Why Religion Is Good for American Democracy by Robert Wuthnow
Call Number: JK1726 .W87 2021
Publication Date: 2021-09-07
"This book addresses the question of whether, and if so how, religion benefits American democracy. Scholarly views about the answer are divided, as is public opinion. Some hold that religion is beneficial where democracy is concerned; others view it as detrimental; and still others take the middle view that there is "good religion" and "bad religion", and that it all depends on [which] kind is winning. As Robert Wuthnow argues in this new book, these ways of thinking about this topic paint with too broad a brush. Religion as we know it in the United States is vastly diverse, and it is this diversity that has mattered, and still matters. It has mattered not in the abstract, but concretely in the give and take that has mobilized faith communities to engage energetically in the pressing issues of the day -- an engagement that has often involved contesting the influence of other faith communities. Wuthnow's argument is that the deep diversity of religion in American has had, by & large, salutary political consequences. People of faith care about what happens in the country and are keen to mobilize to express their convictions and advocate for policy outcomes in line with their views. The diversity of religious groups in the U.S. contributes to democracy by reducing the chances of any one view becoming preeminent and by bringing innovative ideas to bear on public debate. The book shows empirically what diverse religious groups have done over the past century in advocating for particular democratic values. Individual chapters are case studies that explore important instances in which religious groups advocated against tyranny and on behalf of freedom of conscience; for freedom of assembly; in favor of human dignity; for citizenship rights in the case of immigrants; and for an amelioration of the wealth gap. Plenty of books have been written over the last few decades on religion and politics in the U.S. that have been salvos in the long-running American culture wars. Such books have often decried the involvement of religion in American politics, called for a firmer separation of church and state on the grounds that democracy is better when religion retreats, and criticized the Religious Right in particular. This book, by contrast, offers a more nuanced account of what diverse religious groups have done in the U.S. over the past century in advocating for particular democratic values"-- Provided by publisher."How the actions and advocacy of diverse religious communities in the United States have supported democracy's development during the past century. Does religion benefit democracy? Robert Wuthnow says yes. In Why Religion Is Good for American Democracy, Wuthnow makes his case by moving beyond the focus on unifying values or narratives about culture wars and elections. Rather, he demonstrates that the beneficial contributions of religion are best understood through the lens of religious diversity. The religious composition of the United States comprises many groups, organizations, and individuals that vigorously, and sometimes aggressively, contend for what they believe to be good and true. Unwelcome as this contention can be, it is rarely extremist, violent, or autocratic. Instead, it brings alternative and innovative perspectives to the table, forcing debates about what it means to be a democracy. Wuthnow shows how American religious diversity works by closely investigating religious advocacy spanning the past century: during the Great Depression, World War II, the civil rights movement, the debates about welfare reform, the recent struggles for immigrant rights and economic equality, and responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The engagement of religious groups in advocacy and counteradvocacy has sharpened arguments about authoritarianism, liberty of conscience, freedom of assembly, human dignity, citizens' rights, equality, and public health. Wuthnow hones in on key principles of democratic governance and provides a hopeful yet realistic appraisal of what religion can and cannot achieve. At a time when many observers believe American democracy to be in dire need of revitalization, Why Religion Is Good for American Democracy illustrates how religious groups have contributed to this end and how they might continue to do so despite the many challenges faced by the nation."-- Provided by publisher.