Landscapes of the Soul: The Loss of Moral Meaning in American Life

Paperback | December 17, 2003

byDouglas V. Porpora

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Do you believe in God? Nine out of ten Americans unhesitatingly answer yes. But for Douglas Porpora, the real questions begin where pollsters leave off. What, he asks, does religious belief actually mean in our lives? Does it shape our identities and our actions? Or, despite our professionsof faith, are we morally adrift? Landscapes of the Soul paints a disturbing picture of American spiritual life. In his search for answers to his questions, Porpora interviewed clerks and executives, Jews, evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, and even followers of Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh. He asked them about God, and aboutwhat they saw as their own place in the universe. What he found was a widespread inability to articulate any grand meaning of life. We lack heroes to inspire us. We lack a sense of calling, of transcendent purpose in our existence. Many of us seem incapable of caring deeply about the suffering ofothers. Our society is permeated with moral indifference. Yes, we are a believing people, but God is often a distant abstraction and rarely an emotional presence in our lives. Only such an emotional connection, Porpora argues, can be the basis of a genuine moral vision. Our emotional estrangement from God and the sacred keeps us from caring about social justice, keeps us from wanting to change the world, keeps us enclosed in our own private worlds. Landscapes of the Soul is a passionate call to broaden our spiritual and moral horizons, to raise our eyes to thegreater reality that unites us all.

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Do you believe in God? Nine out of ten Americans unhesitatingly answer yes. But for Douglas Porpora, the real questions begin where pollsters leave off. What, he asks, does religious belief actually mean in our lives? Does it shape our identities and our actions? Or, despite our professionsof faith, are we morally adrift? Landsc...

Douglas V. Porpora is chair of the Department of Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology at Drexel University. He is an active member of NETWORK, a national social justice lobby, and is the author of How Holocausts Happen: The United States in Central America. He lives with his wife in Philadelphia.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 5.59 × 8.82 × 0.79 inPublished:December 17, 2003Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195169441

ISBN - 13:9780195169447

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"Landscapes of the Soul updates and extends the work of Habits of the Heart. With rare lucidity, Porpora deftly interweaves his subjects' narratives with a realist theoretical analysis in an exceptionally readable book. He reveals the lunar landscape of the American soul, detached from thesacred, and shows poignantly that the profane offers no substitute. It condemns us to meaninglessness, to lives without ultimate concerns, passionate commitments or defining trajectories, lacking in heores and heroics alike. At most there remains a nostalgia for transcendence lost, which is tooenervated to transcend its condition. Without proselytizing, Porpora sensitively allows a diverse handful of souls to articulate pathways out of the profane."--Margaret S. Archer, author of Culture and Agency: The Place of Culture in Social Theory