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Search for Meaning: Americans Talk about What They Believe and Why


What do Americans, as a people, believe in? What are the experiences that have transformed their lives? How does faith -- in God, in human goodness, in politics, progress, money, or pleasure -- illuminate our actions?

These are the questions that Phillip L. Berman asked when he set off on a four-year, 35,000 mile odyssey to chronicle America's moral imagination. By the time he was through, he had spoken to some five hundred people from all walks of life. What they told him makes...

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The Search for Meaning: Americans Talk About What They Believe and Why

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What do Americans, as a people, believe in? What are the experiences that have transformed their lives? How does faith -- in God, in human goodness, in politics, progress, money, or pleasure -- illuminate our actions?

These are the questions that Phillip L. Berman asked when he set off on a four-year, 35,000 mile odyssey to chronicle America's moral imagination. By the time he was through, he had spoken to some five hundred people from all walks of life. What they told him makes this engrossing and radiantly insightful book the first and only oral history of the religious and philosophical beliefs of contemporary Americans.

Vividly compelling in the extraordinary freshness and variety of its many voices, The Search for Meaning offers a full scale portrait of the moral state of the union.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this oral history, Berman captures the voices of a variety of Americans as they discuss the meaning of life and the paths they are taking to realize that meaning. Photos. Author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Berman, who traveled this country and talked with hundreds of people about their beliefs, here gives us about 500 statements of belief as they were told to him on his sojourn. These statements range in length from a brief paragraph to a few pages. Some show little thought, some betray twisted thinking, many reflect the depths of the souls from which they arise. A great variety of people are represented here: racists, victims of racism, survivors of the Holocaust, the Grand Wizard of the KKK, prominent clergy, but mostly ordinary people whose beliefs have been shaped by reading books or by significant experiences such as war, death, sickness, or simply the abundant cares of everyday life. This excellent sourcebook is not only interesting but challenges us to clarify our own beliefs. Highly recommended.-- John Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Lib., N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345377777
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Pages: 451
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 3
Thelma Black and Joanne Baker: The Soul Sisters 19
Alexander Curry: One Day Soon 25
Book 1
Knockin' Bark Off Trees 33
John Henry Faulk 35
Peggy Hutchison 41
Georgia Fuller 46
Problems of Evil 49
Elizabeth Jaranyi: Why Me? 51
Kathryn Morton 53
Bobby Joe Leaster: Everythin' Happen for a Reason 63
Robert Muse 68
War 73
Part I Jesus Christ and John Wayne 75
Randy Way 75
John Coleman: The Devil's Playground 83
Part II From Rambo to Rainbow 88
Don Preister 88
Sarah Corson: Onward Christian Soldiers 90
Luke Leon Coffee: A Spoke in the Wheel 96
Walter Littlemoon 99
The Color Line 107
Jim Farrands: The Grand Wizard 109
Mauricio Terrazas 114
Reed Weller 118
Tommy Wrenn: Doctor of Philosophy 121
Jean Mitchell McGuire: It Must Be a Struggle 123
Brother Paul Holderfield: Jesus the Nigger 128
Richard Stonington-Reed Johnson III 132
Outcasts 139
Gary Phelps: Jim Bob 141
Ted Hayes: The Son of Man Had Nowhere to Lay His Head 145
Survivors 151
Freddy Bosco: A Fluke of the Universe 153
Kenneth Baldwin: The Golden Gate 159
Kurt Saxon 163
Dr. Roger Walsh 167
Book 2
Hedonic Calculus 175
Rex Beaber 177
James St. James: A Little Splash to a Party 183
Scott Salinski: Party Viking 186
Corky Carroll: Play Now, Work Later 189
Young Folks 193
College Days: Tad A. Devlin, Melinda "Mindy" Johnson, Hamed Khakbaz, Kaveh D. Soofer 195
Marquis and Troy: Fuck Society 199
Life Is a Beach: Gordon Gino, Chris Anders, Perry Keller, Bill Pierce, Allen Scott, Greg Nielson, Debbie Richards 201
Sally Randall: Chain-Letter Love 204
Noah Johnson 207
The Nihilist, the Hooker, and the Chessman 211
Elisha Shapiro: Just Doing What I Like to Do 213
Marlo Meadows: God Loves the Sinner 216
Murray Turnbull: The Chessman of Harvard Square 218
Earthly Delights 225
Dr. Richard C. Murphy: This Little Blue Jewel 227
Steve Darden: Native Ways 230
Ken O'Brien: Human Ecology 236
The Muse 239
Theresa Bernstein Meyerowitz: Now Is All We Have 241
Silvana Cenci: Beauty Collector 243
Doug Anderson: What's Happening? 246
Nancy Mairs 248
Maria Cheng 254
Ralph Shapey: A Moment of Eternity 258
Akbar De Priest: Jazz Man 261
In the Public Eye 267
William J. Vanden Heuvel: A Special Obligation 269
John Andrews 273
Governor Richard Lamm: The Prodigal Parent 278
Big George Armistead III: Booster 281
Deborah Howell 284
Fred Means: Gathered in the Dust 286
Home on the Range 291
Sue Knode 293
J. W. Vanderpool: Down Along the Cimarron 295
Red Moore: Keep It to Yourself 299
Fred Sherman: On the Horny Hands of Toil 304
Book 3
True Believers 309
Part I God 311
F. Bringle McIntosh: At Ninety-two 311
Michelle Janis: The Messiah Has Come 315
Dr. John Collins Harvey 318
Part II Science 321
Dr. Mark Geier: Nothing Out There but Science 321
Dr. John Swartz 323
Dr. Frank Wilczek: The Physical World, Among Others 327
John Beardsley 330
Part III The New Age 333
Dr. Raphael Ornstein: Raphael's Vision 334
Patricia Sun 336
Jeanne Lemenowsky 340
Investments of Faith 343
Mother Tessa Bielecki 345
Father Thomas Keating 349
Sister Sudha, a.k.a. Dr. Sue Schrager 355
Visiting Spirits 363
Becky Fischer 365
Ruth Norman: Uriel 368
Jack Pursel: Jack and Lazaris 372
Men of the Cloth 379
Chabad Hasid 381
F. Forrester Church: The Cathedral of the World 386
Ed Nelson: Only Too Glad to Pray for You 393
RAbbi Joseph Weizenbaum 396
Steve Wickson: Kingdom Mentality 401
Alternative Altars 405
Ma Bodhitara, a.k.a. Diane Searles: The Jewel Inside 407
Burtrand: The Good Witch of the West 411
Geoffrey and Wendy Walker 413
Kamal Ibrahim: The Examination Hall 419
Kanya Okamoto 423
Motherhood 429
Part I. Performance Anxiety 431
Catherine Hale 431
Part II. Tunnels of Love 433
Lois Erdmann 433
Cecilia A. Walen 438
John Schneeweis, Jr.: The Distant View 445
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