The religion issue: Teens talk about generational differences, societal pressures

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If you can think of religion as one giant buffet table, chances are the abundant choices might swallow you up before taking a first bite. Perhaps it’s no wonder then that research shows today’s teenager to be less invested in organized religion as their parents or grandparents’ generation. But does that make them less spiritual? More morally ambiguous? Simply overwhelmed by the enormity of it all—and therefore content to find their own answers beyond adolescence?

Whether it’s engaging in dialogue about other faiths, displaying religious symbols with pride or questioning commitments to beliefs and practices they’ve always known, several ThreeSixty writers discovered that Twin Cities teens are heavily invested in religious discussion. They might not always know how they should act, why others aren’t like them or who their religious role models should be—yet as the following collection of stories, essays and profiles show, teens aren’t backing down from the tough questions.

Following religious rules can be a matter of personal preference

When it comes to religious rules, does practice make … perfect?

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Interfaith discussion opens up a bigger world to teens

Sundays at the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition are meant to stimulate honest conversation. Questions are strongly encouraged.

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The life of a preacher’s daughter isn’t what you see in pop culture

Historically, preachers’ daughters are expected to be virtuous. They should dress conservatively. Spend more time at church than at parties. They’re “daddy’s little girls.”

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Unitarian profile: Laura Christenson

With an atheist father, Buddhist stepmom, Unitarian mom and Christian grandparents, Laura Christenson could have picked from an assortment of religions. She decided to become a devout Unitarian.

Judaism profile: Phoebe Ellis

The stereotypes, the jokes, the misconceptions. Phoebe Ellis has heard it all.

Buddhist profile: Seamus Flynn

Seamus Flynn is comforted by the reminder that he exists. As the world moves so quickly around him, Flynn notices how easy it is to lose sight of a concept most take for granted

Muslim profile: Ra'wi Mahamud

Ra’wi Mahamud has all the phone apps that you would expect of a 17-year-old Washburn High School junior — Twitter, Instagram, 2048, Snapchat.

Atheist profile: Alex Wick

Just because Alex Wick was born into a household with atheist parents didn’t mean he had to become one.

Protestant profile: James Sorenson

While most students at Washburn High School dances are searching the floor for their next partner, James Sorenson is thinking about God.

Hinduism profile: Apekshya Panda

Apekshya Panda is at home inside Maple Grove’s Hindu Temple of Minnesota, a hidden gem nestled between rolling farmlands.

Surrendering to spiritual unknowns defines Balinese Hindu belief

Growing up in Indonesia, I’ve always heard stories about how there is another world that lives beside us. Another world that we can’t grasp literally. But it’s there.

Finding faith: Exploring religion as a teen means falling into the unknown

One teen writer begins to contemplate her lack of religious upbringing — and what it will mean for her future if she embraces a part of society she’s never felt comfortable around.

Losing faith: Twists and turns of spirituality lead to plenty of questions

Being Catholic has meant different things to Katia Kozachok at various points of adolescence. Her conclusion: She isn’t sure what to call herself, but she’s ready to keep exploring.

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