God and Mammon in America

Wuthnow, Robert. God and Mammon in America. New York: The Free Press, 1994.

Drawing on a national survey of more than 2,000 working Americans plus a set of in-depth interviews, the author explores how religious commitments connect -- or often fail to connect -- with people's work, money, and attitudes toward material possessions. He concludes that there is a stronger relationship between religious values and the pursuit of money than has been assumed, although this relationship does not necessarily curb American materialism. Indeed, the author argues that in many respects religious values support materialism both by increasing employees' satisfaction with their work and by helping to justify materially privileged lives. Wuthnow also found a strong ambivalence towards materialism, i.e., people simultaneously condemn materialism and manifest a desire for more money and goods. At the same time, Wuthnow uncovered a general desire for a more consistent and solid set of values, and he concludes by addressing both lay readers and religious leaders on ways to transcend the materialism that governs people's lives. (SM)