Robert Wuthnow is director of the Center for the Study of American Religion at Princeton University. He is the author of ten books including After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s. In this volume, he reports on his findings from interviews with over 200 individuals about their childhood experiences of the sacred. The point is to show how "effective religious socialization comes about through embedded practices; that is, through specific, deliberate religious activities that are firmly intertwined with the daily habits of family routines, of eating and sleeping, of having conversations, of adorning the spaces in which people live, of celebrating the holidays, and of being part of a community."
Christians and Jews recount their memories of family rituals, the use of sacred artifacts (e.g., lighting a vigil candle for the Virgin Mary), and going to services. Many recall experiences in congregations that were like extended families. Wuthnow concludes with commentary on how many believers now take responsibility for their spiritual development, devising their own regimen of devotion, worship, and service in the midst of their everyday activities. He sees a future where respect for religious pluralism will grow and interfaith dialogue will deepen.