I hadn’t heard about this until today, but it is more or less accurate in every way:
Moralistic therapeutic deism is a term that was first introduced in the book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005) by sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton. The term (abbreviated MTD) is used to describe what they consider to be the common religious beliefs among American youth…
The authors find that many young people believed in several moral statutes not exclusive to any of the major world religions. It is this combination of beliefs that they label Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:
– A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
– God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
– The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
– God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
– Good people go to heaven when they die.
These points of belief were compiled from interviews with approximately 3,000 teenagers.
Discerning readers will note that the above is not Christianity – but it is what most young people *mean* when they call themselves “Christians”.
This dovetails nicely with another argument that I have made in the past, which is that Americans by and large (even today, still) believe not in “Christianity” but in the American Civil Religion – part of which entails that being a good American means being a good Christian. Taken together, what it all means is that a large number of Americans believe that being a “good American” means endorsing the views described above.