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Religion in American Life: A Short History Updated Edition [Paperback]

By Jon Butler (Author), Grant Wacker (Author) & Randall Balmer (Author)
Our Price $ 16.96  
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Item Number 100676  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   512
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.3" Width: 5.5" Height: 1.6"
Weight:   1.3 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Dec 1, 2007
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195333292  
EAN  9780195333299  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Perhaps surprising in a country without a national church, religion has played a powerful role in American life. Now, in the new paperback edition of Religion in American Life, three of the country's most eminent historians of religion offer a superb overview that spans four centuries, illuminating the rich spiritual heritage central to nearly every event in our nation's history.
Jon Butler begins by describing the state of religious affairs in both the Old and New Worlds on the eve of colonization. He traces the progress of religion in the colonies through the time of the American Revolution, covering all the religious groups, Protestants, Jews, and Catholics, as well as the unique religious experiences of Native Americans and African Americans. Grant Wacker continues the story with a fascinating look at the ever-shifting religious landscape of 19th-century America. He focuses on the rapid growth of evangelical Protestants--Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and others--and their competition for dominance over religions such as Catholicism and Judaism, which continued to increase with large immigrant arrivals from Ireland, Eastern Europe, and other countries. The 20th century saw massive cultural changes. Randall Balmer discusses the effects industrialization, modernization, and secularization had on new and established religions. He examines Protestants, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, New Age believers, Mormons, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, and many more, providing a clear look into the kaleidoscope of religious belief in modern-day America.
Religion in American Life is an engrossing look at how religion has changed--and in turn been changed by--the extraordinary events throughout American history.

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More About Jon Butler, Grant Wacker & Randall Balmer

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Jon Butler is Howard R. Lamar Professor of American Studies, History, and Religious Studies at Yale University. He is the author of Power, Authority, and the Origins of American Denominational Authority; The Huguenots in America: A Refugee People in New World Society; Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People; and Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776, and, with Harry S. Stout, editor of Religion in American History: A Reader.
Grant Wacker is Professor of Christian History at Duke Divinity School and Director of the Graduate Program in Religion at Duke University. He received his B.A. from Stanford University and Ph.D. from Harvard University. His publications include Augustus H. Strong and the Dilemma of Historical Consciousness and Heaven Below: Pentecostals and American Culture. From 1997 to 2002 was a senior editor of the quarterly journal Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture. In 2008 he served as president of the American Society of Church History.
Randall Balmer is Professor of American Religious History at Barnard College, Columbia University. He is the author of a dozen books, including A Perfect Babel of Confusion: Dutch Religion and English Culture in the Middle Colonies; Protestantism in America; and God in the White House: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush. His second book, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America, now in its fourth edition, was made into an award-winning three-part documentary for PBS.

Jon Butler was born in 1940 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Yale University.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Not Jon's Best  Nov 8, 2009
This book is a disappointment. If it were not for my high regard for one of the authors, Jon Butler, I would not have given that even three stars. Prof. Butler has shown me great patience in helping with a research project, but this work falls below what I expected of him. Perhaps I have put too much emphasis on discovering the place of religion in American life. The book is written with clarity but it is certainly not a work to be used for research. One of the major faults is a lack of footnotes and or and notes so necessary for in-depth study. A professor of mine used to say that it is important to get a bird's eye view; she would be pleased with this work as it provides the view of a myopic bird.

There were some interesting thoughts throughout the book especially in the importance or lack of importance religion in American life throughout the history of the country. For example, "the Constitution and the First Amendment applied only to the federal government, however, leaving the states free to do as they wished regarding the establishment of religion." [Page 161.] "How common was Deism? The short answer is, not very. In matters of religion, the founders spoke for an influential and the well-educated elite, but not many others." Page 166. One especially interesting point is made on pages 187 and 188, "Evangelicals regarded the South too as a mission field, one desperately needing reform. And with good reason. Until the middle of the century probably the majority of Southerns remained unchurched. The Episcopal Church, dominating the colonial era, had come to be identified with the privileges of the planter aristocracy. Moreover, a `culture of honor, 'which placed a premium upon drinking, gambling, dueling, aggressive sports, and mail sexual conquests, pervaded the old South. Evangelical religion, this post especially by lower-class and lower middle class whites and slaves, challenged the culture of honor." Another interesting factor is states rights. On page 234 we are told, "until the mid-19th century many Americans, especially Southerners, customarily used a plural verb when speaking of the nation [the United States are]. After all, what came first, the federal Constitution or the rights of the individual states?" The authors show us the flexibility of Christianity in the following excerpt, "God had, they said, specially chosen the South to show the world what a truly Christian society look like. Indeed, the Constitution of the Confederate States of America (unlike that of the United States) explicitly identified the Confederacy as a Christian nation." [Page 240.]

The future of religion in this country was deeply affected by the institution of slavery. The authors cite the interpretation of Philemon as an example of regional splitting in the Christian church. The fact that the apostle Paul urged the runaway slave to return to his master was seen as a virtual godsend by the proslavery element. "Southern and northern Protestants looked to the same Bible, but the former tended to interpret it literally, the latter figuratively.... Given such enormous differences in outlook between the regions, by the mid-1840s millions of men and women on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line had come to believe that the separation of the North and South was inevitable." [Page 238.]

The book goes on to review the history of American religion in the 20th century, perhaps the most interesting segment is that dealing with the religious radical right. It must be stated again, this book is at best only a shallow survey of the history of religion in America. It is disappointing that a publisher like Oxford University Press would produce such shallow work on a topic of great importance. Any reader interested in a good doorstop would do best to look at the hardcover edition of this book which is less expensive than the paper and will stand up better to physical abuse.


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