American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us has been named the Best Nonfiction Book by the Religion Communicators Council (RCC).
David Campbell, John Cardinal O’Hara, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Political Science at Notre Dame, and his co-author, Robert Putnam of Harvard University share this 2011 Wilbur Award for “excellence in the communication of religious issues, values, and themes in the secular media.” The RCC has presented these awards annually since 1949.
“Our intention was to write a book about religion in American society that was not polemical,” Campbell says, “but instead was a ‘just the facts’ examination of the ways religion influences the nation’s political and civic life. Surprisingly, such a book did not already exist.”
For American Grace, Campbell and Putnam created some of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted about this topic and then pulled the results together to describe and analyze America’s religious landscape.
“An in-depth study of religion in America is like turning on a fire hose,” Campbell says. “The sheer diversity of American religion makes for a dizzying array of religious practices, beliefs, denominations, and congregations. Our challenge was to find unifying themes to bring all of this disparate information together.”
One of their most interesting findings was that the third largest “religious” group in the United States is actually made up of the 17 percent of the population with no religious affiliation at all. They outnumber the longtime majority of mainline Protestants, who now make up only 14 percent of the population.
Among other results, Campbell and Putnam found that:
- Americans have begun switching their religion to match their politics—rather than the other way around.
- Most Americans (including secular Americans) believe that people who are personally religious are more trustworthy and make better leaders.
- Most Americans want religion kept out of direct involvement in politics, but they want religious leaders to speak out on matters of broad public concern.
- America has a high degree of inter-religious mingling or “bridging,” and most Americans, even the most devout, have intimate friends and loved ones of many different faiths and none.
“It is especially gratifying that this book award comes from the Religious Communicators Council, since it exemplifies the very theme of our book,” says Campbell. “_American Grace_ demonstrates the many ways Americans have adapted to the remarkable religious diversity found within our borders and shows that most of us have built bridges to people of faiths other than our own. The variety of faiths represented in the RCC perfectly illustrates those bridges.”
Campbell, who is founding director of the University’s Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy, focuses his research on religion, politics, and civic engagement. He is also the author of Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape our Civic Life, and editor of A Matter of Faith: Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election.