How important is religion for young people in America today? What are the major influences on their developing spiritual lives? How do their religious beliefs and practices change as young people enter into adulthood? Christian Smith's Souls in Transition explores these questions and many others as it tells the definitive story of the religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults, ages 18 to 24, in the U.S. today. This is the much-anticipated follow-up study to the landmark book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Based on candid interviews with thousands of young people tracked over a five-year period, Souls in Transition reveals how the religious practices of the teenagers portrayed in Soul Searching have been strengthened, challenged, and often changed as they have moved into adulthood. The book vividly describes as well the broader cultural world of today's emerging adults, how that culture shapes their religious outlooks, and what the consequences are for religious faith and practice in America more generally. Some of Smith's findings are surprising. Parents turn out to be the single most important influence on the religious outcomes in the lives of young adults. On the other hand, teenage participation in evangelization missions and youth groups does not predict a high level of religiosity just a few years later. Moreover, the common wisdom that religiosity declines sharply during the young adult years is shown to be greatly exaggerated. Painstakingly researched and filled with remarkable findings, Souls in Transition will be essential reading for youth ministers, pastors, parents, teachers and students at church-related schools, and anyone who wishes to know how religious practice is affected by the transition into adulthood in America today.
Life for emerging adults is vastly different today than it was for their counterparts even a generation ago. Young people are waiting longer to marry, to have children, and to choose a career direction. As a result, they enjoy more freedom, opportunities, and personal growth than ever before. But the transition to adulthood is also more complex, disjointed, and confusing. In Lost in Transition, Christian Smith and his collaborators draw on 230 in-depth interviews with a broad cross-section of emerging adults (ages 18-23) to investigate the difficulties young people face today, the underlying causes of those difficulties, and the consequences both for individuals and for American society as a whole. Rampant consumer capitalism, ongoing failures in education, hyper-individualism, postmodernist moral relativism, and other aspects of American culture are all contributing to the chaotic terrain that emerging adults must cross. Smith identifies five major problems facing very many young people today: confused moral reasoning, routine intoxication, materialistic life goals, regrettable sexual experiences, and disengagement from civic and political life. The trouble does not lie only with the emerging adults or their poor individual decisions but has much deeper roots in mainstream American culture--a culture which emerging adults have largely inherited rather than created. Older adults, Smith argues, must recognize that much of the responsibility for the pain and confusion young people face lies with them. Rejecting both sky-is-falling alarmism on the one hand and complacent disregard on the other, Smith suggests the need for what he calls "realistic concern"--and a reconsideration of our cultural priorities and practices--that will help emerging adults more skillfully engage unique challenges they face. Even-handed, engagingly written, and based on comprehensive research, Lost in Transition brings much needed attention to the darker side of the transition to adulthood.
Determining why, when, and to whom people feel compelled to be generous affords invaluable insight into positive and problematic ways of life. Organ donation, volunteering, and the funding of charities can all be illuminated by sociological and psychological perspectives on how American adults conceive of and demonstrate generosity. Focusing not only on financial giving but on the many diverse forms generosity can take, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson show the deep impact-usually good, sometimes destructive-that giving has on individuals. The Paradox of Generosity is the first study to make use of the cutting-edge empirical data collected in Smith's groundbreaking, multidisciplinary, five-year Science of Generosity Initiative. It draws on an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, more than sixty in-depth interviews with individuals across twelve states, and analysis of over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This wealth of evidence reveals a consistent link between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life: more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression. Smith and Davidson also show, however, that to achieve a better life a person must practice generosity regularly-random acts of kindness are not enough. Offering a wide range of vividly illustrative case studies, this volume will be a crucial resource for anyone seeking to understand the true impact and meaning of generosity.
In innumerable discussions and activities dedicated to better understanding and helping teenagers, one aspect of teenage life is curiously overlooked. Very few such efforts pay serious attention to the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of American adolescents. But many teenagers are very involved in religion. Surveys reveal that 35% attend religious services weekly and another 15% attend at least monthly. 60% say that religious faith is important in their lives. 40% report that they pray daily. 25% say that they have been "born again." Teenagers feel good about the congregations they belong to. Some say that faith provides them with guidance and resources for knowing how to live well. What is going on in the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers? What do they actually believe? What religious practices do they engage in? Do they expect to remain loyal to the faith of their parents? Or are they abandoning traditional religious institutions in search of a new, more authentic "spirituality"? This book attempts to answer these and related questions as definitively as possible. It reports the findings of The National Study of Youth and Religion, the largest and most detailed such study ever undertaken. The NYSR conducted a nationwide telephone survey of teens and significant caregivers, as well as nearly 300 in-depth face-to-face interviews with a sample of the population that was surveyed. The results show that religion and spirituality are indeed very significant in the lives of many American teenagers. Among many other discoveries, they find that teenagers are far more influenced by the religious beliefs and practices of their parents and caregivers than commonly thought. They refute the conventional wisdom that teens are "spiritual but not religious." And they confirm that greater religiosity is significantly associated with more positive adolescent life outcomes. This eagerly-awaited volume not only provides an unprecedented understanding of adolescent religion and spirituality but, because teenagers serve as bellwethers for possible future trends, it affords an important and distinctive window through which to observe and assess the current state and future direction of American religion as a whole.
Counter to popular perceptions, contemporary American sociology is and promotes a profoundly sacred project at heart. Sociology today is in fact animated by sacred impulses, driven by sacred commitments, and serves a sacred project. Sociology appears on the surface to be a secular, scientific enterprise--its founding fathers were mostly atheists. Its basic operating premises are secular and naturalistic. Sociologists today are disproportionately not religious, compared to all Americans, and often irreligious. The Sacred Project of American Sociology shows, counter-intuitively, that the secular enterprise that everyday sociology appears to be pursuing is actually not what is really going on at sociology's deepest level. Christian Smith conducts a self-reflexive, tables-turning, cultural and institutional sociology of the profession of American sociology itself, showing that this allegedly secular discipline ironically expresses Emile Durkheim's inescapable sacred, exemplifies its own versions of Marxist false consciousness, and generates a spirited reaction against Max Weber's melancholically observed disenchantment of the world. American sociology does not escape the analytical net that it casts over the rest of the ordinary world. Sociology itself is a part of that very human, very social, often very sacred and spiritual world. And sociology's ironic mis-recognition of its own sacred project leads to a variety of arguably self-destructive and distorting tendencies. This book re-asserts a vision for what sociology is most important for, in contrast with its current commitments, and calls sociologists back to a more honest, fair, and healthy vision of its purpose.
How parents approach the task of passing on religious faith and practice to their children

How do American parents pass their religion on to their children? At a time of overall decline of traditional religion and an increased interest in personal “spirituality,” Religious Parenting investigates the ways that parents transmit religious beliefs, values, and practices to their kids. We know that parents are the most important influence on their children’s religious lives, yet parents have been virtually ignored in previous work on religious socialization. Renowned religion scholar Christian Smith and his collaborators Bridget Ritz and Michael Rotolo explore American parents’ strategies, experiences, beliefs, and anxieties regarding religious transmission through hundreds of in-depth interviews that span religious traditions, social classes, and family types all around the country.

Throughout we hear the voices of evangelical, Catholic, Mormon, mainline and black Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist parents and discover that, despite massive diversity, American parents share a nearly identical approach to socializing their children religiously. For almost all, religion is important for the foundation it provides for becoming one’s best self on life’s difficult journey. Religion is primarily a resource for navigating the challenges of this life, not preparing for an afterlife. Parents view it as their job, not religious professionals’, to ground their children in life-enhancing religious values that provide resilience, morality, and a sense of purpose. Challenging longstanding sociological and anthropological assumptions about culture, the authors demonstrate that parents of highly dissimilar backgrounds share the same “cultural models” when passing on religion to their children.

Taking an extensive look into questions of religious practice and childrearing, Religious Parenting uncovers parents’ real-life challenges while breaking innovative theoretical ground.

In innumerable discussions and activities dedicated to better understanding and helping teenagers, one aspect of teenage life is curiously overlooked. Very few such efforts pay serious attention to the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of American adolescents. But many teenagers are very involved in religion. Surveys reveal that 35% attend religious services weekly and another 15% attend at least monthly. 60% say that religious faith is important in their lives. 40% report that they pray daily. 25% say that they have been "born again." Teenagers feel good about the congregations they belong to. Some say that faith provides them with guidance and resources for knowing how to live well. What is going on in the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers? What do they actually believe? What religious practices do they engage in? Do they expect to remain loyal to the faith of their parents? Or are they abandoning traditional religious institutions in search of a new, more authentic "spirituality"? This book attempts to answer these and related questions as definitively as possible. It reports the findings of The National Study of Youth and Religion, the largest and most detailed such study ever undertaken. The NYSR conducted a nationwide telephone survey of teens and significant caregivers, as well as nearly 300 in-depth face-to-face interviews with a sample of the population that was surveyed. The results show that religion and spirituality are indeed very significant in the lives of many American teenagers. Among many other discoveries, they find that teenagers are far more influenced by the religious beliefs and practices of their parents and caregivers than commonly thought. They refute the conventional wisdom that teens are "spiritual but not religious." And they confirm that greater religiosity is significantly associated with more positive adolescent life outcomes. This eagerly-awaited volume not only provides an unprecedented understanding of adolescent religion and spirituality but, because teenagers serve as bellwethers for possible future trends, it affords an important and distinctive window through which to observe and assess the current state and future direction of American religion as a whole.
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