Read American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert D. Putnam David E. Campbell Dan Miller Online


American Grace takes its findings from two of the largest, most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America, plus in-depth studies of diverse congregations—among them a megachurch, a Mormon congregation, a Catholic parish, a reform Jewish synagogue, and an African American congregation. From abortion to gay marriage to feminism, this book sAmerican Grace takes its findings from two of the largest, most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America, plus in-depth studies of diverse congregations—among them a megachurch, a Mormon congregation, a Catholic parish, a reform Jewish synagogue, and an African American congregation. From abortion to gay marriage to feminism, this book shows how religion has influenced politics in America—and vice versa. The discoveries are often unexpected: The most politicized churches tend to be liberal, not conservative, congregations. Faith matters less to Americans than their communities of faith. Most Americans marry outside their religion. And nearly half of all Americans change their religion at some point during their lifetime. Robert D. Putnam won huge acclaim for Bowling Alone and Better Together. Together with coauthor David E. Campbell, Putnam brings his distinctive brand of in-depth research and analysis to religion in America....

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American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us Reviews

  • Nick Klagge
    2019-03-08 00:01

    Having been a big fan of Putnam's "Bowling Alone", I have to say that I was not that impressed with "American Grace". For one thing, it is incredibly long (550 pages), and its conclusions are mildly interesting at best (to me). BA addressed issues that I hadn't thought about too much, whereas AG addresses things that are all over the media all the time. It's true that the authors turn up some findings that contradict the conventional wisdom, but they don't make for the incredibly forceful type of argument marshalled in BA. I actually would have given this book two stars but for two sections. First, all of the "vignettes" where they leave the statistics and profile a few congregations are pretty interesting. Second, I was very interested by the findings in Chapter 13, "Religion and Good Neighborliness". (I would have appreciated reading it as a scholarly article rather than one chapter in a 550-page book, though.) Unsurprisingly it is the chapter most closely related to the subject matter of BA. The authors first find a high correlation between religiosity and various measures of community involvement, giving, and general niceness. I think that result in itself was reasonably well established before this book. What I found particularly interesting, though, is that the authors dove into the statistics to tease out what specific aspects of religiosity drive these things. And their finding, which they present fairly unambiguously, is that statistically speaking, the driver of all those nice things is specifically social connections with people in your religious congregation. This is in contrast to either social ties with "just anyone" (which make a difference, but not nearly as much), as well as strength of religious convictions (for example, that you should follow the Ten Commandments) and frequency of individual religious practice (such as reading the Bible or praying). Interestingly, religious convictions and individual practice have no effect on civic engagement once you control for congregation-based social ties.I think this is a fascinating result, and one that resonates with positions of Stanley Hauerwas that I have come to identify with. Specifically, Hauerwas contends that the only legitimate way of practicing Christianity is by practicing and living it out in a community informed by the story of Israel and Jesus (and I don't think it's too great a leap to extend this general principle to other religions). It is important that the Kingdom of God is a community and you can't really live it out on your own. The authors note that it's possible that this finding doesn't necessarily only apply to religion per se, and that it is possible that a similar effect could obtain from other communities where social bonds have a serious moral foundation; but they also note that there are few if any good examples of such other communities in practice.Both of the above observations are reasons why I recently have started going to church again, so it did make me happy to read that the data are on my side!

  • Jeanne
    2019-02-21 23:19

    Amazing Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us was written for data geeks like me. It is looong, but keeps the reader turning the page. Amazing Graceis an in-depth analysis of national surveys performed by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, often combined with data from Gallup, Pew, and others, to give us a richer story of how religion in the US has changed across time. These quantitative data are supported by a series of case studies of church congregations of a number of denominations, sizes, ethnic make-ups, and geographical locations. This is another in my series of books trying to understand the 2016 presidential election, although I was less clear with this book about what I was looking for. In some ways the US has become more liberal (e.g., opportunities for women, gay rights), which is true for most of the US and, to a lesser degree, for the most religious of us. We, especially younger Americans, are also becoming more conservative and less likely to support abortion rights – although Putnam and Campbell speculate that this is because abortion means different things for people in their 50s and 60s (i.e., coat hangers) than for people in their 20s, who have always had available birth control. Immigration is an issue that is unrelated to religiosity. People who attend church regularly are more generous with their money and time – in church and out – than people who do not. People who are religious see people who are low in religiosity as intolerant and selfish – while people low in religiosity see people high in religiosity as intolerant and selfish. Politics is not commonly discussed in most churches, with Black Protestant churches an exception. In sum, Putnam and Campbell provide a fascinating portrait of America.What makes Amazing Grace fascinating is that Putnam and Campbell do not only describe religion in America, they also try to understand it. They recognize and control the various confounds in their data to tell a clear and compelling story. For example, what about church makes religious people more generous? They explore several hypotheses, finally concluding that it is not faith or religious beliefs that cause religious people to be generous, but that they attend church: attending church and having church-going friends predicts altruistic behaviors, even among people who are more secular.Amazing Grace does not use its vignettes as well as those in Our Kids, which I loved. That is an unfair comparison, though, as Our Kids is a spectacular analysis of parenting, race, and class. Regardless, Putnam and Campbell tell great stories about their data. If you are interested in understanding the US, love data, are curious about religion, or just love good stories, this is a book for you.

  • Matt
    2019-03-23 21:22

    American Grace is a sociological examination of religion in America. It runs a little long (550 pages of text), but it greatly appealed to the part of me that majored in Sociology at university. Putnam and Campbell had large themes, but the details were what really fascinated me. Here's a small sampling of what I flagged:-the greatest predictor of whether a Christian will align with an evangelical church is their view of sexual ethics. - deeply religious Americans are less traditionalist in their views about gender roles than were their secular counterparts a generation earlier.- it is less educated Americans rather than well-educated Americans who are abandoning church and secularizing at a must quicker rate.- religiosity correlates with greater class bridging (the more often one goes to a church or other service, the more likely one is to have friends in a different socio-economic class).- highly religious people are less supportive than the general population of public policies to address poverty and inequality but slightly more likely to give financially to religious and secular causes and highly more likely to volunteer their time for such causes.- evangelicals are less likely to believe systemic over individual causes of racial disparity (some argue this is because of a theology that focuses on individuals and choice).- religious Americans appear to be more generous neighbors and more conscientious citizens (this is largely due to religious social networks), yet are less tolerant of dissent than secular Americans.- while the correlation between religiosity and life satisfaction is higher (e.g. it makes more of a difference than does the difference between earning $10k a year and $100k a year), a person who attends church regularly but has not close friends is unhappier than her demographic twin who doesn't attend church at all.The larger them is that America is very unusual to have both high diversity of religious traditions and high devotion to faith matters, yet religion is hardly the powder keg in America that it could be. They identify the sexual revolution as the most disruptive event in America's religious patterns in the second half of the 20th century, and the present religious milieu is a mixing of two aftershocks - the first resulting in the evangelical boom and focus on moral matters, and the second the secularizing reaction to the spiritual revanche. While they acknowledge the intensity with which Americans engage in religion, they also find that religion in American is highly fluid, so much so that most Americans have close connections with people of different religious traditions (including no religious tradition), and that this ultimately has a pacifying effect.

  • Timothy Lugg
    2019-03-13 19:08

    Some books are a quick read, others are not. This one actually became a chore to finish because it is so long. So why finish? Because the interesting data just kept coming page after page. Putnam and Campbell affirm and deny many common beliefs about religious, church, and political habits in regards Americans. For example, from what one hears in the press he or she could come to the conclusion that right-wing politics are actively promoted in evangelical churches in order to educate parishioners on the right way to vote. Yet, the data reveals the exact opposite. It is in liberal churches that one is likely to hear about political issues rather than evangelical churches. This is just one of dozens of interesting observations.Some observations are so startling that they are almost beyond belief for the authors as well as the reader. They write (on p. 145) that "We were initially skeptical of this finding, since it seem implausible that people would hazard the fate of their eternal soul over mundane political controversies." What was the finding that brought this response? That people more frequently change their religion rather than their politics when the two are in conflict. What I most admired about the work of the authors was their efforts to interpret the data correctly. When issues that confound normal understandings like the above surfaced, they would go back and ensure that they were interpreting it correctly. The authors have done an excellent job of documenting where things currently stand and where they are heading if current trends continue in the same direction. I suppose I enjoyed the observations and conclusions regarding politics more than ethnicity or gender, which are in the latter part of the book. However, the opening chapters that document the religious movement over the last 60 years was very instructive as well.

  • Phillip
    2019-02-23 23:16

    This book really appeals to me. It is loaded with graphs of statistical data from a 2006 phone survey of over 3000 participants. It is like finding a particularly striking fossil on the shelf of a souvenir shop. It is probably just another fossil (just another book about religion), more or less, the same as all of the rest on the shelf that are for sell. But this one appeals to you (in this case me).This book should appeal to people interested in looking at and evaluating the statistical data. The book says things about religion in the United States. It should appeal to readers interested in what the authors have to say about our perceptions of folk with various degrees of religiosity and the view that we are a country divided in the political arena by religion. Personally, I find it to be a dazzling piece of writing to look at and to think about. There is so much there that, like the fossil from the souvenir shop, I look forward to the pleasure of looking at it and letting it inspire my imagination. Maybe in time it will impact what I think. Regardless, I really like this book.

  • Jason Cecil
    2019-02-21 20:31

    I had hoped this book would be a more mainstream narrative with facts rolled in. Instead, I found the book to be an extended dissertation that dissects a nationwide survey for Faith Matters from 2006 in mind-numbing statistical detail. There are some nuggets in here, like the nature of American religion (it's a marketplace), and how it relates to partisanship, and how we are in the middle of a second backlash against the first backlash that was against the 60s. Much more of a statistical academic read. I was disappointed.

  • Jennifer (JC-S)
    2019-03-06 00:06

    ‘America manages to be both religiously diverse and religiously devout because it’s difficult to damn those you know and love.’This book, by Professors Robert D Putnam and David E Campbell, presents a comprehensive study of religious beliefs and practices in the USA, and provides a detailed overview of an important aspect of American culture. Data was collected as part of a two-step interview survey (Faith Matters 2006, 2007)) which involved more than 3000 respondents across the USA. The series of findings presented make for interesting reading. Consider:• Between one third to one half of all marriages are interfaith;• Young people are more opposed to abortion than their parents, but more accepting of same- sex marriage;• Jews are the most broadly popular religious group in the USA today;• Roughly one third of Americans have switched religions at some stage.The findings affirm the importance of organized religion: more than 83% of Americans report that they belong to a specific religion; 59% report that they pray at least once a week and 40% report attendance at weekly services. At the same time, the traditional role of religion has been challenged by ‘the sexually libertine 1960s’ which subsequently resulted in ‘a prudish aftershock of growth in conservative religion, especially evangelicalism, and an even more pronounced cultural presence for evangelicals, most noticeably in the political arena.’ Professors Putnam and Campbell assert that this evangelical revival, which began to recede by the early 1990s was sparked more by deeply personal moral concerns than by hot-button political issues: ‘Abortion and same-sex marriage are the glue holding the coalition of the religious together.’‘How has America solved the puzzle of religious pluralism – the coexistence of religious diversity and devotion? And how has it done so in the wake of growing religious polarization? By creating a web of interlocking personal relationships among people of many different faiths. This is America’s grace.’In part, this is due to the nature of American society. The combination of an absence of a religious monopoly and an atmosphere of religious liberty has supported the development of religious pluralism. ‘Religions compete, adapt and evolve as individual Americans freely move from one congregation to another, and even from one religion to another.’It is true that America’s tradition of peaceful religious coexistence is largely about relative harmony between different Christian denominations. But harmony between Catholics and Protestants is comparatively recent, and the process of how this change came about raises an important question: How do mutual fear, suspicion and intolerance make way for tolerance and trust? What lessons can be drawn from the past?This is a fascinating study which is highly readable and provides much food for thought.Jennifer Cameron-Smith

  • Bob
    2019-02-22 19:16

    Summary: A sociological study of the landscape of American religion, the connections between religious and political attitudes, and changes between 2006 and 2011, when the newest edition of this work was published.If my Facebook newsfeed is any indication, we do not heed, at least on social media, the old social dictum of refraining from discussions of religion and politics in social situations. What I think this reveals is the vibrant and diverse religious and political landscape in the United States, a landscape explored at great nuance in the sociological study represented in this book.The book combines vignettes of congregations and detailed results (with tables and bar graphs) from the Faith Matters survey results. The authors begin with a survey of religious history, particularly twentieth century religious history, particularly the post-World War 2 boom in religiosity, the first decline in the Sixties, a later boomlet in the Eighties, and more recent declines. Then, mixing vignettes with survey results, they explore the shifting religious scene: old fashion and newer congregations, traditionalism and change around gender and ethnicity, and the role of politics in religious congregations.Broadly speaking, the authors see an increase in what they call a tolerance, a friendliness with those who are different that includes everything from greater acceptance that people of other religions will also go to heaven to acceptance of same sex relationships. They attribute this at least in part that many have an "Aunt Susan" or "pal Al" who are one of these "differents." It is this that the authors consider "American grace"--an increasing acceptance of the differences of religious expression and moral behavior in our communities. At the same time, the authors find that there is still a deep divide politically and that this maps along lines of religiosity, even though most churches do not make politics an overt aspect of worship and congregational life with any frequency, and even less so between 2006 and 2011.One of the more sobering passages for religious teachers is one where the authors were presenting results around theological belief of denominational participants to a group of conservative Missouri Synod Lutheran leaders. It was very clear that on many matters, congregants were for more liberal, and indeed had departed from orthodox belief. This is a broader finding for many of the respondents from Christian backgrounds, whether Catholic, mainline, or evangelical. What it appears is that there is a cultural religion that is gaining ascendancy that reflects a religious consensus on faith and morals quite different from the theological stance of our church bodies.This brings me to a terminology difference with the authors. They speak of seeing an increasing "tolerance" toward the religiously different, and toward moral stances once deemed unacceptable. I do not disagree with the fact that such tolerance is a good thing but with how they are using the word tolerance. They are using the word tolerance for what is really a growing cultural consensus, or common cultural religion, where people are saying that formal differences between faiths or around certain questions of morality don't really matter in our practiced belief and behavior.Tolerance historically had to do with where we have disagreements and how we act toward those with whom we substantively differ on matters of belief and/or behavior. That can be how someone who is liberal in political or religious beliefs acts toward someone who is conservative, or vice versa. Tolerance has nothing to do with what one believes or, within certain boundaries, how one behaves (I hope we would agree that there are some behaviors that must not be tolerated such as murder or rape or theft, for example), but rather whether we respond graciously or censoriously toward those who differ. I am troubled with the way these authors use the term tolerance, because it assumes that sincere believers who do not believe that others may share one's heaven while holding different beliefs, or that fail to approve some culturally accepted behaviors are intolerant, no matter how they act toward those who differ. Likewise, a person may be thought tolerant even while acting censorious toward a person whose beliefs they deem "intolerant." This seems to me a decided and concerning shift of language.The epilogue of this book summarizes a follow-up study in 2011 that included part of the 2006 cohort as well as younger respondents who were not of age for the first cohort. This survey showed that on the whole, religious beliefs were marked stable, while detailing a growing trend toward those who would not identify with any belief, introducing the idea of "nones" into a conversation about religion in America, as a decidedly growing category. They document a decided movement on the part of the youngest generation away from religious faith, as well as continued growth in the trends around respondents views on questions of belief and behavior toward the new cultural consensus noted above. It also revealed that both political parties as well as the "Tea Party" are disliked more than any religious group.Coming off the 2016 election, there are some important implications I draw from this book. One is that it explains the almost universal revulsion I've found among young people, religious or not, for white evangelicalism's overwhelming (81 percent) support of the Republican candidate, and why young people are leaving this movement in droves. It also presents a challenge to those of us who seek to teach and pass along the faith. Peter Drucker was known for saying that "culture eats strategy for breakfast." I would contend that culture is also eating belief for breakfast and that this has come through the redefinition of the language of tolerance (and intolerance) discussed above where tolerance must define not only our behavior, but in fact our beliefs. My sense is that religious communities must figure out ways to compellingly embody what they believe, or they will come to the place where they throw up their hands and say, "we got nothing."What troubles me most is that the "American grace" being described in this book is nothing like the "Amazing Grace" of which John Newton writes. Amazing grace is the marvel that what was "wretched" and "lost" and "blind" can be saved. "American grace" I fear, would just say these are intolerant labels, that you are fine the way you are, and offer no hope that life should be any different. Sure, avoiding intolerance is better than the alternative, but it doesn't offer much if you are looking for a reason for hope. As a sociological study, there is much that deserves our attention. But as a prescription, and not only a description, of American cultural religion, American Grace is wanting.

  • Heather
    2019-02-26 02:04

    This was a really interesting book providing a picture of the history and relationships and changes in religion in America over the years. It's well researched and the authors do a good job of helping readers understand several different religions specifically and create a greater appreciation and respect for others' beliefs. One of the most important founding principles of our country was religious freedom. This freedom creates and allows for a diversity of faith and belief. It's interesting to see how these differences bring people together or create misunderstandings. I found it most interesting to see how ethnicity and political persuasion affect religious beliefs. I also thought it was interesting to see trends in church attendance and religious persuasions change over generations. I personally think it's inspiring to see that how religion in general encourages people to be good neighbors. I think it's interesting to see the reasons people choose their religion and how important social networks are in inviting and encouraging participation and understanding across groups. There are many good people working to do many good things through religion, politics, community service and in their families. This book made me more grateful for my religious beliefs and the freedom to worship in peace in a unique and wonderful country!

  • Lisa Reising
    2019-03-08 23:05

    A wonderfully researched book with all kinds of facts, figures and charts. It does not feel biased toward certain conclusions, and the conclusions seem logical and believable given the statistics. I ended up skimming through a lot of it because it is thick and scholarly - although very readable. I liked the vignettes - glimpses into beliefs and lifestyles of a variety of belief systems. I wouldn't mind buying my own copy to be able to reference when specific topics come up - a good resource for backing up opinions. For example, the divisive issue of abortion can be hard to sort out and I like this sensible statement (p. 390):"To be pro-life typically, then, indicates more than one's position on abortion. Abortion stands in for a bundle of beliefs that, grouped together, can be called moral traditionalism." In other words, it's more complex than one medical action. The general conclusion gives me comfort and hope: Religious beliefs are important to a majority of Americans.

  • Shirley Freeman
    2019-03-10 23:08

    This one took a couple months to finish - it's not a page turner, but I'm very glad to have read it. If you liked Robert Putnam's earlier book about social capital, Bowling Alone, you'll find this one of interest. Using huge data sets and in-depth statistical analysis, Putnam and Campbell describe the state of religion in America over the past 5-6 decades. The statistical chapters are interspersed with 'vignettes' - case studies of a dozen real congregations in the United States. The authors conclude that the coexistence of religious devotion and religious diversity in America is generated by the strong web of interlocking personal relationships among people of many different faiths - hence the title 'America's Grace.'

  • Jeff Gasser
    2019-03-03 02:31

    Loved it. You gotta push through some of the data and just accept the fact that you probably won't remember any of it. But that brief moment when you peer into the soul of America makes it worth it. Contains a lot of gems that can help you better understand your own faith community and others: trends of religious observance, conservative and liberal religion, religion and charity, conversion, the truth about the nones, the rise of Latino Catholics, the rise and fall and rise and fall of religion in America, what different religions think about each other, religion and race/abortion/homosexuality, I could go on and on (and it certainly does at 560 pages).

  • Sharman Wilson
    2019-03-19 02:17

    This book was chock full of info and commentary on religion in America. I find myself going back for this or that study, poll, or story, which makes me glad I bought it instead of borrowing--I definitely need my own copy and markings.

  • Fran Caparrelli
    2019-02-26 23:24

    very interesting and I just am always amazed that a concept like religion can be such a dividing point among human beings. My idea of religion is that it is practiced to help humans be better humans to their fellow beings.

  • John
    2019-03-22 20:09

    Bogged down in statistics in places, but still an interesting read; the portraits of individual congregations ("vignettes") help a lot to break up the numbers crunching. Audio narrator did a wonderful job making such a challenging project come alive.

  • Bethany
    2019-03-12 22:06

    Lots of charts and data. As one raised in an evangelical environment, it's interesting to see which of my assumptions are proven in this book and which are turned upside down.

  • Charlie
    2019-03-04 23:07

    Note: This review is of the print edition, not the Kindle. Overview: American Grace is a massive sociological description of Christianity in the United States. Its primary data source is the Faith Matters survey, a 2006 poll of approximately 3,000 respondents with a 2007 follow-up of approximately 2,000 of those same people. Its most important benchmark is a religiosity index, culled from a subset of the Faith Matters questions. The book is supplemented by a number of vignettes of American churches, presumably to offer a more concrete and fine-grained description alongside abstract, statistical evaluation.Argument and Method: The book’s focus is structured around two relatively stable features of American life that together render it exceptional: 1) its high level of religiosity, specifically in polarized forms and 2) its high level of religious pluralism. To these two basic features, two more are added that may at first glance be surprising: 3) religion is quite active in public life, and 4) overt religious conflict is rare. The central focus of the book is devising a solution that will explain these four generalizations about American religious life. The proposed solution is choice: the relative freedom that Americans have to choose their religious affiliation accounts both for the sorting of Americans into relatively ideologically homogenous groups and for the significant amount of inter-religious contact most Americans have. Fluidity ensures both that likeminded individuals are easy to find and that individuals of different persuasions are never too far away. Polarization and pluralization are mutually held in check by the churn of American religious society.One of the key concepts in this work is religiosity. Certain questions on the Faith Matters survey attempt to go beyond religious affiliation to determine individuals’ religious intensity. These questions included both objective behavioral criteria (how often do you attend a religious gathering?) and subjective criteria (how important is religion to you?). The purpose of this “religiosity index” is to allow the researchers to control for religiosity as an independent variable, distinct from religious affiliation. However, determining the intensity of individuals subsequently allows generalizations about the intensity of groups if religiously intense individuals are concentrated in certain groups. Religiosity is not the only factor considered by these authors, but it does take a prominent place, perhaps even displacing more traditional demographic categories such as gender, class, and race. In addition to this sociological approach, the authors employ historical and ethnographical methods. A historical argument is that American religion since the middle of the twentieth century has been affected by a large shock with two aftershocks. These historical turning points affected many areas of society, but none so much as traditional sexual mores. The starting point for the authors’ narrative, the pre-shock era, was the 1950s. During this time American religious institutions were anchored by families in which the man had a college education thanks to the GI Bill. These middle class families generally held traditional Christian moral sentiments about the desirability of defined gender spheres, the importance of family, and the immorality of pre-marital sex. The shock was the anti-authoritarian and sexually liberated long 1960s (stretching into the early ‘70s). This period resulted in the largest relevant generational shift of the 20th century, a significant alienation of youth from the church. However, it produced a conservative aftershock in the later 1970s and 1980s, in which pro-family and pro–traditional morality Christian evangelicals gained numerical ground and made effective common cause with traditionalist Catholics. One consequence of this was the perception that religion was right-wing and that the Republican party was more religion-friendly. This aftershock in turn produced its own liberal aftershock, in which youth, turned off by the association between religiosity and certain right-wing cultural values, resolved their dissonance largely by dropping their religious affiliations. The ethnography is a bit more difficult to integrate into the aims of the book. A series of vignettes scattered throughout the book break up the analytical sections. Each section of vignettes highlights a particular theme by juxtaposing a few very different churches. Presumably the purpose of these sections is to reinforce the analysis and show that the statistical descriptions are rooted in reality; conversely, they also point out the limits of purely statistical descriptions that can never attain the ultimate concreteness of daily life. (We may know that the average American family has 2.4 children, but we do not know a single American family that actually has 2.4 children.)Interesting Conclusions:identifying “liminals,” a fairly consistent number (10%) who stand at the edges of all American religious traditions; the aggregate stability of some of the statistics about denominational numbers conceals individual instability: many Americans do in fact change religious traditions during their lives (cf. 135f)"Switching is up, and nonmarital switching is up even more. The implication: More and more Americans are choosing their religion independently of both their family of origin and their current family.” (143)"Over the last several decades, the religious institutional ties of have-nots in America, especially men, seem to be weakening. This trend is clearly contrary to any idea that religion is nowadays providing solace to the disinherited and dispossessed, or that higher education subverts religion. Secularization (at least in terms of organized religion) seems to be proceeding more rapidly among less educated Americans.”"Strikingly, religiosity is correlated with greater class bridging, especially downward bridging. That is, among the American upper middle classes, those who are religiously observant are more likely to report friendship and social interaction with people on welfare or manual workers than [are] comparably placed secular Americans.” (253) "This pattern seems to be driven not by generalized religiosity or theology in itself, but by involvement in religious social networks, like prayer groups and Bible study groups and (above all) having more friends in one's congregation. Just "being religious" does not seem to produce more social bridging….” (254)"Evangelical churches, because they are both socially diverse and socially active, appear to be one important exception to class segregation in America.” (254) "Congregation size turns out to be the most important predictor of attending a diverse congregation. People attending the largest congregations (99th percentile) are 15 percentage points more likely to report worshipping with a diverse group of co-parishioners than those who attend the smallest congregations (1st percentile)." (295) "Size and evangelicalism work together to predict congregational diversity. Diversity appears to spike only when congregational size numbers in the thousands." (307)"In general, religion has not served a prophetic role and promoted greater racial equality. Religious Americans are following the trend, not setting it." (315)"The glue which holds religiosity and partisanship together is the political salience of two issues in particular: abortion and same-sex marriage. Attitudes on both are tightly connected to religiosity—which is not a new development. The new part is that they have become politically salient, as the Democratic and Republican parties have taken opposing positions on both abortion and homosexual rights. As the parties have moved apart on these issues, religious and nonreligious voters have moved apart also." (370)"The highly religious are far more likely to be Republicans than Democrats, those who are low on our religiosity scale largely favor Democrats over the GOP, and religiosity has no bearing on partisan independence." (371)"Highly religious members of different traditions vary widely in their Republicanness. Roughly 70 percent of highly religious evangelical Protestants and Mormons identify as Republicans, with highly religious mainline Protestants right behind at 62 percent. However, only half as many highly religious Catholics describe themselves as Republican (35 percent).... Black Protestants are arguably the most highly religious group in America ... and yet are also the least likely to identify as Republicans." (371)"There is little overt politicking over America's pulpits and, to the extent it happens, it is more common on the political left than the right." (419) "The people who are most likely to report political activity at church are liberals who attend a politically homogeneous congregation." (428) "Liberal churchgoers who attend politically active congregations equal about 2 percent of the market." (428)"Religious "socializing" explains roughly half of the connections people make between their religion and their politics." (436)“Religious Americans are, in fact, more generous neighbors and more conscientious citizens than their secular counterparts. On the other hand, they are also less tolerant of dissent than secular Americans, an important civic deficiency. Nevertheless, for the most part, the evidence we review suggests that religiously observant Americans are more civic and in some respects simply “nicer”…. Theology is not the core explanation for what we shall call the “religious edge” in good citizenship and neighborliness. Rather, communities of faith seem more important than faith itself.” (444)Evaluation: Stuffed with data and tremendously relevant. Not all the analysis is equally convincing or significant, but most of it is both. The vignettes were quite interesting, but I don't know that their purpose was clearly defined or that they filled any real need, so they may have just bloated an already large book. Still, anyone interested in contemporary American religion (particularly Christianity) and who isn't afraid of numbers can't pass up this book. It's the best of its kind.

  • Susan
    2019-03-11 18:21

    This is an extremely interesting book about the state of American religion circa 2010. The authors are sociologists who rely on detailed studies of American's religious practices and faith to inform the book. They state at the outset that as compared with other nations, America is highly religious, diverse and tolerant. They discuss the three phases of participation in religion in the past 75 years, from the era of high attendance in the post war years to the decline in practice following the Vietnam war and sexual revolution to the backlash that led to the rise of Evangelism, to the current state in which so many younger Americans identify themselves as belonging to no denomination yet stating that they still believe in God (spiritual not religious). The authors reveal many surprising facts, such as that religious Americans are more generous with their time and treasure even outside their religion than secular Americans, that younger Americans are more liberal on LGBT marriage and more conservative on abortion than the generation above them, that even the most conservative denominations are filled with people who say that Jesus is not the only path to heaven and that people of other faiths will be welcomed there. The tolerance of Americans toward religious diversity is unique in the world, even though we think that there is so much seeming rancor among believers. The best parts of the book were the in depth analyses the authors did of certain churches and congregations, from a Mormon stake to an Episcopal parish in the Boston suburbs to a Catholic parish outside Chicago to Saddleback Church in Laguna Niguel. The authors are detailed and complete in their research, and the analysis is interesting and engaging. I listened to this book and wish I had read it in print because the authors kept referring to the charts and diagrams contained in the book. The narrator needed to be schooled on pronunciation of certain words, such as Concord, MA which he pronounced as Con CORD. Minor quibbles, however, re: a great book.

  • Heath Salzman
    2019-03-01 21:23

    Overall, "American Grace" was an interesting read and will probably be a great resource to reference for the next 10 years or so. Though trying to be objective, in studying American religions, the authors seemed to impose their own frameworks onto various religions when examining them. This is, of course, unavoidable, however, I would have liked the authors to be more self-aware and acknowledging of this fact. My key takeaway's were that 1) the most ethnically diverse congregations in America are Catholic churches and evangelical non-denominational mega-churches. The former because of the parish model that Catholics use - pushing against the "church shopping" mentality so common among church-goers in America. 2) 100% of PCA ministers polled (the denomination of which I am apart) answered that Christianity is the only way to heaven. However, over 80% of self-identified Christian laypeople do not hold this view. It was not the authors task to explore why this disparity exists, but I am intrigued by it. Even given the conservatism of the PCA and her members, I would imagine the response would still be over 50% of most attenders of PCA churches.

  • Chrisanne
    2019-03-10 18:06

    Astounding amount of research but, wow, did I feel condecended to. The common pattern was: show a graph, verbally describe the graph, and then draw conclusions from that and the 20 graphs preceding it. I can read a graph, thank you very much. The political section, which I understood was the core and reason behind this book, did not clearly provide answers. And, for various reasons, the all-important surveys were rarely departed from. The last 3rd was interesting and I agree with the conclusion. But I felt like more could have been done on so many levels. And the conclusion seemed to spring out of mid-air. Could have been better. And Could have asked better questions.

  • Brian Eshleman
    2019-03-03 19:13

    I got what was promised, I guess. I got a lot of numbers describing the religious and the irreligious. I even got some isolated narratives. There just weren't a lot of gems that will stick with me now that the book is finished.

  • Emily
    2019-03-09 21:07

    Finally! I'm done!! After renewing the book five times (with two separate checkouts) I have finally read the last page!It's a bit on the long side. But in its favor, the print is not miniscule and there are plenty of graphs and charts (some a bit more obtuse than others) that take up considerable space, too.American Grace provides some fascinating insights into religious life in the United States over the past seventy or so years. Putnam and Campbell trace the "shock and two aftershocks" that prompted major shifts in spirituality, religious identification, religious activity, even stretching into politics and social life. No surprise, the first major shock was "the sexually libertine 1960s," which was followed by "a prudish aftershock of growth in conservative religion." Finally, another opposing reaction occurred: "a growing number of...young people have come to disavow religion" in response to the greater association between religion and conservative politics. Within that general framework, the authors discovered a remarkable fluidity to American religious life.Putnam and Campbell cover almost every imaginable angle of the data they have gathered: gender, ethnicity, politics, class, income, level of religious activity, trends within religions and between religious traditions, friendships and relationships with neighbors, measures of tolerance and inter-faith conversion. Interspersed between chapters cram packed with data and statistics are vignettes describing worship services for different faiths.The sections on the interplay between religion and politics yielded some very interesting results as the authors clearly state "God in American history has not been a consistent partisan of left or right." They point out religion's influence on both ends of the political spectrum and provide some plausible explanations for why the political right seems to have such claim over religion in the public sphere today.Being LDS, I was most intrigued by what the authors (one of whom is also LDS) concluded about Mormons. Some highlights:* "Even among the most heavily Republican religious group in the country [i.e., Mormons] there is still some degree of political diversity, as 20 percent of highly religious Mormons identify as Democrats." [Another 10% claim political independence from either party - so as much as one-third of "highly religious" or "active" Mormons are not politically conservative!]* "Mormon women are overwhelmingly opposed to women as (lay) priests, but Mormon men have more mixed views: 90 percent of Mormon women as compared to 52 percent of Mormon men. In short, Mormons, especially Mormon women, appear to be the only substantial holdouts against the growing and substantial consensus across the religious spectrum in favor of women playing a fuller role in church leadership."* Regarding the results of a survey asking members of certain faiths their impression or "warmth level" toward those of other faiths: "Mormons like everyone else, while almost everyone else dislikes Mormons. Jews are the exception, as they give Mormons [the only!] net positive rating."* One more note for my LDS friends: Elder Quentin L. Cook quoted some of this book's findings in his most recent General Conference address!Some other reviewers have commented that Putnam and Campbell focus almost exclusively on Christian faiths. While I would have liked more info on Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in America, the authors had to work with the data they had, and that shows that all of those "other faiths" together comprise a total of only about 3% of the population. They mention this in their introduction, explaining the limitations of their data: "Since the Faith Matters survey was administered to a randomly selected representative sample of the United States, it contains the correct proportion of each group. But the absolute number of these other faiths is too small to permit reliable analysis. We are thus limited in what we can report about these disparate faiths."In short, American Grace demonstrates solid scholarship, interesting insights, and lots and lots of statistics.For more book reviews, come visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.

  • John
    2019-03-20 00:09

    I'm giving this five stars because I found it really fascinating, but it is quite long and a lot of readers might get bored by all the statistics and graphs and charts. American Grace is composed of hard sociological data and cultural vignettes in roughly equal measure. Campbell and Putnam, professors of political science and public policy, respectively, assembled their study of faith in today’s America using two main sources. One was the Faith Matters survey: a survey of a little over 3000 Americans from all over the religious spectrum, administered in 2006 and 2007. To this Campbell and Putnam added case studies of a range of churches from different parts of the country, everything from an Episcopal church in Massachusetts to a LDS stake in Utah to a Protestant “megachurch” in Minnesota. The goal is to answer a series of questions, including: how overtly political are churches today? Where did the so-called “God gap” between Democrats and Republicans come from, and will it shift in the future? Are there clear winners or losers in the religious marketplace? How have congregations changed as America has changed over the last generation or two? And finally, how are all these American faiths able to peacefully coexist, particularly at a time when political and religious vitriol seems so high? The authors provide an answer to their central question right away. American religion may be polarized, but it is not segregated. Americans today tend to have friends and family from a variety of faiths, and America has a remarkably free religious market. People tend to believe that it is perfectly normal to shop through various congregations until you find one you like. Thus, people are generally tolerant of a diverse range of beliefs. The rest of the book is dedicated to unpacking this diversity, and some conclusions are drawn that readers may find surprising. Religiosity tends to vary a lot by gender, age and race, but hardly at all by income or education. Young people have reacted strongly to the rise of the so-called Religious Right in the 1980s and 90s, basically by turning away from organized religion (and voting Democratic). The gender revolution has been embraced almost across the board, with majorities in practically every group, including evangelicals, favoring larger roles for women in the church. The “God gap” basically can be traced to just two issues, abortion and gay rights, and the Republican embrace of a pro-life, anti-gay platform in the 1980s. This gap could easily change in the future, as opinion on gay rights in particular seems to be rapidly changing. Overt politicking from the pulpit is extremely rare, and perhaps more common in liberal congregations than conservative ones. There is a big difference between modern clergy and laity on some issues, like who will get into heaven. Lay people across the spectrum tend to believe that good people of a variety of faiths can go to heaven, while their ministers disagree. And regardless of all the angry, bible-thumping, fundamentalist rhetoric that we hear in America today, such people actually form a relatively small minority of evangelicals – just 25%. American Grace serves as a great reference book. There are a multitude of graphs, charting all sorts of beliefs and trends in late 20th century America. The vignette chapters are fascinating. It is certainly possible to quibble about the wording of some of the questions in the Faith Matters survey, but a perfect survey would have been impossible. One critic takes issue with Campbell and Putnam’s claim that the evangelical movement has been in decline since the early 1990s (which is, frankly, kind of a surprising claim). All in all, American Grace is an insightful, breezy read that ought to stimulate a lot of discussion and debate.

  • Tanya
    2019-03-13 00:30

    I requested American Grace from the library because it was repeatedly footnoted in Elder Quentin Cook's talk from the April 2011 LDS General Conference, and I wanted to know more about what it said. This lengthy tome discusses the findings of the authors' 2006 and 2007 "Faith Matters" survey, a massive study of religious, political, and civic attitudes and behaviors of Americans across the faith spectrum. Interspersed with the statistical analysis (and plenty of charts and graphs) were vignettes from random congregations across the country, which saved the book from being too dry. Overall I found the information fascinating, but often way too drawn out.Since the great majority of my Goodreads friends are Mormon, I thought I'd point out some of the interesting things the authors found about our religion and its place in America.- We represent roughly 2% of the U.S. population- Mormons are the most religiously observant group in America, followed by Black Protestants and Evangelical Protestants- On the question "Of all respondents whose parents were in a given religious tradition, what proportion have left that faith or rarely attend services?" the LDS response was just under 45%. That sounds like a lot to me, but it was the lowest response of all the denominations.- On the question "How important is it that your children marry someone of your own faith? the Mormons had the highest positive response, with about 66% saying it was somewhat or very important.- Mormons gave the lowest response when asked if they favored allowing female clergy. 30% said yes, while the highest response came from Mainline Protestants (93% in favor).- The three least popular religious groups in America are 1)Buddhists, 2)Muslims, and 3)Mormons- Mormons report warm feelings toward all other religious groups, or as the author says, "Mormons like everyone else, while almost everyone else dislikes Mormons." The one exception to that are Jews.- Responses to "People not of my faith, including non-Christians, can go to heaven" range from Mormons (98% agree) to Evangelical Protestants (54% agree). Protestant clergy are unhappy at this response, as their doctrine teaches only Christians can go to heaven, and their congregants evidently disagree.- Questions about politics over the pulpit found that "Mormons and evangelicals have the least politicking and the most Republicans." "Jews and Black Protestants have the most politicking and the fewest Republicans."- When looking at generosity across different religious traditions they found that overall it mattered more how religious you were than what religion you were apart of, yet they still commented, "Mormons are strikingly more active in giving and volunteering of all sorts."- One of the vignettes focused on the Pioneer Ward in the Sandy West Stake. It is overall very positive (helped, I'm sure, by the fact that one of the book's authors, a professor of political science at Notre Dame, is a convert to Mormonism). It talks a lot about peoples' service in callings, the attitude of "giving their lives over to God," the fact that ward members also give above average secular community service, and shows Mormon families in a warm fuzzy light. The biggest criticism is that members put pressure on each other to hold Republican views, and that "there's always been kind of this unsaid belief that you can't be a Democrat and a good Mormon."This is a just a glimpse in what you can find in the 570 pages before the footnotes begin. If this is even marginally appealing to you, you can get a lot out of just looking at all the charts and graphs without going through all the text. Getting through the whole book was a lot of work, but I'm glad I read it.

  • Wade
    2019-02-25 19:06

    Robert Putnam and David Campbell present data analysis from their own comprehensive research to paint a detailed picture of religion in America, I really enjoyed their examination. They address a variety of measures to paint this picture including history, politics, public & private religiosity, literal versus metaphorical interpretation of scripture, civic involvement, charitable contributions, etc. The authors also intersperse throughout the book a number of qualitative case studies from individual congregations that include Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Jewish, Mormon, and non-denominational mega-churches. “These vignettes complement the statistical story by bringing to bear much greater richness than is possible with the abstractions of aggregated responses to a survey, providing an opportunity to see how real people live their religions. Without these portraits of individual congregations- and the people who belong to them- you would get only half, and probably less, of religion's story.” p 32 Putnam and Campbell detail three events that have influenced significant shifts in society over the past half-century. First, the cultural and sexual revolution during the 1960's accompanied a societal trend away from religious participation. A backlash ensued resulting in an increase in religious involvement during the 1970’s and 80’s. The authors argue that the Christian Conservative movement was born from this aftershock, giving rise to a new association between religion and the political right. In the 1990’s a second backlash occurred as young Americans, feeling discomfort with the new perceived association between religion and the Republican Party, lead a cultural shift towards secularism which continues today. This evolution has resulted in our current state where “Americans are increasingly concentrated at opposite ends of the religious spectrum.” p 3The authors describe this polarization not to dwell on differences but rather to set the context for a unique phenomenon that occurs in our complex and nuanced society. America is the most religiously devout, diverse, and yet tolerant country in the world. There is an increasing cultural fluidity that has created what the authors refer to as the Aunt Susan Principle. Everyone has a friend or “Aunt Susan” who despite belonging to a different religion (or perhaps no religion at all) is one of the kindest, most generous people they know. If anyone is going to heaven, Aunt Susan is. Our social networks expose us daily to diverse perspectives and viewpoints; in America pluralism has produced tolerance. “Most of us live by, are friends with, or are even married to people of other faiths. As Americans build bridges across religious divides in different domains of their lives, they become more likely to accept those with different beliefs... America is graced with the peaceful coexistence of both religious diversity and devotion.” p 495

  • Spencer
    2019-03-04 01:25

    major sociological study full of a million charts and statistics. If it has a bias, i cant see it. endorsed by folks all over the spectrum as far as i can gather. So here are some cold facts:Regarding Americans:roughly-80% are certain that there is a God40% attend church nearly every week30% are evangelical25% are catholic15% are mainline protestant9% are black and black protestant15% claim no denominational affiliation (this was 7% in 1990)2% are mormons2% are jews1/3 of americans change their religion in their lifetimemuch of their study goes to ascertain religiosity- that is who is most involved with their religion, who takes it most seriously, lives by its dictates, etc.from most religious to least religious are:mormonsblack protestantsevangelicalsmainline protestantscatholicsjews50% of the elderly attend church20% of 20 somethings do (a sharp decline in the last 15 years)in 1957 57% of 20 somethings attended church, 28% did in 1971, then it climbed through the 80's 60% of blacks attend weeklythe rich are the least likely to attendthe rural poor are the most likely to attendall things being equal, the educated are more likely to attendasians are least likely to attendwoman attend more than menin the south they attend the mostin the NE they attend the leastthose most rapidly turning from org religion are young white center left males from the north.the religious are becoming more so and the secular are becoming more so.secular and religious americans are more sympathetic to each others values than the other thinks.the more secular or religious you are the more you see the other side as selfish and intolerant.the most religious and the least religious spend the same amount of time watching sports, but disagree on abortion , premarital sex, and homosexuality, however, they agree on govt funding for aid to the poor, fighting crime, protecting borders, and the death mid century- religious affiliation and political party, did not correlate, now it does much more so.since 1990 there has been an unexplained sharp rise in religiosity among latino catholics.there has been a slow deline this century in catholic and mainline prot church attendance.3/4 of americans have same religion as their parents25% of people raise mormon either leave the church or stop going (lower stat than any other mainstream amer religion).it is more important to mormons than it is to any other mainstream amer religion to marry within their faith."mormons like everyone else. while almost everyone else dislikes mormons. Jews are the exception"to the question "people not of my faith, inc. non-christians can go to heaven"- 98% of mormons said yes,54% of evangelicals said yes.AND NOW FOR THE ONE YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR!a higher % of mormons (28%), more than any other mainstream amer religion said that they belonged to the one true religion (next up is evangelicals at 22%. jews at 6%

  • Bill
    2019-03-12 00:12

    Although it is a few years old, I became aware of "American Grace" at a presentation on the increase in religiously unaffiliated individuals. I checked the hefty hardcover out of the local library, but also e-borrowed the unabridged audio book (19 hours!) to coincide with my daily commute. Make no mistake: this is A LOT of information to get through.The information is absolutely fascinating! At times, during the drive, I have no doubt I missed some data, but the overall sense of the information flowed. There were many different angles presented with which to view and try and understand the vast array of statistics. The audio book clearly cannot adequately present the charts and graphs contained in print, but the narration still provided a good explanation.The authors' framework of offering vignettes, then supportive data, helped quite a bit to comprehension, although for me, several of the vignettes were heartbreakingly sad, but so typical of my narrow set of experiences.Chapter 15, the final wrap up, was worth slogging through some of the other material. I realize it is statistical data and therefore is not a universal or absolute truth, but I found my first-hand experiences of how American Christians feel toward other religious group at odds with the data. I can appreciate the idea of "bridging" having a positive impact, but I believe there is just as much, if not more negative effect with bridging between groups. The audiobook narration was up to the task, and kept the material from being too flat and dry. Not overemphasized or melodramatic, but clear, practical and helpful. The oddest parts of the narration revolve around a male narrator trying to adopt the vocal characteristics of different ages, different genders and different regional dialects and accents. Amusing for some, a little weird for others.This whole packet though, is merely data presented without recommendations on what to do or how to change the trends, if desired. As was oft-repeated, "correlation is not causation," so what you or I or the churches or anyone do with the data is up to us. While difficult and distracting at times, I'm very glad that I spent the time and effort to get through this.

  • John
    2019-03-04 18:23

    It’s thick, but readable, an analysis of contemporary American religion that blends ethnography with careful quantitative analysis. The authors paint a “historical backdrop” that’s sort of a Hegelian thesis-antithesis pendulum: moving from the “shock” of alienation of Baby Boomers from conventional religion (1960s through early 1970s), to the first “aftershock” of the rise of Evangelicals and the Religious Right (1970s and 80s), to the second “aftershock” of many Americans moving in a non-religious direction (1990s and 2000s). Against this backdrop, the authors paint the stories of particular faith communities and interpret survey data.Things I learned (or at least imagine that I learned) from the book:*It wasn’t until the 1980s that the political platforms began to address issues of personal morality, with Republicans explicitly opposing abortion and Democrats supporting abortion rights. Slowly, Republicans grew to be perceived as the party of the “religious” and Democrats the party of the “secular.” *Today, young Americans who support causes such as full equality for homosexuals have increasingly rejected not only the Republican political agenda but also the religion associated with it.*Social networks in faith communities have tremendous power to influence their members to be more generous, more civically active, more trusting, and to influence political perspectives through subtle cues (overt politics at church still is the exception rather than the rule).*The most religious believe that religious people are more tolerant and selfless than the most secular, and the most secular believe that secular people are more tolerant and selfless. Data supports the interpretation that each is half-right: Religious people are more selfless but less tolerant, and secular people are more tolerant but less selfless.*Religious tensions in America are not as severe as they might be because Americans are intimately acquainted with people of other faiths, and therefore more likely to accept them and believe they have a place in God’s economy. ”America’s grace” is summarized as “devotion plus diversity minus damnation equals comity.”

  • Jay Winters
    2019-03-01 02:01

    Book Closing: It took me forever to finish this book - started in early February. But that wasn't because it wasn't readable or interesting - it was just long. In fact, Putnam and Campbell have put together one of the most readable and exhaustive tomes on the sociology of America's religion that I have ever seen. Describing the data of the "Faith Matters" Survey of 2006, Campbell and Putnam comb through the data to show us what Americans believe, how they behave, and who have a sense of belonging with. Through the book, they show conclusively that faith is important to the American landscape, but that it is a landscape that is actively changing as religious groups experience interplay between each other. They call this interplay, the fluidity of the landscape, "America's grace".Succeeding in the task of remaining objective while being people of faith themselves (a Jew and a Mormon), Putnam and Campbell show the contours of America's demographics of belief and how those demographics display the interaction between faith and person, religion and community. They do this through dissecting the data and also through vignettes of the lives of communities of the faithful that they have been able to observe.I certainly recommend picking up American Grace.Book Opening: I'm actually re-opening this book. I had started to read it a while back because it was the subject of something my "PostSeminary Applied Learning and Support" group was discussing - I bought the whole book although a chapter is all we really needed. Then I got invited to speak at a conference where David E. Campbell is going to be speaking as well - so I figured it would be a good time to open it again...maybe I can get his autograph at this conference.Of what I've already read, this promises to be a great book. The language is clear and easy to read, and thank goodness, the tome is a whopping 550 pages not counting appendices, acknowledgments, and indexes. It discusses something that I'm obviously interested in, the sociology of religious practice and behavior. See you on the other side.

  • Mike
    2019-03-08 23:21

    This was a fascinating book, particularly apt given the Republican field in the presidential election. Here you can find out all about what motivates all those "evangelicals" that Ted Cruz is enticing. What percentage of the American population believes the world is coming to an end soon? How many believe that only people of their own faith can get into heaven? What percentage of the clergy feel the same way? (Hint: more than the flock, by a lot).The authors describe religion sort of as a entrepreneurial business. That struck me as strange at first, since you wouldn't think the word of God would change to meet societal movements. But then I realized, of course, if a church is losing members, or not attracting enough, of course the church officials are going to try to change things to attract more "customers." Even the Mormons have reversed themselves on God's word when society attitudes reversed.If you read (and enjoyed as I did) Putnam's previous book, "Bowling Alone", you'll be at home with this one. It's difficult to read, with all the charts and the long explanations of how they were derived. But there are three chapters called "Vignettes" that are very readable fascinating observations of 10 or so churches the authors visited. I loved one fellowship meeting they attended where the host reminded the participants that "what's said in this room stays in this room," despite the authors' presence and previously obtained permission to write about what they saw.My only reservation is I'm not sure the book had to be so difficult. I was reading mostly for the author's conclusions, not a textbook in statistics and survey sampling. I did get an appreciation for how difficult it is to draw conclusions from survey data, and tease out meaning, so maybe it was best to do all that work to read the book. It was definitely worth it to deeply understand American culture, one of the most religious in the world (Figure 1.1). I guarantee some of the facts presented in this book will surprise and enlighten you, regardless of your religious leaning.