Cover image for Growing up religious : christians and Jews and their journeys of faith
Growing up religious : christians and Jews and their journeys of faith
Wuthnow, Robert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Beacon Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
249 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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BL2525 .W865 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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How do Christian and Jewish Americans recall their religious upbringing and how does it affect their adult lives? Growing Up Religious offers a fascinating portrait of how Americans think about, reflect on, recapture, and reproduce the religious experiences of their childhoods. Exploring personal stories gathered in interviews with more than two hundred people from a variety of ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds, Robert Wuthnow discovers that what brings adults back to religious life often has less to do with religious institutions than with the way family and other relations formed around religious practice: memories of mothers, fathers, and neighbors whose everyday acts were imbued with religious meaning. We read about people like Bruce Gallahue, whose relationship to religion changed as he went from growing up in a mainline Protestant home, where his image of God was based on fear and strict rules, to an adult struggle as a recovering alcoholic, when he was able to receive comfort by returning to Protestantism with a new vision of God as compassionate and forgiving

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Princeton professor Wuthnow's latest study of American religion is an account of interviews with 200 respondents conducted over a three-year period. Subjects were chosen by a system of quotas rather than randomly because, Wuthnow notes, he "wanted to obtain information from a diverse group of people who had undergone relevant religious experiences while they were growing up." His interviews sample the American experience of "growing up religious" in a period of five decades cut from the middle of the 20th century, with particular emphasis on the 1950s. Wuthnow focuses in the final two chapters on the relationship between global and local experience and multiculturalism. The author breaks no new theoretical ground here, but readers will be interested in the interviewees' stories. Moving from family rituals to experiences of public worship, he emphasizes a spirituality that is at home between a homogeneous past and an anticipated diverse future. Wuthnow provides substantial documentation of religion's contribution to the American genius for living comfortably in contradictory worlds while constructing a consistently integrated culture. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This fascinating study, based on interviews with over 200 subjects covering a wide range of ethnic, age, social, and religious backgrounds, examines religious practice by contrasting experiences with religion throughout childhood with adult practice. Wuthnow (social sciences; director, Ctr. for the Study of American Religion, Princeton Univ.) brings his considerable scholarship to bear on a complex topic. Readers both religious and nonreligious will appreciate the readable and clear style of this study as well as the simple, but not simplistic, insights offered. As Wuthnow concludes, "Athough the details vary, the common dimension is that deliberate conversations with the past play a vital role in the hard work of spiritual development." Highly recommended for both general and specialized collections in public and academic libraries.‘Olga B. Wise, Compaq Computers Inc., Austin (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

An acquaintance once asked famed nuclear physicist I.I. Rabi about his religion. "Orthodox Jew," Rabi replied. "That is the church to which I do not go." But Wuthnow argues that Rabi and other Jews and Christians who were similarly raised in strong religious environments carry their religious landscapes with them throughout their lives. Wuthnow (Princeton) is among the top three sociologists of religion writing today; he bases this study on 200 extensive interviews, including several faiths but limited largely to the eastern part of the US. The Latter-day Saints--one of the nation's fastest-growing churches--seem to be missing; nor is there much from the western mountain region or California. Wuthnow concludes that family example (especially home rituals) and community involvement (rather than theology) form the keys to this world. The individual stories are interesting enough but the overall thesis is fascinating: people who grow up religious form a distinct American subculture, one that may transcend ethnicity and often, but not always, may lead to increased religious toleration. As the development of this world requires a heavy time commitment from grandparents and parents, he is not confident that it will extend much into the future. All readership levels; public and academic libraries. F. M. Szasz; University of New Mexico