This review paper aim is to review the book “American Grace” by two American authors. The review is mainly based on the subject of “Sociology of Religion”. It addresses the authors’ findings, their conclusions and the significance of sociological approach to the American religion.
The authors are Robert D. Putnam & David E. Campbell. Robert D. Putham is a and professor of public policy at the . David E. Campbell is an author and is the John Cardinal O'Hara, C.S.C. He is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the and the founding director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy.
In the book, the authors discover six things about American religion. According to the two authors, the current state of religion in America is due to three “seismic societal shocks”: the first is the “earthquake” of 1960 culminating in the liberation movement. The second occurs in the 1980s, this is the growth in conservative religion. The third and the final aftershock are characterized by religiosity, and political conservatism by the youngest generation. They further go on to discredit the modern assumption that “members of religious communities are significantly “behind” the rest of Americans when it comes to civil rights issues” they say this is very inaccurate. They also observe that there is a change in the composition of the Catholic Church. This change emanates from the rise of a group of Latino Catholics. The Latino Catholics are replacing the Anglo-American Catholics and the void they left. They also deduce that this generation is more likely to tolerate the idea of same-sex marriage while at the same they being less comfortable with the idea of abortion as compared to their parents. According to the authors, individuals in the population that are highly religious are active citizens as compared to their secular counterparts.
Their conclusion is that, the main reason why America does not have a “pluralist nation” was that the inter-religious relationships and “civil religion” found in the society act as a glue that binds them together preventing religious tension. The authors also acknowledge that religion in the American society is highly complicated. Religion is perforated by race, historical tradition, geography, gender, generational differences and most personal relationships among the members of the society. All these factors can lead to divisions among the population; but the values embedded in religion and friendship provides a strong bond that acts as a web that prevents division across religious lines.
The authors were able to draw their conclusion mainly from a two large surveys that were conducted in 2006 and 2007. The book is largely based on these two surveys. 3,108 participants participated in the first survey. A further 1,909 participated in the survey conducted in 2007. The first sample was representative population of the United States. Random sampling was used to select the participants. The second survey was a follow of as many as possible of the participants that were surveyed in the first survey. The participants of the survey were asked many questions pertain to religion and their view on religion. The authors conclude that it was possible to see how some trends and measures change. For example, it was possible to observe the difference in church attendance between one year and the next. This second survey was important. It enabled the authors to “test” variables and the relationship that the variables share. For example, they compared a variable like “if making a friend of another religion coincides with a warmer view of that religion.” After the second survey, they were able to come up with a detailed conclusion of the American society and how they are influenced by religion and religious values. From it is plausibly to hypothesize that friendships between people of different faiths can result to warmer feelings for other people of that same faith. The authors also visited countless American religious communities.
The sociological approach to American religion has had many impacts. They include the respect of one’s religion is so strong that now in America a third to one half of all marriages are interfaith marriages. This sociological approach has had a large significance in the American society that a third of all Americans have had a switch of religions once in their lifetime; the young generation is more opposed to abortion compared to their parents. They, however, readily accept gay marriage; a larger percentage of the population now believes that the people of another faith can go to heaven. This implies that people have started treating other people's religions with the same respect as they do their own; the margin between the Catholics and the Protestants is now narrowing. For example in 2004, John Kerry, a Catholic, only got 30% of the catholic votes, the other half voted for George Bush, a Protestant; the Mormons are the most comfortable and welcoming when it comes to other people’s religion. However, they are the least liked religion in America. They are the least accepted religion in America.
Putnam, Robert D, and David E. Campbell. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.
Phillips, James W. "[review of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us]."Byu Studies. 50.1 (2011). Print.