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American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Robert D. Putnam , David E. Campbell , Dan John Miller
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 35.56 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

5 Oct 2010
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 nation's 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 organised religion. The result has been a growing polarisation - 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 promises to be the most important book in decades about American religious life.
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc; Unabridged edition (5 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140011957X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400119578
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 13.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Review

'This is an excellent book. I recommend it wholeheartedly'
--Literary Review, 12 July 2011 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Robert D. Putnam is the Professor of International Peace at Harvard University. He is the authour of six previous books, and his articles have appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WASHINGTON POST, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT as well as many other publications. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
How has American religion responded to the cultural revolution of the 1960s and the decline in religious observance among young people since the 1990s? Authors Putnam and Campbell peer beyond the headlines of polarisation to discover a rich tapestry of religiously observant, and non-religious, communities living and thriving side by side - going to the same schools, being civically involved, even intermarrying. Their writing is based on robust sociological research done in recent years, but they pepper the over-arching story with colourful vignettes of various religious groups and their day-to-day activities. For the UK student of American religion, this is a must-read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book, by Professor Robert D Putnam and David E Campbell, presents a comprehensive study of religious beliefs and practices in the USA, and provides a detailed overview of an important aspect of American culture. Data was collected as part of a two-step interview survey (Faith Matters 2006, 2007)) which involved more than 3000 respondents across the USA. The series of findings presented make for interesting reading. Consider:

* 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?
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5.0 out of 5 stars high class science 27 Jan 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed Putnam's other major work, Bowling Alone. I'm a retired paediatrician in South Africa with an interest in the social side of medicine as well as the biological and so much of modern child health is related to social issues more than biological ones. So I more or less bought this book on sight and I was not disappointed. It is a scholarly and thoughtful discussion about religion in the USA and how it affects the social and political scene. Putnam's methodology is meticulous and his approach of examining all the results of research to look for pitfalls and for the direction of causality is impressive. X is related to Y. Does that mean that X caused Y, or Y caused X, or did Z cause both? This is in the best tradition of epidemiological research . If the title grabs you, it means that the topic is one that intrigues you - so buy it. And while you are thinking about religion, also buy Leaving Alexandria by Richard Holloway. I read these back to back - still mulling over the implications.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
168 of 174 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary and Unique Achievement - Read It !!!!! 18 Oct 2010
By Richad of Connecticut - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I for one was blown away by the contents of this book. Once I started reading, I found it difficult to put down and fascinating. I am now convinced that we are all walking around with presuppositions about religion and religious beliefs in America that are just plain wrong. Think about it. You're a smart, educated, well-read adult. You try to keep an open mind throughout your life, and then along comes this 550 page book and smacks you, and your belief systems right in the face. Everything I thought about our country's religious status is now subject to re-interpretation. Here's why:

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
50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely good social science 24 Oct 2010
By Wolf Roder - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
With 550 page of text and another 123 pages of appendices, notes, and index this is an extensive assessment of the role of religion in American society. The information is strictly factual, measured from two major surveys led by the authors. In addition they draw on many standard sources, Gallup, the General Social Survey, the Pew Religious Landscape Survey, and others. The authors present the data,- the cross classifications, the correlations, the trend lines - in half page, black and white graphs. Emphasis is on four major religious traditions, Catholics, main line Protestants, evangelical Protestants, and the not religious, i.e. those answering "none" when asked their denomination. The authors make it clear that most of the "nones" do in fact believe in God; only a tiny number of Americans label themselves as atheists or agnostics. These four groups account for 90 percent of Americans. The Authors can classify individuals by the extent of their "religiosity" on the basis of how often they attend church and other variables.

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.
55 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive and thought provoking 12 Oct 2010
By dave branch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is a treasure trove of observations about multi-denominational attitudes and behaviors and its intersection with political and social issues. But what I found most surprising and hopeful were the findings of integration across religious belief systems (e.g., the high rate of inter-faith marriages, friendships and shifts from one's parents' faith to another or no affiliation at all, etc.). As the subtitle suggests, faith does not only divide us, but in unexpected ways also unites us. A much needed message in today's volatile climate. The authors attribute this to a high level of religious tolerance. Unfortunately, they stopped short of distinguishing between religious tolerance and religious acceptance (tolerance involves "putting up with" people you disapprove of; acceptance involves refusing to pass judgment on people who are different from you). This would have been an important distinction as tolerance, with its condescending tone, is far less hopeful than acceptance. You can and must legislate tolerance while acceptance must come from the heart. And I believe that much of what they discovered was indeed religious acceptance. You'd have to go elsewhere for more on this distinction, such as another new book - Tolerant Oppression: Why promoting tolerance undermines our quest for equality and what we should do instead Keeping that in mind, the authors' application of religious distinctions and affiliations to a range of political issues including premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion, etc. spawned interesting observations. An important book.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener 16 Nov 2010
By Jon Hunt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
What we think about religion (ours and others) and what we actually know about religion are two very separate entities and that is a major presentation that appears in this new book, "American Grace". It's a timely book in many ways, but an educational one at all levels on this subject.

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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `America manages to be both religiously diverse and religiously devout because it's difficult to damn those you know and love.' 31 May 2011
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith - Published on Amazon.com
This book, by Professor Robert D Putnam and David E Campbell, presents a comprehensive study of religious beliefs and practices in the USA, and provides a detailed overview of an important aspect of American culture. Data was collected as part of a two-step interview survey (Faith Matters 2006, 2007)) which involved more than 3000 respondents across the USA. The series of findings presented make for interesting reading. Consider:

* 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? By creating a web of interlocking personal relationships among people of many different faiths. This is America's grace.'

In part, this is due to the nature of American society. The combination of an absence of a religious monopoly and an atmosphere of religious liberty has supported the development of religious pluralism. `Religions compete, adapt and evolve as individual Americans freely move from one congregation to another, and even from one religion to another.'

It is true that America's tradition of peaceful religious coexistence is largely about relative harmony between different Christian denominations. But harmony between Catholics and Protestants is comparatively recent, and the process of how this change came about raises an important question: How do mutual fear, suspicion and intolerance make way for tolerance and trust? What lessons can be drawn from the past?

This is a fascinating study which is highly readable and provides much food for thought.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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