Religion, Morality and Youth
18,000 young people, mainly of college students, gathered in Nashville, Tenn., for the four-day Passion '06 conference in January 2006.

A few of the 18,000 young people, mainly college students, who gathered in Nashville, Tenn., for the four-day Passion '06 conference in January 2006. (AP)

If you’re twenty-something, you know it. If you’re not, think about it: It takes some courage to be stepping into the world right now. Scarce jobs. School loans. War and terror and the climate itself in trouble.

What’s the rock, the hope, the inspiration you cling to? For some it’s God. For some it’s not.

Today’s twenty-something Americans grew up in a time of religious fundamentalist ascendancy and atheist pushback, evangelical power politics and the anti-religion rebukes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

Now they’re making their own decisions, their own way, on the moral life, the spiritual life.

Two guests today. One, from Notre Dame, has polled thousands of young Americans on their spiritual and religious lives now. One, from Harvard, says humanism is the way — be “good without God.”

This hour, On Point: Looking for goodness, for grounding, for God. We’re looking at young America’s search for meaning.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.


Joining us from South Bend, Indiana, is Christian Smith, professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. He’s co-principal investigator in the National Study of Youth and Religion, a longitudinal study started in 2001. His previous findings were published in “Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.” His new book is “Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.”

Read an excerpt from “Souls in Transition.”

With us from New York is Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University. His new book is “Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.”

Read an excerpt from “Good Without God.”

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Nov 26, 2015
This photo taken July 31, 2012 shows a "tiny" house April Anson built in Portland, Ore. For the past couple of months, 33-year-old Anson and her friends have been planning, measuring, sawing and hammering their way toward completion of what might look like a child’s playhouse. (AP)

Tiny houses, micro-apartments. They’re hot. Americans are downsizing.

Nov 26, 2015
Jewel performs in the On Point Studio on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (Liz Gillis / WBUR)

Singer-songwriter Jewel asked “who will save your soul”? Now she’s talking about saving her own. We’ll talk to Jewel.

Nov 25, 2015
Three of baker Renee McLeoud's delicious pies, on display in the WBUR studios. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Bring your appetite! We’re gathering around the radio table with three chefs and new Thanksgiving recipes.

Nov 25, 2015
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning Iowa writer Marilynne Robinson, arrives to the State Library of Iowa in the Ola Babcock Miller Building, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Des Moines. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On the day before Thanksgiving, we talk with Marilynne Robinson – one of America’s greatest authors, thinkers, moralists — about fear and hope in a hard, frightening time.

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