Religion remains an important influence in the world today, yet the social sciences are still not adequately equipped to understand and explain it. This book builds on recent developments in science, theory, and philosophy to advance an innovative theory of religion that goes beyond the problematic theoretical paradigms of the past.
Drawing on the philosophy of critical realism and personalist social theory, Christian Smith answers key questions about the nature, powers, workings, appeal, and future of religion. He defines religion in a way that resolves myriad problems and ambiguities in past accounts, explains the kinds of causal influences religion exerts in the world, and examines the key cognitive process that makes religion possible. Smith explores why humans are religious in the first place—uniquely so as a species—and offers an account of secularization and religious innovation and persistence that breaks the logjam in which so many religion scholars have been stuck for so long.
Certain to stimulate debate and inspire promising new avenues of scholarship, Religion features a wealth of illustrations and examples that help to make its concepts accessible to readers. This superbly written book brings sound theoretical thinking to a perennially thorny subject, and a new vitality and focus to its study.
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.