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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."
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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