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Counterculture or Continuity? Competing Influences on Baby Boomers' Religious Orientations and Participation

Darren E. Sherkat
Social Forces
Vol. 76, No. 3 (Mar., 1998), pp. 1087-1114
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/3005704
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3005704
Page Count: 28
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Counterculture or Continuity? Competing Influences on Baby Boomers' Religious Orientations and Participation
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Abstract

The presumed attractiveness of countercultural orientations to young, educated, baby boomers led many scholars to proclaim the 1960s counterculture as the driving force behind declining religious participation, and a supposed growing distaste for biblical religion. In contrast, theories of religious behavior predict substantial continuity in religious orientations and commitments. Social ties and life course events influence religious beliefs and rates of participation, yet these ties and transitions often support traditional religious expressions. I integrate insights from studies of baby boomer religion with more general theories of religious commitment, merging theories of the dual nature of social structures with rational choice perspectives on religious behavior. Using data from the 1965-1982 Youth Parent Socialization Panel Study, I analyze the relative influence of three factors on baby boomers' religious orientations and participation: (1) traditional agents of socialization (denominations, parents, and schools); (2) life course factors (marriage, divorce, and childrearing); and, (3) participation in the protest movements of the 1960s and early 1970s - a widely cited countercultural protagonist of religious change. I also demonstrate how prior religious orientations directed participation in the counterculture. My analyses show that traditional socialization agents, life course factors, and countercultural participation all play a role in directing future religious orientations and commitments. However, traditional socialization factors have a dominant influence on future religious beliefs and participation.

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