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Authors Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell in Conversation with John Meacham

A conversation between D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, co-authors of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, and Jon Meacham, Pulitzer-Prize winning author

The Harvard Club, New York City
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unique among nations, America is deeply religious, religiously diverse, and remarkably tolerant. In recent decades the religious landscape has experienced three seismic shocks. The data show that the tempestuous sixties shook faith in religion and that the seventies and eighties incubated a strong resurgence of devotion. But the two most recent decades add another twist, as young Americans have abandoned the pews in record numbers. Still, despite recent erosion of religious commitment, Americans have high rates of religious belonging, behaving, and believing, and their dense web of personal ties bring a surprising interfaith tolerance.

Based on the recent Faith Matters surveys—the most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America—Putnam and Campbell examine the connections between religion and social capital and provide a dozen in-depth profiles of diverse congregations across the country, which illuminate how the trends they describe affect the lives of real Americans. They find that, despite the recent erosion of religious commitment, Americans remain a distinctively devout people.

Robert D. Putnam is the Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, visiting professor and director of the Manchester Graduate Summer Programme in Social Change at the University of Manchester (UK), and founder of the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America. He is the author or co-author of ten previous books translated into twenty languages, including the best-selling Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.



David E. Campbell is the John Cardinal O'Hara, CSC, associate professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life, which demonstrates how communities foster civic norms, and how civic norms adopted in adolescence can lead to a lifetime of civic engagement, the co-author of three other books, and has published many articles on education, politics, and religion.


Jon Meacham is the author of three New York Times bestsellers—American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation; Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship; and most recently, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. The former editor of Newsweek, he has written for the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times Book Review, and Washington Post Book World.

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