I am reading a LOT of stuff related to religion these days. This is partly a professional hazard, as I have started working for Muslim Public Service Network and also a personal quest to de-construct the manner in which religion is shaping public discourse in the US.
Religion has always fascinated me, partly because I grew up around so many religious people ( most were good examples of what religion can do to a human being), and I do consider myself a “practicing Muslim,” though some may say it is arguable.
I am amazed to see how religion is used ( but mostly mis-used) to shape political discourse here, much like in India. Another point of comparison between two democracies.
First things first, we must not forget that this is election year. This, like any other factor shapes the entire manner in which religion or the absence of it is used to shape debate around issues as diverse as contraception, healthcare and ofcourse the ability to govern a country.
The title of my blog post, however is borrowed from the title of a book that I just finished reading. “Between a Church and a hard place” is an intense book, which is also humorous in parts.
The author, Andrew Park draws on his struggle to come to terms with faith, having been raised as someone without faith. His parents brought him up so he would not be “indoctrinated” in religion, but his becoming a father changes him dramatically and he begins to question all aspects of life, including his faith or the lack thereof – and this quest for faith is what the book is about.
A well-researched book, peppered with tons of anecdotes and also research by experts who have studied religion and theology, the book has a few gems. This direct quote from American Sociological Review points towards a trend in American culture, which the books attempts to describe :” Nearly 40 percent of the people they polled said that athiests didnt share their “vision of American society”, and nearly half said they would disapprove if their child married an athiest”.
The book ends on a rather predictable ( and happy) note, where the author comes to terms with his faith, and even ends up asking his family to pray for his wife, who is a fellow non-believer.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking to understand the role of religion in an average American’s life.