Review Of "Religion In American Life: A Short History" By J. Butler, G. Wacker, And R. Balmer

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Butler (Yale Univ.), Wacker (Duke Univ.), and Balmer (Barnard College) have collaborated on a survey of the history of religion in the US. Each section (early America, 19th century, 20th century) reflects the special emphases of previously written books by these well-known scholars. The division of labor allows for a comprehensive purview incorporating the latest scholarship but results in an uneven treatment of subjects and unnecessary duplication of information. The book is excellent in showing the variety in religions: Native American, Afro-American, Roman Catholic, Judaic, Buddhist, Islamic, mainline Protestant, evangelical and fundamentalist, and Christian and non-Christian sects. The authors stress the significant roles of women and immigrants, but slight formal theology, the role for clergy and ecclesiastical authorities, and--in spite of the title--the impact on daily life of belonging to a religious community. Despite publication by a university press and frequent use of quotations, the book does not provide footnotes to the text; references are provided to sidebar quotes from major religious figures. Even though the authors assume, rather than provide, knowledge of basic Christian beliefs and the Reformation heritage, this book could serve as a well-written and provocative textbook. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers and undergraduates.


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