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Christian Smith (sociology)

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Christian Smith (sociology)

Christian Smith is an American sociologist, currently 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. Smith’s research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents and emerging adults, sociological theory, philosophy of science, the science of generosity, American evangelicalism, and culture.[1] Smith is well known for his contributions to the sociology of religion, particularly his research into adolescent spirituality, as well as for his contributions to sociological theory and his advocacy of critical realism.[2][3]


Smith earned his MA (1987) and PhD (1990) from Harvard University, where he also spent a year studying theology at Harvard Divinity School. He attended Wheaton College (1978–1979) and received his BA from Gordon College (MA) in 1983. Smith was an Assistant Professor, Full Professor, and Stuart Chapin Professor of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 12 years before moving to Notre Dame. He was conferred the Gordon College Alumnus of the Year Award in October, 2007. Smith has been awarded more than $17 million worth of research grants from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Lilly Endowment Inc., the John Templeton Foundation, and other foundations and institutes.


Smith has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. Most recently, he was awarded the Lilly Fellows Program Distinguished Book Award in 2011 for his 2009 book, co-authored with Patricia Snell, Souls in Transition: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults. He was also awarded Christianity Today’s 2010 Distinguished Book Award for the same book, Souls in Transition: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.[4] He previously won Christianity Today’s 2005 Distinguished Book Award for his 2005 book, co-authored with Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Michael Emerson and Smith’s Divided by Faith was the winner of the “2001 Outstanding Book Award" from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion. Smith is also the winner of the 2001-2002 Excellence in Mentoring Award, from the Graduate Student Association of the Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and winner of the 1995-96 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of Sociology Graduate Student Association Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring. He was co-author on 1999 “Outstanding Article Award,” granted by the American Sociological Association Section on the Sociology of Religion, for Mark Regnerus and Christian Smith, “Selective Deprivatization Among American Religious Traditions: the Reversal of the Great Reversal,” in Social Forces, in 1998.

Moralistic therapeutic deism

In his 2005 book Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers co-written with Melinda Lundquist Denton, he introduced the term Moralistic therapeutic deism (abbreviated MTD), to describe the common religious beliefs exhibited by American youth in a survey.[5][6][7] It has also been referred to as "egonovism".[8] The book summarized the "National Study of Youth and Religion," privately funded by the Lilly Endowment.

They label Moralistic Therapeutic Deism as a religion with the following traits:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.[9]


Smith is author, co-author, and editor of numerous scholarly books, articles, book chapters, book reviews, and research reports. A selection of Smith’s books includes:

  • The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism In Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture (2011) (Brazos)
  • How to Go From Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in 95 Difficult Steps (2011) (Cascade)
  • Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood (2011) (Oxford)
  • What Is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up (2010) (Chicago)
  • Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Do Not Give Away More Money (2008) (Oxford)
  • Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults (2009), with Patricia Snell (Oxford)[10]
  • Soul Searching: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (2005), with Melinda Lundquist Denton (Oxford)
  • Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture (2003) (Oxford)
  • The Secular Revolution (2003) (California)
  • Christian America?: What Evangelicals Really Want (2000) (California)
  • Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America (2000), with Michael Emerson (Oxford)
  • American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving (1998), with Michael Emerson, Sally Gallagher, Paul Kennedy, and David Sikkink (Chicago)
  • Resisting Reagan: The U.S. Central America Peace Movement (1996) (Chicago)
  • The Emergence of Liberation Theology: Radical Religion and Social Movement Theory (1991) (Chicago)

See also


External links

  • Christian Smith's homepage
  • Christian Smith's CV
  • National Study of Youth and Religion
  • Science of Generosity

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