Most Americans say they believe in God, and more than a third say they attend religious services every week. Yet studies show that people do not really go to church as often as they claim, and it is not always clear what they mean when they tell pollsters they believe in God or pray. American Religion presents the best and most up-to-date information about religious trends in the United States, in a succinct and accessible manner. This sourcebook provides essential information about key developments in American religion since 1972, and is the first major resource of its kind to appear in more than two decades.
Mark Chaves looks at trends in diversity, belief, involvement, congregational life, leadership, liberal Protestant decline, and polarization. He draws on two important surveys: the General Social Survey, an ongoing survey of Americans' changing attitudes and behaviors, begun in 1972; and the National Congregations Study, a survey of American religious congregations across the religious spectrum. Chaves finds that American religious life has seen much continuity in recent decades, but also much change. He challenges the popular notion that religion is witnessing a resurgence in the United States--in fact, traditional belief and practice is either stable or declining. Chaves examines why the decline in liberal Protestant denominations has been accompanied by the spread of liberal Protestant attitudes about religious and social tolerance, how confidence in religious institutions has declined more than confidence in secular institutions, and a host of other crucial trends.
Mark Chaves is professor of sociology, religion, and divinity at Duke University. He is the author of Congregations in America and Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations.
"Chaves has provided new scholars, nonspecialists in the sociology of religion, and the general public with an accessible and accurate text that gathers a wide range of information into one place, and does so in barely more than 100 pages. Chaves's American Religion will serve as an important introduction to the topic and a reference for scholars, religious leaders, and the general public for years to come."--Paul J. Olson, Sociology of Religion
"In this brief book sociologist Chaves traces changes occurring in religion in the U.S. between 1972 and 2008. . . . Chaves demonstrates that the overall picture of religion in the U.S. is one of continuity and stability rather than dramatic change. Nevertheless subtle changes are occurring, and this book does an excellent job of sifting through the data."--Choice
"American Religion, for such a thin book, packs a punch, providing helpful insights and myth-busting perspectives on almost every page. This really is a book that every pastor should take the time to read. It will be a quick but powerful dose of the state of American religion."--Andrew Root, Word & World
"An invaluable contribution to clarifying the facts about religious change in America."--Robert Putnam, coauthor of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
"American Religion promises to become the book of record for people interested in religious trends in American society. The U.S. Census does not include questions on religion. So while many other aspects of American economy and society get decennial descriptives, religion is left to advocates, activists, and scholars. Chaves fills the gap with numbers, and context enough for the general reader to digest."--Michael Hout, coauthor of Century of Difference: How America Changed in the Last One Hundred Years
Table of Contents:
List of Figures ix
Chapter 1: Introduction 1
Chapter 2: Diversity 16
Chapter 3: Belief 33
Chapter 4: Involvement 42
Chapter 5: Congregations 55
Chapter 6: Leaders 69
Chapter 7: Liberal Protestant Decline 81
Chapter 8: Polarization 94
Chapter 9: Conclusion 110