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American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Usby Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell
Synopses & Reviews
American Grace is a major achievement, a groundbreaking examination of religion in America.
Unique among nations, America is deeply religious, religiously diverse, and remarkably tolerant. But in recent decades the nations religious landscape has been reshaped.
America has experienced three seismic shocks, say Robert Putnam and David Campbell. In the 1960s, religious observance plummeted. Then in the 1970s and 1980s, a conservative reaction produced the rise of evangelicalism and the Religious Right. Since the 1990s, however, young people, turned off by that linkage between faith and conservative politics, have abandoned organized religion. The result has been a growing polarization — the ranks of religious conservatives and secular liberals have swelled, leaving a dwindling group of religious moderates in between. At the same time, personal interfaith ties are strengthening. Interfaith marriage has increased while religious identities have become more fluid. Putnam and Campbell show how this denser web of personal ties brings surprising interfaith tolerance, notwithstanding the so-called culture wars.
American Grace is based on two of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America. It includes a dozen in-depth profiles of diverse congregations across the country, which illuminate how the trends described by Putnam and Campbell affect the lives of real Americans.
Nearly every chapter of American Grace contains a surprise about American religious life. Among them:
• Between one-third and one-half of all American marriages are interfaith;
• Roughly one-third of Americans have switched religions at some point in their lives;
• Young people are more opposed to abortion than their parents but more accepting of gay marriage;
• Even fervently religious Americans believe that people of other faiths can go to heaven;
• Religious Americans are better neighbors than secular Americans: more generous with their time and treasure even for secular causes — but the explanation has less to do with faith than with their communities of faith;
• Jews are the most broadly popular religious group in America today.
American Grace promises to be the most important book in decades about American religious life and an essential book for understanding our nation today.
"[A] finely-grained and judicious study, sure to become a classic work of social analysis....Riveting and sometimes disconcerting insights into the ways religion shapes and is shaped by the political and social currents of American life." Foreign Affairs
"American Grace is a monumental work, an elegant narrative built on a solid foundation of massive research. This surprising, absolutely fascinating, and ultimately uplifting portrait of the changing role of religion in American life deserves the widest possible audience. It is a triumph." Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
"Religion is perhaps the most significant but little understood force in American life, and this new book goes a long way toward illuminating how faith affects our politics and our culture. Robert Putnam and David Campbell have produced an original and thought-provoking work." Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation
American Grace is “perhaps the most sweeping look yet at contemporary American religion. It lays out the broad trends of the past fifty years, assesses their sociological causes, and then does a bit of fortune-telling” (The Washington Post).
Based on two of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America, plus in-depth studies of diverse congregations — among them a Mormon congregation, a reform Jewish synagogue, and an African-American congregation — American Grace examines the impact of religion on American life and how that impact has changed — often in surprising ways.
From abortion to gay marriage to feminism, American Grace shows how religion has influenced politics in America — and vice versa. The discoveries are often unexpected: The most politicized churches tend to be liberal, not conservative, congregations. Most Americans marry outside their religion, and nearly half change their religion during their lifetime. This is a fascinating and revelatory book.
Unique among nations, America is deeply religious, religiously diverse, and remarkably tolerant. In recent decades, however, the nation’s religious landscape has undergone several seismic shocks. American Grace is an authoritative, fascinating examination of what precipitated these changes and the role that religion plays in contemporary American society.
Although there is growing polarization between religious conservatives and secular liberals today, at the same time personal interfaith ties are strengthening. Interfaith marriage has increased, and religious identities have become more fluid. More people than ever are friendly with someone of a different faith or no faith at all. Putnam and Campbell show how this denser web of personal ties brings greater interfaith tolerance, despite the so-called culture wars.
Based on two of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America (and with a new epilogue based on a third survey), American Grace is an indispensable book about American religious life, essential for understanding our nation today.
About the Author
Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and founder of the Saguaro Seminar, a program dedicated to fostering civic engagement in America. He is the author or coauthor of ten previous books and is former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
David E. Campbell is the John Cardinal O'Hara, C.S.C. Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame as well as a research fellow with the Institute for Educational Initiatives. He is the author, coauthor, or editor of several books, and his work has also appeared in the Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, and the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. He lives near South Bend, Indiana.
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