Straight Talk Advice

Jul 09, 2008

Panelists share views on God and religion

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I read the recent Pew survey results on religious views and was surprised that 92 percent of American adults believe in God. I’m wondering if the same is true of our youth. With only about a third of households attending weekly services, and many teenagers hardly attending at all, it would be interesting to hear from your panel.

Marysville CA

Jennifer, 14

I’ve never attended church. I believe in one main God, whom I pray to — and that everything is God.

Emily, 15

My closest friends are mostly the same religion as me; they pray, believe in God, and attend church regularly. Our parents are the same religion, too, but I honestly think, given the choice, we would all stay. I attribute my values and choices to my religion.

Katie, 15

I’ve been forced to attend church since birth but my over-the-top Catholic parents contribute to almost all my stress. I’m constantly judged and never good enough. If parents would ease up on the religion thing, we would like it more.

Shelby, 16

Till I was 10, my mom took me to the Unitarian Universalist Church which teaches the different religions. Afterward, since I didn’t feel a “connection”, she let me stop going. I think there are angels and spirits, but not an individual “God.” If there was, why are people in Africa dying, why did the earthquake in China kill thousands of schoolchildren?

Dominic, 21

I was raised Mormon. Then I realized that organized religion is a means of answering what is unanswerable and incomprehensible. I cannot accept the premise that God, (a gentle old man with a beard, or perhaps the Sun), determines how I should live. I’m open to the “idea” of God, but I cannot honestly comprehend this level of mystery — and I’m comfortable with that! To quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “The answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42.”

Lennon, 21

If I were to say that God speaks to me I’d be laughed at, but it’s perfectly okay for the Pope — and I guarantee he’s more corrupt than I! There is the story of the man who invented his own religion, preached it, and attained followers. Much later he confessed to making the whole thing up, whereupon his followers stoned him to death and went on believing. If the Pope denounced God, something similar would happen. God didn’t create people, people created God.

Elizabeth, 20

Almost everyone has a religious battle inside. There are the college students, who, after taking a world religions class, turn against all religion. Then there’s the group who believes in God, but doesn’t proceed because of the influence of family, friends, and the thought of giving up worldly possessions and vices. Next is the group who believes, but does not voice their beliefs out of fear of ridicule. Fourth are those who tried the “church thing” but found it “judgmental.” Let’s not forget those who say they believe, but are no closer to God than a non-believer. For me, I believe in Christ and the Lord and will express that to any ear that will listen.

Farren, 20

My parents didn’t attend services, but I went often with friends. Around fourth grade, it became a big deal whether I was “Christian” or not, but I never felt fully accepted. By high school I thought I was atheist. But now that I’ve had more life experience, I’m open to the idea of a higher power. I’m glad my parents didn’t force a religion on me so I could decipher “life” for myself. As for values, my parents are highly moral; they taught me right from wrong and made me take responsibility for myself.

DEAR MARYSVILLE: A longer panelist comment from Megan, sums up, in my opinion, the bulk of this generation’s feelings around religion. To read this interesting comment, click the “discuss this column” section below.

  1. By Megan, age , on 07/11/2008

    Saying you are religious is a very “heavy” statement with today’s youth. Most of the kids I know would agree that they believe in something of a higher power, but that they are NOT religious. I think this is mainly because throughout history, religion, of any type, has picked up more and more faux pas as it’s gone on. And I think that it is hard for a lot of today’s youth to say that they belong to a certain religion and certain church because they probably don’t agree with everything that the religion and church believes.
    For me, I have never been particularly “religious.” I would say that I am spiritual but even that word demands an explanation. But I also think that kids will inevitably identify with what their parents believe. My mom is a Quaker which has always been a unique experience for me, and one in which I have never felt like I am attending “church.” It is such a community feel that you forget it is a religion.
    But I would not consider myself to be a religious person, I don’t pray, I don’t attend church, and I am not sure that there is this “One God”. I do however believe that there is something special that happens to you after you die, and I don’t think it is anything of how we imagine it to be. I think it all is so much more simple then we make it out to be.
    When I talk to some people that are religious, they find it hard to believe that I don’t identify with a certain religion, and some have even questioned my morals, yet I am a very moral person. I believe that everyone has the right to choose how they live, that we were put here to really experience what it means to be living: love, happiness, loss, heartbreaks, etc. I am not worried about what will happen to me after I die. It doesn’t much matter to me how it all ends, just as long as I have been true to myself along the way.

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  2. By Janet S-E, age , on 07/22/2008

    So many terms have been essentially “hijacked” today it is hard to come to consensus on some difficult topics religion being one of them.  Stereotypical images and meanings having been applied to “God,” “Religion,” “Spirituality” and “Heaven” just to menion a few.  These labels get in the way often times when attempting to discuss this emtional topic.  Moreoften than not it is my prediction that people of faith and belief (whatever they may be) might find they have more in common than not once these images/preconceived notions are dispelled.  That might mean more teens are connected in some way to what might be thought of as a higher being or spiritual aspect in their lives even if they do not attend a formal gathering place to express it.

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  3. By Lennon, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 06/06/2009

    People did NOT create God. If they did, God would represent everything humans are: violence, evil, selfishness, laziness, hate, whatever-I-don’t-really-care, survival-of-the-fittest-therefore-you-must-die, etc. etc. Yet God is declared as loving, caring, faithful, just, forgiving, omnipotent, omnipresent, fatherly, protective, jealous for our well-being, willing to stand in the pouring rains of life, willing to become a man and die a cruel death to save us from eternal damnation; what more could you ask for than this?

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  4. By Shelby, age , from California on 06/06/2009

    For everything there is a reason. If God was real, wouldn’t He stop death from destroying His world? Yes. Would He do it directly? I believe that the people dying from natural disasters and hunger and disease are to show us Christians that we should not only help others both spiritually and physically, but also to remember that life is short and won’t last for long. God does NOT create those events, but instead allows them into our lives to teach us and refine our character and faith.

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  5. By Megan, age , on 06/06/2009

    What is church to you if you don’t care to go? Why the heck would grown-ups get up at five in the morning and go to worship an unseen God at six? Why would people preach behind a podium out of a book with a golden cross painted on the front? What is the point of this madness? Church. A place? A ritual? An activity for the bored? NO! Church is a people; WE, the believers, are the church, for the Holy Spirit lives in us. That’s why people can have church in theaters, hotels, or even outside! It isn’t just a ritual; in fact, it’s the fellowship and building of believers. There are NO “Lone Ranger” Christians out there. We Christians are built through a community atmosphere, using others’ examples and mistakes and hardships to grow in our own faith. That’s why it’s so confusing to non-believers; THERE IS VIRTUALLY NO BENEFIT EXCEPT HEARING THE SAME THINGS OVER AND OVER TO REMIND YOU OF SUPPOSED RIGHT AND WRONG.

    Why are we here? Why do we live? Is it for what you mentioned: love, happiness, loss, heartbreaks, etc.? Let me quote the Afters in their song, “Forty-Two”: “I came into this world to find a reason to live; I came with nothing to give: nothing I could offer, nothing I could ever do. Before you set the stars up in the sky, You came and took me aside: You told me I was part of the plan, You told me I was yours!” There. You see? WE LIVE BECAUSE GOD LOVES. Life is NOT about money, fame, sex, heartbreak, love, happiness, drugs, boyfriends, girlfriends, marriage, death, break-ups, hate, etc. That’s just all the stuff that goes along with it. We live to find something to fill our lives, and for those who have found it, that ‘something’ is a life with God, both here on Earth and eternally in Heaven! Take advantage of it! Don’t wander around anymore, wasting time by doing whatever you feel like and “staying true to yourself” but in the end becoming confused about your beliefs and morals because you are constantly changing; that’s no fun!

    @ everyone else: Sounds like a bunch of crap, huh? How can I truly believe in this stuff? But that’s EXACTLY what Christianity is about! Having faith in the supernatural, even if the others around us mock us for it. Like believing in air. Have YOU ever SEEN what air looks like? Didn’t think so. Well, I suppose that’s all I have to say for now. As every Christian’s license plate should say: GOT FAITH?

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  6. By No name, age , from Marysville, CA on 06/06/2009

    Just because people say they believe in God doesn’t mean they are Christians, FOR EVEN THE DEMONS BELIEVE SUCH THINGS. A Christian is, by definition, one who believes that Jesus is God and the only Salvation from sin, therefore accepting His eternal and freely given gift and in turn, living a life to please the One who created him/her. It’s like your relationship with your parents; they provide for you and love you, so you work hard to please them because you love them back. Being religious is going through the motions even if you don’t believe, but being a Christian is using those so-called motions to further your walk with God.

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