Article from The Australian.
Life's on-call butler:
how teens view God
Jill Rowbotham, Religious affairs writer 04mar06
TEENAGERS no longer fear the existence of God, believing instead that a higher power is more like a "butler", to be called on whenever they are in strife.Results of a phone poll of 809 young Australians, to be presented at a Salvation Army conference in Sydney today, show the consumerist attitudes of teenagers extend beyond mobile phones and iPods to religion.
"While many are vaguely aware of the demands that religion makes, the dominance of the consumeristic culture in which they live tends to shape the way they approach what they hear," researcher Philip Hughes says.
The Christian Research Association survey revealed an underlying assumption that the young would make up their minds about what to believe and what to practice when they were ready and in a way that suited them.
In his paper on the study, to be published in the association's next quarterly bulletin, Mr Hughes says the teenagers assigned God attributes such as being loving, nice, friendly, forgiving and caring, although in discussions with students at church schools the ideas of God being the creator and of obeying his commands arose more often.
"The idea of God as a 'butler' on call when help is needed fits more readily into the consumeristic framework," he says, borrowing the comparison from the author of a similar study of US teenagers published last year, Christian Smith.
According to the association's survey, about 15 per cent of young Australians are enthusiastically involved in religion and the rest are "not deeply concerned".
While 75 per cent agree there is an inner being within each of us that we can discover, only 49 per cent believe in God, 34 per cent are unsure and 17 per cent are atheists. Life after death is a certainty according to 55 per cent, while 21 per cent are unsure and 23 per cent do not believe in it.
According to the Anglican Bishop of North Sydney, Glenn Davies, one reason teenagers might have a relaxed religious attitude is that their view of God reflects their view of and treatment of their parents.
"Their parents were the late baby boomers and were in many ways laissez faire. Now they regard their parents as "on call", like butlers," Dr Davies said. The lax attitudes of their parents also meant teenagers had not necessarily had the opportunity to develop a "moral centre".
"And when you are young, death seems so far away - so when tragedies like the recent deaths of the Mildura teenagers happen it is cataclysmic for them," he said.
But if Christianity is not gripping, neither are the other major religions, the study found. Only small proportions of teenagers have explored other options such as Buddhism (6.1per cent), Islam (5 per cent) and Hinduism (4.3 per cent). Nevertheless, 51 per cent believe in reincarnation or allow for its possibility, and 42 per cent believe definitely or possibly in astrology.