Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression

Article excerpt

Religion and American Cultures: Tradition, Diversity, and Popular Expression. 2nd ed. Edited by Gary Laderman and Luis Leon. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2015. 4 vols. Acid free $399 (ISBN: 978-1-91069-109-3). E-book Available (978-1-61069-110-9), call for pricing.

The second edition of this work has been expanded to four volumes and has increased its coverage greatly. Although the editors state clearly that the work is not meant to be comprehensive, it does provide an excellent, and general, overview of religion within American culture. Each volume, in many ways, can stand alone, but together they provide a wonderful introduction to the state of religion in the United States and its influence on American culture.

Volume 1 focuses on ethnicity, institutions, and communities. The broad topics include African American religions, Asian American religious communities, Buddhism in America, Catholicism in America, Hinduism in America, Islam in America, Judaism in America, Latina/Latino religious communities, Native American religions and politics, New Age, new religious traditions, Orthodox Christianity, and Protestantism in America. Under each major topic are from four to six related articles. For example, under the section on Asian American religious communities are separate entries for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Pacific Islander, and South Asian religious communities in America. Under New Age are shorter articles on channeling, goddess spirituality, New Age bestsellers, Raelian Movement, Whiteshamanism, and Wicca. Thus, the full range of organized religion is covered with the exception of groups such as Unitarian-Universalists, atheists, and humanists. Many of the topics from this work, especially on specific religions, are covered in a variety of other resources such as the Encyclopedia of Religion in America (CQ Press, 2010) which provide greater historical depth. The strengths of the articles in the current set are their currency and their specificity, especially as related to popular expression of religion in the United States.

Volume 2 covers broad, general topics that are not covered in other encyclopedias of religion in the United States. These topics include the body, death, generations, material culture, popular culture, popular theodicies, public theologies and political culture, ritual and performance, sacred space, sacred time, science, sexuality, and violence. These general articles and the more specific entries associated with them are among the more interesting readings within the work. …

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