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The Cambridge History of Religions in America
  • Volume III: 1945 to the Present
  • General editor Stephen J. Stein, Indiana University, Bloomington

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    The Cambridge History of Religions in America
    • Online ISBN: 9781139195416
    • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082
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Page 1 of 2


  • 1 - Dangerous and Promising Times: American Religion in the Postwar Years
    pp 1-27
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.002
  • View abstract
    Summary
    One well-known examination of the American postwar religious ethos was that of the sociologist Will Herberg in Protestant, Catholic, Jew, first published in 1955. While Herberg's thesis was later challenged for its overemphasis on the "triple melting pot" theory and inadequate attention to inherent ethnic and religious differences, Protestant, Catholic, Jew offered an important critique of the superficial elements of American popular religion. The postwar years saw a renewed effort at urban evangelism, aimed at attracting the general public to stadiums and public halls outside traditional church facilities. In the postwar era, issues related to race and racism continued to galvanize American political and religious life. African American soldiers returned from the war having fought for freedom around the world only to find that their country remained racially segregated by a "color line" enforced through Jim Crow laws in the South and an implicit racism in the North.
  • 2 - Public Religion in Canada from Mackenzie King to Trudeau: Entering the Age of Pluralism, 1945–1982
    pp 28-56
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.003
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter describes the history of public religion in Canada from the period of the Second World War to the patriation of the Canadian Constitution of 1982 with its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Although attention is given to the spectrum of world religions represented in Canada, the analysis focuses primarily on the predominant Christian churches to which most Canadians, including aboriginal peoples, belonged. The government and its officials in the Centennial Commission took the initiative in helping churches across Canada participate eagerly in their local communities' centennial celebrations, with appropriate liturgies and prayers to honor the country. While the various religious communities were eager to join in the celebrations, the form of participation signaled some confusion and controversy in the evolving nature of pluralism in Canada. The Canadian experience forms part of a process of cultural and legal transformation shared with all industrialized societies and, in Canada's case, heavily influenced by Britain and America.
  • 3 - Religion in Mexico, 1945–2010
    pp 57-81
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.004
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter focuses on the religious tradition with which nearly 80 percent of Mexicans still identified, at least nominally, in the 2000 national census, Roman Catholicism. Many of the twentieth, and nineteenth, century's conflicts over religion, society, and governance were intra-Catholic affairs, pitting liberal, anticlerical Catholics against their conservative coreligionists. The chapter also considers the experience of religious minorities, especially in the light of their growth by century's end and the ability of one of these, Pentecostalism, to impact the majoritarian tradition. Given Mexico's geographic and human ties to the United States, the chapter considers transnational and cultural studies to explore their unique religious dimensions. It focuses on the diversity of the expanding slice of non-Catholic Mexico, The Jesuit apologist Roberto Rivera, writing in 1962, used Pentecostal ecstasy among women and indigenous converts as straw men to disparage the entire by then century-old historic Protestant project.
  • 4 - American Judaism in the Postwar Period
    pp 82-105
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.005
  • View abstract
    Summary
    By the end of the postwar period, more than five and half million American Jews had transformed American Judaism, reworking elements of faith into a new symbol system. Anne Frank, Israel, the shtetl, the six million, represented values espoused by American Jews. They integrated the staggering events they symbolized into beliefs about Judaism as a religion expressing universal liberalism, embodying intimate bonds of family, and comprising a distinctive corpus of behaviors. Many American Jews ignored commandments to observe Jewish rituals, quarreled with family members, and occasionally reneged on their liberal commitments, yet they recognized the combination as a Jewish one. Despite bitter struggles over religious authority and authenticity, despite criticism of the shallowness of their culture and banality of their Judaism, they had responded to the challenges facing them at the end of the war and assumed the responsibilities of remaking American Judaism into an enduring tradition.
  • 5 - Suburbanization and Religion
    pp 106-125
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.006
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The crucial years for understanding the shift of religious organizational vigor from cities to suburbs are the early years after World War II, from 1945 to 1965. All the ways in which suburbanization had changed and strengthened organized religion in earlier years now became major factors in American religious life as the fifties took shape. In the last four decades American suburbs have continued to grow, and organized religion has continued to move its center of gravity into the suburbs. African American religion in cities was relatively untouched by suburbanization in the 1950s or by its religious critics. Suburbanization during the first two-thirds of the twentieth century contributed to the growth of religiosity of the American population insofar as people occupying suburbs sought sociality in houses of worship focused on the spiritual and practical needs of families.
  • 6 - The Postwar Religious World, 1945 and Following: The Case of Asian Religions in the United States
    pp 126-148
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.007
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The immediate years following the Second World War proved a formative time in Americans' perceptions of Asia and Asian religions. As a way to understand more broadly the postwar religious world and its continuing legacy, this chapter explores the reasons behind this incredible shift in Americans' perceptions and the integration of Asian religious traditions. Geopolitical interests, domestic movements and legislation, and new immigration worked together to spur change in attitudes toward the religions of Asia and, in turn, a change in the American religious worldview. In the second half of the twentieth century and into the new millennium, Asian religions emerged most potently as a part of a symbolic economy. American religious discontent and spiritual wanderlust are played out through this economy. Global capitalism and virtual technologies buttress these ongoing desires; one no longer needs to travel physically to Asia; Asia travels to us through ready-made icons, digestible practices, and virtual form.
  • 7 - Secularization in American Society: A Review of the 1960s
    pp 149-169
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.008
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter argues that secularizing societies and, in particular, American society from the 1960s forward have become permeated with temporality by the increasing differentiation of the sacred from religion and by a sense of chronic crisis. In the 1960s personal lives, the life of organizations, the conduct of ceremonies, the observance of religious practices, adherence to political loyalties, and trust both in the government and in basic institutions became increasingly provisional, ad hoc, and temporary. Secularization may affect the ways in which an entire society imagines and identifies itself, makes decisions and exercises authority, or the ways it calls for commitment and sacrifice from its members. Secularization may also affect the credence given by individuals to various institutions, including religious ones, just as it may affect the way in which institutions respect the rights and authority of individuals.
  • 8 - Breaking Silence: Churches and Opposition to the Vietnam
    pp 170-186
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.009
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Religious criticism of the war began in 1963, when twelve clergymen formed the Ministers' Vietnam Committee. It was clear by early 1967 that the Johnson administration was growing more indifferent to criticism. The significance of religious protest against the conflict was its attempt, through moderate protest, to appeal to the conscience and morality of American citizens by reminding them that cherished beliefs about America's role in the world were being damaged, perhaps irrevocably. Ironically, this religious-based activism, begun during the civil rights movement and continuing through the antiwar movement, ushered in a new involvement by clergy in a broad range of issues, including gay and lesbian rights at home and human rights violations and conflicts abroad. Activism against the Vietnam War may have done more to change the outlook of the churches, synagogues, and clergy than their protests did to end the conflict itself.
  • 9 - The Religious Significance and Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, 1950–1970
    pp 187-204
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.010
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter examines the civil rights movement and its impact on the quest for human freedom from 1950 to 1970 particularly from the perspective of religion. Few movements in American history have had as profound an impact on the nation and the world. The legacies and influences of the civil rights movement on the American and global societies are many. The chapter addresses three: the rise of Black Theology and other forms of liberation and progressive religious thought, the involvement of former civil rights leaders and activists in politics, and the emergence of politically conservative Christian movements. It is clear that the civil rights movement among African Americans during the 1950s and the 1960s captured the attention of people throughout the world. In the context of the United States, the civil rights movement's encounter with the women's movement and Black Theology's interaction with feminist theology have produced some painful moments for both sides.
  • 10 - The Kennedy Election: The Church-State Question and Its Legacy
    pp 205-223
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.011
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter places Kennedy's statement within the context of the American Catholic understanding of the separation of church and state, the theological debate then going on and its resolution at Vatican II, and the influence Kennedy's position had on subsequent Catholic politicians. From its beginning in colonial Maryland, American Catholicism had espoused the American separation of church and state, for that separation protected and guaranteed the rights of the Church. Colonial Maryland under the Catholic Calverts took a pragmatic approach to keeping Church and state separate by rejecting any religious test for holding office and by making the clergy self-supporting. The French Revolution would, however, create a new lens through which European Catholic leaders would view the proper relation between Church and state. Kennedy's performance may have been overly dramatic and did not touch on any deep theological issues, but it served his pragmatic political purpose of winning the primary.
  • 11 - “Love is the Only Norm”: The New Morality and the Sexual Revolution
    pp 224-242
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.012
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Religious liberals defended tricky terrain in the battles over sex and morality, and they were often frustrated by critics or journalists who associated situation ethics, or, more likely, the much-contested "new morality", with simple permissiveness. This chapter begins by appraising the origins of situation ethics within a postwar trend that highlighted the place of individual decision making in Christian ethics. This trend, popularized by various authors as a "new morality", was taken up by academics, church leaders, and public health officials to address another formidable specter in American culture: the sexual revolution. Then, the chapter addresses religious liberals' optimistic endeavors to utilize situation ethics as a pedagogical framework for addressing perceived changes in sexual attitudes and behaviors. Finally, it examines the protests of sexual conservatives and the way in which the "new morality" came to embody their fears about the sexual revolution.
  • 12 - Second Vatican Council
    pp 243-261
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.013
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Second Vatican Council demonstrated a considerable amount of tension and conflicting perspectives arising from differing general theological orientations and pastoral concerns. It initiated a series of internal ecclesiastical reforms and changes at a time in the United States when the Church was in a period of institutional strength and stability and when Catholics were becoming upwardly mobile in American business, professional, and political life. The press reports at the beginning of the council had wondered what might be the results and direction of the council and focused almost exclusively on the ecumenical purpose of the council, that is, the aim of drawing the Christian churches into a fuller union. More than forty-five years after the council, in the midst of continuing American Catholic renewal and polarization, it is difficult to predict what will be the long-lasting consequences of the council's decisions and directives. In this, Vatican II differs little from other major councils in the history of the Church.
  • 13 - The State of Israel
    pp 262-282
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.014
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter explores the space occupied by Israel in American religious life, a topic that has intermittently engaged the attention of quite a few Americans and been of acute significance to some of them, at both levels of religious thought. American Jews played a central role in articulating American support for the creation, and later for enhancing the development and security, of the state of Israel. It is crucial to note the particular register in which the religious discussion of Israel takes place in the United States, compared to what it might have been had there been relatively few Jews in America. The chapter concerns the religious issues as seen from America, where spiritual questions surrounding Israel's establishment were of pivotal interest. The religious repercussions of Israel's establishment, Abraham Joshua Heschel and Joseph B. Soloveitchik concurred, stemmed from the fact that it seemed to breach the untenable realities of recent Jewish history.
  • 15 - American Buddhism since 1965
    pp 308-330
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.016
  • View abstract
    Summary
    By 1970, virtually the full extent of Asian Buddhist sects was represented in America, and there was a plethora of Asian Buddhist teachers in permanent residence in the growing number of American Buddhist centers. This chapter shows that American Buddhism has grown within a developmental framework in which the serious issues of ethnicity, practice, democratization, engagement, and adaptation have necessitated a careful self-examination by individual Buddhist communities. In the earliest general, comprehensive books on Buddhism in America, not a single word was written about the role of computer technology in the development of American Buddhism. At the far extreme of the technological revolution are an increasing number of Buddhist communities that exist only in cyberspace, with no geographic component in real space. Some of these cybersanghas have had real impact for individuals who are geographically isolated from communities that exist in real space.
  • 16 - Hinduism in America
    pp 331-356
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.017
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Hinduism in the United States can be studied in two ways: the history of ideas and practices that are derived from Hindu traditions but may not explicitly use the term "Hindu", and the history of Hindus in this country. Manifestations of philosophies and practices that have roots in Hinduism but are presented without any reference to Hindu culture or ethos, or even to religion, are very popular in America and globally. In Emerson, one sees an issue that becomes a leitmotif for the history of Hinduism in America, a difference between ideas and practices of a religious culture and people who are born into and practice that religion. Temple spaces have become the main area for religious activities in America. An important feature of temples in the diaspora is that there is a blurring of lines among domestic, community, and temple rituals.
  • 17 - Islam in America
    pp 357-379
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.018
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Immigrant Muslims face enormous challenges as residents of America, which they are addressing in a variety of ways. They must consider questions of identity, occupation, dress, acculturation, relationships between different racial and ethnic Muslim groups as well as with other American Muslims, how and where to school their children, appropriate roles and opportunities for women, and a range of other concerns. The American public, now increasingly aware of the presence of Islam in America, has questioned who speaks for Islam. The response has been given by Muslims who serve as religious leaders, academics, and professionals who have assumed responsibility for mosques and in local and national organizations. In recent years they have paid special attention to the effort to distance Islam from terrorism as part of the message of an Islam that is peaceful in intent and deserving to be an accepted part of the religious pluralism of America.
  • 18 - Native American Religious Traditions Post–World War II to the Present
    pp 380-401
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.019
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Native communities have diverse teachings about how native remains should be addressed. Because native traditions were effectively banned as a matter of U.S. policy historically, practitioners of native spiritual practices often had to perform ceremonies secretly. In addition, during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, American Indian children were forcibly abducted from their homes to attend Christian and U.S. government-run boarding schools. As the Red Power movement became increasingly fragmented as the result of both state repression and internal contradictions, many activists began to focus on the need to address internalized colonization within native communities. Many native peoples today who want healing are Christian, but they can become positioned as inauthentic or "assimilated" by these movements. These debates speak to the tensions of developing political movements for decolonization that simultaneously attend to the social, psychological, and emotional impacts of colonization within native communities.
  • 19 - Latina/o Borderland Religions
    pp 402-425
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.020
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter focuses on Mexican American or Chicano religiosities, now counted as 70 percent of the more than forty million counted as the U.S. Latino population. The postwar years witnessed a great deal of change for Chicanos in Los Angeles and across the country as Mexicans became predominantly urbanized and concomitantly suburbanized. Chicanismo was a cultural phenomenon unwittingly animated by Cesar Chavez who crystallized the sentiments of Chicanos. The life and work of Cesar Chavez illustrate the spirit and method of borderlands religions, emphasizing the political dimension, or the religious politics. Borderlands religions each employ a prophetic voice and political practice. Medellian and Los Angeles are now two nodal points mapping the impact of liberation theology. The phenomenon of Latino conversion to Islam demonstrates the newly minted generation of borderlands seekers who resist being defined by traditional mestizaje categories but continue the process of religious invention at the intersections of religions, cultures, and political practice.
  • 20 - New Religious Movements in America
    pp 426-450
    • By J. Melton, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.021
  • View abstract
    Summary
    To understand the rise of so many new religions in America, it is necessary to develop some perspective on America's religious mainstream, which provided the context in which they emerged. A variety of factors converged in the late 1960s to produce a radical jump in religious pluralism in which what we have come to call "new religions" or "new religious movements" assumed the leading role. First and foremost was the change in the immigration law in 1965. The new religious movements that became so prominent in the decade after the changing of the immigration law in 1965 were in many ways not altogether new. The pioneers of the sociology of religion also picked up and used the term for studies of the small religious groups on the margin. Sociologists attempted to describe them apart from their intellectual heritage, concentrating on the unique ways they organized themselves and the structures they created to deal with their fringe status.
  • 21 - Race, Religion, and Theological Discourse
    pp 451-470
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.022
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Race and racism become deeply theological issues, ones that must be addressed within the context of religious community if they are to be addressed in ways that cut through to both their existential and their ontological articulations. The discussion of race within the United States has been framed often in terms of the civil rights activities of African Americans. And the ways in which religion in America changed in response to issues of race and racism are also framed typically in terms of black churches. According to Vine Deloria, as did African Americans, American Indians challenged religious assumptions and worked to align their religious commitments with their sociopolitical and economic needs. Furthermore, interest in traditional ritual structures, beliefs, and practices gained momentum as a way by which to rethink cultural identity and to frame political struggle within a framework of "organic" religious sensibilities.
  • 22 - American Religion’s Fascination with Sex
    pp 471-487
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.023
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Of the many issues that have divided religious Americans over time, few have been as rich in scandal and irony, duplicity and outright betrayal, as sex. And few have been driven so relentlessly by religious leaders and by religious beliefs about what constitutes morality. While some religious traditions have endured only minor conflagrations over sex, most over homosexuality, the history of American Christianity and of America itself would be profoundly different if the tradition's fixation on sex had been matched by attention to poverty, homelessness, world hunger, genocide, or environmental dangers. At this writing, we are still too deep in the thick of it all to understand fully all the whys and wherefores of religion's obsession with sex. Whatever the case, our nation's fascination with sex and with the religious arguments ever surrounding it is unlikely to dissipate any time soon.
  • 23 - Women and Religion in Modern America
    pp 488-510
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.024
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter discuses issues of women and religion as articulated within Christianity and Judaism. The origins of the twentieth-century women's movement in religion are thus tightly knit with the beginnings of the broader social women's movement, which, in turn, was closely tied to the social unrest of the Sixties. Just as nineteenth-century women working on behalf of progressive social causes such as the antislavery movement became aware that they lacked rights they sought for others, so mid-twentieth-century women engaged in the civil rights movement noticed that they too lacked basic social rights: the right to education, to equal pay, to freedom from violence. And in the process of seeking those rights in society, mid-twentieth-century women also noticed their lack of rights within their religious communities. An important social movement that had its effect on women and religion in America beginning in the 1970s was the shelter movement to support and protect battered women and children.
  • 24 - “Cults” in America: Discourse and Outcomes
    pp 511-531
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.025
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The descriptive definition of "cult" as utilized by religious studies scholars and anthropologists refers to an organized system of worship focused on an adored object. The cult stereotype promoted by the secular anticult movement, the evangelical Christian countercult movement, and news and entertainment media has a strong and pervasive influence on how Americans perceive unconventional religions and their members. The American cult stereotype has been exported to other countries, such as Japan and the People's Republic of China, where the English word "cult" or an equivalent may be used. The cult stereotype implies that unconventional religions are inherently volatile and violent, whereas scholarly study has demonstrated that only a small fraction of new religious movements become involved in violence. Mainstream Protestant Christians have been disturbed by the rise and spread of a variety of new religious movements in America from the late eighteenth century through the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.
  • 25 - Religious Tensions in a Changing World
    pp 532-550
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521871082.026
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Narratives of American religious history commonly relate a story about how religious disestablishment led to an unimagined proliferation of religious groups. In exploring some of the religious fault lines that can divide Americans into less than friendly religious camps, this chapter is predicated on several premises. The first assumption is that religious conflicts and tensions are exacerbated now, and may be increasingly exacerbated in the future, by issues that arise beyond the national borders of the United States. A second assumption has always been part of an analysis of religious prejudice in any country, but the failure of secularization to weaken religious belief in the United States makes the assumption especially relevant to American experience. The third assumption is that many religious Americans, even if they cannot offer coherent explanations of predestination, of Trinitarianism, and of other doctrines that once excited tremendous religious controversies, muster ardent religious feelings to press cultural, social, and economic agendas.

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