Pews, Prayers and Participation

Pews, Prayers and Participation

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Pews, Prayers and Participation

This book takes a fresh look at the question: does religion really matter in American public life? Drawing from both extensive public surveys and theoretical reflection, the authors argue that religion does indeed foster a sense of civic responsibility that shapes participation in a range of civic activities, including membership in groups, volunteering and philanthropic giving, the exercise of basic civic skills, and the exhibition of civic virtues. The study is unique in many ways, including its innovative definition of religious experience itself. Rather than examining a citizen's affiliation in a particular religious tradition, the authors focus on a citizen's level of participation in both public and private dimensions of religious life. This approach allows them to assess some key questions: Is a largely private experience of religion counterproductive to engagement in public life? Does the public experience of religion contribute anything distinctive to civic engagement? The analysis is also unique in the breadth and depth of information the authors investigated which includes nearly fifteen surveys gathered over the past two decades. In the end, the authors find that the role of religion in fostering civic responsibility is distinctive, consistent, and consequential over time, but is also remarkably complex and subject to privatizing pressures that lessen religion's public witness.


"Pews, Prayers, and Participation is a comprehensive, clear-headed analysis of the relationship between religion and civic responsibility. Drawing on findings from multiple data sources and examining several aspects of civic responsibility, this volume provides a welcome synthesis of knowledge on this complex subject."?Mark Chaves, professor of sociology, religion, and divinity, Duke University

"A distinguished team of scholars provides compelling evidence for the pivotal contribution of religion to American civic life. Especially striking is the finding that the nature of religious commitment determines the degree of faith's public impact. This will be a major reference work for years to come."?Allen Hertzke, professor of political science and director of religious studies, University of Oklahoma

"Most debates about the place of religion in politics ultimately boil down to the question of whether religious values can improve the quality of civil society. Asking such a question poses a daunting challenge, but armed with an impressive array of survey data, this team of authors is more than up to the task. Rich, complex, and relevant, this book will be of interest to all who wonder whether religion's role in public life actually makes a difference in the world."?Laura R. Olson, Clemson University

"Many have speculated, theorized, and argued about the role of religion in fostering a healthy civic culture. Is it a help or hindrance? Pews, Prayers, and Participation has what this debate has largely lacked?evidence. Anyone interested in religion in the public square should read this book."? David Campbell, John Cardinal O'Hara, CSC, associate professor of political science, University of Notre Dame

"This is a superb book. It not only summarizes the evidence concerning the myriad ways that religion matters to civic life. It suggests new methods for studying the subject and practical ways to support sacred places that serve civic purposes. Well done!"? John DiIulio Jr., Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion and Civic Society University of Pennsylvania



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