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Myths America Lives By Paperback – June 15, 2004
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About the Author
Recipient of the National Humanities Medal, Robert N. Bellah is Elliott Professor of Sociology Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley. Richard Madsen is Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego. William M. Sullivan is Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Ann Swidler is Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley. Steven M. Tipton is Professor of Sociology and Religion at Emory University and the Candler School of Theology.
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Top Customer Reviews
Myths, Hughes reminds us, is not so much a fable or falsehood, as it is a story, a kind of poetry, about events and situations that have great significance both for those involved and those that follow. Myths are, in fact, essential truths for the members of a cultural group who hold them, enact them, or perceive them. They are sometimes expressed in diffuse ideologies, but in literate societies like the United States they are also embedded in historical stories about our past.
First, Hughes explores the myth of the United States as a chosen nation. It is no secret that the Puritan immigrants to America from England viewed themselves as God's elect favored above all others. It is less well known that a sense of "chosen-ness" motivated others who came to America and this sense of exceptionalism has found expression throughout the nation's history. The United States is a new "land of Canaan," to use a religious conception, but this sense need not be solely expressed in religious tones. While Hughes focuses on religious conceptions, he notes that America as a land of opportunity where all may achieve their proper rewards through diligence and hard work is a part of this belief as well.
Central to this sense of "chosen-ness" is the idea of a national covenant in which the inhabitants live justly and are rewarded as a result.Read more ›
The result is a reflective work of engaging analysis into what the forces were that forged our identity and how today these forces still influence our culture. Hughes' book is extremely thorough, well-researched and should stand up to the most critical academic rigor.
Whether you are an American Christian or an American trying to understand American Christianity, this book raises issues of fundamental importance to understanding what our nation is (and is not) and why.
While Professor Hughes is a professor of Religion one does not find any political slant evident in his writings. They are historically accurate and bring together meta-events in explaining where we have found ourselves as a nation both yesterday and today. I am especially impressed with Professor Hughes' ability to simply broad historical trends without losing the granularity of events or conflating them into an unaccessible work. Obviously, this is not a Professor writing for the sake of gaining tenure, but rather a seasoned professional who is explaining, distilling and interpreting for the benefit of a wide audience.
While the cover may suggest that the book is about race, the artwork is highly misleading. Professor Hughes does go out of his way to include at the end of each chapter how the myth being discussed was interpreted by African Americans and other disenfranchised groups such as Native Americans and women. This section in each chapter is highly enlightening and is not an exercise in identity politics, but rather provides a fuller explanation of the material at hand.
Overall, a compelling read. I can't help but feel that if every American read this book, we would be able, for the first time, to have a real conversation about our motives as a society and would be able to harness these myths for a greater purpose. I highly recommend it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It is important to note this was written for academics and, while useful, can be a bit repetitive, making for difficult, slow reading. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Heather Donnelly
This book is for a lay person and an academic. It presents a unique point/counter-point as to the origin of major American national myths, their evolution and impact and,... Read morePublished on February 3, 2014 by Charles N. Jamison, Jr.
Richard Hughes brings a refreshing mix of American History and the Christian faith that contrasts American ideals that often conflict with biblical teachings. Read morePublished on December 4, 2013 by Mike Barker
Hughes has done a great service in this presentation of the various myths that have driven the United States of America, and shown how they have been a benefit to the progrss of... Read morePublished on March 6, 2013 by Rev. Daniel J. Zehnal
This is an excellent and very readable report on a very timely and important subject. But don't read it if you're determined to live with your illusions about this country. Read morePublished on May 12, 2010 by P. Schroeder
Richard Hughes's seminal book can be roughly described as exploding the myths in the American national subconscious, but this does not do the book justice. Read morePublished on June 4, 2009 by Norman
I read this book trying to understand how American feel they are entitled to destroy people who are weaker. Read morePublished on January 15, 2009 by john of art
In the footsteps of Robert Bellah's The Broken Covenant, once again a book exploring the American Civil Religion surfaces at a time of "crisis" in American affairs. Read morePublished on April 29, 2007 by M. C. Andwood
Richard Hughes' book, Myths America Lives By, explores the corruption of America's founding myths, giving a voice to the minorities who suffer when America "absolutizes" the myths... Read morePublished on April 17, 2007 by A. Harris