Public Release:  Finding the true meaning of religion in America

University of Akron sociologists write book on religious experience and benevolence

University of Akron

Akron, Ohio, Nov. 14, 2012 -- In a time when religion is at the root of much controversy, it often is difficult to uncover its true meaning. Different denominations offer their own definitions, bringing conflicting ideologies and beliefs into society. Is there a common ground underneath the differing values, beliefs, and laws? Two University of Akron researchers asked that very question and found interesting results.

Matthew Lee and Margaret Poloma, sociology professors at The University of Akron, have taken their findings and turned them into "The Heart of Religion: Spiritual Empowerment, Benevolence, and the Experience of God's Love." The book looks at religious experience and how that relates to the true heart of religion: love.

"What we studied is the heart of religion," says Poloma. "Sociology has studied the shell, but there is something that goes beyond and before institutions and practices. We believe that's religious experience."

Through 1,200 random surveys and 120 interviews, Lee and Poloma found that religious experiences influence the lives of individuals and have noticeable impacts on society. Their research showed that 81 percent of people have experienced God's love, which they then spread to the world."

This love provides the energy to do a great deal of benevolent work, for friends, family, community, and the broader world," says Lee.

This relentless commitment to others comes from experiencing the love of God, the authors say. After the experience, the individuals want to share that love and benevolence, even if there is a cost. They see what they do as part of God's plan and are able to persevere, despite setbacks and significant suffering, in their attempt to realize this plan.

The Heart of Religion will be available Dec. 1, 2012. For more information about the book or to purchase it, go to www.heartofreligion.net.

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