Has Western Christianity Become Obsolete?: Shifts in Deep Culture and Young Adult Indifference

Location: Rome Global Gateway

Western culture has undergone huge, deep cultural shifts since the 1990s, due to major technological, economic, political, and other social transformations—including the digital revolution, neoliberal globalization, and the end of the Cold War. The resulting zeitgeist combines the proliferation of “not religious” and “just spiritual” self-identities, especially among younger generations; a growing interest in pagan, paranormal, and esoteric occulture; and the erosion of previously clear boundaries separating secular spheres, like business management and medicine, from interests in “spirituality,” including meditation, mindfulness, prayer, and other tools of self-management and self-transformation. All of this raises fundamental questions about authority, knowledge, trust, selfhood, community, and human personal and social wellbeing that matter greatly for the Christian Church and all traditional faiths. This symposium will bring together sociologists who study these issues empirically with leaders and thinkers from the Church, to share the research and reflect on their implications for Christian cultural presence and proclamation.

The proceedings will be more conversational than didactic. The discussions Thursday will focus on learning about different empirical research projects exploring these issues, while Friday will concentrate on deliberating about their implications for traditional religious faiths, especially the Christian Church.

This symposium will be modest in size to foster open conversation and so is not open to the public; it thus requires an invitation for participants. People wishing to join the conversation should contact Christian Smith, at christian.smith@nd.edu, to express their interest. This symposium is made possible by the Stepan Family, the Pizzo Family, the University of Notre Dame Center for the Study of Religion & Society, and the Rome Global Gateway of the University of Notre Dame.

Program outline

Thursday, April 13

1.30- 2pm:  Registration 

2pm - 4pm: Session 1 

4pm - 4.30pm: Coffee break 

4.30pm - 6.30pm: Session 2 

6.30pm - 7.30pm: Reception 

Dinner at Hostaria Isidoro, Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, 59a for all the participants.

Friday, April 14 

09.30am - 11am: Session 3

11am - 11.30am: Coffee Break

11.30am - 1pm: Session 4

1pm - 2pm:  Lunch 

2pm - 3pm: Closing session