Robert Wuthnow finds that those who are most involved in acts of compassion are no less individualistic than anyone else--and that those who are the most intensely individualistic are no less involved in caring for others.
Robert Wuthnow is Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.
Is all human behavior based on self-interest? Many social and biological theories would argue so, but such a perspective does not explain the many truly heroic acts committed by people willing to risk their lives to help others. In The Heart of Altruism, Kristen Renwick Monroe boldly lays the groundwork for a social theory receptive to altruism by examining the experiences described by altruists themselves: from Otto, a German businessman who rescued over a hundred Jews in Nazi Germany, to Lucille, a newspaper poetry editor, who, armed with her cane, saved a young girl who was being raped. Monroe's honest and moving interviews with these little-known heroes enable her to explore the causes of altruism and the differences between altruists and other people. By delineating an overarching perspective of humanity shared by altruists, Monroe demonstrates how social theories may begin to account for altruism and debunks the notions of scientific inevitability that stem from an overemphasis on self-interest.
As Monroe has discovered, the financial and religious backgrounds of altruists vary greatly--as do their views on issues such as welfare, civil rights, and morality. Altruists do, however, share a certain way of looking at the world: where the rest of us see a stranger, altruists see a fellow human being. It is this perspective that many social theories overlook. Monroe restores altruism to a general theory of ethical political behavior. She argues that to understand what makes one person act out of concern for others and not the self, we need to ask how that individual's perspective sets the range of options he or she finds available.
Since its initial publication in 1965, The Secular City has been hailed as a classic for its nuanced exploration of the relationships among the rise of urban civilization, the decline of hierarchical, institutional religion, and the place of the secular within society. Now, half a century later, this international best seller remains as relevant as when it first appeared. The book's arguments--that secularity has a positive effect on institutions, that the city can be a space where people of all faiths fulfill their potential, and that God is present in both the secular and formal religious realms--still resonate with readers of all backgrounds.
For this brand-new edition, Harvey Cox provides a substantial and updated introduction. He reflects on the book's initial stunning success in an age of political and religious upheaval and makes the case for its enduring relevance at a time when the debates that The Secular City helped ignite have caught fire once again.
Most Americans say they believe in God, and more than a third say they attend religious services every week. Yet studies show that people do not really go to church as often as they claim, and it is not always clear what they mean when they tell pollsters they believe in God or pray. American Religion presents the best and most up-to-date information about religious trends in the United States, in a succinct and accessible manner. This sourcebook provides essential information about key developments in American religion since 1972, and is the first major resource of its kind to appear in more than two decades.
Mark Chaves looks at trends in diversity, belief, involvement, congregational life, leadership, liberal Protestant decline, and polarization. He draws on two important surveys: the General Social Survey, an ongoing survey of Americans' changing attitudes and behaviors, begun in 1972; and the National Congregations Study, a survey of American religious congregations across the religious spectrum. Chaves finds that American religious life has seen much continuity in recent decades, but also much change. He challenges the popular notion that religion is witnessing a resurgence in the United States--in fact, traditional belief and practice is either stable or declining. Chaves examines why the decline in liberal Protestant denominations has been accompanied by the spread of liberal Protestant attitudes about religious and social tolerance, how confidence in religious institutions has declined more than confidence in secular institutions, and a host of other crucial trends.