First Topic – After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion
In a volume sure to change how pundits and clergy think about religion in the contemporary U.S., prolific Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow assembles and analyzes a vast amount of data about the religious lives of Americans aged 21 to 45. His interests include the extent to which younger adults participate in organized worship, as well as how they think about spirituality, the relationship between religion and politics, and theology. Wuthnow insists that in some ways, today’s younger adults are similar to their boomer parents—the vitality of small groups, for example, is nothing new. But there are key differences, chief among them the tendency of today’s younger adults to remain single longer than ever before. Married people are significantly more likely to participate in religious communities; at the same time, participation in at least some religious groups may make marriage more likely. Wuthnow argues that our society provides lots of structural support for children and teens, but leaves younger adults to fend for themselves during the decades when they’re making crucial decisions about family and work. He is our guest.
Second Topic – Young Souls: The Religious and Spiritual Lives Youth and Emerging Adults
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 research explores these questions and many others as it tells the definitive story of the religious and spiritual lives of youth and emerging adults, up to age 24, in the U.S. today. 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, Dr. Smith’s work is 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.