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American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  960 ratings  ·  171 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
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published October 5th 2010 by Simon Schuster
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Gary  Beauregard Bottomley
May 11, 2018 rated it did not like it
Are Trump supporters hateful fools because they support Trump, or do they support Trump because they are hateful fools? That question is at the heart of this book but the author writes the thesis in terms of religion in America in 2006/2007.

White non-Hispanic Evangelicals believe weird things. Putnam does his best to normalize the bizarre in the way he tells his story. Pastor Rick Warren is not rational in his beliefs. He believes the bible is the inerrant word of God and it is to be taken lite
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, read-2017
Amazing Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us was written for data geeks like me. It is looong, but keeps the reader turning the page. Amazing Graceis an in-depth analysis of national surveys performed by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, often combined with data from Gallup, Pew, and others, to give us a richer story of how religion in the US has changed across time. These quantitative data are supported by a series of case studies of church congregations of a number of denominations, sizes ...more
Nick Klagge
Jan 09, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jason Cecil
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had hoped this book would be a more mainstream narrative with facts rolled in. Instead, I found the book to be an extended dissertation that dissects a nationwide survey for Faith Matters from 2006 in mind-numbing statistical detail. There are some nuggets in here, like the nature of American religion (it's a marketplace), and how it relates to partisanship, and how we are in the middle of a second backlash against the first backlash that was against the 60s. Much more of a statistical academi ...more
Brian Eshleman
Jun 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: faith, audible
I got what was promised, I guess. I got a lot of numbers describing the religious and the irreligious. I even got some isolated narratives. There just weren't a lot of gems that will stick with me now that the book is finished. ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
American Grace is a sociological examination of religion in America. It runs a little long (550 pages of text), but it greatly appealed to the part of me that majored in Sociology at university. Putnam and Campbell had large themes, but the details were what really fascinated me. Here's a small sampling of what I flagged:

-the greatest predictor of whether a Christian will align with an evangelical church is their view of sexual ethics.
- deeply religious Americans are less traditionalist in thei
Timothy Lugg
Jul 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jane Van Hof
Oct 08, 2018 rated it it was ok
Way drier than the “Bowling” book. It was alternately overladen with data and statistics and saturated with narrative snippets. I did not feel there was a strong analysis, just a bunch of dense facts and saccharine stories. A let down.
Feb 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Kirsten Hawkes
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I recently finished "American Grace", a fascinating sociological examination of religion in America. It answers the question "How is it that an America that is increasingly polarized on religious (and political) lines manages to avoid the social divisions and factional violence that grips so many other highly religious societies?" The research is meticulous and successfully demolishes many of the negative stereotypes of religiously observant people. The number-crunching and analysis is interesti ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
‘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
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Summary: A sociological study of the landscape of American religion, the connections between religious and political attitudes, and changes between 2006 and 2011, when the newest edition of this work was published.

If my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, we do not heed, at least on social media, the old social dictum of refraining from discussions of religion and politics in social situations. What I think this reveals is the vibrant and diverse religious and political landscape in the United
Jan 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jeffrey Howard
Demographics. Trends. Data.

I had hoped this book would provide more historical or sociological commentary. Instead, American Grace is an elaboration on a long study conducted by Putnam and Campbell. The majority of the book gives context to the data they found, explores the trends, and shows lots of demographic charts, which makes it a great resource, and less of an engaging read.

The volume contains several vignettes highlighting various faith communities, give color and detail to the worship s
Lisa Reising
Feb 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jeff Gasser
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. You gotta push through some of the data and just accept the fact that you probably won't remember any of it. But that brief moment when you peer into the soul of America makes it worth it. Contains a lot of gems that can help you better understand your own faith community and others: trends of religious observance, conservative and liberal religion, religion and charity, conversion, the truth about the nones, the rise of Latino Catholics, the rise and fall and rise and fall of religion ...more
Chris Jaffe
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an informative book based on heavily polling and sampling of views of Americans of different religious persuasions about what they feel about religion.

In modern day America, religion is a polarizing issue. That wasn't the case for almost all of US history. Putnam & co-author Campbell argue that religion first became polarizing as a result of one culture shock, and two subsequent aftershocks. The shock was the 1960s changing behavior, especially with regard to family and sexual issues. T
Bogged down in statistics in places, but still an interesting read; the portraits of individual congregations ("vignettes") help a lot to break up the numbers crunching. Audio narrator did a wonderful job making such a challenging project come alive. ...more
Fran Caparrelli
Mar 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Sharman Wilson
Dec 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book was chock full of info and commentary on religion in America. I find myself going back for this or that study, poll, or story, which makes me glad I bought it instead of borrowing--I definitely need my own copy and markings.
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
this book was mostly dry statistics. i had expected (and hoped for) a more engaging analysis of the why's and so what's of religion in america. they were there, but you have to slg through a lot of info to get there. ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Lots of charts and data. As one raised in an evangelical environment, it's interesting to see which of my assumptions are proven in this book and which are turned upside down. ...more
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
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an extremely interesting book about the state of American religion circa 2010. The authors are sociologists who rely on detailed studies of American's religious practices and faith to inform the book. They state at the outset that as compared with other nations, America is highly religious, diverse and tolerant. They discuss the three phases of participation in religion in the past 75 years, from the era of high attendance in the post war years to the decline in practice following the Vi ...more
Heath Salzman
Feb 15, 2018 added it
Shelves: 2018, culture
Overall, "American Grace" was an interesting read and will probably be a great resource to reference for the next 10 years or so.

Though trying to be objective, in studying American religions, the authors seemed to impose their own frameworks onto various religions when examining them. This is, of course, unavoidable, however, I would have liked the authors to be more self-aware and acknowledging of this fact.

My key takeaway's were that 1) the most ethnically diverse congregations in America ar
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I most appreciate Putnam's work for illuminating--and then bringing immediacy and urgency to remedying--the collapse of American community and opportunity. American Grace surprised me because it appears that the diversity of religion in America unites more than it divides, and brings us together more than we perceive that it separates us. 3 stars because I personally found the deep analytical and statistical dive into religion less interesting and engaging than his previous deep dives into commu ...more
Andrew McHenry
Sep 06, 2020 rated it liked it
The book explores the history of recent religious shifts -- e.g. the mainline boom of the 50s, the 60s counter-culture with some rejection of religion/authority, and the reactive evangelical/conservative boom in the 80s and beyond. It takes the reader up to the present state of things, with a 2006 Faith Matters Survey being at the heart of the presentation. Putnam is an exceptional sociologist and he does excellent research. A lot of the data is older now, but it's still insightful for some of t ...more
Paul Cullen
While I found the content in American Grace interesting and compelling, I feel that the authors could have made the same argument in way less pages. Putnam covered the opportunity gap in Our Kids and was able to provide a similar argument (research, real stories, analysis) that was more compelling and in about 1/2 as many pages. All of the above said, the addition of the new Epilogue did provide some additional great insight into how the content provided in the book has held up 5 years after the ...more
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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.” 1 likes
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