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The Heart of Religion


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements List of Tables and Figures Introduction Chapter 1: Why Should We Care about Godly Love? Chapter 2: Diversities in the Experience and Expression of Godly Love Chapter 3: Introducing the Exemplars of Godly Love Chapter 4: Partnering with the Divine: Spiritual Transformation and Godly Love Chapter 5: The Breath of Prayer: Energizing Godly Love Chapter 6: The Cup of Suffering and Joy: Divine Love and Healing Chapter 7: Human Partners and Godly Love: Relationships Forming Fluid Networks Chapter 8: Benevolence in the Eyes of the Beholder: Effects of Social Filters Conclusion: Cultural Grids and Biblical Holes Notes Index

About the Author

Matthew T. Lee is Professor and Chair of Sociology at the University of Akron. He is co-author, with Margaret Poloma, of A Sociological Study of the Great Commandment in Pentecostalism. Margaret M. Poloma is Research Professor of Sociology, University of Akron. She is the author of Main Street Mystics, among other books. Stephen G. Post is the President of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (, the author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping, and a Professor of Medical Humanities at Stony Brook University.


"This is an important and timely text...This is among the first studies to shed real light on the processes whereby powerful experiences of divine love engender efforts to foster a more socially just world. Accordingly, this book is likely to be of interest to anyone interested in how spirituality is impacting contemporary culture." --Sociology of Religion "The Heart of Religion is a compelling study of people who manifest the love of God they themselves have experienced, calling readers to a similarly full life 'thriving while serving others, loving as you have been loved, living a life of meaning.'" --PRISM "Lee, Poloma, and Post give an incisive analysis of what can be considered the core element of religious involvement: namely, love. Among the virtues of this volume are the national-level survey data and the qualitative data used to explore processes and experiences related to religiously inspired love. The Heart of Religion avoids simplistic portrayals of the subject by recognizing that godly love is often forged in the crucible of suffering, and that expressions of godly love vary across social contexts and life circumstances. This volume demonstrates that thoughtful scientific investigations can and must take seriously the dynamics and experiences that are central to religion. It will offer an important correction to a longstanding oversight in the social scientific study of religion."--John Bartkowski, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at San Antonio "God's love heals, energizes, and transforms. 'Super-charged' by divine love, people can accomplish great things. Blending sociological and spiritual perspectives, the authors provide powerful illustrations of how divine love leads people to respond to the needs of the world. In a world of hurt and brokenness, two themes especially stand out: (1) love transcends all of our differences, and (2) divine love makes it possible to love the unlovable. This is a book full of compelling and inspiring insights into the divine origins of the greatest commandment."--Robert A. Emmons, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology

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