Religion and American Cultures: An Encyclopedia of Traditions, Diversity, and Popular Expressions

Religion and American Cultures: An Encyclopedia of Traditions, Diversity, and Popular Expressions

English | 2003-08-26 | ISBN: 157607238X | 1046 pages | PDF | 14 mb

According to the foreword of this set, there is a movement in scholarship, begun in the 1970s with the works of Clifford Geertz, that advocates viewing religion as a cultural concept. Overall, the foreword continues, it has proven easier to view religions in distant places from this perspective, rather than the local American varieties. The intent of this encyclopedia seems to be to support this anthropological view of religions and to provide reference material on American religions as "forms of cultural expression."

Each of the three volumes has very different content, though all relate to the central focus. Volume 1 contains 13 long chapters on major divisions within American religion, whether defined by ethnic tradition ("African American Religions," "Asian American Religious Communities") or by belief system ("Catholicism in America," "Islam in America), with several distinct sections within each chapter. Each section, the work of an individual contributor, ends with see also references and a bibliography. While what has been chosen for inclusion seems appropriate and instructional, it is necessary to consider what has been left out. For example, "Protestantism in America" is merely 20 pages long and does little to define the differences, cultural or otherwise, separating the denominations. There is not even a word in this chapter on either the Amish or the Mennonites, each surely worthy of mention in any discussion of religion and culture.

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