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 ProtestantsMethodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and othersand 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 changedand in turn been changed bythe extraordinary events throughout American history.
Yet another history of religion in America? And with all the flaws of previous histories? Religion in this book essentially means Protestant Christianity, with a few side glances at Judaism, Catholicism, Native American religion, Islam, and Asian religions. America generally means the United States, except in the Colonial period, when a few references are made to New France in the north and New Spain in the south. In this short history by Butler (Religion in Colonial America), Grant Wacker (Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture), and Randall Balmer (Religion in 20th-Century America), the reader receives a large catalog of data and events that are difficult to place in any pattern of development or interpretation. The authors seem unable to provide an outline of trends or changes that supply a context for understanding this complex history. The classic work is still Sidney Ahlstrom's A Religious History of the American People; to set this story in true pluralistic context, Ahlstrom's book should be read alongside Diana L. Eck's recent and highly regarded A New Religious America. The reader would be better served by these two books than this new one. Not recommended.-James A. Overbeck, Atlanta-Fulton P.L., GA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.