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“I KNOW THIS ISN'T PC, BUT . . .”: Religious Exclusivism among U.S. Adolescents


*Jenny Trinitapoli, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station G1800, Austin, TX 78712-1088; e-mail:


Despite the growing pluralism of American society, the proportion of Americans who maintain exclusivist religious beliefs is sizable. This study focuses on adolescence—a period when independent religious lives are forming—examining the social, familial, and denominational correlates of exclusivist beliefs and the ways in which exclusivist adolescents reconcile their beliefs with the cultural mores of a pluralistic society. Using new data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, this study involves the analysis of both survey data and in-depth interviews. Logistic regression results show that Mormons and evangelicals are more likely than mainline Protestants to hold exclusivist beliefs. High levels of parent religiosity and dense religious peer networks also strongly predict exclusivism. Yet the interview data show that exclusivists have not resisted pluralism but have internalized messages of religious diversity. They modify their beliefs in response to pluralism and articulate them carefully so as not to be perceived as intolerant.