The Devil Is a Gentleman: Exploring America's Religious Fringe
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The Devil Is a Gentleman: Exploring America's Religious Fringe

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  54 ratings  ·  12 reviews
A hundred years ago, the writer and philosopher William James wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience, a seminal work that has inspired generations of scholars and eccentrics alike. James’s book argues that the religious spirit in man is best understood through the study of its most extreme forms. Varieties was a watershed effort: a bestselling portrait of history’s pl...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 16th 2006 by Random House
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Nathan
While Hallman by and large maintains the proper personal balance of rational skepticism and scientific inquisitiveness, his presumption of religion's exoticism is annoying. He seems to think that his lack of any religion necessarily endows him with perfect impartiality, and seems to constantly present his case studies as oddities rather than ideas to be reckoned with. The practicioners of the various religions are presented as human beings, but with a slightly voyeuristic leer. This is smug and...more
Sarah
JC Hallman travels across America, investigating religions on the "fringe." He attends an atheist convention, a Wiccan convention, travels with an evangelical Christian Pro wrestling industry, interviews Satanists and Druids, and attends a Scientology workshop undercover. The really weird thing is, I found the Satanists much more likable than the atheists – he really painted the atheists in a bad light, when he went to their convention, where as the Satanists seemed actually kind of like nice pe...more
Megan
Excellent book! Deals with William James, and his impact/viewpoints on varied religious experiences, anything from Satanic worship (which isn't maybe as goat-fatal as you might think) to more wacky cult-type stuff. It's extremely readable, and very useful in sorting out what in the world passes for the more esoteric of religion today.
Titus Hjelm
A strange combination of William James biography, journalistic exposition of new religions, and soul searching. The author is a writer first and everything else second. And it shows. The book is entertaining and an easy read, but I wouldn't recommend it for people trying to get a serious sense of either James or new religious movements.
Chris Brown
very interesting. Particularly interesting section on the Church of Satan. I loved how Hallman continued to go back to William James's ideas
Markii
cool journey of a man investigating many different faiths- including satanism. finds out people are just people.
Jaime
Aug 20, 2011 Jaime rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Interesting read. Well thought out and an eye-opening tour of America's religious fringe.
Anika
Dec 27, 2009 Anika added it
As an intellectual exercise, this book holds its own.
Tommy Carlson
I just finished reading The Devil Is a Gentleman: Exploring America's Religious Fringe by J C Hallman. I didn't enjoy it a whole lot.

The jacket copy for this book is misleading. It's not really an exploration of America's religious fringe. It's a biography of William James. (Hallman basically admits this in the epilogue.) The chapters actually dealing with fringe religions are alternated with chapters that are pure biography. And the religion chapters themselves put a big focus on how James woul...more
Christopher Wilde
While I found enjoyable nuggets in this book and I did enjoy learning a bit more about William James I question the relevance of James and of exploring the non-dangerous religious fringe.

William James offered America's first psychology course, however he never quite seemed to appreciate the science. Perhaps that was because science was in it's infancy. Never-the-less I would find a book that tested James' ideas against modern science to be a more interesting read.

Mr. Hallman's obsession with Ja...more
Frank Spencer
This book has two William James anchors: a chronology of his life and an analysis of his Varieties of Religious Experience. Weaved in with this are descriptions of the author's visits to several religious groups. It's quite a package. You get a description of several religious groups, and further understanding of James's philosophy and psychology. The search for meaning in life figures strongly in all of this. You won't be wasting your time if you read this.
J.L.
Jan 10, 2008 J.L. rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody who's interested in religion or fringe lunatics or fringe culture
This is a book I wish I had written myself.
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