by William Herberg ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 22, 1955
For all those interested in the religious situation in America this is an absorbing and enlightening book. For this ""essay in American religious sociology"" the author has as his point of departure the delineation of two authenticated facts about religion in the United States. The first is the ""turn to religion"" on the part of the American people. The second and apparently contradictory phenomenon to which he calls attention is the continuation and, indeed, the intensification of secularism as our working philosophy. The author's main contention (and a most interesting one it is) is that both the religiousness and the secularism of America stem from ""deep-going sociological processes which have transformed the face of America in the course of the past generation"". This sociological process is the result of the fading out of the American picture of the the ethinc distinctiveness of our successive immigrant groups. No longer able or willing to identify themselves as German, Italian, Swedish etc., and not feeling the affirmation ""I am an American"" to be sufficiently descriptive of their status or background, millions of our fellow citizens of all varieties of national background are finding self-identification in the assertion: ""I am a Protestant"", ""I am a Catholic"" or ""I am a Jew"". Almost 100% of Americans associate themselves with one or another of these groups. Having done so, they find it natural and easy to make their affiliation more than nominal. Then, too, the author asserts that ""The American Way of Life"" has become a sort of super-faith with a curious mixture of materialistic emphases, the desire to get ahead, idealism, democracy, and tolerance, As this super-faith is often more determining in the interests and mode of living of our citizens than the religious faith they profess, we find both religiosity and secularism in the ascendancy, for both are to be found in the ""American Way of Life"". Herberg examines the present status of our three major faiths critically but constructively. He finds no evidence of a trend in favor of either one of the three. He does assert, however, that Protestants must now reconcile themselves to the fact that this is no longer a Protestant country, but one in which three faiths operate on an equality. While written from the stand-point of the sociologist the presentation is most sensitive to religious values. A really valuable book for all thinking religionists.
Pub Date: Sept. 22, 1955
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955
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