Academic Programs 
      

American Religious History  (HI-571) 
Winter/Spring 2004

In God we trust.  If America is the most religious country in the world, how did we get that distinction? This course is designed to offer students a glimpse at the rich diversity of religious history of the United States.  The readings, lectures and virtual field trips will highlight major movements and religious figures that shaped the distinct forms of faith in our society.  We will explore the relationship between American culture and its religious life.  The course will pay particular attention to the impact religion has had on our nation's history and inversely how religious traditions have been shaped by their encounter with American culture.  After looking at the religious patterns within U.S. history, the course will end by speculating on future forms of American religion in the 21st Century.   
Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays from 4:30-6:50 p.m.
Scott Thumma
Professor of Web and Distance Education/Sociology of Religion.
 


Contact Information:

phone: 
(860) 509-9571
email:  sthumma@hartsem.edu
Dr. Thumma's web page

 

Course Syllabus
Class web site



In God we trust. If America is the most religious country in the world, how did we get that distinction?

This course is designed to offer students a glimpse at the rich diversity of religious history of the United States. The readings, lectures and virtual field trips will highlight major movements and religious figures that shaped the distinct forms of faith in our society. We will explore the relationship between American culture and its religious life.

The course will pay particular attention to the impact religion has had on our nation's history and inversely how religious traditions have been shaped by their encounter with American culture. After looking at the religious patterns within U.S. history, the course will end by speculating on future forms of American religion in the 21st Century.


Required:

Religion in American Life: A Short History
by Jon Butler, Grant Wacker, Randall Balmer   (BWB)

Critical Issues in American Religious History: A Reader
by Robert R. Mathisen   (M)

Strongly Recommended: 

The Churching of America, 1776-1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy by Roger Finke, Rodney Stark   (FS)

Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans
by Albert J. Raboteau    (R)

 

Aims of the Course:

1.   To learn the basic facts of American religious history.
2.   To understand the role religion has played, and continues to play, in the shaping of our country
3.   To explore the relationship between American culture and its religious life
4.   To examine in depth one historical religious event and its impact on contemporary society.
5.   To use our knowledge of the history of American religion to speculate on the future role of religion in the United States.

 

Course Requirements:

1.  Class presentation on religious historical period           25 percent
2.  Attendance and Class participation                             20 percent
3.  Bi-Weekly reading summaries posted to web site         25 percent
4.  15-page paper exploring one historical issue                30 percent         due 5/30

Further instruction on requirements will be given in class as the due dates approach.  The final paper should conform to the Seminarys General Guidelines for a Research Paper. 

Grading Scale (within letter grades there will be +s and s)

90-100%           A          
80-89%             B          
70-79%             C
below 70%        F


Historical research
project - Each student will choose a religious phenomenon or denominational tradition to focus on throughout the semester. Ideally, this will be a religious tradition that you have some association or affiliation with. During the appropriate week of class each student will gather information about this religious phenomenon or group for presentation to the class. The purpose of this presentation is twofold: 1) to uncover a primary source about this historical tradition, and 2) to introduce more information about the group to the class. The primary source might include church bulletins, confessional statements, published histories from the period, sermons, or other items that furnish information about the phenomenon.

Students will use this material, plus other sources to write a 15 page research paper on a topic related to this phenomenon or tradition and the place of this tradition in the contemporary religious context in the U.S.. Ideally, this topic will relate to larger events/issues in American religious life.  Please be prepared to sign up for a presentation topic by the second week of class and a preliminary idea of your final paper topic by mid-March.

 

Weekly Schedule of Topics and Readings

Note:  The specific Topics and Readings will be posted in the next week or two.  The majority of the readings for this course will come from the required and recommended texts for the course.  The topics will mostly be in chronological order. 

Jan 29: Introduction to course: A socio-historical perspective

Feb 5:  The Early History (Native Americans & the colonies of Spain and France)

Read:    BWB chapters 1, 2 & 5

            *M chapter 2

Feb 12: The Early History (The colonies of England)

Read:    BWB chapter 3 & 4

            *FS chapter 2

            *R chapter 1

Feb 19: 1740s to the 1770s - Revivalism and the Great Awakening

Read:    BWB chapter 6

            *M chapter 3

            *FS chapter 3

Feb 26: 1770s to 1800 - Founding of the Nation

Read:    BWB chapter 7

            *M chapter 4

            *R chapter 2

Mar 4: 1800 to the 1850s Religious Nation Building

Read:    BWB chapter 8-11

            *M chapter 5, 6, 7  selections

            *R chapter 3

March 11: 1850s to the 1880s Civil War and Reconstruction

Read:.   BWB chapter 12, 13

            *M chapter 7, 8 selections

            *R chapter 4

March 18: 1890s to the 1920s Liberalism & the Social Gospel

Read:    BWB chapters 14, 15, 16

            *M chapters 9, 10, 11 selections

            *FS chapter 4

March 25: 1890s to the 1920s Pentecostalism and the Fundamentals

Read:    BWB chapters 17, 18

            *M chapter 12

            *FS chapter 5

            *R chapter 5

April 1: 1920s to the 1950s  - The Creation of Religious Institutions

Read:    BWB chapters 19, 20

            *M chapter 13

            *FS chapter 6

April 15: 1950s to the 1960s - The Erosion of Religious Institutions

Read:    BWB chapters 21, 22

            *M chapter 14, 15 selections

            *FS chapter 7

            *R chapters 6, 7

April 22: The 1970s to 2000 A New Religious Landscape

Read:    BWB chapters 23, 24

            *M chapter 16

April 29: The Future of American Religion

Read:    Walking the Cyber labyrinth online at http://hirr.hartsem.edu/bookshelf/thumma_article1.html 

Final Paper is Due May 30, 2004

 

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