Exploring the diversity of American religions, this work examines the vast range of faiths, practices, figures and doctrines. From abortion and school prayer to capital punishment and astrology, these volumes cover culture, politics, legal issues and social movements.
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Macmillan has produced an excellent encyclopedia surveying the full spectrum of major religious traditions, leaders, controversial groups, ritual practices, and beliefs from a modern American perspective. Attention is given less to what the articulated official teachings and practices are and more to how those beliefs are popularly understood and lived. Here one can experience the phenomenon of contemporary American religion in all of its diversity from about 1965 to the present.
The project was supervised by Roof, professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who has written many acclaimed theological works, including Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion (Princeton, 1999). The title under review consists of more than 500 articles arranged in alphabetical order. Examples include Animal rights; Campus Crusade for Christ; Channeling; Farrakhan, Louis; Heaven's Gate; Posada, La (a feast celebrated by Latino Catholic communities in the nine days before Christmas); School prayer; and Zionism. Each article is concisely written and signed by a leading theologian, historian, or academic; a directory of contributors with name, affiliation, and submitted articles is included. Many of the articles contain salient bibliographies, which are useful for advanced research; and a substantial number of see also references facilitate browsing. The text is illustrated with 200 black-and-white photos. A helpful index is found in the second volume.
Contemporary American Religion is similar in content to some other notable works: Dictionary of Christianity in America (InterVarsity Press, 1990), The Encyclopedia of American Religious History [RBB Mr 1 96], and Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience [RBB My 15 88]. Because it primarily elaborates on popular religious history occurring after 1965, it complements the above-mentioned titles, which have a broader chronological range.
This resource will satisfy both the general reader and the researcher and is recommended for large public and academic-library reference collections.
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In the preface, Roof characterizes this two-volume work as "a lexicon of popular religious culture" in contemporary America that pays less attention to "official teachings and practices" than to how these beliefs are "popularly understood." More than 250 contributors offer 500 articles on diverse religious movements, beliefs, and practices in the United States. Roof (religious studies, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) assembles enlightening, entertaining entries for the browsing reader. For those seeking interfaith comparisons, however, the work has some drawbacks. Many articles focus almost exclusively on the Christian understanding of terms. For instance, the entry on "millennialism" deals only with its Christian context, largely ignoring its modern sociological use to describe any movement that expects the replacement of the current world system with a divine one. Given that the work aims to document popular understanding and that most Americans are still most familiar with Christian approaches, this may be a minor flaw. This work compares favorably with other encyclopedias on American religion, filling a slightly different niche. J. Gordon Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions (Gale, 1996. 5th ed.) and James R. Lewis's The Encyclopedia of cults, Sects, and New Religions (LJ 9/1/98) deal with major and obscure religions as well as new religious movements. Roof's, on the other hand, looks at popular spiritual expression and includes subject articles on concepts that cross religious boundaries, such as "Food" and "Healing." Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
William P. Collins, Library of Congress
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Macmillan Reference USA, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0028649281
Book Description Macmillan Library Reference, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: Brand New. 1st edition. 861 pages. 12.00x9.25x3.25 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 0028649281