MTD, the Whatever Religion


You may be asking, “What is MTD?” MTD stands for “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Sociologist Christian Smith of the University of North Carolina coined the phrase in 2005 to describe the basic religion of many teenagers in America in our day. Summarizing MTD, R. Albert Mohler wrote:

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die” (“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism–the New American Religion”).

MTD is called deism because it involves a god that is disconnected from human life. It’s called moralistic because it involves a little bit of morality (but not much). It’s called therapeutic because the thrust of its morality is that religion’s main purpose is simply to make people feel good about themselves.

The more than 3,000 teenagers interviewed in the study were articulate generally, but were quite ignorant and inarticulate about religion. Their main thought about religion could be summed up in the word “whatever,” because “whatever” would be the answer to many important questions we would like to ask about any religion. For example:

  • In what religious practices should we engage? MTD answer: Whatever.
  • Must we believe in the God of the Bible? MTD answer: Whatever.
  • What religious documents should guide our life? MTD answer: Whatever.

If Smith is right in saying that MTD is the basic religion of American teenagers today, then the future of American culture is bleak. The study shows that teenagers think that niceness is the central human virtue, but that niceness is inconsistent with Bible-based conviction. Notice this carefully: MTD teaches that we must be “nice,” and that niceness means we do not stand for what the Bible teaches.

We must encourage our godly teenagers to stand for the true religion even in a culture that is abandoning the true religion in favor of totally unorganized and unrecognizable religion: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

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