WASHINGTON – Two in three teenagers say religion is important to them, but they don’t want only to go to church, synagogue or mosque to express their spirituality, according to a study of teens’ attitudes toward religion released Wednesday.
A clear majority of those teenagers – 92 percent – want a better connection with their religion, but almost half say they aren’t sure how to achieve that, according to the study commissioned by the Jewish group B’nai Brith Youth Organization. Among those teenagers who find it difficult to connect with religion, 68 percent said they’d prefer a less conventional way to do so.
The study, conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, a market-research firm, suggests one thing: Teenagers do just about everything else online, why not religion?
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“When you’re a teenager, you’re not thinking about religion that much,” said Reem Nasr, a high school junior from Monmouth Junction, N.J., who participates at a Web site where young Muslims talk about everything from religion to school to politics.
“You’re wrapped up in school and extracurricular activities,” Nasr said. But going online is a “good way to understand your religion. I meet a lot of other Muslims. I have a better awareness of what’s going on in the Muslim community in America.”
Matthew Grossman, executive director of the B’nai Brith Youth Organization, said religious groups that want to reach teens have to do things differently from in the past.
“Teens aren’t going to be spoon-fed information. They want to define meaning for themselves and not have it defined for them.”
On the youth-oriented Catholic site, phatmass.com, there’s a video podcast of a speech given by Francis Cardinal Arinze, and products including Catholic hip-hop CDs and T-shirts for teens who want to “rep the pope,” as in represent the pope. The shirt, with a hip, vintage look, displays a photo of Pope Benedict and says “B16,” which stands for Benedict the 16th.
The study also found that religion loses significance among boys as they age. Among boys ages 13 to 15, 74 percent said religion was important to them, but that dropped to 55 percent for male teens 16 to 18 years old.
About 1,150 youths, ages 10 to 18, were randomly selected from the firm’s database of 300,000 U.S. teenagers who signed up to participate in surveys when they visited various youth-oriented Web sites. Through an e-mail, they were directed to a Web site where they took the survey Oct. 19-24. The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.