeutic deism by the teachings of organized religion — as well as by horoscopes, advice columns, talk show hosts, and so on.

American civil religion is affected both by liberal religious activism and by the Religious Right operating at the level of formal religious organization.

Moralistic therapeutic deism - Wikipedia

The same observation about interlevel interaction and influence is also true of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It helps to organize and harmonize individual religious beliefs "below" it. It also both feeds moralistic therapeutic deism and shapes — one might say infects — the religious doctrines and practices at the organizational and institutional level "above" it.

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