Religion in American Life: A Short History

Religion in American Life: A Short History

Religion in American Life: A Short History

Religion in American Life: A Short History

Synopsis

Perhaps surprising in a country without a national church, religion has played a powerful role in American life. Now, in the new paperback edition of Religion in American Life, three of the country's most eminent historians of religion offer a superb overview that spans four centuries, illuminating the rich spiritual heritage central to nearly every event in our nation's history.
Jon Butler begins by describing the state of religious affairs in both the Old and New Worlds on the eve of colonization. He traces the progress of religion in the colonies through the time of the American Revolution, covering all the religious groups, Protestants, Jews, and Catholics, as well as the unique religious experiences of Native Americans and African Americans. Grant Wacker continues the story with a fascinating look at the ever-shifting religious landscape of 19th-century America. He focuses on the rapid growth of evangelical Protestants--Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and others--and their competition for dominance over religions such as Catholicism and Judaism, which continued to increase with large immigrant arrivals from Ireland, Eastern Europe, and other countries. The 20th century saw massive cultural changes. Randall Balmer discusses the effects industrialization, modernization, and secularization had on new and established religions. He examines Protestants, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, New Age believers, Mormons, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, and many more, providing a clear look into the kaleidoscope of religious belief in modern-day America.
Religion in American Life is an engrossing look at how religion has changed--and in turn been changed by--the extraordinary events throughout American history.

Excerpt

Religion—beliefs in supernatural powers, forces, and beings—powerfully shaped the peoples and society that would become the United States. That this happened in a society lacking any official national church after American independence in 1776 is one of the central themes of Religion in American Life: A Short History. This book offers a succinct and vivid account of religion’s astonishing interaction with America’s peoples, society, politics, and life from European conquest and colonization to the beginning of the twenty-first century. In America, religion would be pursued by an amazing variety of individuals and groups whose successes and failures across three centuries not only defined religion in America but America itself.

The story of religion in America thus stands at the heart of the story of America itself. It is not the story of just a few. Quite the contrary. It is a story of natives and immigrants, of the wealthy, the poor, and those in between, of women, men, and children in families and out, of powerful political movements and parties to highly introspective individuals, of dreams realized and aspirations disappointed, of bigotry, yet also of often tender generosity, kindness, and mutual esteem.

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