The First New Nation: The United States in Historical States in Historical and Comparative Perspective

By Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview
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4
Religion and
American
Values
It is widely assumed that structural changes inherent in industrialization and urbanization, with consequent bureaucratization and an increase in "other directedness," have resulted in two major changes in American religious practice and belief. First it is argued that many more people outwardly adhere to formal religion and attend church than ever before; and second, that this increase in formal practice does not reflect greater religiosity—on the contrary, it is suggested that American religion itself is now secularized, that it has increasingly adjusted to the sentiments of the general society.
It is variously noted that much of religion has become a matter of private ethical convictions; that the churches are active in secular affairs; that religious observances have been losing their supernatural or other-wordly character. It is said that religion in America tends to be religion at a very low temperature.... 1

These trends in American religion have been related to the urbanization and suburbanization of American society that have taken place in the twentieth century. When the different Protestant sects were geographically isolated from each other, and when immigrant Catholics and Jews

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1
Robin Williams, American Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957), p. 344.

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