Saturday, January 12, 2013


National survey shows that most Americans experience God’s love and extend it to others.

What is the true heart of religion? If you could boil down all the precepts, spiritual laws, and values of religion today into a tasty, take-home nugget, what would you find? What would religion lived out in daily life actually look like? Two social scientists and a theologian have done extensive research to determine that, and their results are extremely revealing.

Co-authors Matthew T. Lee, Margaret M. Poloma, and Stephen G. Post have written The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God’s Love(December 2012, Oxford University Press), which explores the effects of the experience of love in the Christian tradition in America. They offer compelling examples of how receiving God’s love, loving God, and expressing this love to others has made a difference in the world and given a deeper significance to the lives of millions of Americans.

This new book is a fascinating narrative about how Americans “wake up” to the reality of divine love through an experience with God and then attempt to express his love to others through daily benevolent acts. The authors say, “That is the heart of religion . . . . Our aim was to investigate the relationship between spiritual empowerment, benevolence, and the experience of God’s love in America.”

The Heart of Religion is based on a national survey involving 1,200 randomly selected Americans regardless of religious background and extended interviews conducted by the authors with more than 120 Christians engaged in benevolence across America from all walks of life. According to the authors, “Encounters with God’s love are quite common in America. They can be transformative, both for individuals and their communities. At times the effects reverberate throughout the world. Our national survey reveals that eight out of ten Americans claim to have had such experiences, at least on occasion. Eighty-one percent (81%) of respondents acknowledged that they ‘experience God’s love as the greatest power in the universe’ and 83 percent said they ‘feel God’s love increasing their compassion for others.’”

The authors found that the interviewees are in touch with God’s sustaining love that revitalizes them when they feel like giving up and helps them see beyond their immediate circumstances. Their multifaceted relationship with God gives them a deep sense of peace, reduces worry and anxiety, fosters inner healing, produces confidence, sharpens discernment, increases energy for action, and helps distinguish ordinary “busyness” from real fruitfulness.

This study is distinctive. Whereas much public and private dialogue in America tends to focus on the “shell of religion” (beliefs/cognitions, denominations, social networks), this book focuses on love as the “heart of religion.” Based on equal measures of scholarly research and human insight, The Heart of Religion offers an unprecedented level of detail about the experience and expression of divine love.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN13: 9780199931880
ISBN10: 0199931887
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 320 pages
Publication Date: Dec 2012
List Price: $29.95

Buy from OUP
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Barnes & Noble

Also visit: 

Dr Matthew T. Lee
Dr. Margaret M. Poloma
Dr. Stephen G. Post 
ABOUT THE AUTHORSMatthew T. Lee is Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Akron. He is co-author, with Margaret Poloma, of A Sociological Study of the Great Commandment in Pentecostalism. Margaret M. Poloma is Research Professor of Sociology, University of Akron. She is the author of Main Street Mystics, among other books. Stephen G. Post is the President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (, the author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping, and a Professor of Medical Humanities at Stony Brook University.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from The B & B Media Group, Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment