On Corrupting the Youth

Review of Christian Smith. Souls
in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults
. With
Patricia Snell. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. viii + 355 pp., with
appendixes and index. $24.95 (hardcover).

Review of Mark D. Regnerus. Forbidden
Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. x + 290 pp., with appendixes, bibliography,
and index. $29.99 (hardcover).

On Corrupting the Youth

Reviewed by John Gee

In 2005 the evangelical sociologist Christian Smith made a
small stir when he published the findings of the National Study of Youth and
Religion (NSYR).1 One of the surprises in his study was how well Latter-day Saint youth came off.
“In general comparisons among major U.S. religious traditions using a
variety of sociological measures of religious vitality and
salience—which, to give a standard sociological disclaimer, may or may
not have anything to do with the truth content of religious traditions or their
adherents’ actual subjective spiritual life and health—it is Mormon
teenagers who are sociologically faring the best.” 2 While “the majority of U.S. teens would badly fail a hypothetical
short-answer or essay test of the basic beliefs of their religion,”
Latter-day Saint youth “seem somewhat better able to explain the basic
outlook and beliefs of their tradition.” 3 Church
leaders even mentioned this study in general conference.4 As part of
the NSYR project, one of Smith’s colleagues, Mark Regnerus, tackled the issue
of adolescents and sexuality.5 Smith has now done a follow-up study on that same group of youth, now
college-aged, whom Smith labels emerging adults.6 The NSYR is similar to studies conducted by the Higher Education Research
Institute (HERI) 7 but differs because it encompasses all college-aged emerging adults whether or
not they attended college, whereas the latter looks only at those involved in
higher education. There is much to consider in these thoughtful books, but only
a portion can be highlighted here.

Losing Their Faith . . .

Smith’s study contains both reasons for concern and reasons
to rejoice. If Latter-day Saints stood out positively as teenagers, they stand
out more positively and starkly in their college years. One of the more
sobering trends among emerging adults is the tendency for them to lose their
faith and thus be lost to their faith. Latter-day Saints lose one in ten of
their emerging adults, while Protestants lose about one in eight, Catholics
lose one in four, and Jews lose a little more than one in four (27 percent).8 The number of nonreligious individuals almost doubles in the emerging adult
years to more than a quarter of the population,9 which Smith
notes is almost twice the number of Baptists,10 the largest
denomination in the United States. Latter-day Saints retain 72 percent of their
teens and emerging adults combined, losing just over one in four.11 This is significantly better than the other religious groups, who tend to lose
between one in three and one in two.12 Oddly, in
terms of absolute numbers, mainline Protestants stay about the same or make
modest gains, but this is because about 10 percent of the more numerous
conservative Protestants became mainline Protestants, outweighing the 50
percent of youth who left mainline Protestantism.13

The largest increase in any religious category occurred in
the nonreligious group, which includes the atheist, the agnostic, and the
apathetic. This group nearly doubled in size,14 accounting
for almost a quarter of all emerging adults.15 Fifteen
percent of emerging adults became nonreligious while in that age group.16 The nonreligious retention rate (if one can use that term) is nearly as high as
the Latter-day Saint retention rate.17 Smith notes
that “given its reputation for strong mission evangelism and overall
growth, it may be somewhat surprising to some that few non-LDS teenagers
switched into the LDS church as they grew into their emerging adult
years—only a few out of the entire sample, in fact, converted to LDS from
being Jewish and non-religious. Overall growth of LDS, such as it is, must be
due to other factors—such as higher fertility rates and conversions among
other age groups—since it appears from these data that emerging adults
are not disposed to LDS conversion.” 18 Throughout
the remainder of his book, Smith unknowingly gives numerous reasons why
emerging adults are not so disposed. Ironically, the result of evangelical
countercult “evangelizing” among Latter-day Saints is that those
who do abandon their faith usually become nonreligious rather than evangelical.19 Rather than adopting evangelical belief, they abandon belief altogether. In
this sense evangelical “evangelizing” can result in people ceasing to
believe in Christ.

Besides showing a decline in
institutional affiliation, the survey indicates a decline in outward measures
of religiosity. More than half of emerging adults do not attend church more
than a few times a year.20 (Of graduating college seniors, 37.2 percent do not attend at all).21 One in five never pray alone (almost one in four among Latter-day Saints).22 Almost three in seven graduating college seniors never pray at all,23 up from almost three in ten entering freshmen.24 Half never
read scriptures (about one in four among Latter-day Saints).25 Four in five do not observe a Sabbath (about three in ten among Latter-day
Saints).26 Smith observes of religious practices that

emerging adults who as teenagers were LDS engage in all of
these religious practices at the highest level, usually significantly higher
than all other groups. They also appear to have increased the most (for
positive change) or, conversely, decreased the slightest (for negative change)
when change over time is evident in these practices. Second, with the exception
of the LDS group, in all but one case—conservative Protestants sharing
faith, at 51 percent—only minorities of emerging adults in any category
engage in any of these religious practices.27

Studies have shown that “having strong religious
beliefs—having a strong interior commitment to faith—was not a
significant predictor of high engagement in religious practices and activities.
Thus habits of the hand (i.e., behaviors) were more significant for many
students than habits of the heart or head in keeping them connected with
spiritual and religious concerns.” 28

Off to College

Emerging adults who attend college mirror this development.
A survey of “3,680 students at 50 colleges at the end of their first year
revealed that religious involvement (attendance at religious services,
participation in religious clubs, prayer and meditation) had declined
noticeably over the course of the school year” while the students “expressed
more commitment to integrating spirituality into their own lives,”
indicating “a disturbing disconnect between students’ expectations for
their lives and reality.” 29 All told, “nearly
two-thirds (63 percent) of the students indicated that their religious or
spiritual beliefs had been strengthened during the freshman year, even though
more than 90 percent said their religious activity had decreased to some
degree.” 30 Although almost four out of five graduating college seniors think it is
important to integrate spirituality into their lives,31 only about
one in four attended religious services frequently, and almost two in five
never did,32 and fewer attended religious services by the end of their college careers.33 The net result of this is a loss of faith. One in fifteen graduating seniors
lost their faith in college.34

Some of this erosion of
emerging adults’ faith can be attributed to the attitudes of their professors: “College
and university professors on the whole are indeed less religious than other
Americans.” 35 It is said that 23.4 percent of college
professors are atheist or agnostic, as compared to 6.9 percent of the American
population as a whole.36 When one moves to “elite doctoral-granting universities,” the
percentage of atheists and agnostics rises to more than a third (36.6 percent).37 While such percentages are for the university as a whole, certain disciplines
have higher concentrations: “Psychology and biology have the highest
proportion of atheists and agnostics, at about 61 percent. Not far behind is
mechanical engineering, where 50 percent of professors are atheists or
agnostics. Next in line come economics, political science, and computer science,
where about 40 percent of the professors fall into the category of
nonbelief.” 38 Nevertheless, surveys find that “faculty
tend to be very tolerant of most religious groups. . . . There are two
exceptions to this tolerance: Mormons and Evangelicals.” 39 Thus faculty members tend to have negative
feelings toward Latter-day Saints: a third of faculty members dislike
Latter-day Saints,40 but that increases to 42 percent of the humanities faculty.41 Latter-day
Saints are slightly overrepresented on the faculty as compared to the general
population.42 “While believers can indeed be found in the upper echelons of academe,
those campuses appear to be places where there is either less interest in or
less space for more fervent forms of religiosity.” 43 The overwhelming biases of faculty can be seen in
other attitudes:

The proportion of students who believe that marijuana should
be legalized (32.3% at college entry vs. 53.4% at the end of senior year), that
same-sex couples should have the right to legal marital status (59.3% vs.
72.8%), and/or that abortion should be legal (51.6% vs. 63.8%) all increased by
more than ten percentage points between freshman and senior year.
Correspondingly, a decrease of nine percentage points was seen among the
proportion of students believing that it is important to have laws prohibiting
homosexual relationships (23.8% vs. 14.9%).44

It is not just the faculty who erode the faith and practice
of youth. “In classes and discussions, a small coterie of anti-orthodox
skeptics, however, always manages to remain unconvinced, and they often have
great difficulty concealing their disdain for any expression of uncompromising
orthodox belief.” 45 While these students trumpet their tolerance, they will not tolerate orthodoxy.
For example, Anatoly Brekhman, a former freshman counselor at Yale, relates: “I
had a freshman who came in and said, ‘I’m the most pure girl in the entire
world. I don’t have sex, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, and I
don’t eat meat.’ And out of those five things, probably four were not true by
the end of the first term.” 46 Brekhman
sees this as a good thing. Whether the parents who are paying through the nose
for a student’s Ivy League experience appreciate the corruption of their child
seems to be irrelevant. Brekhman’s “expectation is that you come here and
you drop all your limits and you experiment because that’s the nature of
college.” 47 For many on college campuses, orthodoxy, or rather orthopraxy, with its strict
limitations on behavior is a threat to such experimentation and cannot be
tolerated. Brekhman’s attitudes are typical: “most emerging adults are
happy with religion so long as it is general and accepting of diversity but are
uncomfortable if it is anything else.” 48 Smith labels
this the “enigma of inclusiveness: that a moral system valuing diversity
that begins by valuing everyone’s particular differences somehow ends up
devaluing any given particular difference.” 49

Another factor to consider here is the biases of the
selection system whereby emerging adults are admitted to college in the first
place. It has long been suspected that institutions of higher education are
biased in favor of black and Hispanic candidates, and recent research
demonstrates these biases as well as an overwhelming bias against Asians.50 But the worst category to be in when it comes to chances for college admission
is poor and white.51 As might be expected, athletes are given overwhelmingly preferential treatment
(being admitted more than four times as often as nonathletes),52 while participants in 4-H clubs, junior ROTC, and Future Farmers of America
have their chances of being admitted cut by 60 percent.53 Even having
a part-time job in high school lowers one’s chances of admission.54 By their admission practices, universities signal that they would rather not
have hard workers on their campuses. This is ironic since the willingness to
work is a key ingredient not only of finishing college and especially graduate
school but particularly of doing well. As Russell Nieli notes:

Most elite universities seem to have little interest in
diversifying their student bodies when it comes to the numbers of born-again
Christians from the Bible belt, students from Appalachia and other rural and
small-town areas, people who have served in the U.S. military, those who have
grown up on farms or ranches, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses,
lower-middle-class Catholics, working class “white ethnics,” social
and political conservatives, wheelchair users, married students, married
students with children, or older students first starting out in college after
raising children or spending several years in the workforce. Students in these
categories are often very rare at the more competitive colleges, especially
the Ivy League. While these kinds of people would surely add to the diverse
viewpoints and life-experiences represented on college campuses, in practice “diversity”
on campus is largely a code word for the presence of a substantial proportion
of those in the “underrepresented” racial minority groups.55

Splashed atop Hilgard Hall on the University of
California’s Berkeley campus is an ironic proclamation of purpose: “To
Rescue for Human Society the Native Values of Rural Life.” Yet at Berkeley
and other elite universities across America, the native values of rural life
are largely unwanted and unwelcome.

Scientism—Worshipping at the Shrine of “Science”

Smith also looks at the tremendous impact that empiricism
has had on emerging adults. “Most emerging adults put a lot more weight on
the empirical evidence, proof, and verified facts of science than on the claims
of religious traditions, which, they believe, ultimately require ‘blind
faith’ to embrace.” 56 These emerging adults say, “If you don’t have real evidence for religion,
then it’s far-fetched, there’s no good reason to believe it.” 57 The widespread adoption of empiricism seems to contradict the general trend for
science knowledge to get worse among teenagers.58 Something
else is going on here. The historian Mark Noll observes that “when
evangelicals rely on a naive Baconianism, they align themselves with the worst
features of the naive positivism that lingers among some of those who worship
at the shrine of modern science.” 59 Emerging
adults of various stripes appear to be adopting “the worst features of the
naive positivism” and end up worshipping it rather than understanding it
or using it as a tool. Such beliefs are naive because those who hold them are
unaware of the limitations of science—namely, that although science is an
extremely useful tool for answering certain types of questions, there are other
questions that science cannot answer. Emerging adults thus think they are being
scientific when actually they are not. Rather than following science, they
follow what Smith labels “scientism” 60—a naive
gullibility towards science as the ultimate source of all knowledge, denying
the uncertainties thereof. The downward trend in science literacy has prompted
the Public Broadcasting Service to offer as many science shows for children (Sid the
Science Kid
, Cyberchase, Curious George, Dinosaur
, FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot
About That
) as it does literacy shows (Between the Lions, Super Why!, Word
, WordWorld, Martha Speaks, and the now
decrepit Sesame
).61 Whether such programs promote thinking from a scientific or scientistic point
of view remains to be seen. One wonders whether those who insist on proofs for
religion could actually prove the existence of unseen atoms or whether they are
just dogmatically taking the word of others. “Most scientific empiricists,
however, openly admit that no evidence could ever be found that would
constitute incontrovertible proof for them that there is or is not a God.” 62 One would think that the admission of the inability to come up with empirical
proof would be an indication that empiricism is the wrong tool to solve the
problem, but the practical result is that people talk themselves out of even
considering the question. Noteworthy in this respect is that Latter-day Saint
emerging adults tend to have a more positive view of the interaction between
science and religion.63

Smith also surveys the beliefs of various group s64 and religious experiences.65 Latter-day Saints are the only group to say that they have become significantly
more religious over time.66 Just over a third of Latter-day Saints surveyed (of both genders) have gone on

Cafeteria Religion

Smith analyzes his data in a variety of ways. About 40
percent of emerging adults are indifferent to, disconnected from, or even
hostile to religion.68 Another 30 percent want to pick and chose their beliefs as though religion were
some sort of all-you-can-stomach smorgasbord. What they dislike is usually the
stances of religion on “sex before marriage, the need for regular
religious service attendance, belief in the existence of hell, drinking
alcohol, [and] taking drugs.” 69 As one
emerging adult put it, religion provides “something to fall back on. If
this isn’t enough, then tweak your religion a bit to fit your needs, or find
another religion. It’s really pretty simple.” 70 This is usually not a particularly fruitful way of enhancing religion: “Potpourri
religion is usually not very deep and sustaining; digging shallow wells in a
field usually will not produce water.” 71

A Way of Life

In comparing life
outcomes, Smith breaks the statistics on intensity lines rather than devotional
lines. He classifies emerging adults into the devoted, the regular, the
sporadic, and the disengaged.72 His devoted category, which makes up just 5 percent of emerging adults, is
composed of those who attend church weekly, pray at least a few times a week,
and read their scriptures at least once or twice a month.73 This is
where Latter-day Saints really skew the picture. Although they comprise just
2.8 percent of Smith’s total sample,74 they account
for 21 percent of the devoted category since 56 percent of Latter-day Saints
are “devoted.” 75 So Latter-day Saint impact is ten times what their proportion of the population
is. The devoted are more likely to get along with their parents,76 give to charity and volunteer to help others,77 and interact
with others.78 They are less likely to drink (and particularly less likely to binge drink),
smoke, and get into fights.79 Somewhat surprisingly, they are less likely to be obese 80 and depressed.81 They are more likely to get more education, be
employed, and have less debt.82

Getting Drunk

Surveying prospective
college graduates, the Higher Education Research Institute reports that “about
a third of all respondents indicate that they ‘frequently’ drank beer (33.4%)
and/or wine/liquor (31.5%) in the past year. In terms of heavy episodic
drinking, slightly less than half the students report they had not had more
than five drinks in a row in the past two weeks (44.7%), though the majority
did at least once (55.3%).” 83 The use of alcohol increases with time in
college,84 as does partying in general.85 When compared to Smith’s research, this indicates that college students are
slightly less likely to drink than emerging adults generally but more likely to
binge drink.86 Others see the problem as more severe: “Among college students, about 80
percent drink alcohol, about 40 percent binge drink, and about 20 percent binge
drink three or more times within a 2-week period.” 87 Binge drinking may be more prevalent among
adolescents than older adults: “Because human adolescents may be less
sensitive than adults to certain aversive effects of alcohol, they may be at
higher risk for consuming more drinks per drinking occasion.” 88 Adults tend to suffer more of the immediate
adverse effects of binge drinking than adolescents do.89 This does
not mean that adolescents and emerging adults do not suffer negative
consequences: “These consequences include risky sexual behavior; physical
and sexual assaults; potential effects on the developing brain; problems in
school, at work, and with the legal system; various types of injury; car
crashes; homicide and suicide; and death from alcohol poisoning.” 90 Over half of those of college age who binge drink
suffer from blackouts.91 Those who habitually binge drink also suffer brain damage that reduces their
brain’s capacity 10 percent (like going from an A to a B).92 Not to
worry—grade inflation means that 85 percent of college students get As
and Bs anyway,93 and consequently 80 percent of college students think they are academically
above average,94 even though 88 percent of them spend fewer than twenty hours a week studying
and 55 percent of them spend fewer than ten.95College has become Lake Wobegon.

“The Ruthless War of Promiscuity”

There is a strong correlation between sexual activity and
religiosity,96 so much so that the NYSR devoted an entire book to religiosity and sexuality.97 The book correctly notes that Latter-day Saints, as opposed to other religions,
emphasize sexual purity, define it clearly, and have methods of institutional
accountability concerning it.98 Latter-day Saints “outpace evangelicals in terms of the organization of
sexual social control.” 99 Religiously
devoted emerging adults tend to be involved in sexual activity later, less
frequently out of wedlock, and less promiscuously. They are less involved in
pornography and cohabitation.100 The causality works both ways: On the one hand, “we have every reason to
believe that the higher religious commitment of the most religious emerging
adults causally reduces the amount of alcohol they consume and the sex in which
they engage.” 101 On the other hand, Smith observes of emerging adults that

most of them want to
party, to hook up, to have sex in relationships, and to cohabit; or if they do
not do these things now, many at least want to keep them as options for the future.
. . . Many want to have sex with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or to at least be
free to do so if the occasion arises, and many want to be able to hook up with
someone they meet to whom they may feel attracted. Many also want to cohabit
with current or future serious partners or fiancés before getting married. And
all of this, emerging adults are aware, contradicts the teachings of most
religions. So they simply avoid religion and thereby resolve the conflict. . .
. Framed as a social-psychological causal mechanism: most emerging adults
reduce a certain cognitive dissonance they feel—arising from the conflict
of religious teachings against partying and sex before marriage versus their
wanting to engage in those behaviors—by mentally discounting the
religious teachings and socially distancing themselves from the source of those
teachings. In this simple way, the role of sex, drinking, and sometimes drugs
is often important in forming emerging adults’ frequent lack of interest in
religious faith and practice.102

Emerging adults who live a more or less hedonistic life do
not want to think about religion. As one put it: “If I think about that
stuff too much I’m gonna be miserable.” 103 “For
many youth, therefore, initiating sexual activity is a significant turning
point in pulling away from religion, in part because of the mental and
emotional dissonance that willfully having sex on an ongoing basis causes in
the religious contexts of their lives, even when nobody religious knows they
are having sex.” 104 There are other consequences as well. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention
reports that “nearly 65 percent of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
appear in people who are under 25 years of age and more than 20 percent of all
AIDS cases are among college age young people.” 105 The groups of most concern to the Center for Disease Control are (1) women and
infants, because they “disproportionately bear the long term consequences
of STDs”; 106 (2) adolescents and young adults, because “sexually-active adolescents 15
to 19 years of age and young adults 20 to 24 years of age are at higher risk
for acquiring STDs”; 107 (3) racial and ethnic minorities, because “surveillance data show higher
rates of reported STDs among some minority racial or ethnic groups”; 108 (4) men who have sex with men,109 because limited data 110 suggests that “some STDs in men who have sex with men, including men who have
sex with both women and men (MSM), are increasing”; 111 and (5) individuals entering correctional facilities, because there is “a
high prevalence of STDs in persons entering jails and juvenile corrections
facilities.” 112 The current rates for STDs among adolescents and young adults are of some
concern,113 even if dwarfed by the rates among men who have sex with men.

Regnerus presents data indicating that “there are
perceptible linear associations between all same-sex measures (except bisexual
identity) and the two religiosity measures (church attendance and importance of
religion).” 114 Thus “there is simply very little evidence of same-sex anything among the most religious boys,” while “the categories ‘no religion’
and ‘other religion’ tend to exhibit the highest percentages in most of the
same-sex outcomes.” 115 Since nationally “only 2.3 percent of all men and 1.3 percent of all women
. . . self-identify as homosexual,” 116 there is
little reason to assume that the percentages among Latter-day Saints exceed
those figures. Regnerus suggests that the data should be taken as an indication
of self-selection: “Youth who experience same-sex attraction or wish to
identify themselves as something besides heterosexual likely self-select away
from extensive religious participation.” 117 The data,
however, can also be read as indicating that the more religious the upbringing,
the more likely it is for a youth to be heterosexual. Such an explanation,
however, is usually discounted.118 As Professor Camille Paglia, herself a lesbian, observes:

After the American Psychiatric Association, responding to
activist pressure, removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in
1973, psychological inquiries into homosexuality slowly became verboten.
To even ask about the origins of homosexuality was automatically dubbed homophobic
by gay studies proponents in the ’80s and ’90s. Weirdly, despite the rigid
social constructionist bias that permeated the entire left, gay activists in
and out of academe now leapt on the slightest evidence that could suggest a biological
cause of homosexuality. . . . Yet the intricate family dynamic of every single
gay person I’ve ever known seems to have played some kind of role in his or her
developing sexual orientation.

The widespread desire to find a biological basis for homosexuality
seems to me very misconceived. It will inevitably lead to claims that gays are
developmentally defective at the prenatal level. I myself believe . . . that
exclusive homosexuality is an adaptation to specific social conditions. When a
gay adult claims to have been gay since early childhood, what he or she is
actually remembering is the sense of being different for some reason, which in
boys often registers as shyness or super-sensitivity, leading to a failure to
bond with bumptious peers. This disjunction, with all its painfully stifled
longings, becomes overt homosexuality much later on. But retrospective
psychohistory is out these days, and the only game in town is pin the tail on
the oppressor.119

It is not clear that it is helpful to stereotype how any
individual may have come under the MSM classification.

For adolescents and emerging adults, the initiation of
sexual experiences usually leads to promiscuity that sometimes settles into
longer-term liaisons. Emerging adults view this as a possible prelude to
marriage. Many emerging adults “maintained with complete assurance that
one would be stupid to get married without first having lived together for six
months to a year. . . . By cohabiting for the good part of a year, one is able
to ‘test drive’ the relationship and confirm before it is too late that the
marriage really will work.” 120 This is a
fantasy; the reality is something different. “None of the emerging adults
who are enthusiastic about cohabiting as a means to prevent unsuccessful
marriages seem aware that nearly all studies consistently show that couples who
live together before they marry are more, not less, likely to later divorce
than couples who did not live together before their weddings.” 121 Cohabitation significantly increases the risk of divorce. “The divorce
rates of women who cohabit are nearly 80 percent higher than the rates of those
who do not.” 122 “In fact, either something about living together before marriage itself or
the very notion of approaching marriage with the mentality of hedging one’s
bets by shaking out the relationship with a provisional uncommitted
marriage-like test, or both, significantly increases the probability of
subsequently divorcing. But emergent adults are oblivious to these facts.” 123 For example:

One college professor described a survey that he had conducted
over a period of years in his marriage classes. He asked guys who were living
with a girl, point blank, “Are you going to marry the girl that you’re
living with?” The overwhelming response, he reports, was “NO!”
When he asked the girls if they were going to marry the guy they were living
with, their response was, “Oh, Yes!” The professor asked “Why?”
The girls usually replied, “Because we love each other and we are learning
how to be together.” The guys, however, explained that they would not
marry the girl they were living with because, “She was easy for me. How
can I trust her to be faithful in marriage?” 124

They have a reason for their lack of trust. “Not
surprisingly, partners in a cohabiting relationship are more likely to be
unfaithful to each other than married couples: . . . men in cohabiting relationships
were 4 times more likely to be unfaithful than husbands and . . . women in
cohabiting relationships were 8 times more likely to cheat than wives.” 125 “It appears,” notes Smith wryly, “that emerging adult females
have somewhat more investment than their male peers in getting clear on the
nature of their relationships.” 126

The ones who really
suffer in cohabitation, however, are the children. “Older children (6 to
11 years of age) exhibited the highest number of behavioral problems living in
cohabiting-partner households (16.4 percent); cohabiting-parent households were
next highest at 14 percent with single parent households at 9.0 percent as compared
with only 3.5 percent among those living with married parents. For teens, the
situation is similar.” 127 Behavior is not the only problem; poverty is
also a factor: “In the mid-1990s, the poverty rate for children in
cohabiting households was 31 percent, whereas that for children living in
married couple families was about 6 percent.” 128 More tragic still are the rates of abuse. “Women
are 62 times more likely to be assaulted by their live-in boyfriends than they
are if living with their husband.” 129 “Rates for serious abuse of children are
lowest in the intact family, six times higher in stepfamilies, 14 times higher
in the always-single-mother family, 20 times higher in cohabiting biological
parent families, and an astonishing 33 times higher when the mother is
cohabiting with a boyfriend.” 130 Even moving in together is no longer necessarily
the case. Smith notes that “cohabiting does not always take the ‘standard’
form of two people deciding to move into a new apartment together—rather,
some simply spend every weekend living together when one is away at college but
otherwise live separate lives; and others basically move into the house where
the boyfriend or girlfriend is still living with a parent or parents, simply
sleeping in the friend’s bedroom, hanging out, and coming and going as they
please.” 131

How might we estimate the number of
Latter-day Saint emerging adults involved in cohabitation? “Mormon youths
are unlikely to have sex before age 18 in the first place, but if they do have sex, they’re more likely to try it once and then refrain from further
sexual activity.” 132 Less than 6 percent qualify as promiscuous,133 so one
would expect the number to be less than 6 percent. These statistics, however,
refer to adolescents, who are less likely to cohabitate than emerging adults.
Since Smith does not break his cohabitation statistics by denominational lines,
we can arrive at only a rough guess by multiplying the percentages of
Latter-day Saints in each category 134 by the
percentage of each category that involves cohabitation 135 and add the totals. The result is 9 percent, but the figure is only a rough
guess; it is the expected number, not the actual one. If one includes results
across all age spectra, then 3 percent of Latter-day Saint emerging adults

Colleges and universities tend to
ignore this sort of information. For example, Yale college associate dean John
Meeske rationalized when announcing that Yale would allow members of the
opposite sex in its coed dorms to share the same bedroom suites: ”  ’The
story I kept getting,’ says Meeske, ‘was it was just a non-issue. People
anticipated there would be problems, but they didn’t materialize.’ ” 137 Meeske appears to have gotten most of his information from administrators at
other colleges who probably do not want to admit that there have been any
problems with their experiments. Although social scientists have noted that “the
emotional pain that lingers after poor sexual decision making, at any age, is
evidence of the complex morality inherent to human sexuality,” 138 one does not need to be a social scientist to notice that, merely a thoughtful
observer of humans. The individual accounts provided are heartrending.139

This highlights another trend appearing among sexually
active emerging adults. Although “they clearly do not want to see
themselves as having regrets,” they appear to “harbor regrets about
the past even when they deny that they do.” 140 “Sex
simply does not come without emotional strings for the majority of American
adolescents, especially girls.” 141 And so “many
adolescents do a good deal of mental labor and normative affirmation in order
to convince each other that coupled sexual activity during adolescence—a
period of relational instability and immaturity—is, in fact, a good idea.
Arousal may come naturally during adolescent development, but sexual happiness
does not.” 142 Breakups among the sexually active are devastating:

These splits are not your
run-of-the-mill middle school and high school breakups that sweep the local
rumor mill, create lots of drama, and leave somebody crying for a few days. The
breakups that many emerging adults recounted instead sounded much more serious.
They often happened in the context of couples living together or semicohabiting
and, in any case, being sexually involved. They often resulted in serious
emotional and physical distress—dumped partners told tales of days spent
sleeping and crying or lying in bed debilitated with depression, of anguish
suffered at being cheated on or otherwise betrayed, of profound struggles with
self-doubt, self-criticism, and hopelessness lasting for months, of uncertainty
about being able to trust another man or woman whom they might love in the
future. . . . Their accounts suggested the experience of getting a hard divorce
without ever even having gotten married.143

Yale, or any
other school that would maintain that such problems will not materialize, is
simply sticking its head in the sand.

To its credit, “after more than a quarter century of
debate, Yale faculty members are now barred from sexual relationships with
undergraduates—not just their own students, but any Yale undergrads.” 144 As one of the faculty correctly reasoned: “It really is kind of simple.
Parents don’t send their kids to Yale to sleep with their professors. Why don’t
we say that?” 145 Yale has received much criticism for taking this stance.146 But no
penalty was mentioned in the news report, and the faculty handbook merely says
that violations will be “resolved informally” and might lead to some
unspecified “disciplinary action.” 147 It is well
known that the previous ban on sex between students and faculty in a direct
supervisory role was not enforced. As one alumnus observed: “What kind of
message does it send to Yale alumni, students, and most especially parents? (‘Yes,
our professors have taken your children to bed for decades, it was just good
fun.’)” 148 Yale seems to have forgotten that the reason so many campuses and workplaces
have sexual harassment policies is that multiple complaints of sexual harassment
of Yale students by Yale faculty resulted in a lawsuit: Alexander
vs. Yale University.

Half a century ago, C. S. Lewis ended his last published
work with the following observation, which still seems relevant:

A society in which
conjugal infidelity is tolerated must always be in the long run a society
adverse to women. Women, whatever a few male songs and satires may say to the
contrary, are more naturally monogamous than men; it is a biological necessity.
Where promiscuity prevails they will therefore always be more often the victims
than the culprits. Also, domestic happiness is more necessary to them than to
us. And the quality by which they most easily hold a man, their beauty,
decreases every year after they have come to maturity, but this does not happen
to those qualities of personality—women don’t really care twopence about
our looks—by which we hold women. Thus in the ruthless war of promiscuity
women are at a double disadvantage. They play for higher stakes and are also
more likely to lose.149

Winning the Culture Wars

Earlier Smith suggested that “the de facto dominant
religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what we might well call ‘Moralistic
Therapeutic Deism,’ ” 150 which has
several facets: “First, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is about inculcating
a moralistic approach to life. It teaches that central to living a good and
happy life is being a good, moral person. That means being nice, kind,
pleasant, respectful, responsible, at work on self-improvement, taking care of
one’s health, and doing one’s best to be successful.” 151 It does not seem to include such moral traits as honesty, chastity, and
fidelity. “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is, second, about providing
therapeutic benefits to its adherents. . . . [It] is centrally about feeling
good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being,
being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.” 152 As long as one’s self-esteem is “healthy” and high, everything is
fine. “Finally, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is about belief in a
particular kind of God: one who exists, created the world, and defines our
general moral order, but not one who is particularly personally involved in one’s
affairs—especially affairs in which one would prefer not to have God
involved.” 153 Such views are “particularly evident among mainline Protestant and
Catholic youth, but . . . also visible among black and conservative
Protestants, Jewish teens, other religious types of teenagers, and even many
non-religious teenagers in the United States.” 154 In their view, “God is not demanding. He actually can’t be, because his
job is to solve our problems and make people feel good. In short, God is
something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he is always
on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people
feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in
the process.” 155

After five years, Smith concludes
that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism “is still alive and well among 18- to
23-year-old American youth,” but in a somewhat diluted form.156 “Confronted with real existential or material difficulties, some emerging
adults appear to have backed away from the simple verities of MTD or perhaps
have moved forward into somewhat more complex, grounded, or traditional
versions of religious faith. In short, there seem to be certain tests in life
through which some youth find that MTD proves an unrealistic account or an
unhelpful way to respond.” 157

In the new survey, Smith notes
that “individual autonomy, unbounded tolerance, freedom from authorities,
the affirmation of pluralism, the centrality of human self-consciousness, the
practical value of moral religion, epistemological skepticism, and an
instinctive aversion to anything ‘dogmatic’ or committed to particulars were
routinely taken for granted by respondents.” 158 He observes
that “most Catholic and Jewish emerging adults, for example, talked very
much like classical liberal Protestants.” 159 So he comes
to the surprising conclusion that what appears to be one of the bigger losers
in the culture wars is actually one of the big winners: “Liberal
Protestantism’s organizational decline has been accompanied by and is in part
arguably the consequence of the fact that liberal Protestantism has won a
decisive, larger cultural victory.160 “A historical nemesis of evangelicalism, liberal Protestantism, can afford
to be losing its organizational battles now precisely because long ago it
effectively won the bigger, more important struggle over culture.” 161 One way of telling this is that “mainline Protestants simply experience
less of a cultural conflict about religion and contemporary life. There is no
battle, nor even a collision.” 162 As a

liberal Protestantism’s core values—individualism, pluralism,
emancipation, tolerance, free critical inquiry, and the authority of human
experience—have come to so permeate broader American culture that its own
churches as organizations have difficulty surviving. One reason for this
development is that these very liberal values have a tendency to undermine
organizational vitality. The strongest organizations are generally not built on
individualism, diversity, autonomy, and criticism.163

This might also explain some university departments.

Nevertheless, Smith also notes other trends at work.
Conservative Protestantism, numerically the largest religious tradition, has
had an unavoidable influence. “It is the centuries-old, central
evangelical insistence on the ultimate consequence of each individual’s
salvation in standing alone before a holy God that emerging adults are
resonating when they articulate their radically individualistic view of
religious faith and practice.” 164 This
radical individualism appears “when emerging adults say that religion is
really a personal affair that is sullied by the restrictions and
artificialities of social institutions, including religious institutions.” 165 Another evangelical observer notes that “individualism is pervasive in the
evangelical world. . . . Independent congregations are accountable to no one
but themselves. Independent evangelical parachurch organizations have almost no
accountability to the larger church. Dominant ‘successful’ senior pastors can
do almost anything they please.” 166 He warns
his fellow evangelicals of the dangers of this trend: “An exclusive
emphasis on personal, individualistic approaches without a parallel concern for
structural causes and solutions is wrong at several points: it contradicts our
present political activity, it ignores our past success in changing structures,
it is inconsistent with the biblical understanding of persons, and it totally
ignores the biblical teaching of social sin.” 167 Another evangelical observer agrees: “Evangelicalism is a many-splintered
thing with more denominational expressions than one can count, and like much of
the rest of the church is to a large extent biblically illiterate or semiliterate.” 168 Smith may be overstating the case here. Certainly evangelicalism has a strong
individualistic streak, and other evangelicals may agree with him that it is
too strong, but this individualistic streak is reinforced in popular culture by
trends coming from the enlightenment, libertarianism, atheists, and the
bohemian artistic communities that produce much of the mass media, not to
mention simple human selfishness. Laying the individualism in popular culture
solely at the feet of evangelicals is overstating the case.

Evangelical individualism impacts the popular culture in
another way. “The strong individualistic subjectivism in the emerging
adult religious outlook—that ‘truth’ should be decided by ‘what seems
right’ to individuals, based on their personal experience and
feelings—also has deep cultural-structural roots in American
evangelicalism.” 169 But some evangelicals are noticing that this propensity has a downside. An
evangelical pastor reported that he would conclude an extensive catechetical
class for teenagers by asking them an important question about Jesus Christ.
For six years he received the same response from every pupil—that “the
deity and resurrection of Christ are . . . mere matters of personal opinion.” 170 The scientific notion that every valid observation should theoretically be
independently verifiable, particularly the scientistic versions of this, also
plays a role.

“Finally, contemporary emerging adults’ positive
valuation of religion primarily because of the practical benefits it bestows on
individual lives in the form of moral behaviors also has cultural roots in
American evangelicalism.”171 Smith previously warned that

communities of faith would also do well, we think, to become
more aware that a primarily instrumentalist view of faith is a double-edged
sword. For many parents, religious congregations are good and valuable because
they produce good outcomes in their children. . . . But making this into
religion’s key legitimating focus easily degenerates into a
mentality. This obviously undermines larger and deeper questions of truth,
tradition, discipleship, and peoplehood that matter to communities of faith.172

Taking a purely instrumentalist approach shows a
distinct lack of faith. “Pretending to value religion—or treating it
with this sort of instrumentalism—is an insult to people of faith.” 173 As one political philosopher and intellectual historian explains: “When
the content of faith is seen as merely salutary—a kind of noble lie or a
soothing, controlling, or even necessary pharmakon—even its obvious
usefulness is thereby radically compromised. For the myth to work its wonders,
it cannot be considered merely salutary but must be seen simply as true. So the
utility argument surrenders much of its utility, and hence its attractiveness,
when it becomes the locus of loyalty and is thereby known for what it is.” 174

Thus popular religious notions among emerging adults tend to
combine the worst traits from liberal Protestantism, evangelicalism, and
scientism. These trends appear in the current crop of critics of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that lurk and smirk on message boards or
blather on blogs. Many use the anonymity of the Internet to mask their
hypocrisy or because they lack the courage of their convictions and are
unwilling to take responsibility for their actions. Puffed up for years on
overinflated grades and the notion that they themselves are worthy of esteem
without having accomplished anything (as if they had been awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize for merely not being George Bush), they insist on the primacy of
their own intellect no matter how woeful that may be. “Unconvinced of what
adult readers feel deep in their hearts and know from long experience, nearly
half of the student body disregards books by choice and disposition, and they
don’t expect to suffer for it. In their minds, a-literacy and
anti-intellectualism pose no career obstacles, and they have no shame attached.” 175 No need for hard study and years of labor, two paragraphs from Wikipedia make
them master of even the most abstruse fields. Studies may show that most of
them misinterpret what they find on the Internet, and seven out of eight cannot
construct a coherent argument,176 but this is no deterrence. They insist on empirical proof but refuse to
consider any evidence that runs counter to their dogma. They insist on
tolerance for their own views but not those of others. They thrive on
criticism, but not any directed at themselves, since to deal with challenging
arguments and points of view “intelligently, the intellectual tool kit
must expand and attitudes must soften. If the first apprehension stalls, you
can’t mutter, ‘I don’t get it—this isn’t for me.’ You have to say, ‘I don’t
get it, and maybe that’s my fault.’ You have to accept the sting of
relinquishing a cherished notion, of admitting a defect in yourself.” 177 From years of elementary and secondary schools promoting self-esteem,
two-thirds of college students reach above-average levels on the narcissism
scale.178 “One consequence of narcissism is that it prevents young people from
weighing their own talents and competencies accurately. Narcissists can’t take
criticism, they hate to hand power over to others, and they turn
disappointments into the world’s fault, not their own. . . . Education requires
the opposite, a modicum of self-doubt, a capacity for self-criticism, precisely
what the narcissist can’t bear.” 179 Thus among
the youth there is “a curious inverse correlation” between confidence
and competence. “Optimism is nice, but not when it reaches delusional
limits.” 180 Given the evidence in Smith’s book, we can expect these trends to continue.

An Evangelical Focus

The authors of the books under
review, Christian Smith and Mark Regnerus, are both evangelicals. Smith at
least makes it sound as though the NSYR project was started as a way of
checking out evangelical literature designed to scare evangelicals by making
them think their children were becoming Satan worshippers. Regnerus was clearly concerned with evaluating how
well evangelical programs such as “True Love Waits” work. They
deserve much thanks for their gathering and analysis of the data. The target
audience for their work is evangelicals, which is only fair considering both their
own evangelical backgrounds and the fact that evangelical Christians are
currently the largest religious group in the United States. Regrettably, this
evangelical focus sometimes prevents them from asking some interesting

Consider for a moment those places where Latter-day Saints
are outliers in Regnerus’s study of the influence of religion on adolescent
behavior. Latter-day Saint youth are outliers in the following areas: They are
the most likely to be virgins (87.4 percent),181 to have the
highest mean age of sexual debut (18.0 years),182 and to not
be in a hurry to have sex (72.5 percent); 183 the second
least likely to have sex even though they would like to (14.9 percent, after
evangelical protestants at 14.3 percent); 184 the least
likely to use pornography (6.2 percent); 185 the least
likely to engage in oral sex; 186 the most
likely to have had sex only once (7.0 percent); 187 the least
likely to have continuing sex with one partner outside of marriage (0 percent);
and the least likely to have multiple sex partners (5.6 percent).188 These last numbers are significant because “solitary instances of sexual
intercourse are unusual. Instead, virginity loss tends to commence a pattern of
paired sexual activity, most commonly with more than one partner.” 189 Latter-day Saint youth who break the law of chastity are the most likely to use
birth control the first time they have sex (91.8 percent) 190 and the least likely to think that others would think they are promiscuous if
they use birth control (8.6 percent).191 These are
generally seen as positive outcomes. What could account for them? Could it be
in the attitudes of Latter-day Saints? They are the most likely to support
waiting until marriage for sex (77.3 percent); 192 least
likely to think that having sex would make them respected (2.2 percent) or
attractive (6.1 percent); and the most likely to think they would feel guilty
(77.1 percent), upset their mothers (96.4 percent),193 and make
their parents “extremely mad” if they had sex (79.7 percent).194

Preoccupied with evangelicals, Regnerus does not explore why
Latter-day Saints are the outliers in these statistics. It is not clear that
the surveys on which he relies for his data have asked the questions that would
lead to insightful answers in this area.

Although parents talking to youth about sex is generally
thought to improve outcomes, Latter-day Saint parents do not generally stand
out from the crowd in this regard 195 except in
two areas: They are the second most likely to find it very difficult to talk
with their children about the subject (29.1 percent, just under the 29.5
percent of mainline Protestants),196 and they are the most likely not to talk about birth control at all with their
children (21.4 percent).197 (This is ironic considering the statistic cited above that Latter-day Saints
who break the law of chastity are most likely to use birth control.) Not
discussing birth control may be of slight significance since, as Regnerus
notes, children whose parents talk “a great deal” about birth control
are more likely to become sexually active.198 But “talking
about birth control is not as powerful an influence on subsequent virginity
loss as the number of recent dating partners or the age of the child.”199 Regnerus observes that less-religious parents are clearer on the distinction
between talking about mechanics and talking about values. “When devoutly
religious parents say they are talking regularly with their adolescents about
sex and birth control, it means they are talking with them about morality
rather than sharing information.” 200 For them, “talk
about sex is talk about values,” not mechanics.201 Regnerus
suggests as an antidote that parents should talk more with their children: “We
owe our children a more comprehensive sex education—moral advocacy and information—than most of them are getting. . . . Mothers and fathers have
the power—and, I would argue, the responsibility—to break any
legacies of secrecy about sex, to resist sexual double standards, to both
instruct their adolescents about the beauty, pleasures, and complexities of sex
and human anatomy as well as pass on to them their own moral assertions
about sexual boundaries.” 202 Although
Regnerus is strongly in favor of parents talking to their children about such
matters, his findings are not particularly encouraging about the effect of
talking with adolescents about sex: “More frequent parent-child
communication about sex slightly elevates the probability that an adolescent
child will subsequently lose his/her virginity before adulthood.” 203 Regnerus also presents data indicating that the parents who talk the most with
their children about the subject, Black Protestants (by at least 18 points),204 also have the most sexually active and promiscuous adolescents.205 So parents talking to their children seems not to be the major influence in
promoting chastity. Perhaps a stronger argument is that a majority of children
would rather hear about such matters from their parents,206 even though
not all of them listen.207

Because “it is
popularly held that evangelical Protestants are the most conservative American
religious tradition with respect to sexual attitudes,” Regnerus seems
slightly chagrined that “evangelical Protestant youth are not the religious group
least likely to have sex,” 208 and he spends some space trying to explain that
fact.209 Evangelical programs to encourage chastity in youth, like True Love Waits, are
not working particularly well, since 88 percent of those who participated in
such programs engaged in sexual intercourse before marriage 210 and “in up to 7 of 10 cases, it is not with their future
spouse.” 211 Part of Regnerus’s explanation is that
adolescents who do not live “in a biologically intact, two-parent family”
lack what he terms a “family advantage” and are almost twice as
likely to engage in sexual activity.212 What he
downplays is that evangelicals are actually more likely than average to
divorce.213 So among evangelicals, “we see both high marriage rates and high divorce rates,
together with elevated teenage pregnancy rates, etc.” 214 This also explains the high rate of promiscuity
among Black Protestants, whose rate of illegitimacy is around 77 percent.215

What Works

Parents, conscientious teenagers, and emerging adults might
want to know how to protect themselves from the pitfalls that come in the
college-age years. While statistics are great for predicting the behavior of
the masses and not the individual, there are a few actions that seem to
correlate well to positive consequences in life and faith. The four indicators
that seem to correlate most closely to faith playing an important role in an
emerging adult’s life are (1) attendance at church on a weekly basis, (2)
praying frequently,216 (3) reading scriptures frequently, and (4) avoiding sexual activity outside of
marriage.217 The first three items are necessary to place on the NSYR’s devoted category.218 Among Latter-day Saints, these variables are not independent. If they were, we
would expect only about 32 percent of Latter-day Saints to be in the devoted
category,219 instead of the 56 percent who actually are.220 The flip
side is that 29 to 44 percent of Latter-day Saint emerging adults are in

Nothing in this list of behaviors is particularly new to
Latter-day Saints who have been paying attention. For those who want some
social science to back up their stance, they now have it.

The other curious fact worth noting is that the list of
factors influencing positive outcomes is a list of behaviors, not a list of
beliefs or of intensity of beliefs. While there is a connection between beliefs
and practice, practices have a stronger influence on outcomes than mere
beliefs. Actions matter.


See also the
Book Note on Dean, Almost Christian, on p. 234 of this volume.

1. Christian Smith, Soul
Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
with Melinda Lundquist Denton (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

2. Smith, Soul
, 261.

3. Smith, Soul
, 137.

4. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Gambling,” Ensign,
May 2005, 61.

5. Mark D. Regnerus, Forbidden
Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers
Oxford University Press, 2007).

6. Christian Smith, Souls in
Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults
with Patricia Snell (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

7. This group is part of the
University of California, Los Angeles.

8. Smith, Souls in
, 105.

9. Smith, Souls in
, 104–5.

10. Smith, Souls in
, 106–7.

11. Smith, Souls in
, 109.

12. Smith, Souls in
, 109.

13. Smith, Souls in
, 109–11.

14. Smith, Souls in
, 105.

15. Smith, Souls in
, 106.

16. Calculated from the
information in Smith, Souls in Transition, 106, 109.

17. Smith, Souls in
, 109.

18. Smith, Souls in
, 110.

19. Smith, Souls in
, 109.

20. Smith, Souls in
, 112–13.

21. Ray Franke et al., Findings
from the 2009 Administration of the College Senior Survey (CSS): National
(Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute,
Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California,
Los Angeles, 2010), 64.

22. Smith, Souls in
, 116.

23. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 56.

24. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 96.

25. Smith, Souls in
, 116.

26. Smith, Souls in
, 116.

27. Smith, Souls in
, 117–18.

28. Larry A. Braskamp, “The
Religious and Spiritual Journeys of College Students,” in The American
University in a Postsecular Age
, ed. Douglas Jacobsen and Rhonda Hustedt
Jacobsen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 131.

29. Braskamp, “Religious and
Spiritual Journeys,” 127.

30. Braskamp, “Religious and
Spiritual Journeys,” 128.

31. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 71.

32. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 64.

33. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 94.

34. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 91.

35. Neil Gross and Solon Simmons,
“The Religious Convictions of College and University Professors,” in
Jacobsen and Jacobsen, American University in a Postsecular Age, 20.

36. Gross and Simmons, “Religious
Convictions,” 22–23.

37. Gross and Simmons, “Religious
Convictions,” 23.

38. Gross and Simmons, “Religious
Convictions,” 24.

39. Gary A. Tobin and Aryeh K.
Weinberg, Religious
Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty
(San Francisco: Institute
for Jewish and Community Research, 2007), 16.

40. Tobin and Weinberg, Religious
Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty
, 12, 81.

41. Tobin and Weinberg, Religious
Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty
, 82.

42. Tobin and Weinberg, Religious
Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty
, 3, 19–20.

43. Gross and Simmons, “Religious
Convictions,” 26.

44. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 32–33.

45. Robert J. Nash and DeMethra
LaSha Bradley, “The Different Spiritualities of the Students We Teach,”
in Jacobsen and Jacobsen, American University in
a Postsecular Age
, 138.

46. “Are You Charlotte
Simmons?” Yale Alumni Magazine, March/April 2005, accessed 1 October 2010,

47. “Are You Charlotte

48. Smith, Souls in
, 81.

49. Smith, Souls in
, 81.

50. Thomas J. Espenshade and
Alexandria Walton Radford, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite
College Admission and Campus Life
(Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 2009), 93–99, 112.

51. Espenshade and Radford, No Longer
Separate, Not Yet Equal
, 98.

52. Espenshade and Radford, No Longer
Separate, Not Yet Equal
, 113–14.

53. Espenshade and Radford, No Longer
Separate, Not Yet Equal
, 124, 126.

54. Espenshade and Radford, No Longer
Separate, Not Yet Equal
, 122, 124.

55. Russell K. Nieli, “How
Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others,” accessed 1
October 2010, http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2010/07/how_diversity_punishes_asians.html.

56. Smith, Souls in
, 287.

57. Smith, Souls in
, 158.

58. Mark Bauerlein, The Dumbest
(New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2008), 21–23.

59. Mark A. Noll, The Scandal
of the Evangelical Mind
(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans,
1994), 198.

60. Smith, Souls in
, 354.

61. Even preschool books are
eight times more literate than Sesame Street; see Bauerlein, Dumbest
, 128–29.

62. Nash and Bradley, “Different
Spiritualities,” 144.

63. Smith, Souls in
, 138–39.

64. Smith, Souls in
, 118–25.

65. Smith, Souls in
, 125–28.

66. Smith, Souls in
, 126.

67. Smith, Souls in
, 126–27.

68. Smith, Souls in
, 168.

69. Smith, Souls in
, 167.

70. Quoted in Nash and Bradley, “Different
Spiritualities,” 140.

71. Scotty McLennan, quoted in
Braskamp, “Religious and Spiritual Journeys,” 133.

72. Smith, Souls in
, 259.

73. Smith, Souls in
, 259.

74. Smith, Souls in
, 104.

75. Smith, Souls in
, 304.

76. Smith, Souls in
, 261–62.

77. Smith, Souls in
, 262–63.

78. Smith, Souls in
, 263–64.

79. Smith, Souls in
, 265–66.

80. Smith, Souls in Transition,

81. Smith, Souls in
, 267–68.

82. Smith, Souls in
, 270–71.

83. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 22–23. Similar figures (though smaller and
slightly older) are reported in National Institutes of Health, “Screening
for Alcohol Use and Alcohol-Related Problems,” Alcohol Alert 65
(April 2005): 6. This suggests that the problem is getting worse.

84. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 94.

85. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 95.

86. Smith, Souls in
, 265.

87. National Institutes of
Health, “Underage Drinking—Highlights from the Surgeon General’s
Call to Action to Prevent and Reduce Underage Drinking,” Alcohol
73 (October 2007): 2.

88. National Institutes of
Health, “A Developmental Perspective on Underage Alcohol Use,” Alcohol
78 (July 2009): 2.

89. National Institutes of
Health, “Developmental Perspective on Underage Alcohol Use,” 2.

90. National Institutes of
Health, “Underage Drinking,” 2.

91. National Institutes of
Health, “Alcohol’s Damaging Effect on the Brain,” Alcohol
63 (October 2004): 1–2.

92. According to Susan Tapert,
cited in Michelle Trudeau, “Teen Drinking May Cause Irreversible Brain
Damage,” accessed 1 October 2010, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122765890.

93. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 91.

94. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 97. The tables on pp. 97–99 show that less than
half think they are above average in artistic and mathematical ability; about
half think they are above average in computer skills, physical health, and
public speaking ability; and more than half think that they are above average
in cooperativeness, creativity, drive to achieve, emotional health, leadership
ability, self-confidence, self-understanding, understanding of others, and
writing ability. This suggests that their estimation of their mathematical
ability might be about right, but they might be otherwise overconfident.

95. Franke et al., College
Senior Survey
, 95.

96. Lauren Olsho et al., National
Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents: Attitudes and Opinions about Sex and
(Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates, 2010), 66–69.

97. Regnerus, Forbidden

98. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 23.

99. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 23.

100. Smith, Souls in
, 271–75.

101. Smith, Souls in
, 277; compare Olsho et al., National Survey of Adolescents
and Their Parents
, x.

102. Smith, Souls in
, 83–84; compare Regnerus, Forbidden
, 53–54.

103. Quoted in Regnerus, Forbidden
, 36.

104. Smith, Souls in
, 240.

105. Janice Shaw Crouse, “Cohabitation:
Consequences for Mothers, Children, and Society,” in The Family
in the New Millennium
, ed. A. Scott Loveless and Thomas B. Holman
(Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007), 1:355.

106. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008 (Atlanta, GA: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2009), 51.

107. Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 59.

108. Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 65.

109. The Centers for Disease
Control uses this term (“men who have sex with men,” or MSM) because
the terms homosexual and gay are subjective and because, contrary to popular stereotypes, MSM often do not
have sex exclusively with men.

110. “With the exception of
reported syphilis cases, most nationally notifiable STD surveillance data do
not include information on sexual behaviors; therefore, national trends in STDs
among MSM in the United States are not currently available. Furthermore,
testing strategies are often suboptimal for detecting STDs in MSM.” So
this handicaps research in this area. Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 73.

111. Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 73. The measured rates for
2008 are extremely high: 17 percent have gonorrhea; 7 percent have chlamydia;
11 percent have syphilis, and 3 percent have HIV. Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 73–74. These levels
are far worse than the rates among teenagers and young adults.

112. Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 81.

113. Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 59–60, 106. The rates
among adolescents (15–19 years old) are 2 percent with chlamydia and 0.45
percent with gonorrhea. Among young adults (20–24 years old) the rates
are 2.1 percent with chlamydia and 0.51 percent with gonorrhea. “Men in
the 20 to 24 year old age group had the highest rate of syphilis, 17.3 cases
per 100,000 population in 2008.” Centers for Disease Control, Sexually
Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2008
, 60. The rate among MSM is
more than six hundred times as high.

114. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 77–78.

115. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 78, emphasis in original.

116. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 77.

117. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit,

118. See, for example, the debate:
Paul Cameron, “Children of Homosexuals and Transsexuals More Apt to Be
Homosexual,” Journal of Biosocial Science 38/3 (2005):
413–18; Todd G. Morrison, “Children of Homosexuals and Transsexuals
More Apt to Be Homosexual: A Reply to Cameron,” Journal of Biosocial Science 39/1 (2006): 153–54; Paul Cameron, “Facts, Not Opinions, Drive
Science: A Reply to Morrison,” Journal of Biosocial Science 39/1
(2007): 155–56; Walter R. Schumm, “Children of Homosexuals More Apt
to Be Homosexuals? A Reply to Morrison and Cameron based on an Examination of
Multiple Sources of Data,” Journal of Biosocial Science 42/6
(2010): 721–42. I note that Cameron had previously been expelled from the
American Psychological Association.

119. Camille Paglia, “Obama’s
early stumbles,” 14 January 2009, accessed 1 October 2010,

120. Smith, Souls in
, 62.

121. Smith, Souls in
, 63.

122. Crouse, “Cohabitation,” 353.

123. Smith, Souls in
, 63.

124. Crouse, “Cohabitation,” 353.

125. Crouse, “Cohabitation,” 353.

126. Smith, Souls in
, 59.

127. Crouse, “Cohabitation,” 351.

128. Crouse, “Cohabitation,” 354.

129. Crouse, “Cohabitation,” 357.

130. Crouse, “Cohabitation,”

131. Smith, Souls in
, 59.

132. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 132–33.

133. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 133.

134. Smith, Souls in
, 304.

135. Smith, Souls in
, 272.

136. According to the Pew Forum
U.S. Religious Landscape Survey 2010, accessed 11 October 2010,

137. David Zax, “Co-ed Suites
Now an Option for Seniors,” Yale Alumni Magazine 73/5
(May/June 2010): 17.

138. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 211.

139. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 26–40.

140. Smith, Souls in
, 41.

141. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 41.

142. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 41.

143. Smith, Souls in
, 61–62.

144. Carole Bass, “University
bans faculty-student sex,” Yale Alumni Magazine, March/April
2010, 15.

145. Bass, “University bans
faculty-student sex,” 15.

146. For example, Fred Graf,
letter to the editor, Yale Alumni Magazine, May/June 2010, 4. The commentary
on the Internet is much more strident.

147. Yale University Faculty
(New Haven, CT: Yale University, 2010), 156.

148. Barry Lenson, letter to the
editor, Yale
Alumni Magazine
, July/August 2010, 8.

149. C. S. Lewis, “We Have No
‘Right to Happiness,’ ” Saturday Evening Post,
21–28 December 1963, 12.

150. Smith, Soul
, 162.

151. Smith, Soul
, 163.

152. Smith, Soul
, 163–64.

153. Smith, Soul
, 164.

154. Smith, Soul
, 163.

155. Smith, Soul
, 165.

156. Smith, Souls in
, 155.

157. Smith, Souls in
, 155.

158. Smith, Souls in
, 288.

159. Smith, Souls in
, 288.

160. Smith, Souls in
, 287.

161. Smith, Souls in
, 289.

162. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 159.

163. Smith, Souls in
, 288.

164. Smith, Souls in
, 290.

165. Smith, Souls in
, 290.

166. Ronald J. Sider, The Scandal
of the Evangelical Conscience
(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005),

167. Sider, Evangelical
, 76.

168. Ben Witherington III, The Problem
with Evangelical Theology
(Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005),

169. Smith, Souls in
, 290.

170. Sider, Evangelical
, 91.

171. Smith, Souls in
, 291.

172. Smith, Soul
, 270.

173. Arthur C. Brooks, Who Really
(New York: Basic Books, 2006), 181.

174. Louis Midgley, “The
Utility of Faith Reconsidered,” in Revelation, Reason, and Faith: Essays in
Honor of Truman G. Madsen
, ed. Donald W. Parry, Daniel C. Peterson,
and Stephen D. Ricks (Provo, UT: FARMS, 2002), 179.

175. Bauerlein, Dumbest Generation,

176. Bauerlein, Dumbest Generation,

177. Bauerlein, Dumbest Generation,

178. Bauerlein, Dumbest Generation,

179. Bauerlein, Dumbest Generation,

180. Bauerlein, Dumbest Generation,

181. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 123.

182. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 127.

183. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 133.

184. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 133.

185. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 176; but note p. 175: “Evangelicals, Mormons, and youths
who identify with another (non-Christian) religion display the lowest stated
rates of pornography use here, though these numbers may be artificially low due
to stronger than average social desirability bias.”

186. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 169. Many American teenagers do not consider oral sex to be
sex. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit, 30. This is a cultural perception
since ancient Romans considered it to be worse than intercourse.

187. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 133.

188. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 133.

189. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 161.

190. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 143.

191. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 141.

192. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 87.

193. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 104.

194. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 87.

195. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 64–69.

196. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 66.

197. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 65.

198. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 71.

199. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit,

200. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 67.

201. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 67, emphasis in original.

202. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 212–13, emphasis in original.

203. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 71, emphasis in original.

204. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 65; compare Olsho et al., National Survey of Adolescents and Their
, x.

205. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 123, 133, 135; Olsho et al., National Survey of Adolescents
and Their Parents
, ix, xi.

206. Olsho et al., National
Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents
, 56–57.

207. Olsho et al., National
Survey of Adolescents and Their Parents
, 73–74.

208. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 153.

209. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 153–61.

210. Sider, Evangelical
, 23.

211. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 205.

212. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 155.

213. Sider, Evangelical
, 18–20. This factor is downplayed in Regnerus, Forbidden
, 157.

214. Regnerus, Forbidden
, 157.

215. Paul E. Barton and Richard E.
Coley, The Black-White Achievement Gap: When
Progress Stopped
Educational Testing Service, 2010), 35; compare pp. 21–24.

216. Smith, Souls in
, 215.

217. Smith, Souls in
, 218.

218. Smith, Souls in
, 259.

219. Based on Smith, Souls in
, 116.

220. Smith, Souls in
, 304.

221. The lower figure includes the
“regular,” who are still attending church a few times a month and are
otherwise slightly less valiant than the “devoted” (Smith, Souls in
, 259, 304), who are in the more or less safe category.