Okay, here's the report we did on youth and religion. Before you read it, you should know
Okay, here's the report we did on youth and religion. Before you read it,
you should know a few things:
1) We were under severe time restraints. The paper was written in a marathon
writing session over a weekend. The data, however, was leisurely collected
over the space of a few weeks. In short, it was a standard term paper.
2) The intended audience was our advisors, and they had some strong ideas
about what the paper should have looked like (in form, not content). We had
to twist their arms to allow us to do this (the gifted program is dispised
anough at NP...).
3) We are not / were not statisticians. We are examining only 'obvious'
trends; we didn't have any agenda. (How could an atheist and a Mennonite
have a common agenda on this!?)
4) Looking at this paper, I feel like a moron. I'm ashamed enough of it, don't
rub it in... Remember, I was a junior in high school...
I found the raw data, but it is currently in AppleWorks DB format. I don't
have access to anything which will put it in a vanilla text file -- if anyone
does, please let me know, and I'll send it to you.
I have the questonairre, but when I looked at it, I remembered that we didn't
give that one out. It was manually typed out on a typewriter, but asked most
of the same questions (the essay question was a bit different). I'll talk
to my friend (who is now at Franklin and Marshall) about it when he comes
down here on Friday.
Austin Fairfield/Ed Watkeys
Gifted Resource 1.2
Mr. Arnholt/Dr. Myers
May 7, 1990
Youth and Religion in 1990
In a study of three hundred and fifty-four students attending
North Penn High School, a questionnaire was administered to ascertain
the religious beliefs of the student body. These questions will be
addressed in the following paragraphs:
What is the relationship between the religious beliefs of students
and that of their parents?
When there is a difference between the religions of a student's
parents, which parent exerts a greater influence over the beliefs of
What are the most common religions of the students tested?
What religions seem to lose the most members to atheism,
agnosticism, or religious indifference?
Have the students in the study had any religious questions or
Is there any correlation between intelligence and religious
It was hypothesized that religious indifference would be prevalent
in members of all faiths. Personal experience of the authors suggests
that the pressures of living in the modern world would make it
difficult to sustain a strong faith. This society, with its emphasis on
conformity and materialism, would tend to create shallow and
superficial personalities. Today's adolescents were thought incapable
of entertaining deep beliefs, religious or otherwise.
* * *
Of the students questioned, twelve had stronger religious feelings
than their mother, and thirty-five had stronger feelings than their
father. There were sixteen who had stronger feelings than both of
their parents. Two hundred and ninety students had feelings that were
weaker than those of their parents. There was a pronounced trend in
the difference of the strength of religious feelings of mothers,
fathers and students. Mothers possessed a greater level of faith than
fathers. Fathers, in turn, had a higher level of faith than students
Pastor Studer of Plains Mennonite Church felt that weak religious
feelings are to be expected in youth. However, he said, this often
changes when young adults marry or have their first child. Studer
believed that this new responsibility compels people to give thought to
God. The demands of adulthood spur a renewed interest in religion.
When the religion of the parents differed, the mother had a more
profound influence over the religion of the children than the father.
Twenty-four students followed their father's religion, while
forty-seven followed the religion of their mother. Dr. Mindrebo,
principal of Calvary Baptist, was saddened by this fact; he felt that
it is the father's duty to lead the family in it's spiritual life. He
said that in many cases, wives are forced to lead the family in
religion because the father is unwilling to take such a role.
Of the students questioned,the Roman Catholic Church had the most
members (eighty-seven). Forty students reported their religion as
being "Lutheran Church in America", making it the second most common
church. On the questionnaire, thirty-nine students reported their
religion as "Christian Church". While the Christian Church was meant
as a specific denomination, most of those answering were probably
confused by the term, thinking that it meant simply being Christian in
general. So while "Christian Church" received the third highest number
of members, it was discounted. Twenty-four students reported
themselves as atheists. These four most common beliefs were followed by
Judaism (eighteen members);the Presbyterian Church, agnosticism, and
people who had no preference (all of which had seventeen members); the
Baptist Church (sixteen members); Hinduism (eleven members); the United
Methodist Church (eleven members); and the Methodist Church (ten
members). These are the top twelve religions reported by the survey.
There were five religions which lost a significant number of their
teen-aged members to atheism, agnosticism, or religious apathy:
Judaism lost the greatest percentage, with 27.8%, followed by the
United Methodist Church (27.2%), the Methodist Church (20.0%), the
Lutheran Church (17.5%) and the Roman Catholic Church (14.9%). All
other religions were either too small to be counted or lost no members.
Both Dr. Mindrebo and Pastor Studer felt that doubt is essential
to producing a religious faith strong enough to last all of one's life.
They both felt that this questioning begins in adolescence; Dr.
Mindrebo suggested that doubting may start in the later elementary
school years but could possibly occur later, even in high school.
Pastor Studer believed that questioning begins in junior high or high
school. He went on to say that to him, a person who has not had doubts
about their religion does not really belong to that religion. "All of
their ideas are borrowed," he said. No faith that is untested can be
of great value. Pastor Studer and Dr. Mindrebo each thought that by the
time most students reach high school, they would have given some
thought as to the validity of their religion's teachings.
In the study, there were clear lines between those who had
questioned the religious faith of their childhoods and those who had
not. Some people listed their religion as the same as their parents',
listed their strength of religious feeling as the same as their
parents', and, in the space on the questionnaire for writing about
doubts, scratched "NO" in large letters. But many people indicated that
their strength of religious feeling was less than that of their parents
or expressed the fact that they had or were experiencing doubts about
what they had been taught. The results of the survey show that slightly
less than half of the students have questioned their religion. This
would indicate that religious apathy is more prevalent than either Dr.
Mindrebo or Pastor Studer had believed.
Overall, there were only two trends the related religion to
intelligence. There were no Jews in 1.0 level classes, but there were
fifty percent in the gifted program. The percentage of Jews increased
linearly with the difficulty of the courses. The opposite was true of
Catholics. Generally, there was a higher percentage of Catholics in
lower-level classes. This may be due to many things, including
economic background and attitude of parents. In addition to these two
trends, there were some interesting facts regarding atheism,
agnosticism and being gifted. Of twenty-four atheists, ten were
gifted, and of seventeen agnostics, six were also gifted. This does
not seem significant until it is realized that there were only
eighty-seven gifted students questioned out of three hundred and
The results of the survey bear out the hypothesis that most youth
give little thought to matters such as religion. Many of the students
belong to their religion in name only; they do not bother to consider
the implications of what they believe. However, there was a sizable
group of students who did indicate that they had thought about
religion, who were not going through the motions of religion merely to
please their parents. Perhaps the number of those who think seriously
about religion will increase as students graduate, are thrust into the
real world, and discover that they need to develop their own beliefs.
Berkhart, R. Understanding Youth. New York: Abingdon Press, 1938.
Funk. Personal interview. May 3,1990.
Hadden, Jeffrey K. Religion in Radical Transition. New York:
Transaction, Inc., 1971.
Hardon, John A. Christianity in the Twentieth Century. Garden City, New
York: Doubleday, 1971.
Jeeves, Malcolm A. Psychology and Christianity; the View Both Ways.
Downer's Grove, Il: InterVarsity Press, 1976.
Mead, Margaret. Culture and Commitment. New York: Doubleday Anchor
Mindrebo. Personal interview. May 4, 1990.
Ross, Murray. Religious Beliefs of Youth. New York: Association Press,
Studer. Personal interview. May 4, 1990.
Ed Watkeys "...the peace symbol is actually an an-
firstname.lastname@example.org cient Druidic symbol which means 'de-
Programmer, Athiest, Cynic feat Christianity.'" -- P. Hoefflinger
Distant Software/Drexel University ------CYNICAL QUOTE OF THE WEEK-------
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank