Arendt on Eichmann
Faith Matters: A response to part of the 2006 survey and its presentation in American Grace

Religiosity in American Grace

I am nearing completion of Robert Putnam's American Grace, which has much to commend itself.  Religious leaders should read it  mainly for all the revealing data.

One objection I've had with the book is the way it measures "religiosity."  The standard it chose was saying grace daily before meals.  The reason I find this an odd choice is that I believe it selects out certain more pietistic forms of religion.  I know many deeply religious people who don't say grace before meals every day, but live out their religious faith with a host of other religious factors.  I'm not sure what criteria they could have chosen, but I do think it colors their data, in that throughout people high religiosity appear more conservative, less tolerant, etc.

One thing that does reveal the inadequacy of their measurement is when they discuss volunteering.  People with higher religiosity volunteer more.  They then remark that it is surprising that liberal mainline Protestants volunteer to a higher degree than their religiosity.  No, I think that for many liberal mainline Protestants their volunteering would be one of the core spiritual practices evidencing their "religiosity."


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Robert D. Putnam

Thanks for your comments on our book. You might want to re-read the first chapter of American Grace, in which we describe exactly how we measure "religiosity." We rely on an index based six different measures (church attendance, belief in God, importance of religion in ones daily life, frequency of prayer, and so on), but the list does NOT include saying grace. We do mention the frequency of saying grace as one symptom of religious fervor, but it is not part of how we define religosity. Many mainline (or "liberal") protestants are highly religious by our measure of religiosity, as our book shows.

Bob Putnam


Thanks for the clarification. I returned to the section which had begun to annoy me, in the chapter on politics, and realize that I had skimmed past a parentheses. The grace-saying is correlated with conservative politics, which seems obvious to me. But is discussed there also as a measure of religiosity. But, I missed the clarification there that grace-saying is not part of the larger measure of religiosity. Page. 371.

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