UNCIVIL RELIGION: Interreligious Hostility in America by Robert N. & Frederick E. Greenspahn--Eds. Bellah

UNCIVIL RELIGION: Interreligious Hostility in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Eleven historians and sociologists examine the causes, forms, and future of tensions among and within American religions. ""Intergroup hostility has been as real a fact of American life as the rhetoric of tolerance,"" proclaims Greenspahn (Judaic Studies/Univ. of Denver) in a brief introduction. The nine essays that follow attempt to shed light on four major areas of tension: between Christians and Jews, and between Protestant and Catholics; between liberals and conservatives within religions; and between established religions and emerging ones. With two exceptions, the essays, dusted with scholarese, fail to stimulate and simply penetrate overly familiar territory with timid thrusts: that many Christians believe their religion to be a fulfillment of Judaism, hence superior to it; that the creationist-evolutionist polarization cleaving so many religions ignores the vast majority of believers, who easily reconcile theology and science; that once-scorned cults (the paradigm here is Mormonism) gradually become acceptable, in turn condemning new cults (e.g., the Unification Church); etc. Of the two essays that rise above mediocrity, one does so for its obstreperousness: John Murray Cuddihy's (sociology/Hunter) curmudgeonly diatribe against what he sees as a pervasive and ""irritating"" Jewish theodicy that blames non-Jews for all Jewish-Christian hostility. The other, co-editor Bellah's (sociology/Berkeley) excellent conclusion. succeeds in investing an intriguing underlying thesis--based, in prime sociological jargon, on the friction between ""loosely-bounded"" and ""tightly-bounded"" groups--to the flat, unoriginal essays that precede it. Dull, self-evident material.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
Publisher: Crossroad