Christian Smith

Christian Smith is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame. His research focuses primarily on religion in modernity, adolescents, American evangelicalism, and culture. He received his MA and PhD from Harvard University in 1990 and his BA from Gordon College in 1983. Before coming to Notre Dame he taught Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for 12 years.

Smith’s larger theoretical agenda has been to move culture, morality, and identity to the center of sociological theorizing generally and the sociology of religion specifically. His early work on social movements emphasized not only structural political opportunities but also personal moral motivations for participation in social movement activism. In his work on American Evangelicals, Smith developed a subcultural identity theory of religious persistence and strength in the modern world and highlighted the immense cultural complexities within conservative Protestantism. The Secular Revolution (California 2003) emphasized the centrality of culture, agency and moral vision by religiously hostile actors in the secularization of American public life. Moral, Believing Animals (Oxford 2009) underscored the morally-oriented, narratological and epistemically anti-foundationalist condition of human personhood.

Smith’s more recent work on the religious and spiritual lives of U.S. adolescents emphasizes the interplay of broad cultural influences, family socialization and religious motivations in forming teenager’s life outcomes. Behind and contributing to these sociological emphases are the philosophical works of Charles Taylor and Alasdair MacIntyre, a critical realist philosophy of social science, and an interpretive-hermeneutical understanding of sociology.