American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
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American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  441 ratings  ·  126 reviews
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 obse...more
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published October 1st 2010)
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Phillip
This book really appeals to me. It is loaded with graphs of statistical data from a 2006 phone survey of over 3000 participants.

It is like finding a particularly striking fossil on the shelf of a souvenir shop. It is probably just another fossil (just another book about religion), more or less, the same as all of the rest on the shelf that are for sell. But this one appeals to you (in this case me).

This book should appeal to people interested in looking at and evaluating the statistical data. T...more
Nick Klagge
Having been a big fan of Putnam's "Bowling Alone", I have to say that I was not that impressed with "American Grace". For one thing, it is incredibly long (550 pages), and its conclusions are mildly interesting at best (to me). BA addressed issues that I hadn't thought about too much, whereas AG addresses things that are all over the media all the time. It's true that the authors turn up some findings that contradict the conventional wisdom, but they don't make for the incredibly forceful type o...more
Heather
This was a really interesting book providing a picture of the history and relationships and changes in religion in America over the years. It's well researched and the authors do a good job of helping readers understand several different religions specifically and create a greater appreciation and respect for others' beliefs. One of the most important founding principles of our country was religious freedom. This freedom creates and allows for a diversity of faith and belief. It's interesting to...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘America manages to be both religiously diverse and religiously devout because it’s difficult to damn those you know and love.’

This book, by Professors 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...more
Lisa
A wonderfully researched book with all kinds of facts, figures and charts. It does not feel biased toward certain conclusions, and the conclusions seem logical and believable given the statistics. I ended up skimming through a lot of it because it is thick and scholarly - although very readable. I liked the vignettes - glimpses into beliefs and lifestyles of a variety of belief systems. I wouldn't mind buying my own copy to be able to reference when specific topics come up - a good resource for...more
Shirley Freeman
This one took a couple months to finish - it's not a page turner, but I'm very glad to have read it. If you liked Robert Putnam's earlier book about social capital, Bowling Alone, you'll find this one of interest. Using huge data sets and in-depth statistical analysis, Putnam and Campbell describe the state of religion in America over the past 5-6 decades. The statistical chapters are interspersed with 'vignettes' - case studies of a dozen real congregations in the United States. The authors con...more
Timothy Lugg
Some books are a quick read, others are not. This one actually became a chore to finish because it is so long. So why finish? Because the interesting data just kept coming page after page. Putnam and Campbell affirm and deny many common beliefs about religious, church, and political habits in regards Americans. For example, from what one hears in the press he or she could come to the conclusion that right-wing politics are actively promoted in evangelical churches in order to educate parishioner...more
Melle
Apr 18, 2014 Melle rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in religious and non-religious trends in contemporary U.S. society
This is a very thorough, very well-research tome on religious and non-religious trends from the 1960s to the 2008 elections. There is a polarization of religiousness and non-religiousness in this country, but the landscape of religion and non-religion is a much more complicated, rich picture than one might initially see. The book does a good job of not turning any case studies into characterizations and of not making widesweeping generalizations.

It's hard not to read this book and think of the...more
Charlie
Note: This review is of the print edition, not the Kindle.

Overview: American Grace is a massive sociological description of Christianity in the United States. Its primary data source is the Faith Matters survey, a 2006 poll of approximately 3,000 respondents with a 2007 follow-up of approximately 2,000 of those same people. Its most important benchmark is a religiosity index, culled from a subset of the Faith Matters questions. The book is supplemented by a number of vignettes of American churc...more
Fran Caparrelli
very interesting and I just am always amazed that a concept like religion can be such a dividing point among human beings. My idea of religion is that it is practiced to help humans be better humans to their fellow beings.
Judy
"Exodus says when Moses gives the Torah to the people, the people say . . ;We will do, and then we will listen." The understanding being that through the doing we come to know God. Not the other way around."

None of the other religions discussed addressed this point. I like it. We can learn about God but to know God we have to do.
We all need a sense of Tikkun olam - repairing or healing the world.

Kiddish/communion/sacrament parallels interesting. Sometimes we forget how much alike we are and foc...more
Emily
Finally! I'm done!! After renewing the book five times (with two separate checkouts) I have finally read the last page!

It's a bit on the long side. But in its favor, the print is not miniscule and there are plenty of graphs and charts (some a bit more obtuse than others) that take up considerable space, too.

American Grace provides some fascinating insights into religious life in the United States over the past seventy or so years. Putnam and Campbell trace the "shock and two aftershocks" that pr...more
Maya Bohnhoff
Thorough, comprehensive, and a real eye-opener with respect to the few numbers represented by the most outspoken, most polarized religious groups.

I did feel they gave short shrift to the ideas behind the fact that religious people are more civically involved and giving of time and money. The authors made much of the social aspect of religion and marginalized the idea that the principles a group held in common mattered to their sense of civic responsibility.

Clearly, if a group inculcates values o...more
Bill Sleeman

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell (2010). Putnam and Campbell’s book has been, since the initial publication, excerpted and quoted in a variety of venues and media. This is appropriate as this is an important book about America and about our future. As the authors explain it we are unique among nations, America is deeply religious, religiously diverse, and remarkably tolerant…” so why is it that our country, despite the outsized influence of t

...more
Ross Emmett
I recently read Huch Heclo's Christianity and American Democracy, which is better that Putnam and Campbell's book as an examination of the relationship between Christianity and political life in America. And you should know that although Putnam and Campbell talk about "religion," they actually almost always mean "Christianity," and Protestantism in particular (see pp. 30-31 for their recognition of this point). They do use some non-Christian religious examples, but not many.

Where American Grace...more
Wade
Robert Putnam and David Campbell present data analysis from their own comprehensive research to paint a detailed picture of religion in America, I really enjoyed their examination. They address a variety of measures to paint this picture including history, politics, public & private religiosity, literal versus metaphorical interpretation of scripture, civic involvement, charitable contributions, etc. The authors also intersperse throughout the book a number of qualitative case studies from i...more
Sophia
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us offers a comprehensive look at the American religious landscape from mid-20th century onwards. Putnam and Campbell base most of the chapters on the statistical analysis of their Faith Matters surveys from 2006 and 2007 as well as other broad nation-wide surveys. Intending to reach a lay audience without a statistical background, their writing becomes long-winded at times to preserve precision and provide alternate ways to phrase the findings. Ea...more
Spencer
major sociological study full of a million charts and statistics. If it has a bias, i cant see it. endorsed by folks all over the spectrum as far as i can gather. So here are some cold facts:
Regarding Americans:
roughly-
80% are certain that there is a God
40% attend church nearly every week
30% are evangelical
25% are catholic
15% are mainline protestant
9% are black and black protestant
15% claim no denominational affiliation (this was 7% in 1990)
2% are mormons
2% are jews
1/3 of americans change their...more
John
Returning from my mission to Italy, I concluded that Americans are more religious than I had realized. This book documents, and even quantifies, American religiosity over time. Their statistics are based on surveys of American attitudes about religion through the years. Their analysis of the data is a model of good writing. They help you interpret each graph. Afterwards, they almost say "now that wasn't so bad was it?"

It also documents the decline of mainstream Christian denominations and the ri...more
Kristin
I had to check it out twice and devote a lot of time to reading it -- it's quite the thick tome of research -- but I did come away with a much better understanding of the different religions in America, which is something I had always felt I was lacking. I appreciated a lot, or course, that their main study included Mormons as a separate subgroup so I could get a sense of how we compare in all these measures. Mainly, though, I got a sense of the vigor and struggles of the American religious grou...more
MGMaudlin
While a long academic treatise (and so definitely not a quick read), AMERICAN GRACE should be read by anyone interested in the intersection of faith and culture. Putnam has done the legwork for investigating what Americans believe, the role of church in our politics (and vice versa), as well the roles of race, ethnicity, denominational affiliation, intermarriage, the experience of pluralism, etc. So many commentators get the nuances wrong (because faith dynamics are indeed complicated) but Putna...more
Tanya
I requested American Grace from the library because it was repeatedly footnoted in Elder Quentin Cook's talk from the April 2011 LDS General Conference, and I wanted to know more about what it said. This lengthy tome discusses the findings of the authors' 2006 and 2007 "Faith Matters" survey, a massive study of religious, political, and civic attitudes and behaviors of Americans across the faith spectrum. Interspersed with the statistical analysis (and plenty of charts and graphs) were vignettes...more
Merrill Clark
Fascinating book about what religious people are thinking of themselves, of others, of other religions and of politics with lots of charts. Written by two authors, one of the authors is LDS and a professor at Notre Dame, thus the Mormon element is not ignored.
The thesis of the book, based upon what people are thinking and doing, is: 1) as a result of the liberal sixties, more people became very conservative and religious in the late 70s-90s and now many young people are turned off by the conserv...more
Dave Lester
Here is a comprehensive look at American Religion and what people think about various faiths, practices and about God. Authors Robert Putnam and David E Campbell are incredibly thorough in their research and presentation of the results of their far reaching surveys. They also seem very even handed and fair in their work to faith perspectives.

The book is loaded with statistics that were gathered from the aforementioned wide reaching surveys. The most fascinating part of this book is finding out w...more
Jay Winters
Book Closing: It took me forever to finish this book - started in early February. But that wasn't because it wasn't readable or interesting - it was just long. In fact, Putnam and Campbell have put together one of the most readable and exhaustive tomes on the sociology of America's religion that I have ever seen.

Describing the data of the "Faith Matters" Survey of 2006, Campbell and Putnam comb through the data to show us what Americans believe, how they behave, and who have a sense of belongin...more
Kkraemer
This explores the fact that America is both deeply religious and extraordinarily diverse in its beliefs, and how "religiosity" affects politics. Utterly fascinating. I didn't know, for example, that the correlation between religion and politics has heightened only in the last several years...before that, there was little correlation. I didn't realize how deeply the rebellions of the 60's/70's affected American culture, either...both the sexual and the political revolution. I hadn't thought about...more
John
It’s thick, but readable, an analysis of contemporary American religion that blends ethnography with careful quantitative analysis. The authors paint a “historical backdrop” that’s sort of a Hegelian thesis-antithesis pendulum: moving from the “shock” of alienation of Baby Boomers from conventional religion (1960s through early 1970s), to the first “aftershock” of the rise of Evangelicals and the Religious Right (1970s and 80s), to the second “aftershock” of many Americans moving in a non-religi...more
John
I'm giving this five stars because I found it really fascinating, but it is quite long and a lot of readers might get bored by all the statistics and graphs and charts. American Grace is composed of hard sociological data and cultural vignettes in roughly equal measure. Campbell and Putnam, professors of political science and public policy, respectively, assembled their study of faith in today’s America using two main sources. One was the Faith Matters survey: a survey of a little over 3000 Amer...more
Shinynickel
Dec 28, 2010 Shinynickel marked it as to-read
Off this review: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

In his seminal book "Bowling Alone" (2000), Putnam focused the country's attention on its deteriorating community life. "American Grace" will probably spark similarly fierce debates. It has already commanded attention from some evangelical leaders, who have sounded the alarm about growing secularism. Yet the book seeks to tamp down the culture wars (its conclusions are expressed in the most non-inflammatory language possible).

...

Seen thro...more
Hawkgrrrl
Interesting read with some cool stats; however, the information on Mormons probably needs a refresh after the 2012 presidential election (given the shifts that occurred after the 2008 election). I found the prose repetitive at times, and some of the stats were obvious. There were still some very interesting similarities between different religious groups, and trends that were fascinating about why America remains religious and what's driving our current secularism.
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Robert David Putnam is a political scientist and professor of public policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is also visiting professor and director of the Manchester Graduate Summer Programme in Social Change, University of Manchester (UK). Putnam developed the influential two-level game theory that assumes international agreements will only be successfully broke...more
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“Once we know how observant a person is in terms of church attendance, nothing that we can discover about the content of her religious faith adds anything to our understanding or prediction of her good neighborliness...In fact, the statistics suggest that even an atheist who happened to become involved in the social life of the congregation (perhaps through a spouse) is much more likely to volunteer in a soup kitchen than the most fervent believer who prays alone. It is religious belongingness that matters for neighborliness, not religious believing.” 0 likes
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