This introductory chapter discusses the continuity in American religiosity between 1972 and 2008. Some might see American optimism reflected in the fact that more people believe in heaven than in hell. Others might see American individualism reflected in the fact that more people think that God is concerned about human beings personally than say that they know God exists, or in the fact that following one's conscience ranks higher than following the teachings of one's religion on the list of what it means to be a good Christian or Jew. The chapter emphasizes that these items all share the remarkable characteristic that none of them has changed much in recent decades. By world standards, Americans remain remarkably religious in both belief and practice.
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