American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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"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
About the Author
David E. Campbell is the John Cardinal O'Hara, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame and the author, coauthor, or editor of several books, including Why We Vote and A Matter of Faith. David lives near South Bend, Indiana.
Robert D. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and the author or coauthor of more than ten books, including Bowling Alone and Better Together.
Dan John Miller has earned multiple Audie Award nominations, winning for The Wrecking Crew by Kent Hartman; has twice been named a Best Voice by AudioFile magazine; and has received several AudioFile Earphones Awards.
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Top Customer Reviews
* Between one third to one half of all marriages are interfaith;
* Young people are more opposed to abortion than their parents, but more accepting of same- sex marriage;
* Jews are the most broadly popular religious group in the USA today;
* Roughly one third of Americans have switched religions at some stage.
The findings affirm the importance of organized religion: more than 83% of Americans report that they belong to a specific religion; 59% report that they pray at least once a week and 40% report attendance at weekly services. At the same time, the traditional role of religion has been challenged by `the sexually libertine 1960s' which subsequently resulted in `a prudish aftershock of growth in conservative religion, especially evangelicalism, and an even more pronounced cultural presence for evangelicals, most noticeably in the political arena.' Professors Putnam and Campbell assert that this evangelical revival, which began to recede by the early 1990s was sparked more by deeply personal moral concerns than by hot-button political issues: `Abortion and same-sex marriage are the glue holding the coalition of the religious together.'
`How has America solved the puzzle of religious pluralism - the coexistence of religious diversity and devotion? And how has it done so in the wake of growing religious polarization?Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The authors did very substantial research, over a period of years. It was painstaking, and brutally honest. They approach this project the way you would do a massive pharmaceutical drug research study. They did not inflict their own belief systems on what they found. There has been no study like this, anywhere approaching this effort in more than 50 years. At the same time, they made the book highly readable which for a research study is more than surprising.
If I had to compare this study to anything comparable, it would be the Master's and Johnson study on sexual practices in America published many decades ago. That study revolutionized our thinking about sexual mores in this country, and this study will do the same thing for religion. You do not have to follow this book in sequence. Go into the table of contents, find a chapter that interests you and you will be able to go into whatever depth you like. Read a few pages or read the whole chapter, just be prepared to realize that what we think is not necessarily what the rest of us are thinking, and believing.
Here are a few concepts straight out of the book that should pique your interest in reading more.
* One third to one half of all marriages in America are interfaith marriages. Wow, this is surprising. It is difficult to stay married to someone if you do not respect that person. These marriages are producing a powerful respect for other religions, and that's probably good for all of us.
* One third of all Americans have switched religions in their lifetime. I would never have dreamed the number was so large.
* The young are more opposed to abortion than their parents, and more accepting of gay marriage. I would not have believed the abortion statistic, but research is research.
* Fervently religious Americans believe that people of another faith can go to heaven. This is another mind blowing statistic because it implies that people are starting to treat other people's religions with the same respect they accord their own.
* I was completely taken aback with the following. I knew that in 1960 a number of Protestants (30%) said they could not bring themselves to vote for a Catholic (John Kennedy) for President. I was alive then, I remember. Did you know that in 2004 John Kerry, a Catholic took only half the Catholic vote in this country? The other half went for George Bush, an evangelical Protestant.
* Jewish people are the most broadly popular religious group in America. Statistics are clear on this, regardless of what the news media would have you believe. What's interesting also is that Mormons tend to like, and are most comfortable with other people's religions, and yet are the least liked religion themselves. This would imply that Mormons are the most accepting, and yet least accepted of the religions in America.
In summary I believe that you should be prepared to be amazed at your new understanding of who and what America believes in. It turns out we are the most religious country in the industrial world. Over 83% of us belong to a religion. More than 40% of us go to church almost every week, while 59% pray weekly, and one third of us read the scriptures every week, and 80% of Americans say that they absolutely believe there is a God. By way of comparison, 54% of the people in England never pray, that is true for only 18% of Americans. More than anything else, I was taken aback by the following. Almost 40% of Americans belong to a church or church group versus 9% for Italians, and 4% for the French. If you watch CNN when the Vatican elects a Pope, you see a million people in Vatican Square, you would think that 100% of Italians belong to the church.
Read this book and be prepared to be amazed at what you will learn. The authors did a superb job at wringing out their personal biases, and portraying religion in America in an honest, respectful fashion, and they deserve to be read for what they have accomplished in this highly readable book. Good luck, and thank you for reading this review.
Richard C. Stoyeck
The authors examine the role of religion by ethnicity, gender, denomination, and race. They ask how the womens revolution has impacted religion. They examine religion and social class. Most of all they devote a chapter to "Religion in American Politics" to bring out how the current period seems to have divided Republicans from Democrats. Yet over the long run, that is since the fifties, religious adherence has varied greatly.
The authors also examine religion and civic virtues. Interestingly they find, - and of course document, - that religious Americans are more generous, more civically active, more trusting and trustworthy, in short, better neighbors. On the other hand, religious Americans are less tolerant of others' views and have difficulty accepting dissent.
This is a very good book. The authors are the first to point out where they think their assessment is fully supported, and also warn the reader where the data are inadequate, and therefore the conclusions tentative. This is must reading to understand the complexity of religion in America.
If there is one word I could describe about this book it would be "surprise". Each chapter contains more than one surprise... in large part about our pre-conceived notions of religion and its hold on American society. While it seems evident that younger people are much more tolerant than their parents are with regard to homosexuality, for instance, they are actually more conservative on the issue of abortion. And with all the reports of anti-Semitic activity over the years, who would have thought that Jews are the best liked religious group in the country?
These revelations abound in "American Grace" and while the authors could have merely offered up a dry, chart-driven look at religion (yes, there are many very intriguing charts!) they intersperse it with "vignettes" of Americans going through their daily and weekly religious activities. Yet, the best part of this book is showing us all up, in a sense...that we tend to know so little of other religions that when something is presented, the reader tends to drop his or her jaw in disbelief. "Really?!", could be a perfect response to many of their discoveries.
Unlocking what is behind religion is no easy task but authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell have done an extraordinary job of peeling away the layers of our own lack of knowledge and filling it with substantial insight. I highly recommend this terrific book.
The matter of "church switching" gets a lot of attention here, and the data reveals a lot about membership figures. The Episcopalians, very much on the decline, attract a lot of disgruntled ex-Catholics, just as the evangelical churches attract lots of ex-liberals. The liberals tend to have fewer children than evangelicals or Catholics, and their churches are not good at retaining those children. "Switchers" are often those who find a church to match their politics, rather than changing their politics to match their church. There are cases of evangelicals who become liberal in politics and join liberal churches, but these are far outnumbered by people who leave the liberal churches to become evangelicals. And here's a factoid that might surprise many people: nondenominational evangelicals now outnumber the largest liberal/mainline denomination, the United Methodists.
There is a lot of data here about the growing group of "Nones," people who claim no religious affiliation. The authors observe that very few of the Nones have been attracted to the liberal churches' marketing of "inclusivity." Most are likely to stay Nones, and in fact neither the evangelical nor liberal churches is good at making new converts among this group. The younger ones among the Nones tend to be increasingly hostile toward religion, having little actual contact with religion.
Some of the in-depth profiles of congregations were quite interesting, notably a very conservative Lutheran congregation in Houston that has a very loyal group of attenders but isn't growing - and isn't even trying to grow. Its pastor claims that "We're not called to be popular, we're called to be faithful," and he has no intention of watering down his message to attract new members. He sees his church as a safe haven for the faithful in an increasingly secular world.
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