What questions are young people asking about God, faith or religion? Are they asking questions? If not, why not? This was the starting point for our latest research project at Youthscape, No Questions Asked.
To tackle these questions, we carried out a qualitative interview project in Luton Schools. Conducting hour-long interviews with 16 young people between the ages of 16 and 19, we sought to understand what questions these young people have about God, faith or religion. We also wanted to find out, through conversation around these topics, whether or not God, faith and religion were important to them. (The full report is available to download for free here or as a hard copy from the Youthscape store.) Here is a summary of the key findings:
At the start of the interview we invited the young people to rank 15 cards in order of importance to them. Below are the results from the ordering exercise (those placed top were given 15, and bottom 1). Family was consistently the most ‘important’ thing to these young people, and was highlighted as the strongest reason for their own religious affiliation (or lack of it).
All of the young people interviewed believed in some sort of higher power, even if they would not call themselves religious. Interestingly, three participants began by saying that they didn’t believe in God, but by the end of the interview said that there might be something that created the world.
Death was a prominent theme in the interviews, brought up by all of the young people without prompting from the interviewer. For some of the young people, the death of a loved one was a significant moment to reflect spiritually.
Nearly all of the young people we interviewed (14/16) had experiences of prayer, even if they would not call themselves religious. Many had prayed in the midst of difficult situations, almost as an instinctual response to what was going on around them.
We had to work quite hard to get questions about God, faith or religion from the young people we spoke to. We found a general lack of questioning when we pushed for it. Here is an example of the typical sort of response we received, from Sophie’s interview:
Interviewer: I just wonder whether there’s any questions you’ve got about God, faith and religion -
Sophie: No. Nothing.
Interviewer: - that I haven’t asked you?
Sophie: No. There’s nothing at all.
Interviewer: Yeah? Okay.
Saying this, we did manage to get some interesting questions from the young people. The questions loosely mapped onto five main themes: God, life after death, evil and suffering, purpose and other.
God – e.g. “What is God like?”
Life after death – e.g. “Do you think there is a heaven?”
Evil and suffering – e.g. “When will everyone start living in peace and harmony?”
Purpose – e.g. “Do we have a purpose?”
Other – e.g. “Will there be more British sitcoms on E4?”
To read the full report for yourself, visit https://youthscape.co.uk/research/publications/nqa