In this astounding account, a leading sociologist demonstrates that religion in America has become so tamed and softened that it hardly serves any of its original functions.
American religion—like talk of God—is omnipresent. Popular culture is awash in religious messages, from the singing cucumbers and tomatoes of the animated “VeggieTales” series to the bestselling “Left Behind” books to the multiplex sensation “The Passion of the Christ.” In “The Transformation of American Religion,” sociologist Alan Wolfe
argues that the popularity of these cartoons, books, and movies is proof that religion has become increasingly mainstream. In fact, Wolfe argues, American culture has come to dominate American religion to such a point that, as Wolfe writes, “We are all mainstream now.”
“The Transformation of American Religion” represents the first systematic effort in more than fifty years to bring together a wide body of literature about worship, fellowship, doctrine, tradition, identity, and sin to examine how Americans actually live their faith. Emphasizing personal stories, Wolfe takes readers to religious services across the nation-an Episcopal congregation in Massachusetts, a Catholic Mass in a suburb of Detroit, an Orthodox Jewish temple in Boston-to show that the stereotype of religion as a fire-and-brimstone affair is obsolete. Gone is the language of sin and damnation, and forgotten are the clear delineations between denominations; they have been replaced with a friendly God and a trend towards sampling new creeds and doctrines. Overall, Wolfe reveals American religion as less radical, less contentious, and less dangerous than it is generally perceived to be.
"Offering neither a cynical attack on religion nor a starry-eyed celebration of its triumphs, Wolfe presents a commendably balanced view, honoring the role religion has played in our nation's past while helping us see more clearly the present state of religious affairs."—“Los Angeles Times”
is director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College as well as a contributing editor to the New Republic and the Wilson Quarterly. He is the author of One Nation, After All: What Middle-Class Americans Really Think About God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, the Right, the Left, and Each Other, a 1999 New York Times Notable Book of the Year.