15 April 2011

Moralistic Deism, or Deistic Moralism?

In listening to the panel discussion at The Gospel Coalition 2011, something struck me as of minor importance.  It has to do with Christian Smith's labeling of much of current religiosity as 'moralistic therapeutic deism'.

I fully agree with Smith's analysis of the religious views of many of today's teens and young people.  Their outlook is mostly moralistic, and its focus is therapeutic.  In this, their view of God moves from theistic to deistic.  That is, they view God as being detached, impersonal, uninvolved and aloof from their lives, with the exception of when they need help or feel bad about themselves.

The point of minor importance that came to mind was the grammar of the descriptive title, moralistic, therapeutic deism.'  I think it should be re-phrased as, 'deistic therapeutic moralism.'

Why?  Well, grammatical construction would indicate the last word (a noun) is the primary word, and is modified by the first two (adjectives).  So, in Smith's construction, the teens are primarily deists, who are both moralistic and therapeutic in character.  This isn't the best construction, in my opinion.  I don't think most American teens are primarily deistic, I think they become deistic by nature of their emphasis on detached therapeutic application of God, and in this, they are primarily moralists.  Thus, the better construction, I think, is deistic therapeutic moralism.

This isn't enough to lose sleep over, and certainly not worth an argument, though discussion would be useful. 

What do you think?

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