Hip to be square--teens embracing creationism

My niece just graduated from high school and one thing she said threw me for a loop. When I was in high school (graduated in 1989 from a small rural school) religion and religious people were pretty uncool. I remember my Biology II teacher spending days on evolution and then, right at the end, he said roughly, “But I don’t believe any of this because I think God created the world in six days like it says in the Bible.”

We were all flabbergasted. It seemed so goofy to us that it was the talk of the school for a few days.

Now, my niece, also a grad of a small rural school, says that a number of her classmates embraced creationism, and the general feeling was that it was “cool” to do so.

I found a couple of statistics, like this one reporting on a Gallup poll:

I don’t have statistics from my high school years, but my experience was that very few of the kids believed in creationism. It was laughable and opened one up to ridicule. True, ridicule makes someone more likely to hide their beliefs, but my sense was that it wasn’t a widely held belief in my school at that time, despite the other religious trappings we had (prayers at graduations and other meetings, etc.)

Religion, to us, was one of those things that our parents did that we, at least amongst ourselves, rebelled at and laughed at. Kids not doing that (if it’s true that they aren’t) makes me wonder about a few things.

Is that rebellion nonexistent, or simply taking other forms? And if teens become less rebellious about things like religion or other societal organizations, what does that mean for the future? Are those who rebel more likely to stay outside of the mainstream, or do they return to it? Is rebellion a good form of “thinking outside the box” and learning about the world, or is it just a tiresome habit of some people?

On the contrary, I think kids are rebelling by becomng more religious in the face of their athiest or agnostic parents who went to high school with or shortly before you. It’s the Alex P. Keaton syndrome.

Whatever your parents do in inherently “square,” whether or not it was originally a rebellion itself. The natural reaction of a teenager is to assert his or her individualization from the parents by doing something different.

I’m a neopagan. For religious holidays, we go camping with lots of other people, dress like some silliness out of Harry Potter or go naked, light big bonfires and drum. We spin fire, laugh lots and smoke pot and drink more than a little.

As our kids grow, most of them become anti-alcohol, anti-pot, anti-camping, anti-bonfire budding Christian prudes. Seriously. I’ve started Introductory Bible workshops geared at teenagers who want to learn that mysterious and frowned upon religion their parents think is responsible for most of the ills and oppressions of the world. It’s the best attended teen workshop there is.

I often joke that our son will have no choice but to rebel and become a right-wing rebuplican Christian Minister. I’m not sure I’m really joking.

My area is overwhelmingly religious. Church attendance is high. Everybody’s a Christian. These kids have Christian parents like I did and like all of my classmates did.

That isn’t to say that it can’t still be rebellion.

Some of it may be because of the upbringing, and some of it may be to rebel against the percieved liberal beliefs of parents which the kids want to get away from.

On the other hand, some of it might also be the result of an existentialist search for meaning in life and an attempt to answer the question “why am I here” and “what is the purpose of human existence?” It’s a lot more comfortable and fulfilling for a young person without direction in life to believe in some form of God, and the concept of creation, rather than embracing an outlook which is inherently cold and severe and makes you feel like just another combination of proteins and juices. It really hurts me that we would slap such an outlook rather than understanding that it may be the outcome of years of very real, very heartfelt soul-searching and a desire for a meaning in life.

I’m not saying the answer needs to be Christianity, either. But why should we condemn that and not Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, or any other form of spirituality a teenager might seek out? As long as it is in earnest and not just “to fit in” or “to stand out,” there’s no reason to. And if you’re going to condemn one of them, you might as well condemn them all - they are all multiple incarnations of the same human desire for an answer to the question of life and existence.

I do see more and more Christian friendly music and magazine articles aimed at teens. It seems like there’s more religion in the news, politics and advertising. Maybe they’re simply under the influence of popular culture? The fact that such statistics are available would seem to make it more likely that kids would even think of it as an option. No one, and I mean NO ONE when I was in school would admit to being a creationist. But if we had heard that 38% of us were creationists, then perhaps they’d have at least been more vocal, if not gathered more to their ranks. That, of course, is the flip side to rebellion: fitting in with your peers.

On the other hand, it might just be intellectual laziness. I am reminded of the “Calvin and Hobbes” strip where Calvin describes arithmetic operations as miraculous and argues that he should be excused from having to learn about this “religion”.

We might have had a couple, but they would have been considered incredibly dorky and stupid. Was that a healthy attitude? Well, it was based on coolness, not science, so no. But the idea of kids believing creationism is cool still boggles my mind.

I’m actually encouraged by the OP’s cite: “38 percent don’t believe in evolution” That means that that 62% of those teens polled DO believe in evolution, which to me is good news.

As to the OP, I think that your memories of high school are skewed. My own experience was that we just didn’t TALK about religion much. However, the couple of times it came up most of my friends thought I was odd for ‘believing’ in evolution…or for not believing in some kind of divine assistance (something like ID, though that wasn’t well known then in the circles I ran in anyway). I think a lot more kids believed in creationism or at least in some kind of divine intervention than the OP thinks…they just didn’t talk about it so much, as it wasn’t a ‘cool’ subject.

However, if that poll is correct I’m certainly encouraged…that number seems much higher than the general population in the US for belief in evolution…seems I remember the general population hovering around 50%. If thats the case, then the next generation will be much higher than the current…and maybe eventually we’ll get where we should be, with 90+% ‘believing’ in evolution, while less than 10% don’t. Progress!


There’s a difference between people having different philosophical beliefs about the nature of reality and the meaning of life, and people believing demonstrably untrue nonsense about the facts of history:

That said, I also recall previous polls as putting the percentage of the general population who believe in special creation of human beings within the last 10,000 years as higher than 38%, so I suppose the “the glass is 62% full” attitude may have some merit.

That’s true. Polls seem to show 45-55% of adults believe that God created humans in pretty much their present form sometime in the last 10,000 years.

I agree with WhyNot. So long as the earth rotates, the pendulum will swing.

Ask not why the pendulum swings, but why it swings for thee.

Sorry, Lib, it just came out…

Well, not everyone. And it may be that they’re rebelling against the broader culture (TV, etc), which is almost as near to them as their families. The sense of being part of a persecuted minority can be very empowering.

I know if I was 17, I’d think of creationism as far more the “rebellious” thing to believe in.

(Shouldn’t that be “Ask **WhyNot **the pendulum swings”? :D)

I’m just a year out of high school, and at first that 38% number seemed really high to me; but thinking back on it for a minute it certainly seems possible. I just didn’t hang out with creationists. I was a geek who took Honors Advanced Bio and Ecology and wrote an nature column for the school paper- evolution has always made sense to me. A literal Biblical interpretation was never taught in the religion I was raised in.

Many of these kids attended a newer congregation in the community that is experiencing astronomical growth. Either they themselves or their families as a whole joined this church fairly recently, either getting involved in Christianity for the first time or converting from one of the older congregations in town. The church is highly youth-oriented and recruits teenagers heavily.

In many threads like this, a younger poster will note that kids often give absurd responses to surveys like that. Failing that option, let’s face it, teens are stupid.

It seems to me that that is saying 38% believed in the literal version of genesis. That could still mean that there are others who believe in a metaphorical version of genesis or a completely different creation story that is not evolution.

And, although I’m a teen, I can’t really say how prevalent creationism is at my school, because I’m so gosh-durned unsocial (not anti-social).

:: Takes a closer look at that link ::

That bit is immediately after the 38% bit.

I was kind of a seeker when it came to religion back in high school; I varied between a total embrace of Christianity to a total rejection of it. I was raised in an odd environment; my dad isn’t the sort to think much about religion, and my mom hangs on pretty tightly to her conservative Baptist upbringing but finds more often than not that it doesn’t square with the way she sees the world. We went to a fairly conservative Southern Baptist church, though in those days (not that long ago, really), you never heard anything from the pulpit on specific issues like abortion, homosexuality, or evolution. (That was beginning to change when I moved away in the early 90s.)

I don’t remember what phase I was in when we did evolution in my tenth grade biology class. A good friend of mine came from a family of genuine hardcore fundie nutjobs; these folks would have rejected WorldNetDaily because of its liberal bias. He was in line with them at the time (I think he’s less so now–he went in and out), and he loudly and confidently argued against everything the teacher had to say on the subject.

What the hell, I decided, and I joined in. We were like the guys in the Chicj tract, spouting the same old tired anti-evolution arguments like twin fountains of BS. It was more fun than actually learning the material, and I wasn’t sure I didn’t believe this stuff we were saying anyway.

We had a great teacher, and he was frustrated, but I think he recognized it for what it was–one guy with a lifetime of deeply held beliefs that he would eventually either reject or not, but he wasn’t going to do anything about it in three weeks of a biology class, and a bored spiritual drifter who would get over it eventually.

The point is that I expect teenagers to try on a few ridiculous beliefs, and to do things for reasons that make no sense whatsoever when examined in the light of reason. The only problem here is that so many of them carry those beliefs over into adulthood.