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Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults

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Overview


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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Well-organized and seasoned with enough memorable interviews that lay readers will value it as much as specialists." --Publisher's Weekly

"Ranks for me as a potential book of the year for 2010." --Beliefnet.com

"Unlike the nonsense delivered in news magazines and opinion polls, Souls in Transition is serious scholarly research about religion among emerging adults. The sober, fair-minded presentation of evidence about what is and what is not happening among Americans age 18 to 23 is refreshing." --Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

"It would be hard to exceed the brilliance of Soul Searching, but Smith and Snell have achieved this feat in Souls in Transition. Through a masterful combination of surveys and interviews the authors illuminate emerging adults' religious beliefs as no one has done before, and also provide numerous insights on how religion is connected to other aspects of their lives. This book is social science at its best and should not be missed by anyone who wishes to understand the lives of today's emerging adults." --Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Clark University, Author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties

"Christian Smith's work in the National Study of Youth and Religion is the gold standard for research on religion and adolescents--and now, emerging adults. So buckle up: Souls in Transition reads like an avalanche as Smith reports the findings of the 18-23 year old cohort, takes on our culture's current "crisis of knowledge and value," reveals the uneven terrain of emerging adulthood. Insisting that religious disinterest in 18-23 year olds is neither inevitable nor universal, Smith challenges parents and congregations to support and model religious engagement with emerging adults. If you're a parent, pastor, campus minister, educator, congregation member--or a 'twenty something' yourself-- this book needs to be on your shelf." --Kenda Creasy Dean, Ph.D., parent, pastor, and Associate Professor of Youth, Church and Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary.

"Impressive...Smith, a professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, is a gutsy sociologist who does not mind tipping sacred cows or poking around in areas that theologians like to claim for themselves such as religious formation...Smith's research offers us hope." --Christian Century

"Souls in Transition makes a mighty contribution to the sociology of religion. It is innovative, full of rich narratives, and presents a wealth of accessible quantitative findings. Anyone interested in gaining a serious understanding of America's newest adult cohortswhat they believe, how they practice and view their faith, and the major social influences shaping their experienceshould start with this book."--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"This title presents serious scholarly research in a way that is thoroughly accessible to average adult readers, a good mix of readability and substance that belongs in any religious, academic, or public library."--Catholic Library World

"This book...offer excellant methodology, analysis and theorizing"--Richard Flory, University of Southern California

"There is much more in this book....the book is primarily about the religious and spiritual lives of emerging adults, it successfully embeds those issues within the larger cultural context where they reside."Richard Flory

"Soul Searching , was particularly noteworthy for the introduction of a new phrase in the lexicon of American religion."--John Muether

"A conscientious note-taker, relentless interviewer, and skilled writer, Smith makes these twelve young Americans stand out vividly." --Contemporary Sociology

Publishers Weekly
With the protraction of higher education, delays in marriage and childbearing, and extended financial support from parents, “emerging adults” (or “EAs,” ages 18–23) enjoy unprecedented freedoms. What does that mean for their spiritual formation? Smith, a veteran sociologist of religion, and Snell, of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Notre Dame, draw on statistical samples and more than 200 in-depth interviews to craft a compelling portrait of college-age Americans. This generation, steeped in religious pluralism, gets high marks for inclusivity and diversity awareness but has troubling consumerist tendencies, consistently prioritizing material wealth and devaluing altruism. Not surprisingly, EAs are less religious than older adults and than they themselves were as teenagers—which comes home especially poignantly in a chapter of follow-up profiles on some of the interview subjects from Smith's 2005 book on teen spirituality, Soul Searching. Surprisingly, however, EAs are not significantly less religious than emerging adults of prior generations. Although the book is heavy on survey data, tables and sociological typology, it's well-organized and seasoned with enough memorable interviews that lay readers will value it as much as specialists. (Sept.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195371796
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/14/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 393,509
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of many books, including Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Do Not Give Away More Money (OUP 2008); Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (OUP 2005), Winner of the 2005 "Distinguished Book Award" from Christianity Today; and Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture (OUP 2003).
Patricia Snell is Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.

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