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The Restructuring of American Religion Paperback – January 1, 1990

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Editorial Reviews


"Illuminates great reaches of society beyond the confines of cathedral and chapel, tabernacle and temple. . . . So mountainous is the factual material on such a myriad of subjects and so thoughtful are the author's interpretations, grounded in a mastery of social science theory, that one can only be grateful for this brilliant examination of the public dimensions of religious culture."--American Historical Review

"[The Restructuring of American Religion] is the most expansive and one of the most profound inquiries into the condition of American religious structure since World War II. . . . To carry on debates about this structure now without reference to Wuthnow would be to attempt to track a landscape of near-chaos without using the best available road map and set of markers. It is likely that we will be citing 'Wuthnow' as we have been referring eponymically to major interpretations of 'Herberg' or 'Berger' or 'Bellah.'"--Martin Marty, Religious Studies Review

"This book is the most significant interpretation of recent American religious history available."--John M. Mulder, Theology Today

"An extremely penetrating, nuanced, and largely convincing account of what is really happening to American religion--an account worthy of comparison with, say, Herberg's Protestant-Catholic-Jew, or H. Richard Niebuhr's The Social Sources of Denominationalism, although Wuthnow's argument ultimately supersedes both."--Wilfred M. McClay, Commentary

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in Church and State
  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (January 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691020574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691020570
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #888,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Wuthnow's book is a thoughtful and well-researched monograph on major trends in American religious experience since the end of World War II. Wuthnow sees the most significant change as being a decline in the denominational divisions that were once so important in American religious life, and their replacement by a huge chasm between liberal and conservative religious sensibilities, a division Wuthnow points out often cuts as much through denominations as separates them. Perhaps his most important contribution is his effort to place this restructuring in the context of larger trends in American society, notably the divisive politics and cultural innovation of the sixties, the changing role of women and the trememdous expansion of higher education that occurred after World War II. He also notes a degree of continuity between the conservative versus liberal division and the early twentieth-century fundamentalist-modernist conflict within American religion. He is careful, though, to explain and contextualize the greater success the evangelical Christian movement has had in building a movement and mobilizing followers than did the earlier and in many ways similar fundamentalist camp. Perhaps one's only caveat here might be that the book raises many questions it does not fully address about the extent to which American culture is becoming genuinely secular, if it is doing so. Written at a high level of generality, the book also leaves one wondering about how the division of religious life into polarized camps of liberalism and conservativism affects the subjective spiritual experience of Americans. In brief, this book is a major and analytical treatment of a topic that remains very germane to how Americans now live and worship; those desiring to understand how American religion got where it is today should read it.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christopher W. Chase on January 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Wuthnow is clearly of the conviction that American religion has undergone a serious change since WWII. At the end of WWII, Wuthnow believes common assumptions about religion existed. First, it was Biblically-based, congregational, but with indivdualistic tendencies. 2 out of 3 persons attended a church once a month or more, and 42% attended every week. "Protestant, Catholic, or Jew" was the main question.

After WWII, the dominant mode of religious institutions interacting with the larger society was to instruct and inspire individuals. A comcommittent focus on ethics, social justice as part of the larger sense of declaring Christian principles. A spirit of public evangelism and private education held sway, not the least as an indirect demonstration of political muscles. As education became increasingly common and with it the growth of the state, religious institutions adapted by forming and expanding educational curricula of their own. The emphasis on education was given two emphases. From the conservative side beliefs and the process of arriving at those beliefs became a standard for the articulation of genuine values. Liberals in turn tended toward not the content of beliefs, but rather a procedural validation of the process of coming to a set of beliefs. In the 1950's, these divisions began forming, even as all kinds of denominations exploded in growth.

According to Wuthnow, perhaps one of the most important developments in 20th century American religious life has been the development of special purpose groups. These groups grew from a few dozen after the Civil War to about 150 at the turn of the century. Since from 1960 to the 1980's, about 300 were formed, bringing the post-WWII total to around 500.
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