GOD AND MAMMON IN AMERICA by Robert Wuthnow

GOD AND MAMMON IN AMERICA

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An interesting but inconclusive look at the relationship between religion and money in contemporary America. Wuthnow (Social Sciences/Princeton; Sharing the Journey, p. 59, etc.) asks: What is the effect of religious belief on economic choices? Jesus cautioned that a person could not serve two masters- -both God and money. Yet, according to Wuthnow, that is precisely what many American synagogue- and churchgoers and professed believers are attempting to do. In the postindustrial era, people are working more hours than ever before and, under tremendous pressure to perform and gain ever more material goods, enjoying it less. What impact does religion have? Does it affect the careers people choose? Very little, according to the author, who bases his work on a wide variety of sources (including surveys and interviews). What religion might do, however, is make people happier on the job. It also influences workplace ethics, helping to determine whether one will be honest or willing to cut corners. Statistical comparisons of people of various moral stances, and of churchgoers to the population at large, also indicate that religious commitment influences people's attitudes toward money (showing it is as much the province of priest and rabbi as it is of economist and businessman), charitable giving, environmental consciousness, and opinions and actions concerning the economically disadvantaged. In the end, Wuthnow's answers are all mixed bags, demonstrating that Americans are at once deeply spiritual and profoundly secular. He also criticizes current religious leadership for reshaping modern religion so as to not afflict the consciences of their consumerist, capitalist congregants. Appendices on methodology will be helpful to serious students. Straightforwardly written in accessible prose, the book will appeal primarily to students and scholars of religion. There is, however, enough to attract the interested layperson as well.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1994
ISBN: 0-02-935628-8
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1994




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