Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans

Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans

3.89 (47 ratings by Goodreads)
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In light of the curious compulsion to stress Protestant dominance in America's past, this book takes an unorthodox look at religious history in America. Rather than focusing on the usual "mainline" Protestant churches--Episcopal, Congregationalist, Methodist, Baptist, and Lutheran--Moore instead turns his attention to the equally important "outsiders" in the American religious experience and tests the realities of American religious pluralism against their history in Aamerica. Moore shows that, in spite of American ideals espousing religious tolerance, our nation has been surprisingly reluctant to accept the reality of religious pluralism and has viewed these outside groups with suspicion if not hostility. The book contains separate but interrelated chapters on seven influential groups of outsiders--the Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Christian Scientists, Millennialists, 20th-century Protestant Fundamentalists, and the black churches--and their contributions to American religion and society. Through these groups, Moore shows that what was going on in mainline churches may not have been the "normal" religious experience at all, and that many of these "outside" groups embodied values that were, in fact, quintessentially American. Moore finally suggests that America's religious system was in many ways designed to create cracks within the denominations and even to fuel antagonisms, and that people turned to the new religions for a sense of identity or to ease antagonisms and feelings of frustration.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 260 pages
  • 144.78 x 215.9 x 33.02mm | 498.95g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195036638
  • 9780195036633

Review Text

Moore (History/Cornell) takes an unorthodox look at USreligious history in this challenging work. Rejecting the long-held view that "mainline" Protestantism was the dominant force in forging this country's values, he turns his attention to seven influential religious groups: Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Christian Scientists, Millennialists, contemporary Protestant Fundamentalists and Black churches, in an attempt to discover in their "outsider" status quintessentially "American" traits. His arguments are cogent and convincing; his language stimulating and frequently wryly skeptical. In discussing the gradual soft-pedalling of the millennial predictions of such faiths as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, Moore points out that "The lamb-like beast of Revelation, which Adventists had linked to the United States, lost its dragon features and grew more to resemble the tame creature that followed Mary to school." It is in just such "adjustments" to the American experience that Moore finds the worth of these outsider sects. By first fostering in their members the conviction of "outsider" and therefore "chosen" status, these religions enabled their members to discover a sense of stability and value in an unstructured society. As adjustment was accomplished, the "Outsider" label was less and less frequently invoked, and, as Moore states, "Consensus as a myth became believable." The process continues today in the sects that find their followers among the young and the disenfranchised. Moore's seven essay-like chapters make their points effectively and the major themes linking them are always clearly explicated. His organization is admirable; his writing smooth and happily free of jargon. Useful for anyone with an interest in the ways in which American religious impulses expressed themselves and how the resulting sects affected the course of this country's progress. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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47 ratings
3.89 out of 5 stars
5 23% (11)
4 45% (21)
3 30% (14)
2 2% (1)
1 0% (0)
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