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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Two thirds of teenagers do not believe in God

A survey of 1000 teenagers conducted by Penguin Books to mark the anniversary of controversial novel "Killing God" has revealed that two thirds of them do not believe in God. Six out of ten (some 59 percent), believed that religion has a negative impact on the world, stating that family, friends, money and even music, were more important than God.

The survey also revealed that half the teenagers had never prayed, and 16 percent had never been to church.

Kevin Brooks, author of "Killing God" said: "I can't say I am surprised by the teenagers' responses. Part of the reason that I wrote Killing God was that I wanted to explore the personal attitudes of young people today, especially those with troubled lives, towards organised religion and the traditional concept of God."

"How can the moralities of an ancient religion relate to the tragedies and disorders of today's broken world? And why do some people turn to God for help while others take comfort in drugs and alcohol? These are just some of the questions I wanted to consider... and I wasn't looking for answers."

Only three out of 10 teenagers believe in an afterlife and 41 per cent believe that nothing happens to the body after death, but surprisingly one in ten believe in reincarnation.

A Church of England spokesman said: "Many teenagers aren't sure what they believe at that stage of their lives, as is clear from the number who said they don't know whether they believe in God. On the other hand many of these results point to the great spirituality of young people today that the Church is seeking to respond to through new forms of worship alongside tradition ones."

I don't know about other villages, but this is not the case where I live, where the church seems staunchly against anything that goes against traditional teachings. One villager, who has been organising inter faith services for the past year or so, has been banned from advertising them in the village newsletter of which I am editor (not by me I hasten to add, but by the Parochial Church Council), yet these are the most popular and well attended services in our church. Many times I have said to the Rector that if these were better advertised it may act as a springboard to get more attendants at the other services. It is the sort of thing that we need in this day and age, not the staid and humdrum hymn singing and sermons which no one can relate to.

Echoing my own thoughs, Hanne Stinson, Chief Executive of The British Humanist Association, said: "It confirms that young people - like adults - do not need a religion to have positive values. The 'golden rule', which is often claimed by religions as a religious value, is in reality a shared human value - shared by all the major religions and the non-religious and almost every culture - that predates all the major world religions."

Personally I have always found Christians to be quite depressing. One of the questions in this years Religious Studies A'Level which I invigilated a week or so ago was "analyse the concept that religious people live only for death". This was quite a heavy question for 18 year olds, but one that really made me think. It is true that many Christians and devotees of other religions do live their lives in fear of what may or may not happen to them after death, believing that they will face some kind of judgment. No wonder friends of mine who do rescue work deal with so many Catholics!

The pity is that as we create our own reality during life, this is also true after death, and so if this is what you believe, that if you upset or anger your chosen God you will face hell and damnation, then that is exactly what you are likely to create. Hence the fact that the majority of negative near death experiences have been associated with those of a more religious persuasion.

This is not what I believe, but, each to their own. If it makes them happy that is fine. I am not one to judge, but I do not see how it can make anyone happy to go around constantly judging yourself and others as unworthy and as sinners.

The real meaning of sin, as I discovered when writing my own book, Genesis of Man, is to "miss the mark" or to be "off centre", i.e. the acknowledgement that you need to change your ways, not as a form of judgment, but more an observation. The same also applies to the term repentance which translates from the Gnostic "metanoi". This has nothing to do with apologising to God for our misdeeds, real or imagined, but simply means a change of heart, the acknowledgement that our belief patterns no longer serve us, and a change is needed, a shift away from our ego centred view of the world. Sooner or later, we all reach this point. From the results of this survey it is evident that a significant number of teenagers are reaching it earlier than my generation, which is excellent news.

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