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The Fifties Spiritual Marketplace: American Religion in a Decade of Conflict Paperback – February 1, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

If you still hold the notion that the fifties were the 'good old days, ' blessed with incomparable social affluence and widespread family unity, all buttressed by a strong, unconflicted spirituality, then look again. In this compelling narrative of religion in a decade still embraced by an indefatigable nostalgia, Robert Ellwood interrogates the notion of the fifties as an era of normalcy, and it proves it to be full of spiritual strife.

About the Author

Robert Ellwood is professor in the School of Religion at the University of Southern California. He has published over a dozen books including Islands of the Dawn and The Sixties Spiritual Awakening (Rutgers University Press).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081352346X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813523460
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Christopher W. Chase on March 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Robert Ellwood, a former Episcopal minister and expert on alternative and underground religions, has written a generally fine volume rethinking the role of religion in the 1950s. His premises follow largely from the iconoclastic work of Finke and Stark, and on the explosion of religion during this time period along multiple differing axes of analysis. At the same time his conclusions are more mainstream than Finke and Stark's, and his history of ideas focus is a welcome complement to other modes of analysis.

As always, Ellwood begins with historical grounding. What must be firmly grasped about the 1950's above all else, is that it was a post-war period. Much of the confidence in modernist ideas that existed before WWI, The Worldwide Great Depression, and WWII was shredded through recent history. At the same time, with the advent of the fission (and soon, the fusion bomb) the relief and capital expansionism of the postwar era was tempered with apocalyptic fears concerning nuclear war and the political threat of both communism and third world indigenous nationalism. There are contrasting views of why church attendance skyrocketed--but there can be little doubt of its growth. Constant change and innovation through capitalism produced not only prosperity, but public anxiety over ongoing challenges to gender and racial roles,. These anxieties were tempered and adjusted to with the assistance of religious community-building for baby-booming families. The ways that churches capitalized on consumerist approaches to marketing no doubt was as significant in the 1950's as it was in the Progressive Era. Consensus ideology among many churches, Ellwood thinks, also help cement Jewish and Catholic identities as authentic forms of 'Americanness.
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