American Grace: How religion divides and unites America



18 April 2011

In recent years, the role of religion as lived in America today has fascinated outside observers from secular countries. The ongoing internal debate about religion, atheism and politics in America captivates our attention but how is America unusually religious, unusually diverse religiously, and yet unusually tolerant? In most countries, intense religiosity combined with stark religious differences equals wars, violence, and civil disorder. How come this has not happened in the US?

Leading US political scientist Robert Putnam draws on the two most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America (specially commissioned for his book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us with co-author David Campbell of Notre Dame University), and in a dozen in-depth portraits of diverse congregations he examines the complex interaction of religion and politics over the past half-century. He provides a balanced and considered counterweight to the polemical rhetoric of how religion both contributes to and detracts from the vibrancy and stability of American democracy.

Professor Putnam was a Visiting Professor at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Co-presented with Sydney Ideas at the University of Sydney.


  • Professor Robert Putnam
    Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

    Robert D. Putnam visited the US Studies Centre in 2011. Putnam is Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School at Harvard University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the British Academy, and past president of the American Political Science Association. Putnam is the author of fourteen books and co-founded the Saguaro Seminar, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners to develop actionable ideas for civic renewal.