Much has been written about the profound impact the post-World War II baby boomers had on American religion. But the lifestyles and beliefs of the generation that has followed--and the influence these younger Americans in their twenties and thirties are having on the face of religion--are not so well understood. It is this next wave of post-boomers that Robert Wuthnow examines in this illuminating book. What are their churchgoing habits and spiritual interests and needs? How does their faith affect their families, their communities, and their politics? Interpreting new evidence from scores of in-depth interviews and surveys, Wuthnow reveals a generation of younger adults who, unlike the baby boomers that preceded them, are taking their time establishing themselves in careers, getting married, starting families of their own, and settling down--resulting in an estimated six million fewer regular churchgoers. He shows how the recent growth in evangelicalism is tapering off, and traces how biblical literalism, while still popular, is becoming less dogmatic and more preoccupied with practical guidance.
At the same time, Wuthnow explains how conflicts between religious liberals and conservatives continue--including among new immigrant groups such as Hispanics and Asians--and how in the absence of institutional support many post-boomers have taken a more individualistic, improvised approach to spirituality. Wuthnow's fascinating analysis also explores the impacts of the Internet and so-called virtual churches, and the appeal of megachurches. After the Baby Boomers offers us a tantalizing look at the future of American religion for decades to come.
Robert Wuthnow is the Gerhard R. Andlinger '52 Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. His books include "American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short" and "America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity" (both Princeton).
List of Figures and Tables ix Preface xiii Chapter 1: AMERICAN RELIGION An Uncertain Future 1 How to Think about Younger Adults 3 The Population of Young Adults 7 Coming of Age at Forty 9 The Religious Significance of Young Adults 12 A Generation of Tinkerers 13 An Uncertain Future 17 Chapter 2: THE CHANGING LIFE WORLDS OF YOUNG ADULTS Seven Key Trends 20 Delayed Marriage 21 Children-- Fewer and Later 24 Uncertainties of Work and Money 28 Higher Education (for Some) 36 Loosening Relationships 37 Globalization 42 Culture--An Information Explosion 44 Summing Up 49 Chapter 3: GOING TO CHURCH--OR NOT Who Participates in Congregations? 51 Attendance in Two Time Periods 52 The Reasons for Declining Participation 54 A Closer Look at Marriage and Children 62 Communities 65 Is the United States Becoming Like Europe? 66 The Profile of Regular Church Goers 68 Religious Attendance in Perspective 69 Chapter 4: THE MAJOR FAITH COMMUNITIES Thinking Beyond Winners and Losers 71 The Significance of Young Adults 72 The Major Faith Traditions 75 Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants 77 Black Protestants, Catholics, and Jews 84 Other Faiths and the Nonaffiliated 86 Beyond Winners and Losers 87 Chapter 5: THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO (I THINK) Recent Trends in Religious Beliefs 89 Some Possible Scenarios 90 Decline in Orthodox Beliefs 96 Orthodoxy, with Rising Secularity 98 Countervailing Effects of Diversity 101 Orthodoxy Mixed with Heterodoxy 103 Different Trends among Educational Categories 107 Changing Relationships with Education 108 Different Trends among Faith Communities 110 Chapter 6: SPIRITUALITY AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICES The Role of Faith in Personal Life 112 Church Shopping and Hopping 114 Social Networks 117 Civility 120 Are Converts Different? 123 Seeking Answers 124 Spiritual Practices 127 Music and Art 129 Spiritual but Not Religious? 131 The Nature of Spiritual Tinkering 134 Chapter 7: FAITH AND FAMILY Facing the Difficult Choices 136 Considering Marriage 136 Having Sex 138 Weddings 139 Marital Happiness 141 Parenting 142 Right and Wrong 145 Empathy 148 Threats to Today's Families 149 Seeking Support 151 Religious and Ethnic Diversity 152 Faith Matters 155 Chapter 8: THE DIVIDED GENERATION Religion and Public Life 157 The Split between Conservatives and Liberals 160 Civil Religion 163 Voting in Presidential Elections 167 Mixing Religion and Politics 171 Hot-Button Issues: Abortion 173 Hot-Button Issues: Homosexuality 174 The Religious Right 177 War and Peace 179 Why It Matters 180 Chapter 9: EMERGING TRENDS Immigration and Ethnic Diversity 183 Hispanic Catholics 183 A Note on Hispanic Protestants 187 Asian Americans 188 Hospitality or Hostility 193 A Closer Look at Church Involvement 197 Chapter 10: THE VIRTUAL CHURCH Religious Uses of the Internet 201 Religion Websites 201 Social Issues 203 The Internet and Religious Music 206 Staying in Touch by E-mail 207 The Internet and Spiritual Seeking 209 Congregations and the Internet 212 Chapter 11: VITAL CONGREGATIONS Youthful and Diverse 214 The Profile of Youthful Congregations 219 Minichurch or Megachurch 221 Alternative Styles of Worship 223 Meeting the Changing Needs of Families 225 Interreligious Programs 226 Opportunities for International Ministry 227 Opportunities for Service 228 A Future for Congregations 230 APPENDIX 233 The National Young Adults and Religion Study 233 Methodology 234 The Surveys and Other Data 238 Qualitative Interviews 247 Supplementary Tables 251 Notes 255 Selected Bibliography 279 Index 293