The Divine Supermarket
Travels in Search of the Soul of America
This is an exploration of the influence of far-right preachers on the Reagan administration. In its analysis of the melting-pot of religious cults in America, the book covers high-mindedness and moral angst, sexual humbuggery and corruption. As the world's oldest secular state, America has proved uniquely adept at hatching new creeds and producing variations on more familiar themes from Latter-Day Saints to snake-handlers. Its citizens enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world and the country is undergoing a major religious revival. Fundamentalist groups in the South challenge the teaching of evolution in schools, television preachers such as Jerry Falwell are undermining the liberal reforms of postwar years, and cults such as the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh flourish. Part travel book, part history, part cultural analysis, this book follows Malise Ruthven from Puritan New England to the Reaganite right wing areas of the sun belt and middle America in what is intended to be a study of the soul of modern America. Malise Ruthven is also author of "Islam in the Modern World".
New & Used
Out of Stock
What Reviewers Are Saying
An entertaining and insightful tour of America's astonishing army of religious institutions, by British journalist Ruthven (now visiting professor of religious studies at Dartmouth). Ruthven's fascination with American religious fervor began in 1985, shortly after he published Islam in the World (not reviewed). Prodded by curiosity as to why 81% of adult Americans describe themselves as Christians, 38% claim to have been "born again," and 45% attend church regularly (according to a 1986 Gallup poll), as opposed to Britain's apathetic 14% of churchgoers, the professor outfitted a rattletrap recreational vehicle and set off across America. He traveled from the Puritans' landing site at Plymouth Rock to Mormon Salt Lake City, Utah, then on to the Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations in Idaho; Baghwan Shree Rashneesh's semi-deserted ashram in Oregon; the New Age cults of California; Jim and Tammy Bakker's Heritage, USA; a backwoods snake church in Poor Valley, Virg, and Thomas Merton's former monastery - subjecting each religious order (and, usually, its founder) to a surprisingly perceptive critical and historical analysis while fending off earnest Americans' inquiries as to his own born-again status. Comparing Protestant evangelism to Islam in its role as a socializing power independent from the state, he concludes that America's fascination with religion provides it with an outlet for its passion that might otherwise - as in Germany, China, and Iran - be used for less savory ends. A perceptive look at America's panoply of religious products - as well as the astonishing characters who create them. (Kirkus Reviews)