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After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s Paperback – 1998

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Editorial Reviews


"In one slim volume, at once critical and optimistic, mocking and sympathetic, Wuthnow has provided much-needed insight into the tensions squirming at the heart of the contemporary American religious experiment."--Gary Dorsey, "Books & Culture

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"Robert Wuthnow has undoubtedly become the most informed and insightful commentator on religion in America today. In this book he enlivens a comprehensive account of what has happened to us spiritually by including sparkling vignettes of real people and their stories. What he paints is a complex, sometimes confusing but hopeful picture of the changing soul of America."—Harvey Cox, author of Fire From Heaven

"A beautifully written, sensitive interpretation of contemporary American culture and its religious dimensions. This book will surely stir considerable interest, discussion, and debate. It is not only a penetrating analysis, but a very stimulating and challenging one as well."—Father Andrew Greeley, University of Chicago

"After Heaven occupies a rare and necessary place between sympathetic understanding and critical assessment. . . . Wuthnow has done a superb job examining the current state of religious practice in America."—Jacob Needleman, author of The New Religion

"For those of us who are both excited and bewildered by highly visible recent trends in spirituality, this is a must-read book. Robert Wuthnow has a firm grasp on the traditions of spiritual life, but he also probes with great sensitivity the popular quests of recent decades. His study combines solid research into the social realities with genuine spiritual insight."—Richard J. Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Robert Wuthnow, one of the foremost interpreters of American society and its religious cultures, excels at describing and analyzing America's complex negotiation with a world of expanding but fragmentary knowledge, distracting materialism, and fleeting moments of grace. After Heaven, in its range and depth of analysis of spiritual trends since the 1950s, is a worthy and welcomed companion to the author's classic study of ideological change in postwar religious institutions, The Restructuring of American Religion."—R. Scott Appleby, Associate Professor of History, Director, Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520222288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520222281
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #679,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Candi Dugas LLC on May 9, 2009
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To understand Christian spirituality in the latter half of the twentieth century, Robert Wuthnow summarized his research primarily by describing those who relate spirituality to dwellings, describing those who are constantly seeking spirituality, and providing his alternative to these two paths. I find his research to be truthful; however, he seems to have a bias against and to be more critical of the notion which he describes as spiritual seeking. Following are my thoughts regarding his descriptions of dwelling versus seeking and his proposed alternative of practice.

To view trends in American spirituality against a backdrop of our social patterns is insightful and one that I find quite helpful as I aspire to understand how and why Americans approach Christian spirituality. A more staid approach to spirituality makes sense in the 1950s as does an exploratory approach in the 1960s.

Wuthnow's work prompts some questions for me as a scholar and as a Christian. I want to hear more about how institutionalized religion has moved most Americans to the perspective that their spirituality must develop outside of these traditional places. Also, by reading the characteristics of seekers, I am coming to identify myself as one and I never would have characterized myself as such. I believed a seeker to be one who is not quite settled on her/his way of faith, belief, and practices. I am firmly a Christian who finds value in tradition, but prefers contemporary expressions of my faith. Yet, Wuthnow's description resonates, ". . ., growing numbers of Americans piece together their faith like a patchwork quilt.
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