A Religious History of the American People 2nd Edition

12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0300100129
ISBN-10: 0300100124
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This classic work, winner of the 1973 National Book Award in Philosophy and Religion and Christian Century's choice as the Religious Book of the Decade (1979), is now issued with a new chapter by noted religious historian David Hall, who carries the story of American religious history forward to the present day.

From the Back Cover

"An unusual and praiseworthy book. . . . It takes a modern, almost anthropological view of history, in which worship is a part of a web of culture along with play, love, dress, and language."-B.A. Weisberger, Washington Post Book World; "The most detailed, most polished of the works in its tradition." --Martin E. Marty, New York Times Book Review; "An intellectual delight that one does not so much read as savor."-America; "The definitive one-volume study by the leading authority."-Christianity Today; "No one writing or thinking hereafter about America's past will be able to ignore Ahlstrom's magisterial account of the religious element." - American Historical Review
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1216 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2 edition (May 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300100124
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300100129
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
For Ahlstrom, the underriding current that has shaped American theology -- especially Christian theology -- has been Puritanism. With good reason, he addresses a plethora of religious movements and trends in America, showing how each of them was either an outgrowth of or a reaction to American Puritanism.
Because of its length, this book looks intimidating; however, the thorough approach Ahlstrom has taken coupled with his presentation of Puritanism as the factor that has served to shape American theolgy more than any other makes the reading of this volume very worth the effort!
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 9, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this one volume you can get a sense of the breadth and depth of the religious experience in the United States. It is a stunning story and one that the author tells quite well. The book is now thirty years old, so you can't expect anything after the 1960s. From my point of view, the book is stronger in dealing with the larger and more mainstream religious viewpoints than the minority sects and religions. While smaller, they are often not marginal and have had an impact on our culture beyond their size and yet the tone used in discussing them treats them, too often for my taste, as marginal. The point being that if you are already in the religious mainstream faiths, this book will seem more objective to you than if you are one of the faiths outside those traditions. However, I don't think this is so much a weakness in the book as an atmospheric you might or might not notice as your read it - depending on where you are in the religious tradition of the US.
This point becomes even smaller when compared to the many strengths of this book. It is amazingly comprehensive for a single volume. And though it is over 1,000 pages it reads easily. It also has a fine index and can be used for reference on specific topics as well as reading from front to back. This is a strong book and belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in the religious life of America.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Longtime Amazon Customer on December 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I cannot praise this work enough. The time invested in reading this book has been well worth it. It has not yet been surpassed in scope or excellence. The work is well-balanced and covers all of the major movements and some of the minor movements in American religious history. The Puritans are dealt with fairly, as are other Protestant and non-Protestant Christian groups with substantial coverage of Roman Catholic history in America, and Ahlstrom covers the Eastern Orthodox groups as well. This is a graduate level book that can also be read in advanced undergraduate course work and I recommend this book for all Americans, regardless of your faith. Since one cannot understand American history without understanding our religious heritage, it should be on the reading list for all students of American history. A masterwork. Five stars are not enough praise for this work. If truth is important to you, and you respect high scholarship, then you will appreciate this book. It is also very well written, and the flow of the text is both smooth and erudite, without being haughty or overly specialized.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kathy F. Cannata on January 18, 2008
Format: Paperback
The gold standard for works of its kind, by a Yale historian. Even 30-odd years later, it makes its successors (Gaustaud and Noll's wonderful texts) seem superfluous. Massive in size and scope, it deals with social, political and intellectual issues masterfully. Very clear and accessible, while creative and brilliant.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Wayne S. Walker on April 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
Right after I began preaching, I joined a "Christian" book club and purchased a couple of volumes on American religious history. Through the years, whenever I have preached or taught classes on church history, I have always included one lesson or session on the history of religion in the United States. One of the volumes was the second printing in 1973 of the first edition of this book, which was winner of the 1973 National Book Award in Philosophy and Religion and Christian Century's choice as the Religious Book of the Decade in 1979. It is the first full-scale history of American religion in one volume, dealing not only with the major Western religions but also with Eastern religions, cultic phenomena, and secular religious movements. Author Sydney E. Ahlstrom, who was professor of American history and modern church history at Yale University and spent ten years of wide-ranging research, places religious history within the context of the social, political, and intellectual development of America.
The book is made up of 63 chapters, which, after an opening introductory chapter, are grouped together into nine parts: the "European Prologue," how the churches came to the New World, the period of the first Great Awakening and the American Revolution, "The Golden Age of Democratic Evangelicalism" followed by "Countervailing Religion," the period of the Civil War, "The Ordeals of Transition" with the development of liberal theology and the social gospel during the late nineteenth century, the early twentieth century including World Wars I and II, and finally "Toward Post-Puritan America.
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