The five points of the MTD God


JP: MTD = “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”. Although the book cites teenagers, it seems to apply to most Americans!

Death By Deism


… sociologists [Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton] discovered a newly dominant creed that they dubbed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Rather than transformative revelation from God, religion has become a utility for enhancing a teenager’s life. Smith and Denton lay out the five points of MTD:

  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.

Surely American teenagers did not invent this new religion. A quick scan of bestseller lists, television guides, or public school curricula will reveal MTD’s appeal. Indeed, the God of MTD sounds like the “cool parent” teenagers adore.


For the purposes of restraining sin and promoting the common good, MTD is useless. Those previously disposed to ethical behavior need no vapid creed that tells them to be good, nice, and fair. For those who seek selfish gain by any means, MTD offers no compelling alternative. Smith and Denton write, “What we hardly ever heard from teens was that religion is about significantly transforming people into, not what they feel like being, but what they are supposed to be, what God, or their ethical tradition wants them to be.”

If orthodox Christianity gives way to MTD, American public life may further degenerate into a feel-good free-for-all. No merely civil religion, especially one shaped by MTD, can long sustain a free republic by itself. A nation committed only to liberty and the pursuit of happiness will be left wondering why life is so unfulfilling.

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