LANDSCAPES OF THE SOUL: The Loss of Moral Meaning in American Life

Douglas V. Porpora, Author LANDSCAPES OF THE SOUL: The Loss of Moral Meaning in Americ $27.50 (368p) ISBN 978-0-19-513491-9

Drexel University's Porpora is troubled that Americans have lost "moral purpose." That's happened, he says, not because we are following the lead of an adulterous ex-president or because consumer capitalism cultivates greed rather than charity, but because we no longer have emotional relationships with God. A sociologist, Porpora conducted interviews with dozens of Americans of all religious stripes. Americans believe in God, he concludes, but our belief is a highly theoretical, ratiocinated one; we may check off "theist" on a questionnaire, but we don't feel very much about God. Porpora's research indicates that many people, for example, deny having any personal experience of the divine. (One wonders how many of America's millions of evangelicals—or Wiccans, for that matter—Porpora interviewed.) If only we would get emotional about our deity, he argues, the nation's moral fabric would be stronger. The book is a tad diffuse. Porpora's digression, for example, into what we can know about the historical Jesus is not quite on point. He also repeatedly asserts that the postmodern claim of the death of the individual self is untenable, but he doesn't adequately connect that argument with his larger thesis. Ultimately, the book fails to convince. Porpora asserts axiomatically that emotional connection to God is the sine qua non of leading a moral life, but he never proves the axiom. Still, the gauntlet has been thrown down, and this volume is sure to be a provocative conversation starter. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 06/01/2001
Genre: Religion
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