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Myths America Lives By Paperback – June 15, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Myths America Lives By is ferociously rational in its moral character. Hughes has written an elegant and compelling book. I am convinced that the reader will come away with a deeper appreciation of the major myths that govern our lives. Richard Hughes is a brilliant, creative, and passionate scholar."

About the Author

RICHARD T. HUGHES is Distinguished Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. He has published many books, including Models for Christian Higher Education, Proclaim Peace, Reviving the Ancient Faith, The Primitive Church in the Modern World, and The American Quest for the Primitive Church, among other titles, and his numerous articles have appeared in various scholarly journals.

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (June 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252072200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252072208
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
In this scintillating study of the development of the American epic, historian of religion Richard T. Hughes focuses on five major myths--and two lesser spin-off conceptions, manifest destiny and American capitalism--that gained currency with the earliest days of the nation and have grown, in some cases morphed, and in all instances still remain powerful statements of national belief.

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.
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By A Customer on October 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As an American Christian myself, I consider this a must read, especially for all others who also consider themselves both American and Christian. The instinct for many is to combine these two ideologies, having been fed America's absolutized myths over their lifetime. Hughes offers valuable insight into the otherwise difficult separation of the differences between American and Christian ideologies. Non-Christian Americans will appreciate this gem as well. This book has helped shape my worldview, the highest complement I can give.
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Format: Hardcover
If there has been an ideal time for a book like this to hit the market, the time is now. "Myths America Lives By" is a very powerful and insightful book that may come as a hard knock to many readers, but is critically important to acknowledge. Dr. Hughes has dug deep into America's history to uproot key events, philosophies, and struggles, to challenge key myths that have become part of the American landscape. To understand today, we must review the past, and this book has done just that. What is refreshing about this book is that it is not the history book that you read in high school with cookie-cutter type descriptions of the highlights of American history. Instead we are given a view from the poor, the oppressed, and the minority viewpoints. A progressive Christian viewpoint is one not often seen in mainstream literature this day in age, and it is nice to see Dr. Hughes representing the view so gracefully. Kudos for a well-written book.
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Format: Paperback
Why do Americans feel comfortable asserting America's position of moral leadership in the world? Richard T. Hughes attempts to address this question by delving into the underlying beliefs that make up the American identity. Hughes explores several key ages in our history and brings to bear the voices of the majority and minority in each time that shaped how we see ourselves and more importantly, shape how we think God sees America.

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.
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Format: Paperback
In this book Richard T. Hughes is able to spell out, in plain and simple but precise and scholarly language, the underlying myths and historical stories that we as American's tell ourselves daily without recognizing them as the seeds of our national identity.

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.
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