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From the archive - 26.10.1962

The young believers

A survey of religious belief in five grammar schools, conducted by Mr D. S. Wright, suggests how comparatively strong it still is among 16- to 18- year-olds. Of course, one would expect it to be stronger in grammar schools than elsewhere, for religious belief in Britain is unfortunately associated with higher social status - a complete reversal from what was noticeable in the Early Church. One of Mr Wright's findings, again not unexpected, is the power of parental influence and example in this field.

The question remains why so many drift away from religion after the age of 18. This is often ascribed to the erosive effects of modern knowledge: science, psychology, determinist history and economics, and the rest. More probably, a realisation of the incompatibility of their personal lives with the moral teaching of Christianity accounts for the falling away of many young people.

The puritanical streak in British religion has set too great an emphasis on sexual morality, which strong social influences do little to encourage. It would seem wise for teachers and others to attempt to counteract this emphasis. After all, possibly the majority of young people today go early off the rails as far as sexual behaviour is concerned and this, for the time being, is a fact that has to be accepted. It is important to make them understand that this is no reason for leaving their church.

No doubt another important cause of the falling away of the young is the manifest weakness of church life, especially in the sense of Christian community. When compared with congregations in America, most in Britain seem half alive. They certainly give no impression of being members one of another, and it is often the hope of an English worshipper to escape without contracting personal entanglements with any who have worshipped beside him.

Mr Wright's survey encouragingly shows how many young people begin in, or very near, the Christian faith. Whose fault is it when they fall away?

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