"For scholars new to the field, it is a crib sheet that concisely, accessibly explains the conversation they are joining in medias res. For others, it provides a larger framework within which to locate the more focused studies they are engaged in reading and writing about."
Wilson then discusses how scholars, since the early 1970s, have sought to ground their accounts of American religious trends and events in ways that either avoid or transcend references to Puritanism. The rise of comparative religious histories, Wilson notes, has been the welcome outcome. Moving into the present, Wilson explores a range of behaviors, if not beliefs, that might be understood as religious aspects of American life, and looks at how the spiritual or religious dimensions of American cultural life have been expressed in gnosticism, the mass media, and consumerism.
One commentator, Wilson notes, suggested that there are no longer any religions as such in America today, but only religious "brands." Wilson himself sees America as a place where there is room for Old World traditions and new spiritual initiatives, a modern nation remarkably hospitable to ancient preoccupations.
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