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Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers [Hardcover]

By Christian Smith (Author) & Melina Lundquist Denton (Author)
Our Price $ 35.47  
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Item Number 160100  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   368
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.56" Width: 6.54" Height: 1.17"
Weight:   1.4 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Feb 1, 2005
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  019518095X  
EAN  9780195180954  


Availability  125 units.
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Alternate Formats List Price Our Price Item Number Availability
Hardcover $ 36.95 $ 35.47 160100 In Stock
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Item Description...
Overview
Winner of the 2006 Christianity Today Book Award for Christianity and Culture Description In most discussions and analyses of American teenage life, one major topic is curiously overlooked--religion. Yet most American teens say that religious faith is important in their lives. 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? Answering these and many other questions, Soul Searching tells the definitive story of the religious and spiritual lives of contemporary American teenagers. It reports the findings of The National Study of Youth and Religion, the largest and most detailed such study ever undertaken. Based on a nationwide telephone survey of teens and their parents, as well as in-depth face-to-face interviews with more than 250 of the survey respondents, Soul Searching shows that religion is indeed a significant factor in the lives of many American teenagers. Chock full of carefully interpreted interview data and solid survey statistics, Soul Searching reveals many surprising findings. For example, the authors find that teenagers are far more influenced by the religious beliefs and practices of their parents and other adults than is commonly thought. They challenge the conventional wisdom that many teens today are "spiritual seekers." And they show that greater teenage religious involvement is significantly associated with more positive adolescent life outcomes. Soul Searching reveals the complexity of contemporary teenage religious life, showing that religion is widely practiced and positively valued by teens, but also de-prioritized and very poorly understood by them, yet significant nonetheless in shaping their lives. More broadly, Soul Searching describes what appears to be a major transformation of faith in the U.S., away from the substance of historical religious traditions and toward a new and quite different faith the authors call "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism."

Publishers Description
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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More About Christian Smith & Melina Lundquist Denton

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo!
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.


Christian Smith currently resides in Chapel Hill, in the state of North Carolina. Christian Smith was born in 1960 and has an academic affiliation as follows - University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill University of Notre Dame Uni.

Christian Smith has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Philosophische Analyse =


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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Children's Studies   [577  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Review of Soul Searching  Jun 6, 2008
This book is a very interesting and thought provoking look at teenagers and religion in todays society. I was impressed at the variety of the interviews and the responses and how very different and varied teens view spiritual topics. As a Youth Director in a small rural church I feel this was a very eye opening book about how we are falling short as parents, teachers, and church leaders. We have a huge responsibility to the Christian youth who are the future of our churches.
 
Good, as far as it goes  Jan 10, 2008
Excellent resource for anyone needing statistics on the current state of religious belief among US teenagers. Beyond the tables and figures, however, are even more important sections detailing some of the answers given by the large group of adolescents interviewed for the project. As the book cover notes, there are many surprises found in these numbers, and anyone involved in family and educational programs within their churches will find much to ponder and use in their own planning. While the book achieves its purpose in showing us the "religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers,"

I am giving the book only four stars because it covers only ages 13 to 17. The authors recognize the potential for large differences in outlook at the extremes of their own range, but, by not including the last two teen-aged years, I believe they have given only an incomplete picture of what their title promises. Once these teenagers are exposed to a year or two of college and/or their first experiences in independent living, my guess is there would be a dramatic drop-off in some of these more optimistic findings.
 
Worth every minute  Jul 18, 2007
Although this book can be somewhat slow at times (it's a book of analyzing statistics, what else would one expect?), it is a great glimpse into the minds of U.S. teenagers. Anyone who works with youth should read this book.
 
social scientific conclusions about American teenage religiosity  Jan 18, 2007
First the good news. In their ground-breaking National Study of Youth and Religion funded by the Lilly Endowment, the results of which are published in their new book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford University Press, 2005), Christian Smith (the Stuart Chapin Distinguished Professor of Sociology at UNC and a committed Christian) and Melinda Lundquist Denton of the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) document that teenagers overwhelmingly admire their parents as the single greatest influence in their lives, and gladly imitate their religious beliefs. Further, their study showed that teenagers actually like church. The conventional wisdom of teenage alienation from parents and hostility toward religion is an entrenched but erroneous stereotype, they argue.

Now for the bad news. When Smith and Denton asked these teenagers to describe the particulars of their religious faith, they were "incredibly inarticulate" about even the most basic tenets of their beliefs and practices. Rather, the vast majority of kids were abysmally ignorant of the religion they espoused. Here, for example, is the response of a 15-year-old who attends church four or five times a week, when asked to articulate her faith:

"[Pause] I don't really know how to answer that. ['Are there any beliefs at all that are important to you? Really generally.'] [Pause] I don't know. ['Take your time if you want.'] I think that you should just, if you're gonna do something wrong then you should always ask for forgiveness and he's gonna forgive you no matter what, cause he gave up his only Son to take all the sins for you, so..."

This from their scientific survey of 3,290 teenagers (ages 13-17) and parents, and 267 personal interviews, conducted across four years (2001-2005). Smith and Denton conclude that most "Christian" kids really operate with a vague sort of Moral Therapeutic Deism: be nice, don't do bad, for a remote deity wants you to be happy and feel good about yourself. In other words, says Smith, "we can say here that we have come with some confidence to believe that a significant part of 'Christianity' in the U.S. is actually only tenuously Christian in any sense that is seriously connected to the actual historical Christian tradition." If these kids reflect the biblical illiteracy of their parents, which I suspect is the case, and if we add to this portrait the depressing conclusions about Christian lifestyles in Ron Sider's The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience (2005), then American born-again believers have a long, long way to go in fidelity to the apostolic way of life.

If you cannot read Soul Searching, there are two brief reviews that I enjoyed. See Andy Crouch, "Compliant But Confused," in Christianity Today, April 2005, p. 98; and Michael Cromartie's interview with Christian Smith, "What American Teenagers Believe," in Books and Culture, January-February 2005, pp. 10-11.
 
Really important stuff, especially "moralistic therapeutic deism"  Aug 12, 2006
A sociological analysis of conducted between 2001 and 2005 at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill under the title, "National Study of Youth and Religion."

According to the research of Smith and Denton, the vast majority of U.S. teenagers identify themselves as Christian, have beliefs that are similar to those of their parents, believe in God, and have a positive general attitude about religion. About half say that faith is important in their lives, and four out of ten say they attend religious services weekly or more often. Most of them have never heard the phrase "spiritual but not religious" or have any idea what that means. "The vast majority of the teenagers we interviewed, of whatever religion, said very plainly that they simply believe what they were raised to believe; they are merely following in their family's footsteps and that is perfectly fine with them" (page 120).

But wait -- there's a problem. What is it that these teenagers have been raised to believe? "Our impression as interviewers was that many teenagers could not articulate matters of faith because they have not been effectively educated in and provided opportunities to practice talking about their faith. Indeed, it was our distinct sense that for many of the teens we interviewed, our interview was the first time that any adult had ever asked them what they believed and how it mattered in their life" (page 133). Yikes! Smith and Denton argue that "we suggest that the de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what we might well call 'Moralistic Therapeutic Deism'" -- a simple belief in a god (who is not very personal), with an emphasis on moral values and feeling good about oneself. Smith and Denton argue that this "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" is "simply colonizing many established religious traditions and congregations in the United States." (Moralistic therapeutic deism is discussed in detail on pages 162-170.)

Their analysis of moralistic therepeutic deism concludes: "We have come with some confidence to believe 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. This has happened in the minds and hearts of many individual believers and, it also appears, within the structures of at least some Christian organizations and institutions. The language, and therefore experience, of Trinity, holiness, sin, grace, justification, sanctification, church, Eucharist, and heaven and hell appear, among most Christian teenagers in the United States at the very least, to be supplanted by the language of happiness, niceness, and an earned heavenly reward. It is not so much that U.S. Christianity is being secularized. Rather more subtly, Christianity is either degenerating into a pathetic version of itself or, more significantly, Christianity is actively being colonized and displaced by a quite different religious faith" (page 171).

Wake up, church planters and church builders! I think we've just heard the voice of a prophet speaking.
 

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