The austere landscape of the Great Basin has inspired diverse responses from the people who have moved through or settled in it. Author Richard V. Francaviglia is interested in the connection between environment and spirituality in the Great Basin, for here, he says, "faith and landscape conspire to resurrect old myths and create new ones." As a geographer, Francaviglia knows that place means more than physical space. Human perceptions and interpretations are what give place its meaning. In Believing in Place, he examines the varying human perceptions of and relationships with the Great Basin landscape, from the region's Native American groups to contemporary tourists and politicians, to determine the spiritual issues that have shaped our connections with this place. In doing so, he considers the creation and flood myths of several cultures, the impact of the Judeo-Christian tradition and individualism, Native American animism and shamanist traditions, the Mormon landscape, the spiritual dimensions of gambling, the religious foundations of Cold War ideology, stories of UFOs and alien presence, and the convergence of science and spirituality.
Believing in Place is a profound and totally engaging reflection on the ways that human needs and spiritual traditions can shape our perceptions of the land. That the Great Basin has inspired such a complex variety of responses is partly due to its enigmatic vastness and isolation, partly to the remarkable range of peoples who have found themselves in the region. Using not only the materials of traditional geography but folklore, anthropology, Native American and Euro-American religion, contemporary politics, and New Age philosophies, Francaviglia has produced a fascinating and timely investigation of the role of human conceptions of place in that space we call the Great Basin.