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American Religion:
Contemporary Trends
Mark Chaves

Winner of the 2012 Book Award in Christianity and Culture, Christianity Today

Paperback | 2013 | $19.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691159669
160 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 24 line illus. 1 table.
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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.


"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

"Chaves' study offers a rich, textured, and well-researched account of American religiosity. The book will serve to advance undergraduate and graduate learning concerning the complex and oftentimes complicated nexus between U.S. religion and politics. It will also interest scholars, policymakers, and the general public who care about how religion currently features in American public life and what future directions it may take."--Catherine E. Wilson, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

"Unsettling though it may be, American Religion is essential reading for pastors and lay leaders alike who want to understand the larger social context in which the mainline church both struggles and endures."--Rebekah Peeples Massengill, Interpretation

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Table of Contents:

List of Figures ix
Acknowledgments xi
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
Notes 115
Index 137

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