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When asked in a large survey (email questions of 17,000 people ages 16 to 29 in 17 countries) about the statement, “I believe in God,” the most devout were Americans, with 69% fully agreeing, compared to 7% of young Chinese and 18% of French and Danish respondents. [1] When I talked with two Brazilian students, they reported most of their friends believe in God, have religious statues in their home, and Catholics wear metals with saints on them around their necks, but aren’t likely to go to church. They might mix religious practices as well, as does Vini, 19, who said, “I love God, Jesus, and Mary,” but also attends Spiritist gatherings, religious traditions brought to Brazil by African slaves.

How do I spend as much time with God as possible? Emily, 10, f, California

Make rituals of thankfulness, like saying grace or prayers before each meal. It’s easiest to see God’s work in Nature, so look at the stars at night and take hikes in nature. Grow a garden, so you can enjoy seeing your plants flower and fruit. Give thanks when you pick a flower. If you don’t have a yard, use pots. If you don’t have a windowsill or balcony, find out about or start community gardens. Take regular quiet time every day, like prayers or mediation before going to sleep. Listen to sacred music. Be kind to others, especially unpopular kids at your school.

Are gods real? Madlen, 11, f, British Columbia

How was God created? Zac, 11, m, Alberta

What is God like? I’d like to get to know Him better and how loving and caring He really is because I’m Christian. Kyle, m, 14, California

I think we are just an experiment of God or something like that.

David, 14, m, New Zealand

Does God really exist? I guess this question was asked by many people in different times, because human nature needs to believe in something. And it must be some great force, which makes us live, be happy, without killing each other or doing harm to other people. Does something, which governs us and in which we believe, really exist? Galya, 15, f, Ukraine

Does God exist in relation to the world’s creation by nature (the Big Bang) or the story told in the Bible? Tal, 15, m, Israel

The book of Genesis is said to be written by Moses who died around 1400 B.C. (although scholars say this can’t be entirely true because the book discusses the death of Moses). Evolution wasn’t understood until Charles Darwin who died in 1882. He had more understanding of science, so I’d define God as the intelligence in the evolution. However, some people do believe that literally the world was created in six days. We all have a right to our beliefs as long as we don’t impose them on others.

I think everyone needs to realize that nothing is the same. God in my life is not the same as it is in someone else’s life; death isn’t the same, not even happiness, so I would just feel better if everyone would stop comparing theirs to mine because there’s a big difference. There really is. Colie, 16, f, New York

If I was to believe in a greater ‘being,’ can he/she give me proof?

Jo, 17, f, United Kingdom

Look at nature, look at the stars, and think about the incredible intelligence in a single cell. There’s a higher intelligence than us, called by many names, including Allah, Yahweh, Brahma, or God.

To stay calm when I get problems, I always remember my God because I believe he is always beside me. Riza, 17, f, Indonesia

Did God really create the world? Steph, 17, f, Britain

Does God exist and if so why does it matter? Every person laying flesh to soil is going to perish, crumbling under the weight of mortality tick-tocking towards eternity or darkness. Life ponders on its course reversing, submersing and pushing right forward; does divinity make a difference? Justine, 17, f, California

I want to believe in GOD and not in gods. Idea, 18, m, Tanzania

Why would all humans have the predisposition to believe in something? Why would there even be the idea of belief, if there were really nothing to believe in? It must have come from somewhere... perhaps it came from the source, God?

Jen, 18, f, California


I believe that everyone has their own life, God gives each one their unique life, and we should get the answer ourselves. We are all searching the answers of life–questions make life mysterious. How could someone know the answer of your own life? Even he/she tells me, I won’t believe totally: It’s my own duty to find the truth. Sometimes you really desperately need someone to guide you from the darkness. The one who guides you is your teacher. A good teacher is one who shed a light; he/she helps you find the answer yourself. I believe my spirit controls my physical condition. I am actually giving myself a medicine-free treatment for my gastric ulcer. I use meditation and hypnosis to cure myself. Yuan, 19, m, China

An acclaimed 2006 film from Taiwan, Yi Yi: A One and a Two, explores the difficulty of finding truth in a busy urban setting. The story of a year in the life of a middle-class family with a teenage girl and a boy, age 8, he asks his father, “Why is the world so different from what we think it is?” Yang-Yang also points out that we only see half the truth because we see what’s in front of us, without knowing what’s in back of us. He takes photos of the backs of people’s heads to illustrate this lack of perspective. At the end the mother concludes that she tried to make meaning too complex, it can be simpler.

How did God appear? Blessed, 19, m, Zambia

Who made God? Enos, 16, m, Sudan

In adolescence, I started questioning everything about God, worship, the hows and the whys and the whens and everything of it. I was told, ” Do you want go get into a good professional college? Do you want to be the college topper? Do you want to be safe on the roads while you are driving? Shut your eyes and pray to God. Also, do this, that and the other for this number of days and your desires will be taken care of.” God was now someone I traded my devotion with to be paid back.

Now, why do I love God? He hasn’t really taken care of my desires and difficulties! I asked him to pleeeeeeease pass me this time at least and He still has me writing this dumb exam in two weeks, for the fourth time. I asked Him for lots and lots of things and “prayed hard with my eyes shut tightly,” but to no avail. Why then should I love Him? Simple. I can’t help it.

I don’t see how one can be on a business level when dealing with someone like God! If there’s one thing that everyone on this planet agrees about God, it is that He/She is someone of the parent type. Mother, father, uncle, whatever the relation is….God is more of the parent type and we are more of the kid type. (Who said spirituality is abstract?!!!) My Gurudev says, God is our parent and we are His children. He feeds us. That’s just the way it is. Why make it so complex? Give Him a chance.[1] Krishna, 21, m, India

To respond to questions about God, the universe is not linear, so it has no end, like a circle with no beginning. Look above at the symbol for infinity, which stands for all that is. Does it have a beginning? God is like a circle with no beginning and no ending. Every inch of space in the universe is full of energy. The world is lawful, so if you drop an apple, gravity always brings it down, not up. The world has patterns, like atoms are electrons circling around a nucleus and solar systems are planets circling around a sun. This energy and these intelligent patterns can be called God who has no beginning and no end.

To respond to these questions about God, the universe is not linear, so it has no end, like a circle with no beginning. Author and environmentalist Paul Hawken explained,


The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe–exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a  “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”[i]

[i] Paul Hawken, Commencement Address to the Class of 2009, University of Portland, May 3rd, 2009

Research scientist Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., shared his conclusions in his book The G.O.D. Experiments. He explains that the universe is ordered, the small microcosm reflecting the large macrocosm. We see so many repeating patterns, such as the spiral in the seashell and the galaxy that follows the phi ratio (the ratio between the sum of two quantities and the larger one is the same as the ratio between the larger one and the smaller), that nothing is really random. GOD is the “invisible, intelligent Guiding-Organizing-Designing field process in the universe,” concludes Dr. Schwartz.

Author and environmentalist Paul Hawken explained,

The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable. We are here because the dream of every cell is to become two cells. In each of you are one quadrillion cells, 90 percent of which are not human cells. Your body is a community, and without those other microorganisms you would perish in hours. Each human cell has 400 billion molecules conducting millions of processes between trillions of atoms. The total cellular activity in one human body is staggering: one septillion actions at any one moment, a one with twenty-four zeros after it. In a millisecond, our body has undergone ten times more processes than there are stars in the universe–exactly what Charles Darwin foretold when he said science would discover that each living creature was a  “little universe, formed of a host of self-propagating organisms, inconceivably minute and as numerous as the stars of heaven.”[1]

Scientists only understand about 4% of what’s in the universe, since 96% of it is mysterious invisible dark matter and dark energy. The math of Super String Theory indicates there are multiple dimensions and universes. The invisible realm of Quantum Physics and Super String Theory of mathematicians doesn’t jive with common sense, but it’s been proven mathematically and sometimes experimentally. Clairvoyance, ESP (extra sensory perception), distant prayer healing, and remote viewing—all that kind of phenomena violates the laws of classical Newtonian physics, but not of Quantum physics.

Quantum Mechanics is the study of sub-atomic energy, which began early in the 20th Century in Germany with brilliant young physicists. Quantum physics or mechanics tells us a universal field exists that conveys information. Physicists discovered an information field connecting all that is in a sea of energy. This enables distant effects, including the mere act of observation as well as our thoughts. A principle called quantum non-locality is mind-boggling. If two electrons are paired and then separated, if you change the spin on one in a distant location, the other changes in response—immediately. This means the electrons didn’t communicate with a wave function, but instantaneously through an unknown information and energy field. Scientists don’t know how. You could call that field God; Schwartz says love is built into the field and we’re hardwired for love, so we can define God as loving intelligence.

Claude Swanson, Ph.D., gives an informative explanation in The Synchronized Universe: New Science of the Paranormal. This is a fascinating collection of evidence about research about the power of the mind. Swanson, who has a Ph.D. in physics from Princeton University, observes we’re moving beyond Newtonian physics, and the Einstein and Quantum Revolution, to the “Third Scientific Revolution” that deals with consciousness and subtle forms of energy neglected by western science. He goes on to give the evidence for remote viewing of a distant site in the mind’s eye, ESP (extra-sensory perception), cell-to-cell communication, and group collective effects. He offers a theory of these phenomena based on how electrons synchronize in different systems unknown to each other in parallel universes.

Paul Hawken wrote, “Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.”


In a survey of 21,000 youth in 21 nations, a German research organization found that worldwide more than four out of five young adults (85%) are religious and almost half (44%) are deeply religious.[1] Only 13% have no interest in God or faith. In developing countries and Islamic areas, youth are as religious as their parents—and youth are more religious than their parents in Israel and the UK. This does not mean that they are members of a religious group, as 35% of youth who said they are religious don’t belong to a denomination.

European Christian youth are the least religious (7% of Protestant and 25% of Catholics are deeply religious) compared to 80% of Protestants and 68% of Catholics outside of Europe. In Eastern Europe and Russia, only 13% are deeply religious. The US is the exception in the western world, with 57% of young people saying they pray daily. A 2010 Pew Research Center report on the Millennial Generation (ages 18 to 29) in the US found they’re less religious than older Americans but as likely to pray.[1] Only 25% affiliate with a particular faith and the same number meditate on a weekly basis.  Less than half say that religion is very important in their lives (45%) but two-thirds are certain of God’s existence. They’re more accepting of homosexuality and evolution than older Americans. When asked about the most important thing in their lives, it’s family: the top response was being a good parent (52%), followed by a successful marriage (30%), helping others in need (21%), owning a home (20%), living a very religious life (15%) and having a high-paying career (15%). A majority says that the older generation is superior when it comes to moral values and work ethic. They’re mistrustful of human nature (two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful when dealing with people”).

In a 2009 survey of 15,000 young leaders, many (61%) fear religious war will be a “constant issue” in this century and 55% say religions should be a personalized set of beliefs rather than a specific system.[1] Only 61% affirm the need for separation between church and state. I was surprised that 82% agree war should never be carried out in the name of religion, which means that 18% approve.

A Search Institute study of 6,853 global youth revealed that they value spirituality, more so than organized religion.[1] In most countries surveyed, fewer than 1 in 10 youth say they didn’t believe life has a spiritual dimension. Most believe in God, only 8% don’t and 10% don’t know. They define spiritual as believing there is a life purpose, believing in God, and being true to one’s inner self. A Hindu Indian boy, 18, defines being spiritual as “knowing oneself. When you’re spiritually awake you know what’s the best you can do,” compared to religion, which is from “the outside.” A girl, 15, in South Africa, said, “Most of our religion is forced—the do’s and don’ts. Being spiritual means standing on a mountain with the wind blowing through your hair, and the feeling of being free.” Over half said they became more spiritual in the past two or three years. One-quarter believe in reincarnation or that ancestors guide and protect them.

In the large survey sample, over one third say they are both spiritual and religious, one-quarter are spiritual but not religious, and 20% don’t know. One-third of the youth view religion as “usually bad.” “The spiritual does not commit any mistakes, while the religious person does,” said a Syrian girl, age 11. Americans and Canadians, and youth in Cameroon and Thailand are likely to think of themselves as spiritual. Youth from the UK and Australia were least likely to report having spiritual experiences like inner strength in a difficult time, inner peace, joy and ecstasy, love, and experiencing God’s presence. More than half of youth said their spirituality increased over the past two or three years, but 46% said their doubts and questions about spiritual or religious matters had increased.

The respondents’ parents are the most influential teachers about religious life, but most young people don’t have frequent talks with them about the meaning of life. Three-quarters of them have discussions with friends about meaning of life and God or faith. Unfortunately, 18% of youth reported they don’t have anyone to help them. Only 14% say their religion supports them most in their spiritual life, as family and friends are the most supportive. The influences that enhance their spiritual development are being in nature, music, serving others, and being alone, as well as friends and family. Three-quarters of the youth report their spirituality is nourished (in this order) by being in nature or outside, listening to music, serving others, and being alone in a quiet place. They grow spirituality by reading books, praying or meditating alone, helping others, or attending religious worship.

More than 100 questions were asked of 1,280 Americans ages 13-24 in 2007 (by the Associated Press and MTV). Almost half said religion and spiritually are very important to them and more than half believe in a higher power. In a 2006 survey of 2,546 Americans ages 18-24, almost one-quarter had no religious preference but 40% said religion was very important in his or her life.[1] However, around the world change is a way of life, causing stress and anxiety. We experience technological change, increasing power of institutions like governments, media and corporations. Often this results in the weakening of older values and the rise of fundamentalism (reaction to modern ideas by returning to strict religious principles following literal interpretation of religious writings). See the DVD Jesus Camp, about “Kids on Fire,” a summer camp for evangelical Christian children in North Dakota. The pastor teaches the kids to “take back America for Christ.” (2006) An interview with a young extremist Muslim jahadi is available.[1]

Even among the Australians who tend to be less religious than Americans, a 2006 study of spirituality among young people (the researchers defined Generation Y as those born from 1976 to 1990) found that 48% believe in God, 32% are unsure and 20% don’t believe in God.[1] Only 19% attend religious services at least once a month, and 17% report they have an eclectic spiritual combining two or more New Age or Eastern beliefs. They rely on family and friends rather than churches. The young people who consider themselves spiritual and religious are more likely to do volunteer work– 27% or the respondents do volunteer work every month.

According to the 2005 survey by Encyclopedia Britannica, the world practices these religions: Christianity (33%), Islam (20%), Hinduism (13%), Chinese folk religion (6.3%) and Buddhism (5.9%). Non-religious people make up about 14%, and about 4% follow tribal religions. Sikhism, Judaism, Bahá’í, Jainism, and Shinto each have under 0.5% of the world’s population. Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religion, especially in developing nations.[1] They’re Christian Protestant churches like the Assemblies of God that believe they can be filled with the Holy Spirit to heal and prophesy. See the endnote for resources about religion.[1] Former Prime Minister Tony Blair set up a foundation to research “Faith and Globalization,” including university courses.[1]

The common belief of all religions is the Golden Rule; do onto others as you would have them do unto you, reports British historian of religion Karen Armstrong.[1] Confucius was the first teacher we know of to teach it, five centuries before Christ. Adept Kung asked Confucius: “Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?” The Master replied: “How about ‘shu

[reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?” When Jewish Rabbi Hillel was asked to recite the teachings of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) while standing on one leg, he said, “That which is hateful to you, don’t do to others.”

However, children seem to have been left out: Philosopher Matthew Fox criticizes religions for “adultism, no commandment to honor thy children.” Jesus did teach that we should become like children. Matthew 18:1-5 states:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ” Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Youth have these questions about religion:

Why God allowed the Devil to live amongst us on earth? Golden, 10, m, Liberia

How did God create the earth? Malama, 10, f, Zambia

I would ask him whether the religious of nowadays are true or not.  I doubt about the possibility of their truth in life. Yannie, 11, f, Hong Kong

Which religion is true or most true? Trever, 12, New Mexico

Professor and author Huston Smith taught about world religions for decades and wrote about them in numerous books. In his CD “The Big Picture,” he said all religions share a belief in a higher dimension. Mystics and people who have experienced near-death experiences report the other side is blissful and loving with helpful guides.

The Bible and the Koran talk about heaven and earth, Buddhism contrasts samsara (this world) and nirvana (which can’t be described in words), and Hinduism contrasts maya (this world of illusion) with Brahma (god). Much older tribal religions, which date back 30,000 years–compared to only 6,000 years for historic religions, agree a superior world exists beyond this plane. Religions also agree humans were made in the image of God and there will be a happy ending, usually with the coming of a prophet (or for Christians, the second coming of Jesus).

Smith believes the advent of the scientific method in the 16th century, with its use of controlled experiments and proofs, led to unbelievable technological advances, like walking on the moon. But “the critical mistake of modernity” is that science denies the possibility of another world, keeping many from exploring it. Science ignores meaning, values and purpose. We’ve lost a great deal in dismissing these dimensions, Smith concludes.

The answer to your question, then, is religions are all true in that they teach us to define our values and live up to them. They all teach we can expect consequences to follow from our actions in this life to the after-life. We can ask for spiritual guidance and receive it through prayer, meditation, chanting, and other spiritual practices that quiet the mind. Religions disagree about who is the greatest prophet (a person who reveals God’s teaching) and which scriptures are the most true—those written about Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Zoroaster, and more.

Why doesn’t everybody believe in God? I’m a Christian. Lewis, 12, m, US

Because we can’t see a physical being, some don’t believe in God. Some see God in His/Her creation. I can’t see radio and TV waves so it seems unbelievable that they create sound, but they do. I can’t see that the 99% of my body is space, not matter, but it is nevertheless true since atoms are mostly space.

Why do we have to pray? Sinan, 13, m, Turkey

To get calm and centered so you can receive guidance to your questions. Shehroz explains, ”He is talking about Muslim prayer of five times a day which should preferably start when the child is seven-years-old. All Muslims who pray five times a day say that it is really calming, soothing, relaxing, spiritual and a connection with God.”

Why is there such a controversy between different religions?

Donicka, 14, f, Lanai, Hawaii

The same reason countries fight wars—people get caught up in ego, thinking my way is the right way.

What is religion and what is its purpose? Forrest, 15, m, American in Chile

Groups of people with similar beliefs worship together to set aside time for spirituality and to hear suggestions from the clergy person about how to live life wisely. Religion use different words for the sacred: Hinduism and Buddhism discuss Dharma or law; Confucianism, Li; Daoism, the Dao or the Way; Judaism, the Torah; Christianity, the Logos; and Indigenous native peoples believe in the Great Spirit. The British philosopher Aldous Huxley wrote The Perennial Philosophy in 1945. He was the first to describe two types of world religions. One is external and public: rituals, buildings for worship, and sacred books. The other is the more secret form, known to an inner circle usually involving a meditative discipline like Sufi dancing.


Buddhists believe in what we call ‘Khamma’ [karma]. It’s kinda like the way of life for us. We are taught to do good things, cause no harm and keep our hearts clean and calm because whatever we do will come around to us somehow someday. Scientifically, is what you know as Newton’s motion law; action = reaction. The highest aim is ‘Nipphan’ [Nirvana]. It’s said to be the deepest and most wanted forever peace. Now hopefully, you got the idea of Buddhism.

Unlike Christians, we go to temple on occasions such as birthday, New Year, Thai New Year (aka water festival), and other holidays. In the early morning monks walk from nearby temples to receive alms from villagers. Monks live a plain and simple life, physically and mentally. We give them food and flowers for merit. As Christians give love to one another, we give forgiveness. Khamma will do its role. The bad will receive bad fortune in return but before that we have no right to judge them. Palmmy, 17, f, Thailand


What does Jesus look like? Kendra, 9, f, Canadian in Belize

Like a Middle Eastern young Jewish man, who could come in many different appearances.

How would religion change if Jesus was gay? Olivia, 10, f, British Columbia

The Bible doesn’t mention any romance for Jesus, so we don’t know anything about his sexuality. Some people do believe that he had a special relationship with Mary Magdalene. The Old Testament spoke out against homosexuality but Jesus didn’t say anything about this topic, as far as I know. He was more interested in purity of heart than external practices: “People honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Mark 7:6)

I’d like to know the day when Jesus shall come. Mulenga, 12, m, Zambia

People have been trying to figure this out since Jesus died. Paul, an important founder of the Christian church, believed the end time would come soon, but it didn’t. Some Christians invite Jesus to come into their hearts on a daily basis.

I felt most loved at my first communion. Adrian, 12, m, Switzerland

Family and friends share a special bond at religious rituals that mark important steps in our lives.

My purpose is to be a king of earth; God made man to be the king of animals. Remo, 16, m, Sudan

I hope this means you’ll work to keep wild animals safe from poachers and others who take away their habitat and food sources.

I’d stop people from devil worshipping and make people of different communities mix up, not living in different groups as they are now. ?, 17, f, Kenya

What’s the sense of living if we die in the end anyway?! Why is life so unfair? I’m a Christian so I also think life is my mission. Jesus is my life and death my win. I think every person is here to make the earth a better place. Some are succeeding some are not. Franziska, 17, f, Germany

God wants to bring goodness, truth and beauty to the world and take all of the pain and suffering and wipe it out. The incredible thing is that he wants to do this through you and me. He also wants to restore our relationship with him. That’s why he sent his son Jesus a couple thousand years ago. . . .  Jesus’ death, and his coming back to life, also opens a way for us to step back into a good friendship with God. The guilt we feel over our sin can be wiped out. …Check out what God has to say to you and the help he offers for living in the Bible. That’s one of the ways God talks back to you. Zach Hunter, 17, m, Georgia

[Zach started an organization called “Loose Change to Loosen Chains” in 7th grade to end slavery and has written three books to encourage activism. The above quote is from his webpage.[1]]

My circle of family and friends are critical and judgmental about personal decisions I’ve made lately, saying what I’m doing is not Christian.

Betty, 17, f, California

Remind them Jesus said let those who are without sin throw the first stone, judge not that you not be judged, and pay attention to the dirt in your own eye. He stressed forgiveness, love, and compassion for the downtrodden. He was a radical who violated all kinds of traditional taboos, as by discussing theology with women—including a woman of the streets, healing a bleeding person, turning over the moneychangers’ tables in the temple, and so on. Christian leaders who ignore the poor and the destruction of the planet’s ecosystem need to re-read the Gospels.[1]

Jesus is around the corner coming. Obadia, 18, m, Sudan

Mohamed B. Fare worried about the current influences of western culture on Liberian youth: “media, music, alcohol and drugs, sexual temptation and the awareness of a better life (materially) somewhere out there.[1] In the light of this (and therefore Christ) seems more and more irrelevant.”


Our purpose is to reach our goals, which are written by Brahma in his book. Abhinay, 13, m, India

My purpose is to serve my guru and to achieve goals in my spiritual life.

Sailam, 18, f, India


As Hindus, my family has a worship room in our home with photos of gods and goddesses and ancestors. They’re all manifestations of God, Brahma. We do puja, give offerings of sweets and money, and chant. We celebrate festivals like Diwali, to celebrate when Krishna rescued Sita, or Holi when people throw colored powder at each other to celebrate. Weddings are huge, five days of ceremony and feasting. The bride has henna designs on her hands and feet; how dark they are symbolizes how much the groom loves her. My parents’ marriage was arranged, so they don’t understand dating, so I didn’t date in high school.

Bhumi, 19, f, Indian in Colorado

In Hinduism there are three ways to reach God: Gyan Marg, Karm Marg and Bhakti Marg. When we talk about puja and worshipping by rituals, we are on bhakti marg. On Karm marg we don’t bother about these aspects. Not participating in puja is all right; if you are a Hindu then you don’t need to worry about the ritualistic aspect of it–it is not compulsory to worship God only by rituals and puja. We can worship God by our karma also. I don’t believe in a position for God which Christians and many Hindus keep for themselves–that God is like a King who would grant us wishes if we pray to him and do good, or that there is a Swarg/Jannat/Paradise where good people are treated while bad people are sent to hell. I think these are concepts created for the naive to threaten them. We don’t need to believe in these. Devi worship or Shakti [goddesses] worship is a very unique concept in Hinduism; try to read more about it on the net. Then even if you won’t worship her, you would get inspired to be on the right path. Umar Rahul, ?, M, India[1]

A Scottish journalist who lives in India wrote about the sacred in contemporary India points out that many religious practices are based on the son performing rituals for his parents, as at cremation, and also based on caste and social groups, which are “changing rapidly as Indian society transforms itself at speed.”[1] William Dalrymple observed in his travels around India, “Much of India’s religious identity is closely tied to specific social groups, caste practices and father-to-son lineages, all of which are changing very rapidly as Indian society transforms itself at speed.”[1] He reports the speed of development is breathtaking and, according to CIA estimates, the Indian economy will overtake the US by around 2050. Interesting regional spiritual practices, such as memorized oral myth telling that takes days and an astounding memory, are lost to the homogenization by middle-class urban Hindus and by TV and film versions of Hindu mythology. But there’s a renewed middle-class interest in religion, as witnessed by the fact that over half of the organized tours are pilgrimages to sacred sites.

In his book Dalrymple tells the story of the spiritual practices of nine Indians, Jain and Sufi as well as Hindu. Some follow what previous generations have done; for example, one man makes statues of the gods but worries that the tradition will end with his son choosing computer engineering instead. Amidst all the changes, “an older India endures.” Some of the “nine lives” he describes rebelled against their parents to become wandering monks or nuns with no possessions. People still debate ancient spiritual issues or worship village local deities: “In the sacred topography of the south, every village is believed to be host to a numberless pantheon of sprites and godlings, tree spirits and snake gods, who are said to guard and regulate the ebb and flow of daily life. They are worshipped and propitiated….[1] Villagers follow old traditions, while urban educated people and media “homogenize” religion. Some political parties are organized around Hinduism (i.e., BJP, Shiv Sena, and Bajrang Dal). The Hindu right wing nationalists want India to be a Hindu-dominant country and are more likely to be supported by upper caste voters.[1] A magazine written in English called Hinduism Today is written for Hindus in Diaspora around the world and provides a summary of Hindu philosophies.[1]


Over 1.5 billion people believe in Islam. Many young Muslims strongly identify culturally with the global “tribe” of orthodox Islam. Kahina, an Algerian young woman student,


The only thing that keeps our traditions alive is our religious events like Ramadan where Muslims refrain from food and drink during the daylight hours, the fast is broken with a family meal, and Eid al-Fitr, the final breaking of the Ramadan fast, which involves consuming large quantities of foods, sweets, and pastries in particular. Even if we’re losing some of our traditional values because we can’t keep all of them, I know that these simple things will be passed by a father to his son, by this son to his son and on and on…that why deep down in my heart I know that we will never lose our traditions.

Indonesia has the most Muslims in the world. Many Indonesian Muslims regard western culture as a threat to Islamic moral values, although middle-class Muslims in Indonesia shop at the mall in Muslim fashion sections. They carry cell phones and own portable CD players or iPods.

Muslim students in our book are much more likely than others to state that their life purpose is to worship God, follow religious law, and spread their religion. The biggest branch of Islam is the Sunni, while the Shia are less than 15%. Many Iranians and Iraqis are Shia. They believe religious leaders—imams, can help us communicate with Allah. Millions belong to the Sufi faith, which like the Sunni emphasizes a direct relationship with Allah.

Saudi Arabia has its own type of Sunni, called Wahabi. Women are not allowed to drive or vote. Physical education classes are banned in government girls’ schools. The top religious leader in Saudi Arabia, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz, said in 2004, “Allowing women to mix with men is the root of every evil and catastrophe.”[1] In 2010, a young man was sentenced to four months in prison and 90 lashes for “immoral movements” (kissing a woman) in a mall. He was also banned from the mall for two years.[1]

Islamic family law is called Shariah and some countries that practice it have religious leaders who make decisions about legal issues like divorce. For example, in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, law makers in this province used Islamic law in 2001 to ban gambling, drinking, and require women to wear head scarfs, and in 2009 decreed punishing adulterers and homosexuals with stoning to death. In Somalia, Islamist insurgents arrested 14 teenagers for watching the 2010 World Cup soccer match, accusing them of “time-wasting.”[1]

Islam and traditional Hinduism don’t believe in dating or allowing the opposite sex to be alone together. Hassan, from Pakistan, comments on US high schools where dating is the norm.

After I went to US, I got very open minded. I got exposed to many new aspects of life, which I never experienced in Pakistan like boys and girls interacting openly, dating, etc. Now, I know Islam don’t allow us to date but there’s no perfect Muslim in this world. Not only that I dated a girl, but there are many other things in Islam that I might not follow accordingly. I dated her because I liked her, but this dating is a different kind of dating. Because I never touched that girl. We used to talk on phone and that’s it. I saw her, but never touched her. Again, we all try to be perfect religiously but we have the devil with us and sometimes, we listen to our heart and maybe it takes us on the wrong way. The most important thing is that you learn from what you did and don’t try to repeat it again.

The Prophet Muhammad (7th century) was progressive for his era, as in his dealings with women. His first wife was older than him, a widow, not a virgin, and proposed to him. He banned killing baby girls and limited polygamy to four wives who were supposed to be treated equally. Women had property rights. But, the Koran says that a daughter inherits only half as much as a son and a woman’s testimony counts only half as much as a man, and it permits slavery. Islamic feminists (like Moroccan Fatema Merniss) suggest that Islam needs to change with the times, to look at the teachings of the Prophet’s youngest wife, Aisha, and her feminist recollections of her husband.[1] Muhammad’s wives drove camels, so why shouldn’t women today drive cars? Saudi Arabia abolished slavery in 1961, so why not change with the times in other areas? “The rise of women is in fact a prerequisite for an Arab renaissance,” concluded a UN Arab Human Development Report.

I get angry too fast; I waste my time and don’t offer my prayers with concentration and on very particular timings. But the worst one thing I want to stop is my habit of wasting time. I would pray everyone understand Allah and Islam—my religion. ?, 14, f, Tanzania

I would like to be a journalist to help my war-effected country and spread the holy Islam to the entire world. Naqibullah, 14, m, Afghanistan

I’m a Moslem. So I think I live on earth to do the best I because of my love to Allah. I truly believe that I’m nothing without Allah, so I won’t let Him down with my bad behavior. Lina, 15, f, Indonesia

ALLAH created us on Earth to worship him and to construct the Earth by our deeds which are limited to Islam’s rules found in Quran. I believe that my purpose is to worship ALLAH and to work my best to help people and make Earth better for the whole humanity. I want to be a surgeon to cure ill people and avoid them to feel painful. Mohamed, 16, m, Egypt

I live on earth for preaching Islam. Nida, 16, f, Pakistan

I’m here on earth because it’s my fate that I was born from my mother’s stomach. Some things motivate me to live—that is, to thank God for all the blessings, how much he loves us. We thank him by doing good things, do everything with spirit and pray to Him. Maybe my purpose is to do so many good so that when I die, I go to heaven but I’m still doubting that I can do that. Atika, 16, f, Indonesia

Normally people would say that we are here to practice and spread their religion. That’s true, but as a together, we are here to help others, be a better person and respect each other’s religion. Hafiz, 17, m, Pakistan

I love my religion. I pray to ALLAH five times a day, I believe in Qumran, I have understood my religion. I know My ALLAH almighty and whenever there is a choice between good and bad, I know what my ALLAH wants me to do. That whole message resides in one sentence of Him I learned in 7th grade,

“ALLAH can forgive if you don’t fulfill His rights (like pray five times and cover your head) but he will never forgive if you do not fulfill the rights of humanity (like love, care, peace).” I have been the source of joy for hundreds of people and I have never hurt anyone. This is what I learnt from my religion.

Sahar, 17, f, Pakistan

I would change my country from a republic to a Kingdom. My purpose is to workshop Allah and do what he ordered us to do. I would like to the president of my country. Ismael, 17, m, Iraq.

The purpose of being on earth is to worship Allah and to do what he ordered us to do. Ibraheem, 17, m, Iraq

Islam is the word for “peace” and Muslim means “One who submits” so we should not be misunderstood to be a hostile and wild religion. Koran says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” This means that no one should be forcefully converted but only ‘convinced’ with a proper, decent, calm, and friendly but serious persuasion. If persuasion didn’t work then nothing else should be done. Muslims believe that Allah is the same God who created Adam and who sent Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus as prophet and messenger to mankind. We differ slightly on the “nature” and ‘attributes” of God.

The word Jihad actually means “to strive/to struggle” and it doesn’t mean to fight or kill innocent people. Muslims are told to fight in DEFENSE and to honor all treaties and agreements. I would recommend a book called “Imperial Hubris Followed by Defeat” by an anonymous writer, if someone is interested in the whole AlQaeda, Taliban, Jihad, Terrorism and war against Terrorism issue. This book is biased towards Afghanistan, Iraq and AlQaeda.

Shehroz, 17, m, Pakistan

Laws should no longer be governed by religion, but by a fixed set of rules instead. And I’d abolish capital punishment. Ameer, 17, m, Pakistan

I will fix the west’s view of Islam; they think it is the religion of the terrorist. I will show them what our prophet teach us and tell us. Eman, 17, f, Bedouin in Israel

[Hassan emailed me about the Muslim holy month where adults fast from sunup to sundown.] Ramadan is just so awesome. The atmosphere is just amazing. People love and care for each other and they develop that concept of patience. We try to do as many good deeds as possible because the devil is imprisoned and there is no one to stop you from being good. So I love Ramadan and I am anxiously waiting for it. Hassan, 17, m, Pakistan

Islam is given a bad name throughout WORLD MEDIA by associating it with all the terrorists. But I tell you that these TERRORISTS are not MUSLIMS (and that is a whole new argument). Media calls terrorists as MUSLIM EXTREMISTS, but I would rather call them NON-MUSLIM TERRORISTS for a terrorist cannot be a MUSLIM. This wrong association by media creates biasness among common people and a bad name and reputation for MUSLIMS. Pakistan is the country with second largest Muslim population but MEDIA’S opinion is based on a bunch of bearded idiots in Afghanistan and Iraq, etc. Shehroz, 17, m, Pakistan

There is just one purpose for us—pray to God. Ashin, 17, m, Indonesia

In this world we have a God who teaches us to obey the command and avoid restrictions. We live in this world is only temporary, and only for the worship of God. And in a time we will also return to the gods. Febri, 17, f, Indonesia

Why are the Muslims the ones to be oppressed when they are just practicing their faith? Sadika, 16, f, Tanzania

The people who stereotype Muslims do not actually know the true Islam. Education is compulsory in Islam for both men and women. People do not know the actual teachings of Islam, that’s why they are stereotype Muslims. But as you cannot judge the car by its driver, people should not judge Islam by its followers. Believe me, most of the youth of Pakistan think like that. Firasat, 19, f, Pakistan


I felt most loved at my Bar Mitzvah. I’m proud to be a Jew in Israel.

Nadav, 15, m, Israel

Spiritual Practices

Inspiration does exist, but it must find you working. Artist Pablo Picasso

When anybody tells me any false information, I feel much bother. And deep meditation (quantum method) practice helps me to stay calm.

Tonil, 17, m, Bangladesh

I was about seven- or eight-years-old when I started praying every night before sleep. I beg God to grant me power and heal any of my discomfort, I imagined the power came from the universe, joining to my bio-field and enhancing it. For example–how I take care of my stomach problem–I try to feel the cosmic power enhance my energy field. I put my hand on my belly and concentrate the energy to my stomach and let it heal the ulcer and wound in my stomach.

I had perfect health when I was a child. Looking back, that’s definitely due to the meditation I did everyday. But after middle school I gave all my time to study. I did meditation less and less, and the pressure just cracked me. I still can’t go back to the same state when I did meditation at that time. I can’t concentrate like that time. And maybe some of the practices I do to get deep relaxation can’t count as meditation–that could be self-hypnosis. Yuan, 19, m, China

In the US, over half the respondents to a Parade magazine study said they prayed daily, for others, for forgiveness, and for personal success. Over two-thirds believe in God.[1] A moralistic (but not in its language) youth subculture calls itself “straightedge,” as explained in this dialogue from the Urban Dictionary, “Want to get blazed after school?” “No, I’m straightedge.” “OK, that’s cool.” Or another entry, “You don’t have to be hardcore emo to be straightedge. You just don’t drink/don’t smoke/don’t f**k: “F**k you, I don’t want a smoke. I’m straightedge.” Books have been written about the movement in the US and Canada, explaining some of the teens are also vegetarian. If you see a black marker X on a teen’s hand, it signifies this subculture with its moral prohibitions.[1]

Isn’t meditation just sitting and not thinking? Juao, 19, m, Brazil

It’s very hard for most of us to not think. Most of need something to concentrate on to quiet our thoughts, like a mantra/phrase or repeated saying such as “peace and love,” looking at a candle flame, counting breath, or counting prayer beads. Tibetan Buddhism compassion meditation suggests that you meditate on when you felt most loved and your love and compassion to others. Imagine the other is you.

Filmmaker David Lynch advocates going within in mediation a way to eliminate school violence. He recommends,

In today’s world of fear and uncertainty, every child should have one class period a day to dive within himself and experience the field of silence—bliss—the enormous reservoir of energy and intelligence that is deep within all of us. This is the way to save the coming generation. I have been “diving within” through the Transcendental Meditation technique for over 30 years. It has changed my life, my world.[1]

Some young people buy into the consumer religion so their aim is to get rich. Others value doing good for others and some follow traditional religious practices. An Indian professor teaching in the US, concludes:[1]

Whenever a country modernizes there is speculation that the new generation will be dramatically different from those that preceded it, in particular more Westernized. Much of that speculation is based on superficial observations regarding rock music and the like. However most systematic studies show that new generations retain much (though not all) of the core values of their culture.

Cultures change, if at all, very slowly. What is changing is the environment in which they live, their living standards, opportunities for advancement, and self-fulfillment.

I think the values that have changed are the weakening regard for religious institutions, with an acceptance of an eclectic spirituality—with the exception of the Muslim youth.

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