American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us

In This Review

American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
By Robert D. Putnam,David E Campbell
Simon & Schuster, 2010
688 pp. $30.00

In this finely grained and judicious study, sure to become a classic work of social analysis, two political scientists take the trouble to listen carefully to the religious and political views of ordinary Americans. Sifting through enormous amounts of data about American society, they come up with riveting and sometimes disconcerting insights into the ways religion shapes and is shaped by the political and social currents of American life. Sympathetic to many religious and nonreligious views but captured by none, Putnam and Campbell present a suitably complex and balanced view of the many changes taking place. "Anglo" Catholics (descendants of Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants) are leaving a church that is rapidly becoming Hispanic; mainline Protestantism continues to decline; African Americans of all educational levels are among the most religious of Americans; the explosion of white evangelicalism appears to be over. The fastest-growing group consists of those who say they do not belong to any religion, but only a minority of these people identify as atheists. Americans change religions frequently, and most Americans have friends or family in religious groups other than their own, so the authors tentatively conclude that Americans remain religious while growing increasingly tolerant.

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