Religion and Public Life in “American Grace” by Putnam

“American Grace”, a book written by social scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, offers a broad description of the relationship between religion and public life. The two authors focus on diverse survey statistics to investigate the influence of religious beliefs in individuals and groups. Their story is so relevant to the current interfaith uneasiness experienced in America. The topics covered in this book range from conversion changes to gender responsibilities in religion. The book also expounds on how believers are ethnically and civically engaged. However, a great part of the book is made up of surveys that express how religion divides and unites Americans.

In the first two chapters, the authors express their concern on the relationship between the exercised politics and religion, religion and public values, and the role of religion in uniting people. They also expound on how religion contributes to the Americans’ current religious position (Putnam and Campbell, 87).

According to the authors, there existed a generational effect, a reason why most people in America portrayed characters that were formed early in life. In addition, every American must have passed a life cycle pattern, this evident from how they carry their roles in the society; this was also evidenced by variation in character traits at different ages. To clarify their point, Putnam and Campbell argue that society not only changes very slow but also very gradually due to the inclusion of people from different generations. In their survey and comparison of the 21st and 20th centuries, Putnam and Campbell also observed that generation change contributed to the slow decline of religious practices in America (Putnam and Campbell, 203). In addition, from the evidence collected in the past half-century, Americans prove to be religiously less considerate. According to the authors, the decline in observance of religious doctrines is a result of the continuous production of adamant generations.

For the past half-century, the pace of change has accelerated; the authors compare the changes with the frequently experienced earthquakes. According to the authors, religious quakes contributed to the occurrence of huge gaps in the political and religious position of America. Among the major experienced shocks in America was the shock of the 1960s, in the course of this time, there occurred collisions between religious practices and morality. People had lowered their religious practices nationally and adopted other lifestyles such as premarital sex (Putnam and Campbell, 507).

Between the 1970s and 1980s, great religious changes were observed. For instance, evangelism advanced, protection was offered to churches, and religious rights were greatly observed. This was a result of the disregard of the rotten behavior portrayed in the 1960s. Although the advancement in the adoption of evangelism was very slow in the 1970s and 1980s, it was statistically evident that it had positive implications. During this period, the Americans seemed interested in religious practices, hence their advancement to church to get in touch with God. The number of children in evangelical families was also great, hence the rise in the number of people who attended the church sermons. In addition, it was during this period that there was the great collapse of protestant denominations.

However, by the 1990s the experienced political boom had declined greatly. The majority of the Catholic and Protestant churches were among the churches that experienced great drops in the number of people who attended church sermons. The cropping of the secular generation between the 1990s and 2000s was among the elements that contributed immensely towards deflating the number of persons in churches. Additionally, the majority of the youths considered religion unfit because it expressed on the observance of sexual morality, their urge for the practice of homosexuality barred them from observing religious demands. In sum, the majority of the parents also contributed to the drop in the number of youths attending churches, very few parents introduced their children to Sabbath Schools. Around 1990, the majority of the youths also embarked on the abuse of hard drugs such as marijuana, others involved themselves in homosexuality.

A survey carried out between 2006 and 2007 also showed a much decline in the number of youths who attended church. The youths disregarded the observance of sexual morality. Gay marriage was also greatly practiced by the majority of the youths, making it one of the crucial causes of the aftershock experienced from the 1990s up to 2007. The majority of the young generation also claimed that the majority of the religious people were hypocrites. In addition, the youths argued that most religious observers enjoyed judging others. The same religious persons also portrayed insincere acts. Other youths argued that religious organizations emphasized the observance of religious rules at the cost of advancing spirituality (Putnam and Campbell, 607).

Of all the inheritable traits, religious outlooks prove to be highly stable; this is proved by the conduct of early Americans who remained stable in observance of religious doctrines. However, currently, religious outlooks experience changes due to a decline in the rate of religious inheritance and loss of stability. Furthermore, the majority of the current people appear to be between traditional observance of religion and out of place. Such people find it hard in making a decision concerning their fate.

In America, most American children were thought to share their spiritual practices with their parents. However, the survey carried out by the two authors, proves that less than 70% of Americans inherit their parents’ spiritual practices. Some situations also contribute to the change of the offspring’s decisions on the mode of worship, for instance, 20% of the youths in America have different religions; this is due to being into parents with different religions.

The majority of the Americans managed to overcome divisions based on religious lines, they achieved this through their embrace of diverse religious practices in America. Moreover, almost all Americans have friends from different faiths, hence enhancing their creation of religious social networking. The acceptance of religious diversity among Americans contributes immensely towards the coexistence of peace in America (Putnam and Campbell, 703). Marriages in America are also not based on religious aspects; spouses do intermarry regardless of their faiths. Americans also prefer living with neighbors practicing different religious aspects; they tend not to care about the tradition or religious traditions of each other.

After the observance of the character portrayed by the majority of Americans, Putnam and Campbell concluded that the religious practices of the Americans are alive. However, they also agreed on the presentation of a great challenge to the American religion by the new generations. Besides, the two authors also found out that the Americans had very unique characters among Western nations on spiritual matters. According to Putnam and Campbell, Americans had an element of belonging in terms of religion, behavior, and belief.

This sociological piece work by Putnam and Campbell provides the Americans with information concerning their religious origin. In addition, it enables the majority of Americans to level their conduct by comparing their religious behavior with the persons as early as 1960. The book also plays a great role in uniting the Americans, it achieves through expounding on the coexistence of good association of a diverse group of Americans.

Works Cited

Putnam, Robert and Campbell, David. American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010. Print.

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