God Bless America

Let’s set the scene.

It’s about 4:30pm in mid-October. I’m on the couch checking my e-mail and IM’ing friends. Blacklight has finally lurched out of the bedroom and into the living room so I don’t even have to ask if it’s a high pain day. Every day is a high pain day for Blacklight. Reaching for his sweatshirt, which is flung over a chair, he notices a stack of library books on the dining room table and starts poking around to see what I checked out. Then he holds up one book, looking puzzled.

God Bless America?  Is this about crazy Tea Party Republicans or something?”

“What? No. It’s the book Dr Karen from Monster Talk wrote about different religions in America. Do you want me to make your nasty eggy sandwich now or after you’ve gotten pretty?”

Now even though I’m a well-read adult (Blacklight: “But you refuse to read Richard Dawkins…” Me: <gives death glare>), there are gaps in my knowledge of the religious world. I did get baptized, made my First Communion and was confirmed in the Catholic Church but was because it was my parents choice and even then I grew up in the laxest of Catholic households. I have picked up things here and there but there are still things I can’t wrap my head around when it comes to the different religions and their beliefs. But religion doesn’t interest me enough to make a deep study of it like my father-in-law. What I need? Something to give me the basic facts so I don’t ask my Mennonites, New Age and Christian friends ignorant questions.

Luckily a person like me can turn to Karen Stollznow’s God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States.  Yes, that title is certainly a mouthful. But the book itself is easily digestible with chapters covering everything from Fundamentalist Mormons, Amish and Mennonites, New Agers, Satanists, Quakers and more. Each chapter blends a history/breakdown of said religion’s beliefs and experiences Karen Stollznow and her husband Matthew had in interactions with the believers. There is a part in Signs, Wonders and Miracles chapter (about Charismatics and Pentecostals) that had me darting into the living room and re-enacting Matthew’s session with the Charismatic “healers” complete with a stuffed cat filling in for Matthew.

Thanks to God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States, I now know what an Anabaptist is and sorry Conradin from Saki’s excellent and chilling short story “Sredni Vashtar”, an Anabaptist isn’t as thrilling and wicked as it sounds. I’ve also found out the differences between Amish and Mennonites. No stupid questions about why some Mennonites use computers and others doesn’t from me! <cue my Mennonite friends sighing in relief>

Would I recommend God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States? Certainly! God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States isn’t Religions for Dummies. And it’s not a skeptic and her fellow skeptic spouse bashing every religion they encounter. The author’s willingness to explore the different religions even if she might find them or some of their practices silly or foolish or unbelievable is admirable. What God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States is a concise and well research look at various religions and beliefs that many people might not know about or only think the wildest and most crazy ideas about. It doesn’t talk down to the reader. You might not agree with each religion or it’s beliefs after learning more about them but you will come away with a better understanding of each religion and be more informed when you encounter it in the future.

Would I recommend God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States? Certainly!

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