What Americans Really Believe


...a detailed, comprehensive often surprising snapshot of the most current impulses in American religion. -George H. Gallup Jr.
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...a detailed, comprehensive often surprising snapshot of the most current impulses in American religion. -George H. Gallup Jr.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

An indispensable resource for understanding the American public.

- George H. Gallup Jr., American Public Opinion Statistician

All who find in statistics precise food for thought owe Stark and his colleagues at Baylor gratitude.

-Publisher's Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Sociologist Stark has been surveying and observing American religious beliefs and practices for 40 years. This broad experience is reflected in the breadth of questions used to characterize contemporary American religious attitudes; from the Bible to Bigfoot, denomination to Da Vinci Code, beliefs are measured and correlated with oodles of demographics. Stark provides evidence for his overarching theme that some fundamental American religious practices and ideas have remained both stable and diverse as a result of religious competition. The book's numbers will spark lively discussion and questions about inferences drawn from statistics and the ways in which questions were posed. Why, for example, are Catholics not considered a "strict" church that makes demands of members? Why is belief in miraculous physical healing considered mystical and not paranormal? Some will say that snarky snipes (calling other researchers "careless" and disparaging National Public Radio) have no place in data-driven sociology; others will relish a statistics-slinging fight among academics. Regardless, all who find in statistics precise food for thought, as well as articles, more surveys and books, owe Stark and his colleagues at Baylor gratitude. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602581784
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press
  • Publication date: 9/19/2008
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Rodney Stark (Ph.D. University of California, Berkley) is Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. Co-Director of the Institute of Studies of Religion, Stark is also widely published. His publications include Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief (2007), Cities of God: The Real Story of How Christianity Became an Urban Movement and Conquered Rome (2006), and The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (2005).

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Stability and Diversity of American Faith 1

Part I Congregations

1 Church-going: Labels Matter 17

2 Church Growth: Competing for Members 21

3 Strict Churches: The Reasons for Their Popularity 29

4 The "Scattered" Church: Traditional Congregations Are Not Going Away 37

5 Megachurches: Supersizing the Faith 45

Part II Beliefs and Practices

6 Religious Experiences: God Told Me to Go to Church 55

7 Gender: Women Believe More, Pray More 61

8 Heaven: We Are All Going 69

9 God: Love, Anger, and Commitment 75

10 Evil: Did Sin Cause the Hurricane? 79

11 Spirituality: Religion and Spirituality Are Not Mutually Exclusive 87

12 Giving: The Rich, the Poor, and the Widow's Mite 95

13 Personality: Are We Hardwired for God? 101

Part III Atheism and Irreligion

14 Atheism: The Godless Revolution That Never Happened 115

15 Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot? 125

16 New Age Adherents: Well-Educated, Formerly Irreligious Elites 133

17 The Irreligious: Simply Unchurched-Not Atheists 141

Part IV The Public Square

18 Faith and Politics: Is There a Secret Plot of Evangelicals to Take Over the American Government? 149

19 Merry Christmas, Jesus: It's Okay to Put Sacred Symbols in Public Space 159

20 Incivility: Talking about Faith in Public 163

21 Religious-Media Consumption: The Da Vinci Code Effect 167

22 Civic Participation: Faith as Social Capital 177

23 Going to College, Getting a Job: What Happens When Mom and Dad Take Their Kids to Church 183

Epilogue: Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) at Baylor 191

Notes 199

Contributors 209

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