Religion In America: Very Short Introduction by Thomas Beal

Religion in America- A Very Short Introduction

Religion in America: Very Short Introduction by Thomas Beal is a brief account of the American paradox of unity in diversity. The book takes the reader on a tour of over 50 different religious sites and places of worship in the short drive from the author’s home to his university.

Beal finds three factors that influenced the development of American religions: the dispossession of the Indians, the experience of fighting a Revolutionary War which had as one of its themes religious freedom, and the Revivalist movement in American religion which began before independence.

The book covers many aspects of religion in contemporary America that are typically ignored in other books on the subject, including religion in popular culture and counter-cultural groups, the growing phenomenon of “hybrid” religious identities, both individual and collective, the expanding numbers of new religious movements, or NRMs, in America, and interesting examples of “outsider religion.”

Beal also offers an engaging overview of the history of religion in America, from Native American traditions to the present day. Finally, Beal highlights the three major forces shaping the present and future of religion in America.

What I Liked

It’s a Very Short Introduction, so everything. It’s concise, well-sourced, readable, and useful.

What I Did Not Like

Nothing – VSIs are always worthwhile.

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