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Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults Hardcover – September 14, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0195371796 ISBN-10: 0195371798 Edition: First Edition first Printing

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; First Edition first Printing edition (September 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195371798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195371796
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #92,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From 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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Review


"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



More About 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, and the Center for Social Research at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of many books, including What is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (Chicago 201); 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).

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Sociology Prof on August 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is absolutely a seminal piece for those interested in adolescent development, the transition to adulthood, and/or religion. In a wonderful extension to the first book (Soul Searching), Souls in Transition provides a rigorous, yet amazingly accessible, account of the forces and mechanisms at play in adolescents religious lives as they make the transition to young adulthood. The balance the book is able to maintain between using rigorous methodology, empirical evidence, and engaging explanation is quite impressive. The book will be of great use to academics, religious leaders, and the public alike.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By K. C. Dean on September 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Christian Smith's work in the National Study of Youth and Religion is the gold standard for research on religion and adolescents--and this must-read follow-up looks at young people's faith as they begin the transition into adulthood. Smith's research challenges much conventional wisdom about 18-23 year olds, revealing them to be a highly varied lot in whom religious disinterest abides, but it is neither inevitable nor universal. The red thread throughout young people's religious lives continues to be the massive importance of parents and congregations--even after young people leave home--in determining whether those who grow up with faith keep it in the years following high school. I found Smith's interpretation of cultural trends equally intriguing, including a discussion of our culture's current "crisis of knowledge and value," and the paradoxical triumph of liberal Protestant values in the emerging adult worldview. Tim Clydesdale's *First Year Out* and Robert Wuthnow's *After the Baby Boomers* complement this study well, but Smith's comprehensive view--and passion for the subject--are one of a kind. Two thumbs up.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By JP on August 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Christian Smith (with Patricia Snell) has done it again with this powerful book on emerging adult religion. The potency of this work lies in the broader cultural context meticulously laid out in chapter two "The Cultural Worlds of Emerging Adults." This sets the stage for the rest of the work where the religious and spiritual lives of this cohort are explored. Smith and Snell succeed in distilling an amazing amount of research into a work that everyone from social scientists to religious leaders to emerging adults will enjoy.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Arnett on August 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book, one of the best written in the social sciences in the last 10 years. The authors have done an amazing amount of work on the National Study of Youth and Religion, and they have managed to put it all together in a highly readable form. They use diverse methods, including surveys, interviews, and case studies, and the combination is illuminating. The book is also extremely well-written. I highly recommend it!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mark P. Brown VINE VOICE on May 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The scholarship in this book will become baseline knowlegde. The question you have to ask is can I plow through the source material, or do I wait for the inevitible popularization that will both summarize and simplify while whisking away the original scholar's reticence at sweeping conclusions.

This book is the continuation of the study looked at in "Soul Searching" about teenage faith. That book contained its own popularization in the phrase moralistic theraputic deism. The message read out of the data in this book is not quite as clear and pithy. Maybe reflecting the complexity of adult life, the "emerging adults" of "Souls in Trasition" are following a wider variety of paths. The charts and graphs are worth the price of admision in describing the cultural context of any ministry to emerging adults, especially for those reaching outside of a set group (i.e. conservative protestants reaching the non-religious).

The largest message for confessing churches out of the book should be that every generation is up for grabs - this one maybe to a larger extent than prior generations as they are less fixed in a social web. This group of emergine adults have already made several transition. The clearer message is that there are better and worse ways to align ministry if your goal is to build faith. The effective ways are what they always were: parents that care about faith, active in prayer and scriptures, and consistent worship.
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Format: Hardcover
An engaging combination of quantitative research, interview profiles, and interpretation of scads of data, but the authors do not quote a single gay, bisexual, or transgender emerging adult: at least not one they identify as LGBT or whose self-identification as LGBT they report. This omission is a real shame since paying more attention to sexual minorities might complicate the authors' evaluative thesis that religious adherence provides a stabilizing, pro-social force in the lives of young Americans.

As a writing instructor interested in college students' Romantic and post-Romantic experiences of the sacred as an alternative to the consumerist relativism without commitment that Smith and Snell have identified as the dominant spiritual stance of Millennials, I also find the authors' emphasis on belief not quite as useful as A Secular Age, Charles Taylor's history of the role of the sacred in the lived experience of Western people since the Middle Ages, and Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly's response to it, All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age. Of course, Taylor's approach, rooted as it is in intellectual history and phenomenology rather than the sociological research central to Smith and Snell's project, seems impossible to quantify with surveys due to its holistic methodology. Taylor needs that methodology to narrate changes in people's common-sense, often pre-reflective experiences over centuries, but it doesn't lend itself well to categories with discrete boundaries and the statistical cartwheels characteristic of Souls in Transition and its thick descriptions of Millennials' religious and spiritual lives.

Belief and self-reported religious affiliation, on the other hand, does.
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