Religious ideas that are taught during childhood very often stick for life. Cursory reviews of the number of believers who come to faith during childhood or adolescence reveal this to be the case. According to research cited by the evangelical Christian group Youth for Christ for instance, 85% of Christians come to faith before the age of 23, with 15 the average age of conversion. Such figures should make the antennae of secularists twitch, for they suggest that taking on religious faith is often done by minors who are emotionally and intellectually vulnerable to the claims of adult religious authorities. Given the propensity of religious groups to inspire in young people long-term allegiance to their particular faith, questions also arise concerning the potency of the doctrine that religious institutions preach to youngsters.
A scrutiny of the youth evangelism strategies of one of the UK’s largest faith groups, evangelical Christians, should give liberals serious cause for concern. Let us take as exemplar the work of Soul Survivor and Audacious, two large British youth evangelical organisations that run holiday camps attracting British youth in their tens of thousands. One striking aspect of these camps is the intensity of the doctrine that is preached and the zeal with which it is delivered. Leaders passionately inform children and teens of their conviction that evangelical doctrines, all of which are of course highly questionable when considered soberly, are absolutely true.