American Grace

How Religion Divides and Unites Us

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Unique among nations, America is deeply religious, religiously diverse, and remarkably tolerant. In recent decades, however, the nation’s religious landscape has undergone several seismic shocks. American Grace is an authoritative, fascinating examination of what precipitated these changes and the role that religion plays in contemporary American society.

Although there is growing polarization between religious conservatives and secular liberals today, at the same time personal interfaith ties are strengthening. Interfaith marriage has increased, and religious identities have become more fluid. More people than ever are friendly with someone of a different faith or no faith at all. Putnam and Campbell show how this denser web of personal ties brings greater interfaith tolerance, despite the so-called culture wars.

Based on two of the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America (and with a new epilogue based on a third survey), American Grace is an indispensable book about American religious life, essential for understanding our nation today.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 720 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416566731 | 
  • February 2012
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Read an Excerpt

American Grace CHAPTER 1 RELIGIOUS POLARIZATION AND PLURALISM IN AMERICA
In the 1950s, the Fraternal Order of Eagles teamed up with movie director Cecil B. DeMille for a unique promotion of the epic movie The Ten Commandments. In a form of reverse product placement, the Eagles and DeMille donated monuments of the biblical Ten Commandments to communities all around the country. Rather than putting a product in the movie, the primary symbol of the movie was instead placed in prominent locations—in public parks, in... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for American Grace includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

INTRODUCTION

1. This is a good ice breaker to open the discussion of American Grace, keeping in mind that not everyone is comfortable talking about his/her religion. Take a piece of paper and list your 5 closest friends. Next to their names, jot down their religion. Are there any surprises? Do you know everyone’s religion? Are they all your religion—and if so, did you already know this? Are you surprised by this?

2. How important is it to you to worship in a congregation? In other words, can you imagine belonging to the same religion but just worshipping at home? If you are someone who is spiritual but does not belong to a congregation, can you talk about what this is like?

3. In the Ethnicity, Gender, and Religion vignette, how do you feel about Pastor White’s stance on gender as a fundamental keystone for modern religion? Even if you would not join a congregation in which women have a second-class role, can you understand how it could be attractive or comfortable to some women?

4. Discuss the ways in which politics and religion ove see more

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