Cover image for Religion and American cultures : an encyclopedia of traditions, diversity, and popular expressions
Religion and American cultures : an encyclopedia of traditions, diversity, and popular expressions
Laderman, Gary, 1962-
Physical Description:
3 volumes (1046 pages) : illustrations ; 29 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL2525 .R448 2003 V. 1 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ
BL2525 .R448 2003 V. 2 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ
BL2525 .R448 2003 V. 3 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize Non-Circ

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The only multicultural survey of established and "new" American religions, this exhaustive three-volume encyclopedia explores the fascinating interactions between religion and ethnicity, gender, regionalism, and popular culture.

* More than 120 essays covering virtually every religion in America

* An expert panel of editorial board members and contributors on every major religion in the United States

* Richly illustrated images depicting a wide range of religious figures and activities, as well as significant religious sites in the United States

* An entire volume of primary source documents illustrating the religious diversity in American culture, including Cecil B. DeMille's essay "The Screen as Religious Teacher" as well as more conventional materials on Christian Science, the New Age, and Buddhism

Author Notes

Gary Laderman is associate professor of American religious history and culture in the Department of Religion and American studies at Emory University, Atlanta, GA.

Luis León is visiting assistant professor in Latino studies and religious studies at University of California, Berkeley, CA.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

According to the foreword of this set, there is a movement in scholarship, begun in the 1970s with the works of Clifford Geertz, that advocates viewing religion as a cultural concept. Overall, the foreword continues, it has proven easier to view religions in distant places from this perspective, rather than the local American varieties. The intent of this encyclopedia seems to be to support this anthropological view of religions and to provide reference material on American religions as forms of cultural expression. Each of the three volumes has very different content, though all relate to the central focus. Volume 1 contains 13 long chapters on major divisions within American religion, whether defined by ethnic tradition (African American Religions, Asian American Religious Communities ) or by belief system (Catholicism in America, Islam in America), with several distinct sections within each chapter. Each section, the work of an individual contributor, ends with see also references and a bibliography. While what has been chosen for inclusion seems appropriate and instructional, it is necessary to consider what has been left out. For example, Protestantism in America is merely 20 pages long and does little to define the differences, cultural or otherwise, separating the denominations. There is not even a word in this chapter on either the Amish or the Mennonites, each surely worthy of mention in any discussion of religion and culture. The second volume covers concepts, again grouped into 13 chapters with several sections in each. Among chapter headings are Death, Popular Culture, Ritual and Performance, and Sexuality. While all are interesting, again one must wonder about what has been left out. The chapter Sacred Space has sections on cyberspace, Las Vegas, nature, shopping malls, shrines (including Niagara Falls and Graceland), and the suburban home, but a sociological and anthropological definition of sacred opens up many other possibilities. Volume 3 contains primary documents. Many of these are essential to such a collection, like the Maryland Toleration Act and Thoreau's A Plea for Captainohn Brown. With others, such as Eisenhower's Military-Industrial Complex Speech, the rationale is unclear. While this reference set has little competition from what currently exists, and though there is certainly a need and interest in the topic, this particular work does not provide the overall, balanced, cross-cultural information on American religion and culture that one would hope for. If academic and large public library budgets are sufficient, this could do until something better comes along. -- RBB Copyright 2004 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Each volume of this engrossing set has a different organization and focus. Volume one covers ethnic groupings and gives equal space to each of the major communities. Separate sections treat "New" and "New Age" traditions (Christian Science, Adventist, Mormon, and even Raelian and vampire culture are included, but surprisingly, Baha'i is not). Essays explore facets of each subject: the section on Judaism, for example, includes a general essay, followed by articles on the American synagogue, assimilation, Holocaust/Israel, Judaism/Jewishness, and politics. Coverage of African- and Asian-American, and Native American traditions is extensive as is the examination of "Islam in America," and Latino/Latina religious communities. Volume two organizes its articles under topics, e.g., "The Body," "Death," "Sexuality," and "Violence." The article "The Bible and Sodom in America," for instance, discusses competing scholarly views of the subject. Other articles cover abortion, masturbation, reproduction, sexual dissidence, and sexual identities. The final volume contains a wide-ranging and important selection of 75 primary texts; the introduction notes lacunae (especially Native and non-Judeo-Christian). The articles are lucid and accessible to nonspecialists. Throughout the first two volumes, black-and-white photographs with brief but informative captions draw readers to adjoining text. To meet the mandate to connect religion with cultures, writers examine film, Christian rock music, Sufism, piercing, Wicca, Swedenborg, technology, Santeria, Scientology, nature, shopping, Tupperware, baseball, and a host of fascinating mainstream and tangential phenomena. This set sheds welcome light on this absorbing, multifarious, and still vital area of American life.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Especially in recent decades, scholars across humanities and social science disciplines have approached American religious expression as observers of culture, focusing less frequently on idealized forms of doctrine and ritual and increasingly on particular manifestations of belief and practice. Mirroring this general method, this set fits between typical reference works on religion and culturally focused works of broader scope. The editors arrange nearly 200 original articles in two groups. Volume 1 covers specific religious and ethnic traditions, including not only the expected range of Protestant sects but various branches of Islam, Hinduism, Native American traditions, and others, and treats such newer developments as "Goddess Spirituality," the "Raelian Movement," and "Vampire Culture." Volume 2 deals with topics and trends in comparative religious perspective, emphasizing contemporary and popular culture aspects. A thematic group related to "Sacred Space," for example, contains articles on "Cyberspace," "Las Vegas," "Nature," "Shopping Malls," "Shrines," and "The Suburban Home." Together, the thematic articles sweep from the standard "Abortion" and "Civil Rights Movement" to "Tattooing" and "Christian Retailing." Signed, cross-referenced essays by about 150 noted academics contain bibliographies for further reading. A general bibliography and index are provided in the otherwise superfluous third volume, which supplies chronologically arranged primary texts and excerpts, most of which will be redundant for even basic collections and are copies of free online versions. Still, volumes 1-2 compare favorably to the only reference work to approximate their theoretical perspective, Contemporary American Religion (2v., CH, Jun'00). The present work differs sufficiently in scope, particularly in its greater emphases on history and popular culture, to persuade libraries to own both. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All collections. D. Orcutt North Carolina State University