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Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
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Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  180 ratings  ·  26 reviews
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 w ...more
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Published January 25th 2005 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2005)
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Sarah Rosenberger
Soul Searching contains a lot of relevant information, but the presentation is hopelessly dry. The teens' survey replies and life stories break up the monotony somewhat, but data-heavy chapters and repetitive conclusions make it difficult to wade through.

I also didn't care for the way the author inserted himself into the book, especially when it was for the purpose of pointing out how "unattractive" one of the teenage girls he interviewed was and how much he pitied her for that. If this had bee
This is an important study of the spiritual lives of American teenagers. Not surprisingly, Smith and Denton find that teenagers are significantly influenced by the religious choices and practices of their parents and that the vast majority of American teens embrace some form of religious identity. Also not surprising is that fact that the Mormon (Later Day Saints) church probably does the best job of anyone in influencing the religious beliefs and lifestyle of its teens.

Some surprises. One is ho
Jun 01, 2012 John is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Quotes that struck me as I read:
"In many discussions and activities revolving around better understanding and helping teenagers, one aspect of their lives seemes frequently to go unnoticed, unconsidered, unexamined. That is their religious and spiritual lives." (pg. 4)

"American adolescents as a whole experience and represent in theri lives an immense variety of religious and spiritual beliefs, practices, experiences, identities, and attitudes." (pg. 26)

Mark Oppenlander
Several years ago, I heard sociologist Christian Smith speak on the SPU campus; I have been meaning to read this book ever since. In it, Smith compiles the information from the National Study of Youth and Religion which he and others at UNC Chapel Hill conducted in 2002-2003. This massive study of how teens aged 13-18 in America view God, religion and morals involved thousands of phone interviews and several hundred more in-depth face to-face follow-up interviews which went into greater detail t ...more
Garland Vance
This is a critical work for anyone who is involved in high school or college ministry. I would even consider it vital for parents to read. However, it is not a quick read. Written by a sociologist, this is difficult reading, though the authors keep the reader engaged.
Christian Smith is the author of the (now famous) term "moralistic, therapeutic Deism." He goes into great detail about this latent worldview that is shaping the hearts and minds of teenagers, young adults, and even their parents a
Thomas Grosh IV
For every youth minister, campus minister, and parent! In particular, their consideration of "moralistic therapeutic deism" as being passed down from "Christian" parents and church ministries needs to become part of a wider conversation. In addition to all the stats and analysis, there are some very helpful tips in the �Concluding Unscientific Postscript" . . . could easily be used for wider, non-academic, practical conversations regarding youth ministry and "Christian" parenting. I have some ...more
This book is chock full of statistics and research data. I believe it was the first book written from the findings of the National Study of Youth and Religion, conducted from 2011 to 2005 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
There are some chapters that are wonderful, and some that I just skipped over.
The idea of Consequentialist Morality (p. 156) helped put into words just what I was thinking.
Looking at youth in the wider culture of a "mass-consumer capitalist-shaped society" expl
This book looks at both survey data and in-depth interviews to gain an understanding of the religious lives of American teenagers. The author's conclusions are that most teenagers resemble their parents in terms of their beliefs and intensity, most teenages can't articulate their religious beliefs very clearly, and the most devout teenagers tend to avoid many pitfalls of growing up as they mature. The book is well-written, although it is a little dense in places. It would be very useful for some ...more
A sociological study of American adolescents' religious beliefs, and an engrossing read. It's a scholarly study, but has a great depth of analysis, nice use of humour, and some really beautiful, almost poetic, passages. I will continue to refer to this book, above all because of the authors' concept of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.
Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is "converting believers in the old faiths to its alternative religious vision of divinely underwritten personal happiness and interperson
Nathan Good
Don't remember exactly what date I read this, but it was for my Sociology of Religion class at West Chester.
This book is written by a professor of sociology of religion, and presents the results of the first year of a multi-year study. It is a large, in depth (survey, phone and personal interviews) of teenagers in order to systematically study and classify their religious beliefs. Additionally the author looks at how the beliefs and practices affect religious outcomes. It presents some predictable along with some very surprising results. I think this would be a good book for people who are interested ...more
Sobering study of the faith lives of American adolescents -- who, it turns out, long for spiritual connection and guidance from trusted adults. Most of the time, we are failing to help them articulate their beliefs or adopt the language of the religious tradition. If you care for young people in your family or your congregation, you owe it to them to read this enlightening book. It will definitely inform my work with young children and pre-adolescents.
Hannah McGinnis
Though it's a super technical, data-driven book that takes some wading through, Christian Smith has presenting a helpful and honest portrait of the spiritual lives of teenagers--for once relying on actual data rather than adults' impressions. For those ministering to teens, this book is helpful for providing an understanding of what's actually going on so that people can best approach and minister to teens' needs.
It is steeped in data about teens and their religious practices across denominational lines. Heavy read because it is a study of habits interests. Soul Searching is good for those who are interested in the direction of American teens. This book is useful for developing strategy for ministering to teens and for insight into their reasoning for searching and declining religion, spirituality, and parental guidance.
Skimmed the key matters when it was first published, now I'm reading this in conjunction with the sequel "Souls in Transition." A very important study of youth and religion in the United States.
gives decent insight into the lives of american teens. For some, there may be too much statistical data, but their summaries and conclusions are good.
Dave McNeely
Very good and important research on the religious lives of teenagers in the U.S. But, let's be honest, it's 90% research.
E. Scott
At first - hopeful.
In the middle - utterly depressing.
And by the end - thought provoking and challenging.
Jun 19, 2009 Frank marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I followed this study as it was being done, so I know they've done a great job. I'd like to see the results!
Jason Postma
An important book based on a long term study of how youth understand and follow their faith commitments.
This was an interesting read to better understand teenage perspectives on religion and spirituality.
Interesting perspective on the role of religion in the lives of American teenagers.
Great scholarly look at the religious lives of adolescents in America.
Well researched look into the faith and religion of today's teens
Stephen Keene
Excellent text. Best book ever written on the subject.
Tyler R
Reeeeally dry as expected, great info.
Maruth marked it as to-read
Feb 25, 2015
Misraku Kifetew
Misraku Kifetew marked it as to-read
Feb 25, 2015
Ben marked it as to-read
Feb 20, 2015
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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. Smith's research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture.
More about Christian Smith...
The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving

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