Religious Perspectives in American Culture

Religious Perspectives in American Culture

Religious Perspectives in American Culture

Religious Perspectives in American Culture

Excerpt

This is the second volume in a four volume series on the subject of religion in American life. The principles in terms of which the series has been conceived have been described in the introductory essay to the first volume of the series. The other essays in that volume dealt primarily with the historical development of American religious thought and institutions. It is hoped the essays in the present volume will be provocative as a selective cross-section of the kinds of study which can be made of the various ways in which religion influences contemporary American life.

Every one, we suppose, is aware in a general way that religious ideas and emotions can permeate the life of a people, providing norms and goals according to which, both consciously and unconsciously, they react to their daily concerns. When one tries to be specific in describing these influences, however, one is likely to be impressed both by their complexity and by their breadth of range. The influence of religious traditions is felt in classrooms, in law courts, and in the caucuses of politicians. It is at work in the political oratory one hears, the motion pictures and television shows one watches, the novels and the poetry one reads. In no single instance is the influence uniform or simple; it is almost always subtle, indirect, and puzzling. When we first conceived of the present volume of essays, we amassed a list of no less than thirty-five desirable topics, from which in the long run we were forced to be content with the selection of ten. We have settled on two groups of five essays: the first group includes perspectives in education, law, and political action; the second group includes a variety of perspectives in the arts. The third volume of our series is devoted to religion and economic thought.

The perspectives here are essentially contemporary rather than historical. Nonetheless, a good deal of history will be found in the present volume. Understanding the problem of . . .

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