Concerning Smith and Denton's research, Collin Hansen writes as follows in an article for Christianity Today entitled "Death by Deism":
Though they aren't journalists, Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton broke one of the biggest stories in contemporary religion with their 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Conducting the most comprehensive study of religion and teenagers to date, the sociologists discovered a newly dominant creed that they dubbed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Rather than transformative revelation from God, religion has become a utility for enhancing a teenager's life. Smith and Denton lay out the five points of MTD:
1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
Surely American teenagers did not invent this new religion. A quick scan of bestseller lists, television guides, or public school curricula will reveal MTD's appeal. Indeed, the God of MTD sounds like the "cool parent" teenagers adore.
"God is something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process," Smith and Denton write.
Read it all.
According to the Wikipedia entry for "Moralistic therapeutic deism," Smith and Denton maintain that "a significant part of Christianity in the United States is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition, but has rather substantially morphed into Christianity's misbegotten stepcousin, Christian Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."
Meanwhile, some "progressives" continue to argue that Christianity must adapt or perish. But if MTD is the dominant new creed of the culture, then Christianity's adaptation to the culture's fundamentally post-Christian worldview merely aids and abets decline by leading the Church beyond anything recognizably Christian. As Matthew Lee Anderson of "Mere Orthodoxy" rightly notes, "The better slogan is, in fact, 'adapt and perish.'"
The accommodationist prescription for stemming Christianity's decline is itself symptomatic of that decline. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. But not less.