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The American Religion: The Emergence of The Post-Christian Nation

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  269 ratings  ·  35 reviews
The author of The Book of J analyzes the American religious imagination to produce this brilliant examination of a national soul. His consensus: America is a nation of Gnostics, believers in a pre-Christian tradition of individual divinity.
Paperback, 'First Touchstone Edition', 288 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Touchstone Books (first published 1992)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 643)
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Cooper Cooper
Harold Bloom starts The American Religion with the following:

Freedom, in the context of the American Religion, means being alone with God or with Jesus, the American God or the American Christ. In social reality, this translates as solitude, at least in the inmost sense. The soul stands apart, the Real Me or self or spark, thus is made free to be utterly alone with a God who is also quite separate and solitary, that is, a free God or God of freedom. What makes it possible for the self and God
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Ruth
As a literary critic, Bloom is almost unparalleled. As a religious critic, he has his weaknesses, the most notable of which would be his obvious display of bias. One can't help but notice that while he only discusses the most positive traits of Joseph Smith and the Mormons, he chooses to discuss the worst possible traits of the Southern Baptists. Although his essays are hardly fair, they are nothing if not vividly-written.

Despite disagreeing with him on nearly all of his points, I enjoyed readi
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Elizabeth
This is just terrific - but I love most things by Harold Bloom, the old curmudgeon. It's non-fiction, about religion in American, and heavy on the Mormons, which is interesting because Bloom is a "gnostic" Jew, as he calls himself. Very, very interesting.
Scarlett Sims
So, if you couldn't tell, I really didn't like this book.

The first reason is more or less my own fault. I expected it to be basically a history book detailing the evolution of religion in America. It is not this. So I had to get over my disappointment not only in it not being what I thought, but in it being something so much worse.

My husband put it best when he described this as Harold Bloom applying the techniques of literary criticism to actual events in history. Anyone pursuing an English deg
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Dave
Bloom's hysterical rendering of American religion was almost endearing. Although, now in the year 2009, it doesn't look as though the Mormons have taken over the government. I need to study this man more to understand what was happening in his life/career around 1990 to make him fling himself into the academic arena as the self-proclaimed leader of "religious criticism". His insights are superficially potent, but he ends up with a moribund historical interpretation of the term "American Religion ...more
John Kennedy
Most of the work is typical Bloom material - salient, original, relevant, and stratospherically erudite - but his view of Mormonism generally and Joseph Smith particularly are fascinating. Having been raised Mormon, I reacted to his thoughts on the subject very strongly.

Bloom compares the intelligence of Joseph Smith with the abilities Lincoln, Shakespeare, and Whitman. This is overstated; Bloom's personal commonalities with Smith on gnosticism and monogamy are here quite duly noted. I do not f
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Trevor
Bloom's "religious critique" of what he terms the American Religion provides a thought-provoking and generally entertaining overview of the major religious movements and organizations founded in America. Bloom's basic thesis is that in rejecting the political and social systems of Europe Americans simultaneously cast off the remnants of historical Christianity in favor of a uniquely American brand of gnosticism. Bloom views this gnosticism-lite as an undercurrent running throughout such ostensib ...more
BoBandy
I picked up this book because it's referenced several times in Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.

I'm really not sure what to make of it. Bloom starts by claiming to found a new type of analysis he calls religious criticism, which is just like literary criticism, only it analyzes matters spiritual. He does not waste much time explaining the framework of religious criticism--I guess I'm expected to be already familiar with his works of literary criticism and able to take this leap of faith.

N
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Nathanael
A literary critic and professor of Literature at Yale has a theory about American Religion. This premise doesn't interest most people, much less most Christians. Even though I am both, I found this premise and the book it inspired wildly interesting.

I was hunting through the free books available to owners of a Kindle who also pay $80 a year to Amazon for the privilege. Yes, a book every month and two-day shipping. Again, another small sliver in a Venn diagram. I selected the religion area, and b
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Kristofer Carlson
The more I think about this book, the less I understand it. Sometimes I think Harold Bloom is brilliant in his ability to make connections. At other times, I think he is stretching things beyond sense, and into nonsense. I found myself questioning myself and my intelligence; how is it that Harold Bloom could draw connections between religions with diametrically opposing points of view? Some of his arguments are very clear; American religions tend to be millenarian, dualistic, and apocalyptic. B ...more
Roderick Mcgillis
The first Harold Bloom book I read was Shelley's Mythmaking; this was long long ago in a galaxy far away. Despite the morphing of Harold from the young Orc he was into the self-important Urizen we have today, something connects that first book with this one. That something is Bloom's interest in spirituality, or better yet, spiritual man. Bloom is a Blakean at heart, and we see this in his interest in what he terms the American religion, a combination of Gnosis, Orphism, and Enthusiasm. Bloom is ...more
Joshua Buhs
The thesis is the most interesting part fo the book. Otherwise, it reads a bit like a cranky old man giving opinions on American religion largely as they come to him; surprisingly, given Bloom's reputation, the book is not particularly well written. Well, a the levek of the sentence it is often good (though also often elusive). Within chapters, though, he wanders and repeats himself often.

The key point is that there is an essence to all (most?) religions as they are practiced in America, whether
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Karmen
Oct 10, 2008 Karmen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone with religious curiosity
Shelves: who-am-i
Wonderful! I decided after reading the introduction that I had better treat the reading of this book as if I were taking "American Religions 101." I could almost see Professor Bloom pacing back and forth in front of the class and found myself wanting to raise my hand to ask a question. His analysis of each of these religions, although not 100% accurate, was, I felt, an objective, unemotional breaking down into understandable elements. I found it very educational and hope that I will be more tole ...more
Paul
An attempt at "religious criticism" by a literary critic. A self-described Gnostic, Bloom thinks that American religion in all its forms are essentially gnostic in character -- meaning that it emphasizes the individual's relationship to God and the primacy of spiritual experience, as opposed to the hierarchical and authoritative religion of the European type. He particularly focuses on the "home grown" religions of Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventism, and the Southern Baptist religion following E.Y ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Interesting stuff on american religions. How authentic american religions are not christian denominations at all but a form of Gnosticism. With a self that is all important that is prior to creation and grapples with the abyss. It fits hand in glove with american individualism (uncreated self) and vast open spaces (the abyss). this book is a literary and esoteric look at faiths like mormonism, Southern baptists, pentecostal, christian science, seventh day adventists, jehovah's witnesses and new ...more
Uwe Hook
Our "religion-mad" culture in its present state seems endlessly confusing to the casual onlooker; the polar opposition and mutual contempt of Mormons and Southern Baptists suggests the complexity of our home grown religious traditions. Bloom surveys the American religious experience with the open and dispassionate mind of the literary critic. It can be a fairly exhausting book but that happens when a scholar deciphers American religious history.
Coyle
This really ought to have been subtitled Pretentious windbag pontificates about an important topic concerning which he has some important and accurate thoughts.
Bloom argues that "The American Religion" is a revamped version of ancient Gnosticism, where we all believe ourselves to be divine, uncreated and unfallen. This is seen in the very American idea that "of COURSE God loves me personally, why wouldn't He?" and worked out in the two major domestic American religions: Mormonism and the Southe
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Peter
read under the banner of heaven and then this one. I have a funny relationship to Halrold Bloom's work. He irritates me to no end but I mostly agree with him.
Julia
I found this book very hard to read at times. He assumes you have an advanced knowledge of various religions and religious vocabulary. Other times it was a delight. I gave four stars for the man's brilliance and for the way it changed the way I look at religion. While reading it I was constantly trying to describe some aspect to whoever happened to be unfortunate enough to try to talk to me when I'd just read something that made me stop and think. Sometimes I would have to put it down for weeks ...more
Kenny
Oct 14, 2007 Kenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the origins of modern religions
Shelves: religion
Harold Bloom, professor at Yale and NYU, has written a marvelously insightful book about religions that were seeded, grew, and prospered in American soil: Christian Science, Seventh-day Adventism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostalism, New Age-ism, and African-American beliefs. But he probes most deeply into the two religions that he belives will come to pervade our national life in the 21st century: the Mormons and the Southern Baptists. Remarkable book written in Bloom's scholarly yet accessible ...more
Gregory's Lament
I like harold Bloom's religious critisism, probably because he comes at it from the perspective of a non-believing Jewish literary critic and I'm a non-beliving Jew with an English degree. Although, this one is probably more of history than critisism, detailing those Christian movements that originated in the U.S. The Book of J is Bloom being more of the religious critic, and is also rather good.

Incidentally, is it me, or does Bloom look uncannily like Charles Laughton on this edition's cover?
Nitanews
In this book, Bloom gives insight into what he calls the American religion--the de facto religious culture that most Americans share. He names the LDS church as the most literal embodiment of the mix between love of country and love of God and devotes a chapter to them. He also argues that the southern baptists are a growing American religion, and suggests that the LDS and SB churches have more in common than either may be willing to admit.
Jeanne
Coming from an outsider, Bloom--an agnostic Jew--has some insights into Mormonism that I didn't realize were understood by those outside the Mormon culture--pointing out that Mormon and Southern Baptist doctrine are closer to Biblical doctrine than any other Christian religion and then he tells why.
Erudite as always, some of his reflections are so scholarly that I've only bumped into them in the past because of Hal.
JP
The American religion is not the original Christianity. The multitude of denominations and sects together share a common basis in gnosticism, with strong origins in the personal freedom so important in American culture. The Mormon and Southern Baptist organizations are forecast for future dominance. Bloom provides a concise history of religion in America and a thoughtful commentary on its meaning.
Taylor Crown
I went into this book hoping for slightly more facts, slightly less obscurity to the writing, and yet Blooms' style is so passionate that you read through sections, without truly grasping his point, and enjoy it along the way. I'm left wanting more details on the different sects; with the possible exception of Mormonism, which I think he is quite lucid about.
Sarah
i read about 4/5th of this book...and then left in on an airplane somewhere. Considering I was at 4 different airports from NY to LA that day, no idea exactly where I left it, oooops I am so sorry library!
It's very good and enjoyable throughout.
Especially the parts about the Mormons/Jehovah's Witness...very interesting!
Rickey
This came up as a recommended book in a discussion about scholarly approaches to studying religion. Some of these reviews on GoodReads have me questioning the recommendation. Yet, I suppose I will need to read Harold Bloom's own words, in context, to form my own opinion or understanding.
Sarah
Two stars for the first chapter. I find this man too much in his ivory tower to get a lot out of him. Plus, basded on some of his other work, his god is Shakespeare, which just makes him sort of ridiculous to read; he has no perspective.
Anders
I admire the way that Bloom is able to free himself from preconceived notions of what religion is, or what particular American religions are. His analysis is quite brilliant.
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
More about Harold Bloom...
Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (Modern Critical Interpretations) Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (Bloom's Guides) Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (Bloom's Guides) The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages

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“There are indeed millions of Christians in the United States, but most Americans who think that they are Christians truly are something else, intensely religious but devout in the American Religion, a faith that is old among us, and that comes in many guises and disguises, and that overdetermines much of our national life.” 2 likes
“Urging the need for community upon American religionists is a vain enterprise; the experiential encounter with Jesus or God is too overwhelming for memories of community to abide, and the believer returns from the abyss of ecstasy with the self enhanced and otherness devalued.” 2 likes
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