The student will be able to:
1. Describe and analyze the spectrum of American religious culture
in its historic development.
2. Examine and evaluate the diverse racial and ethnic roots of
religious expression in America.
3. Track and analyze the impact of colonization on both the European
and the indigenous peoples and their religious expressions.
4. Describe and distinguish the impact of the institution
of slavery on both the Europeans and Africans in
America and on their religious expressions and
political and cultural development.
5. Describe and appraise the impact of Industrialization and
Immigration in non-Anglo Europeans and their religious
6. Distinguish and compare the leading and often contentious
intellectual and scientific claims behind emerging spiritual
7. Explain and appraise the interaction between religious communities
and secular political culture in America.
8. Identify and evaluate the major personalities and events which
shaped American religious discourse.
9. Examine and appraise the effect of religious enthusiasm in the
shaping of such American political discourse and institutions as
Abortion, Suffrage, Prohibition, Civil Rights, etc.
10. Describe and analyze the inherent tensions which give shape to
American religious discourse such as the Separation between Church
and State; Moral/religious values and personal liberty; Tradition
and Modernity; Personal Salvation and social activism, etc.
11. Distinguish and describe the diversity of religious expression in
America, probing the variety and rivalry if religious
denominations and the restless debates within denominations
which led to schism and proliferation in American
12. Compare and contrast the effect of such religious movements as
evangelical revival and milennialism on religious expression in
diverse ethnic and racial communities.
13. Discern and evaluate the emergence of new religions and new
religious expression in American society.
14. Describe and assess recurring liberal and conservative themes in
American religious discourse.
This course will seek 1) to identify and assess the impact of
Colonization on both the European and the indigenous peoples and their
religious expressions; i.e., Native Americans, Hawaiians; Puritans in New
England, Spanish in the South and Southwest; 2) to describe and analyze
the impact of the institution of slavery on both Europeans and Africans
in America and how it shaped their religious expressions, cultural and
political development; And 3) investigate and evaluate the impact of
Industrialization and Immigration on non- Anglo Europeans and their
religious expressions. This will include demonstrations of interaction
between varied ethnic and linguistic groups who colonized and immigrated
to America; showing the struggles within and between such groups as well
as with other non-Europeans, demonstrating the influence of national
identities and religion for each ethnic group and their common struggle
with assimilation and American identity and with all the issues of
The secondary and background theme of this course will be the charting
and study of the development of religion within the cultural and political
life of America in its historic setting. Attention will be given to the
dialogic interaction between diverse communities of traditional religious
belief and modernity in all its guises. Thus the course will investigate
how all religions, traditional and new, embraced, rejected, denied or
absorbed all the developments and challenges of modernity; notably the
Enlightenment, science, global exploration and colonial expansion, the
development of capitalism, the American Revolution, secularism,
industrialization and urbanization. The course will trace the national
commitment to religious freedom and personal liberty, and will trace
debates concerning issues of separation of church and state as they
evolved in litigations before the U. S. Supreme Court as well as in the
culture as a whole.
We will also survey the spontaneous growth and development of
peculiarly American religions and religious expressions within the
political environment of a secular state, with no established church. This
will allow for the exploration of the perennial and spasmodic popularity
of evangelicalism and millennialism as aspects of the national character
even as it crosses racial and cultural boundaries.
Texts and Course Structure Introduction:
1) The general outline of the course will follow the development of
various ethnic groups within historical settings and interactions, but
will also include a general introduction of shifting cosmic paradigms:
a)The Ptolemaic, geocentric universe of the European Christian Middle Ages
and Dante's cosmos.
b) The Copernican revolution and the Enlightenment: Galileo, Newton and
the birth of modern science.
c) The convergence of the Protestant Reformation and the values of the
Enlightenment with the secular needs of the rising capitalist state to
foster the ideas of religious liberty.
Ethnic and Historical Survey: The primary text for the course will present
a short history of religion in America as it was manifest in the following
2) Indian Religion: A survey of Native American cosmology, religion and
polity before, during and after the European conquest.
3) White Protestantism: A survey of consensus and conflict within the
communities of European Christian Protestants, showing how rivalries
within their diverse episcopal, congregational and Puritan communities
shaped the religious and political discourse of the emerging nation.
4) Black Religion: A survey of how the African slave populations took on
the mantle of Protestant (and later) evangelical Christianity and
transformed them into a unique American religious expression. An
investigation into the issue of race and slavery in the shaping of
religion and politics in America, especially as it affected the
5) Catholicism: A survey of the Roman Catholic experience in the United
States from its colonial beginnings under the French and the Spanish to
its later incarnation in the poor and peasant immigrations from Ireland,
Italy, Poland, Germany of the 19th and 20th centuries.
6) Judaism: A summary of the flight of European Jews to the New World
starting with the days of the Spanish Inquisition through the German
migrations of the 19th century and the later East European migrations; and
a survey of the variety of Jewish experience and religious expressions in
the American transition, also considering issues such as anti- Semitism,
debates over the rise of Zionism, the Holocaust, assimilation and renewal.
7) New American Religions: A second text for the course will allow for
closer study of the peculiar aspects of "American Religion," exploring the
elements of individualism, community, enthusiasm, evangelicalism,
spiritualism and millenarianism and the rise of peculiarly American
religions such as the Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witness and the
African American religion.
The two texts will be enhanced by a syllabus reader which will present
an anthology of original writings and speeches by the men and women who
helped shape the American discourse on religion. This will include the
secular and political leaders of the Enlightenment, most notably Thomas
Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, as well as pieces by
Cotton Mather, Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Jonathan Edwards, Julia
Ward Howe, Frederick Douglass, Mary Baker Eddy, Chief Red Jacket, Dwight
L. Moody, Isaac Mayer Wise, Reinhold Niebuhr, Abraham Joshua Heschel,
William Cardinal O'Connell, Malcom X and Martin Luther King, Jr. and
others. There will similarly be a catalogue of available videos and films
on relevant personalities and issues in American religious discourse. The
course will also allow for the periodic focus on one or more religious
communities such as the Baptists, the Mormons, the Afro-American church,
the Jews; or the influence of American religion on Native American,
Hawaiian and Asian communities.