In 2005, the results of a ground-breaking study of the religiosity of adolescents in the United States was published in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers by Christian Smith. It surveyed thousands of teens from different social and religious backgrounds to try to understand what teenagers believe, and how faith plays a part in their daily life.
Catholic teenagers fared quite badly compared to their Protestant counterparts when it came to living out their faith or articulating what they believe. I remember when the study was released there was a lot of defensive posturing by youth ministers and youth ministry organizations in the U.S., but as the years have passed the study is now almost universally accepted.
Though they surveyed teens of every race, demographic, and demonization, they found one common ‘creed’ that the vast majority of adolescents subscribed to:
A God exists who created and orders 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 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. (Smith, 162-163)