Sunday, November 28, 2010

American Grace 1: The Thesis

The big book in the sociology of religion this year is Robert Putnam and David Campbell's American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. Putnam, of Bowling Alone fame, unites with a Notre Dame political scientist to parse the current state of American religion, and tell a story of how we got here.

Their thesis starts in a familiar place: the unusually high levels of churchedness of the 1950s were dealt a huge shock by the Sixties, which led to massive declines. This is a story we have been telling for forty years.

The culture shock then led to a conservative reaction and culture war. This is the story we have been examining for twenty years.

The new element in their tale is that the conservative resurgence ended in the late '90s. What followed was a broad disaffection with organized religion by the bystanders in the culture wars.

In coming posts I will work through their argument.


Benjamin said...

Sounds like a fascinating book. I've chatted with Prof. Campbell a few times at some professional conferences and he does high-quality work.

It's interesting that levels of religiosity in the American public seem to be correlted with levels of congressional polarization:

It was unusually low in the 1940s and 1950s but since has crept back up to its 19th-century levels.

Gruntled said...

These are very interesting tables. What do you make of the claim that the Republicans were much more conservative than the Democrats in the 1880s?

Adam Copeland said...

I enjoyed the review in the Christian Century recently (and a snippet with the authors on MPR a few weeks back). Looking forward to the posts.

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