Religions of America
This fascinating new book reflects the results of the turmoil and change in the religions of America since Leo Rosten first wrote about them.
The first section consists of nineteen articles by distinguished men, each one a recognized authority on the creed for which he speaks, setting forth the clear and candid stories of our own faiths and those of our neighbors. All religions are covered, from the major established groups to the "charismatic" cults. There are also chapters about the agnostic, the non-churchgoer and what he believes, and the scientist. A multitude of questions are raised and answered, such as: What percent of ministers profess they no longer believe in God? In which leading church can homosexuals be married? How many priests condone birth control devices? Abortions? Which faiths feel what way about intermarriage? Divorce? Have churches that participated in social activism in the 1960s gained or lost in their membership and their finances? Have the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches significantly changed their 400-year-old schism?
Part Two is the Almanac, a massive compendium that is more complete and far-ranging than any other existing one, with the statistics, public opinion polls, basic documents, sociological résumés and psychological analyses of the role, conflicts, influences and trends that characterize religion in the United States today. These basic authoritative facts and figures are accompanied by the author's own essays and comments on material that is rarely subjected to critical examination. There is also a Glossary of religious terminology.
Those familiar with Leo Rosten's A Guide to the Religions of America (1955) and his Religions in America (1963) need not be told of the extraordinary reception both volumes received from the reviewers and the public. They were acclaimed by theologians of all faiths. Each book sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But this new Religions of America renders those two volumes entirely out of date. There is no other book even remotely comparable to it.
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Originally a series of article in Look Magazine, this book came to me along with the rest of my grandfather’s library after he died. It is divided into two main parts. The first twenty chapters are articles written by leaders of various main religious groups in the United States, including Baptists, Catholics, Christian Scientists, Congregationalists, Disciples of Christ, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Lutherans, Methodists, Mormons, Presbyterians, Protestants (in general), Quakers, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Unitarians, along with chapters on “What Is an Agnostic,” whether a scientist can believe in God (the scientist who wrote the article said, “Yes,” but his answers make it quite plain that he is a modernist), and the 66 million Americans who do not belong to any church.
These articles explain the “Religious Beliefs” of these different groups, allowing each group to describe itself. A number of questions are raised and answered, such as sin, salvation, the Trinity, the virgin birth, worship, heaven and hell, divorce, and birth control, among others. Part Two is an almanac of religion in our nation, with statistics about church membership, American clergy, religious education, religion in American history, and the role of religion in contemporary American life. There is also a list of selected resources and reference aids. The book was last updated in 1975. For example, the original text of “What Is a Baptist?” was written by the late William B. Lipphard. Many new answers (to new or old questions) have been supplied for the revised edition by Dr. Frank A. Sharp. One of the complaints that some have about this book is that much of the information is outdated. Of course the statistics have changed, and denominations do sometimes alter their beliefs, but the vast majority of the information is still valid. Besides, if any further revisions are to be made, Leo Rosten won’t be able to make them because he died in 1997.
Another complaint is that the information about the different denominational beliefs is far too short and not detailed enough. However, it is not intended to give a complete doctrinal survey, but simply a general overview. Still others objected to the fact that it left out a lot of religions, especially Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, but it does have the main ones historically related to this nation. I have used this book often in sermons and classes to identify the beliefs of the different groups. For example, the Congregationalist representative in answering the question “Do Congregational Christians believe in the virgin birth?” responded, “Probably the majority do not….The fact of Christ, and not the manner in which he was born, is held to be of dominant importance.” Of course, if we can’t trust what the Bible says about the virgin birth of Christ, how can we trust anything that it says about Christ—or any other subject for that matter? This book has a lot of valuable material for anyone who is interested in or studying about the historic role of religion in America
WHAT IS A METHODIST?
WHAT IS A MORMON?
WHAT IS A PRESBYTERIAN?
WHAT IS A QUAKER?
WHAT IS A SEVENTHDAY ADVENTIST?
WHAT IS A UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST?
WHAT IS THE UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST?
WHAT IS AN AGNOSTIC?
DENOMINATIONS AND THEIR FAMILY
DIVORCE AND RELIGION
EDUCATION IN RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS IN
FEDERAL AID TO EDUCATION
THE RELIGION OF A SCIENTIST
PART TWO ALMANAC
THE GROWTH OR DECLINE
V BELIEF IN GOD
BIBLE READING IN THE UNITED STATES
BLACK AMERICANS AND THE CHURCHES
FACTS OPINIONS TRENDS
CHURCH ATTENDANCE IN THE UNITED