RELIGION IN AMERICA: 1950 to the Present by Jackson W.; Douglas W. Johnson & Martin E. Marty Carroll

RELIGION IN AMERICA: 1950 to the Present

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A solid, informative, but generally drab sociological survey. Carroll opens with a long interpretive summary of major trends since the Fifties, noting that 1) Mainline Protestant churches expanded in the Fifties, with growth peaking around 1958-62, followed by a decline lasting into the early Seventies, and a ""bottoming out"" or recovery towards the end of the decade. Much the same pattern held for Catholics and Jews. 2) The greatest losses occurred in the under-30 age group. 3) Believers took, or admitted to taking, an increasingly ""instrumental"" approach to religion. 4) Conservative or evangelical churches and a host of non-traditional religious movements (TM, TA, etc.) enjoyed a steady rise. Martin Marty takes over with two lively essays on American religious pluralism. He contrasts the older ""civil religion"" (so reluctantly accepted by the various denominations) with the booming ""new tribalism,"" and attacks the familiar notion of a ""crazy-quilt of equally strong or weak religious groups in competition and interaction,"" stressing instead the regional character of the American religious landscape. Johnson rounds the picture out with some dull and necessarily vague visions of the future. Part of his (and Carroll's) problem stems from the patchiness of the statistics available on the religious behavior of the nation. This makes it hard to evaluate such things as Catholic losses and Baptist gains. But even more than data we need insight. In the Afterword, George Gallup, Jr., documents the paradox that Americans, for all their materialism, are still phenomenally religious. This book amplifies that paradox ably enough, but it doesn't do enough to explain it.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row