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Not by Faith Alone

Religion, Law, and Adolescence

Roger Levesque

Publication Year: 2002

Teens are often seen as challenging social mores. They are frequently perceived to engage in activities considered by adults to be immoral, including sexual behavior, delinquent activities, and low-level forms of violence. Yet the vast majority report surprisingly high levels of religiosity. Ninety-five percent of American teens aged 13-17 believe in God or a universal spirit, and 76% believe that God observes their actions and rewards or punishes them. Nearly half engage in religious practices, such as praying alone or attending church or synagogue services.

Adolescents' religious beliefs are clearly important to them. Yet, the law does not know how to approach adolescents' religious rights and needs. In Not by Faith Alone, Roger J. R. Levesque argues that teens' search for meaning does not always serve adolescents or society well. Religious doctrines and institutions are not all "good," with violence linked to religious beliefs, for example—particularly racial/ethnic and sexual orientation harassment—becoming an increasing concern.

Not by Faith Alone is the first attempt to integrate research on the place of religion in adolescent development and to discuss the relevance of that research for policies and laws which regulate religion in their lives. Levesque asks how religion, broadly defined, influences the development of teens' inner moral compasses, and how we can ensure that religion and the apparent need for "religious" activity lead to positive outcomes for individual adolescents and for society.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

Editors at New York University Press obviously have done much to shepherd the development of this text. I am, though, especially grateful for Jennifer Hammer’s careful editing and suggestions for revisions. I also am very appreciative of the manner in which she swiftly responded to my initial book proposal and found reviewers who provided ...

I. Introduction

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1 Religion and Adolescents in Changing Times

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pp. 3-22

Adolescents exhibit strikingly high levels of religious beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Ninety-seven percent of American teens ages 13 to 17 believe in God (or a universal spirit), 76 percent believe that God observes their actions and rewards or punishes them, 93 percent believe that God loves them, 91 ...

II. Religiosity’s Role in Adolescent Development

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2 Adolescents’ Religious Development

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pp. 25-49

Adolescents search for meaning and purpose in life. Their new cognitive, social, and emotional abilities allow them to begin formulating a system of beliefs that will guide them through the remainder of their lives. The most dominant social institution specifically dedicated to meaning- making—religion—thus potentially occupies an important place in ...

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3 Religiosity’s Potentially Paradoxical Influences

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pp. 50-75

Massive amounts of data now detail how religion influences and is influenced by other aspects of one’s personal and social life. Most notably, research continues to examine religion’s effects on mental health and its numerous pernicious social dispositions, especially religion’s role in fostering intolerance, prejudice, and bigotry (see Batson, Schoenrade, ...

III. Regulating Adolescents’ Religious Orientations and Environments

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4 Shifts in the Regulation of Religion

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pp. 79-113

We live in a land of religious freedom, but our legal system in reality highly regulates religion. The legal foundation of the United States, the Constitution, contains the First Amendment’s “religious clauses,” which affirm that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. . . .” These two ...

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5 Regulating Adolescents’ Religious Environments

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pp. 114-156

Adolescents occupy a peculiar place in law and in policy-making. What constitutes adolescence for the purposes of legal regulation varies, the law typically classifies adolescents either as children or as adults. The legal system’s response to adolescents’ religious beliefs, development, and environments is similarly dichotomous. As already described ...

IV. Conclusion

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6 Not by Faith Alone

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pp. 159-191

Religion and matters of faith played powerful roles in everyone’s lives, including the lives of nonbelievers, long before modern social sciences turned their attention to religious institutions and their impact. Indeed, the social sciences often have ignored the manner in which religious institutions and beliefs affect society’s response to individual and ...


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pp. 193-216


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pp. 217-220

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About the Author

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p. 221

Roger J. R. Levesque received his J.D. from the Columbia University School of Law and his Ph.D. in cultural psychology from the University of Chicago. Prior to his current appointment as professor of criminal justice at Indiana University, he was professor of psychology and law at the University of Arizona and a fellow in the Law and Psychology Program at the ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814765159
E-ISBN-10: 0814765157
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814751824
Print-ISBN-10: 0814751822

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 53482631
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Not by Faith Alone

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • Children's rights -- United States.
  • Teenagers -- Religious life -- United States.
  • Freedom of religion -- United States.
  • Teenagers -- Civil rights -- United States.
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