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August 27th, 2010
10:30 AM ET

Author: More teens becoming 'fake' Christians

If you're the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a "mutant" form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls "moralistic therapeutic deism." Translation: It's a watered-down faith that portrays God as a "divine therapist" whose chief goal is to boost people's self-esteem.

Read the full story

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Books • Christianity

soundoff (64 Responses)
  1. Someone.

    "Flying spaghetti monsters can be subst!tuted in place of "Jesus" or "god' and your arguments are exactly the same logically speaking" Wow.. That's like.. The best one i've ever heard. 🙂

    August 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  2. Frogist

    This article is so vague... what does the author mean by fake christians, or becoming more radical... is it deliberately vague? It makes a comparison with youth paricipation in their community vs religious youth particiation and I don't see the point. Doesn't the only thing matter that our young people are being active? What does it matter if they care about god? This article is very unconvincing. Maybe there will be more in her response to the article. Personally I don't want any radical religion trying to affect my community.

    August 28, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  3. Rotigoff

    @chuck norris

    Aha! You see? We need the right syntax! What were we thinking?

    August 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • OracleUnit

      Insufficient data. Please insert thumb.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  4. chuck norris

    Mutant are forming because of their master gene. Obviously it is the FAKE Pastors are the problem. We are all aware how they have changed from being loving of people, to loving of money and power. NOT like Jesus at all. Where are the real compassionate pastors?

    August 28, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • Rotigoff

      @chuck norris

      Missing a few pastors are we? A mystery is before us! Quick! Consult the oracle!

      August 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • OracleUnit

      Syntax Error.

      August 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  5. FYI

    Reality...Thanks for the facts. I think its about time people realize that some religions preaches lies, in the name of Christianity.
    There is one particular I think this speaks of in Revelation:

    Revelation 17:1-3 “…

    August 28, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Reality

      FYI,

      With respect to the Book of Revelation:

      Nineteenth-century agnostic Robert G. Ingersoll branded Revelation "the insanest of all books".[81] Thomas Jefferson omitted it along with most of the Biblical canon, from the Jefferson Bible, and wrote that at one time, he considered it as "merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams."[82] George Bernard Shaw described it as "a peculiar record of the visions of a drug addict".[83]

      Martin Luther changed his perspective on Revelation over time. In the preface to the German translation of Revelation that he composed in 1522, he said that he did not consider the book prophetic or apostolic, since "Christ is neither taught nor known in it." But in the completely new preface that he composed in 1530, he reversed his position and concluded that Christ was central to the book. He concluded, "As we see here in this book, that through and beyond all plagues, beasts, and evil angels, Christ is nonetheless with the saints and wins the final victory."[84] John Calvin "had grave doubts about its value."[85]

      August 28, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  6. FYI

    Reality...Thanks for the facts. I think its about time people realize that some religions preaches lies, in the name of Christianity.
    There is one particular I think this speaks of in Revelation:

    Revelation 17:1-3 “…Come hither; I will show unto you the judgment of the great WHORE that sitteth upon many waters: 2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed FORNICATION, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her FORNICATION. 3 …I saw a WOMAN sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy… 5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON the great, the MOTHER OF HARLOTS and abominations of the earth.”

    August 28, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  7. NL

    Every older generation looks at the younger one and laments how they fail to fully accept their values and beliefs. This is no different. Young Christians are merely defining the faith to suit their needs. Christianity is evolving to remain relevant. You believers should worry if it doesn't, actually.

    August 28, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  8. asabranch

    I'm disheartened by the anger and derision directed at people who embrace a religion. I am a Christian, and my comment here is that I would like to not be lumped in with the exclusionary Bible-thumpers, please. My church practices an "open table" form of Communion, meaning anyone is welcome.

    Much harm has been done throughout history in the name of Christianity, but not in keeping with its precepts. The first Crusade was launched in the 11th century by a pope who was looking for a way to keep the European aristocracy from killing itself off in petty land disputes. Instead, his shortsightedness caused a catastrophe that we as a civilization are still paying for. The Spanish Inquisition is another example of abusing the Christian faith for political purposes. Misappropriation of faith continues today, whether it's a burning cross or a political rally.

    I reject all of it because it is removed from the message I see in the New Testament. Instead, I understand that prayer is for my benefit (omniscient God already knows what I have to say), a way for me to organize my thoughts and priorities. Church attendance is also for my benefit (omnipotent God already knows i believe in Him), a way for me to take comfort in the shared faith of my neighbors when my belief in the goodness of people starts to slip.

    It is unfortunate that modern Christians are the victims of the publicity that the harm done in the name of Christ gets. All the good works done by religious organizations of all kinds (Christian and otherwise) might get a mention in a human interest story sometimes, but decades of this media treatment have skewed public perceptions of what faith is about.

    P.S. My favorite author of all time is Stephen Jay Gould, an evolutionary biologist. But the compatibility of religion and science is another discussion.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • David Johnson

      @asabranch

      You said, "I reject all of it because it is removed from the message I see in the New Testament. Instead, I understand that prayer is for my benefit (omniscient God already knows what I have to say), a way for me to organize my thoughts and priorities. Church attendance is also for my benefit (omnipotent God already knows i believe in Him), a way for me to take comfort in the shared faith of my neighbors when my belief in the goodness of people starts to slip."

      That omniscient god thing, presents problems:

      If god is omniscient (all knowing), then everything is predestined. There is no free will.
      Jesus predicted Judas would betry him, Peter would betray him. Judas and Peter had no choice. Their actions were predestined. If they had not done as Christ predicted, then Jesus/god, would not be omnicient.

      God would know if a person would be saved or damned, even before that person is conceived. So god allows people to be born, knowing that they someday burn forever. Seems cruel to me, somehow...

      If god is all knowing, he cannot be all powerful. The two attributes are not compatible.

      August 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Reality

      One of the major purposes of the Crusades was to stop the militant spread of Islam. Obviously, we are now in another crusade to do the same thing.

      With respect to an omniscient god, the famous,contemporary theologian, Father Edward Schillebeeckx made this observation:

      Church: The Human Story of God,
      Crossroad, 1993, p.91 (softcover)

      "Christians (et al) must give up a perverse, unhealthy and inhuman doctrine of predestination without in so doing making God the great scapegoat of history."

      "Nothing is determined in advance: in nature there is chance and determinism; in the world of human activity there is possibility of free choices. Therefore the historical future is not known even to God, otherwise we and our history would be merely a puppet show in which God holds the strings.

      For God, too, history is an adventure, an open history for and of men and women."

      August 28, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      David Johnson,

      God is all powerful and being so, He has the ability to give us our freewill as His creatures so that ‘in that’ is where His power is! He has willed it so this does not limit His power. So our choosing this way or that way of living is still our free choice and thus is not diminishing His power in the least.

      Likewise, He is all knowing which is part of His Power. He knows everything for He is in all and all is in Him. Without His grace nothing is. However, through His power He allows us our freewill and supplies us plentitude of grace to be saved. But we can reject His grace by our freewill which is from Him, to do with as we please.

      August 28, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Michael

      @ David Johnson –

      Your point about the omniscience of God assumes a linear knowledge of the future. If you look at the idea of omniscience as a kind of "Tree" like structure then it makes more sense. The base of the "Tree" is human free will and we face decisions that we have to decide upon. From the decision we make, there are "Branches" of possible outcomes that affect us and others creating more of these possible outcomes. So if you think about God having the attribute of omniscience in this way it makes sense that God would know the outcomes of every possible choice from a decision that you or I make. Regardless of what we decide, God would know the outcome of each possibility and the repercussions from these possibilities. When you look at all the decisions Human Beings make on a daily basis, the "Branches" of possibility are enormous. Not only does this idea solve the problem of predestination and free will but is much more in line with the idea of God. If God is omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent, etc then the amount of knowledge required to be aware and know something like the magnitude of the possibilities I brought up would be immense, much more in line with the characteristics attributed to God.

      As far as omniscience being incompatible with omnipotence, I'm not really clear on what your argument was there. They don't seem incompatible to me.

      August 29, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Michael

      Omniscience is the capacity to know everything infinitely, or at least everything that can be known about a character including thoughts, feelings, life and the universe, etc.

      In monotheism, this ability is attributed to God.

      In order to preserve the idea of free will, there is a distinction between:

      Inherent Omniscience – the ability to know anything that one chooses to know and can be known.
      God's omniscience is inherent rather than total, and that God chooses to limit his omniscience in order to preserve the freewill and dignity of his creatures.

      Total Omniscience – actually knowing everything that can be known.
      The 5 point Calvanists believe this. They believe everything is predestined. Even who will be saved and damned.
      They can sight many bible passages to support this claim. The Westboro Baptist People believe this.

      I think inherent omnicients is a cop out. God is either all knowing or he isn't.

      Wikipedia:
      Another pair of incompatible properties is omniscience and either indeterminacy or free will. Omniscience concerning the past and present (properly defined relative to Earth) is not a problem, but omniscience regarding the future implies it has been determined. That is possible only in a deterministic world. There is no free will if God is all knowing.

      On being both omnicient and omnipotent:

      Incidentally, it has not escaped the notice of logicians that omniscience and omnipotence are mutually incompatible. If God is omniscient, he must already know how he is going to intervene to change the course of history using his omnipotence. But that means he can’t change his mind about his intervention, which means he is not omnipotent. Source: Richard Dawkins (pp. 77-78)

      Wikipedia:
      It is not logically possible for god to be both omnipotent and omniscient. If god is omniscient, he would know the future with absolute certainty; but his 'omnipotence' would be rendered powerless if he ever tried to alter the future, due to his 'omniscience'.

      August 29, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  9. Michael

    Kenda Dean also wrote a follow up to the CNN interview. It helps clarify some statements that were made by the author.
    http://kendadean.com/307/cnn-response/

    August 28, 2010 at 9:54 am |
  10. One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

    Frankly, I think this article gives me some hope about the next generation.

    August 28, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  11. Admiral Akbar

    "Get radical!"

    Wow, imagine the responses if she was giving this advice to Muslim families.

    August 28, 2010 at 9:25 am |
    • dingwande

      IT'S A TRAP!!

      August 28, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Justina

      Christianity is the ONLY religion or worldview to be the best for everyone on earth at its radicalization, because Christianity alone is TRUE and GOOD.

      August 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  12. MadPanda

    How does one become a fake christian?

    Ohhhh i see, a double negative makes a positive. So a fake christian is someone who might actually follow Jesus' teachings. lol oh come on! it was too easy!

    August 27, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • farmerjane

      hmmm, venom.............he needs cookies.

      August 27, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  13. Grondahl

    Reality and his/her screeds about birthplace as it relates to religion? Check. David Johnson and his snarky, confrontational atheism? Check. I declare this blog posting complete!

    August 27, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • MadPanda

      You’re missing the comments from the angry, oppressed, atheist.

      Please allow me....Ahem.

      Religion is stupid!
      Let gay people marry and have equal rights!
      Atheism is not a faith!-at least not like your faith in god!
      Leave your stupid crosses off of the side of the damn highway!
      Stay out of our politics!-what don’t you understand about separation of church and state?
      Flying spaghetti monsters can be substituted in place of "Jesus" or "god' and your arguments are exactly the same logically speaking!
      Your bible is self contradicting and full of violence!
      Stop using your fake book to slow down scientific progression!
      You do not know what is better for me that I do!-so stop forcing your beliefs on me via politics
      Morals didn’t come from religion!
      The "Hitler as an example of what atheism does to people" argument is an example of the ad hoc ergo prompter hoc fallacy!

      I’m sure I left out some juicy ones...

      August 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • MadPanda

      You’re missing the comments from the angry, oppressed, atheist.

      Please allow me....Ahem.

      Religion is stupid!

      Let gay people marry and have equal rights!

      Atheism is not a faith!-at least not like your faith in god!

      Leave your stupid crosses off of the side of the damn highway!

      Stay out of our politics!-what don’t you understand about separation of church and state?

      Flying spaghetti monsters can be subst!tuted in place of "Jesus" or "god' and your arguments are exactly the same logically speaking!

      Your bible is self contradicting and full of violence!

      Stop using your fake book to slow down scientific progression!

      You do not know what is better for me that I do!-so stop forcing your beliefs on me via politics

      Morals didn’t come from religion!

      The "Hitler as an example of what atheism does to people" argument is an example of the ad hoc ergo prompter hoc fallacy!

      Stop following an organization that protects pedophiles!

      I’m sure I left out some juicy ones...

      August 27, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @MadPanda

      No, I think you covered most of the major gripes. Thanks! Cheers!

      August 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
  14. David Johnson

    The article says: "She says this "imposter" faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

    "If this is the God they're seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust," Dean says. "Churches don't give them enough to be passionate about."

    Well that and the fact that there is no evidence, that the god being prayed to is real. LOL

    August 27, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • farmerjane

      The evidence is within........... perhaps you are shallow

      August 27, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • NL

      Her real complaint is what, ... that these kids aren't being indoctrinated fully?

      August 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @farmerjane

      You said, "The evidence is within........... perhaps you are shallow"

      When you say the evidence is within, what do you mean?

      August 28, 2010 at 8:38 am |
    • Bethany

      Mr. Johnson. You said that there is not proof to support the name of The Lord. Well, sir, there is, there is so much! The lord our God, has performed miricals every day. I will name one actually two. You can think what you please, but I know the truth. When I was a baby , I was born with a hole in my heart. My parents where sad, they had a special needs child. I am fine. I do marshal arts and am in highschool. I have no problems. Now you may think I am lucky. Well, hear this. I have a broken neck. Yes sir I do. And I am walking around with no problem. I know a man who was raised from the dead. And my sister almost died in Nepal from Carbon Menoxied poisening. Now sir.... can you really say with confidence, there is no God. Look around you. There is a God. Jesus Christ. And he has made you, me, everyone. And he is ture. Think on these things.

      August 30, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  15. Jakub

    Newsflash: More teens are becoming older as time goes by. This shocking trend has been noted amongst different age groups throughout the world. Scientists are at a loss to explain how this happens. For some, the process results in death.
    Whatever your age, you are at risk.

    August 27, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • David Johnson

      You said, "More teens are becoming older as time goes by"

      What are you talking about? I'm not a teen, but I get older as time goes by. Are you joking?

      August 27, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • MadPanda

      my dousing rod is sensing some sarcasm

      August 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • David

      I smell troll, Mr. Johnson.

      August 29, 2010 at 3:18 am |
  16. CatholicMom

    Corrie says. "We can all agree that we should all be good and that God rewards those who are nice."

    '...rewards...maybe not in this age but the age to come....

    August 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
    • Mark

      Well...The first to be saved by Jesus was a simple robber. One scoffed the other believed. There is nothing we can do to make him love us more and there is nothing we can do to make him love us less. My Good works are nothing compared to His.

      God Bless.

      September 1, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  17. Mike

    The term "mor-alistic thera-peu-tic deism" has been around for a while, Dean is not the first person to speak of this. There is nothing new in this "news"

    August 27, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  18. Mike

    The term "mor-alistic therapeutic deism" has been around for a while, Dean is not the first person to speak of this. There is nothing new in this "news"

    August 27, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  19. Mike

    The term "moralistic therapeutic deism" has been around for a while, Dean is not the first person to speak of this. There is nothing new in this "news"

    August 27, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  20. Reality

    And why the mutations?

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the teenagers and the other, "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Ditto for houses and classes of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today

    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed

    It is therefore very disturbing that religious violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    August 27, 2010 at 10:56 am |
    • realityCheck

      check your 'facts' again.

      August 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Reality

      Priests. After skyrocketing from about 27,000 in 1930 to 58,000 in 1965, the number of priests in the United States dropped to 45,000 in 2002. By 2020, there will be about 31,000 priests–and only 15,000 will be under the age of 70. Right now there are more priests aged 80 to 84 than there are aged 30 to 34.

      Ordinations. In 1965 there were 1,575 ordinations to the priesthood, in 2002 there were 450, a decline of 350 percent. Taking into account ordinations, deaths and departures, in 1965 there was a net gain of 725 priests. In 1998, there was a net loss of 810.

      Priestless parishes. About 1 percent of parishes, 549, were without a resident priest in 1965. In 2002 there were 2,928 priestless parishes, about 15 percent of U.S. parishes. By 2020, a quarter of all parishes, 4,656, will have no priest.

      Seminarians. Between 1965 and 2002, the number of seminarians dropped from 49,000 to 4,700–a 90 percent decrease. Without any students, seminaries across the country have been sold or shuttered. There were 596 seminaries in 1965, and only 200 in 2002.

      Sisters. 180,000 sisters were the backbone of the Catholic education and health systems in 1965. In 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, with an average age of 68. By 2020, the number of sisters will drop to 40,000–and of these, only 21,000 will be aged 70 or under. In 1965, 104,000 sisters were teaching, while in 2002 there were only 8,200 teachers.

      Brothers. The number of professed brothers decreased from about 12,000 in 1965 to 5,700 in 2002, with a further drop to 3,100 projected for 2020.

      Religious Orders. The religious orders will soon be virtually non-existent in the United States. For example, in 1965 there were 5,277 Jesuit priests and 3,559 seminarians; in 2000 there were 3,172 priests and 38 seminarians. There were 2,534 OFM Franciscan priests and 2,251 seminarians in 1965; in 2000 there were 1,492 priests and 60 seminarians. There were 2,434 Christian Brothers in 1965 and 912 seminarians; in 2000 there were 959 Brothers and 7 seminarians. There were 1,148 Redemptorist priests in 1965 and 1,128 seminarians; in 2000 there were 349 priests and 24 seminarians. Every major religious order in the United States mirrors these statistics.

      High Schools. Between 1965 and 2002 the number of diocesan high schools fell from 1,566 to 786. At the same time the number of students dropped from almost 700,000 to 386,000.

      Parochial Grade Schools. There were 10,503 parochial grade schools in 1965 and 6,623 in 2002. The number of students went from 4.5 million to 1.9 million.

      Sacramental Life. In 1965 there were 1.3 million infant baptisms; in 2002 there were 1 million. (In the same period the number of Catholics in the United States rose from 45 million to 65 million.) In 1965 there were 126,000 adult baptisms-–converts-–in 2002 there were 80,000. In 1965 there were 352,000 Catholic marriages, in 2002 there were 256,000. In 1965 there were 338 annulments, in 2002 there were 50,000.

      Mass attendance. A 1958 Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1958. A 1994 University of Notre Dame study found that the attendance rate was 26.6 percent. A more recent study by Fordham University professor James Lothian concluded that 65 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965, while the rate dropped to 25 percent in 2000.

      August 27, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
    • MadPanda

      The facts look checked lol

      August 27, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Paul Nguyen

      Yes, I feel disgusted whenever I think of institutionalize stupidity: RELIGION. That last thing man needs to rid of for good

      August 29, 2010 at 4:05 am |
    • wismered

      @Reality – of course, if you take a longer historical view, when a simple carpenter came along 2,000 years ago, there were no Christians, and now around 33% of the world's population claims to worship him. Not so simple as just an accident of where they were born.

      August 31, 2010 at 6:59 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.