Study affirms family influence on faith of young

A Christian Research Association survey has found that family is a much bigger influence on teenagers than peers, and that the militant secularism of 30 years ago has given way to a new openness to spirituality among young people.

However, The Age reports that the survey also found that most do not rank religion as important, according to the association's chief researcher, Dr Philip Hughes (pictured).

"What surprised me was the high proportion of people who just don't know. Well over a third say 'we are just unsure'. Most young people (almost three-quarters) think there's something out there, some sort of greater force," Dr Hughes said yesterday.

Many teenagers were surer when they were younger, but as they moved through high school the degree of uncertainty about belief increased.

The survey of 809 teenagers builds on a study last year of more then 3600 American teenagers, who are considerably more religious in their personal belief and church attendance.

It also finds that family is a much bigger influence on teenagers than peers. Hannah Day, a year 9 student at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School, says her parents and grandparents are Christian.

"It's something I grew up with and accepted till I could understand what it was. Then I completely accepted and believed in it, and it's a big part of my life," she said.

Year 10 student Mark-Henry Decrausaz believes in a higher power but does not go to church. He thinks religious prejudice has been "wrung out" of his generation, but fears they can be left bereft when trouble strikes.

Dr Hughes agrees. "There's been a decline in clarity about belief in God," he says, and it is linked to a postmodern loss of confidence in the idea of truth. "These beliefs do affect how people live, the way they deal with crises. To the extent that there's a great deal of vagueness and uncertainty, it doesn't give people much to stand on when life is difficult."

He believes religious education needs to help the young develop a "spiritual literacy" so they can think through issues.

The survey also rejected the common assumption that young people are interested in spirituality rather than traditional religion. Spirituality ranked with riches at the bottom of what was important, with deep friendships and an exciting life at the top.

God? No God? 'Whatever', say Australian teens (The Age 4/4/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Christian Research Association

Wollongong youth demand spiritual formation (CathNews 17/1/06)

Try before you die: teens test religions (Sydney Morning Herald 4/4/06)
Inflow and Outflow Between Denominations: 1991 to 2001 (NCLS Research March 2006)
Irish church attendance growing in popularity (catholicireland.net 6/3/06)

4 Apr 2006