High on God How Megachurches Won the Heart of America

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2020-02-11
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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"God is like a drug, a high, [I] can't wait for the next hit." This direct quote from a megachurch member speaking about his experience of God might be dismissed as some sort of spiritually-induced drug riff. However, according to the research in this book, it was not only sincere, but a deeply felt, and sought-after sensibility. Megachurch attendees desire this first-hand experience of God, and many report finding it in their congregations. The book focuses on the emotional, social and religious dynamics that pull thousands of people into megachurches and how those churches make some feel like they are "high on God" and can't wait to get their next spiritual "hit."

High on God gives the first robust and plausible explanation for why megachurches have conquered the churchgoing market of America. Without condescension or exaggeration, the authors show the genius of megachurches: the power of charisma, the design of facilities, the training of leaders, the emotional dynamics, and the strategies that bring people together and lead them to serve and help others. Using Emile Durkheim's concept of homo duplex, the authors plot the strategies that megachurches employ to satisfy the core human craving for personal meaning and social integration, as well as personal identity and communal solidarity. The authors also show how these churches can go wrong, sometimes tragically so. But they argue that, for the most part, megachurches help their attendees find themselves through bonding with and serving others.

Author Biography

James K. Wellman Jr. is Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion Program in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Wellman's publications include an award-winning book, The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism and Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest; edited volumes: Belief and Bloodshed: Religion and Violence Across Time and Tradition, and Religion and Human Security: A Global Perspective.
Katie E. Corcoran is Assistant Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. Her areas of expertise are in religion, organizations, emotion, criminology, and social networks. Corcoran has published articles in Social Forces, Sociological Forum, Social Currents, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Sociology of Religion, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Social Science History, Sociological Inquiry, and Rationality & Society. She co-authored the book Religious Hostility: A Global Assessment of Hatred and Terror with Rodney Stark.
Kate J. Stockly is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program in Religion at Boston University. Her work focuses on ritual theory; the social, cognitive and affective neuroscience of religion; emotion and religion; American religion; the scientific study of religion; feminist theory; new materialism; and women's and gender studies in religion. She is a Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Mind and Culture in Boston, where she researches cross-cultural sex differences in religion and the contemporary use of brain-based technologies for spiritual enhancement.

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