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Introduction to American Religion

What is American Religion? Does it make any sense to talk about American religion? What is American about American religion and what is religious about American religion? Religion in the United States is extremely vital and diverse. It has been throughout American history. It is also a very important part of contemporary American culture and politics. It is impossible in one term to hope to canvass the depth and variety of five centuries of American religion in a complete way. This course will instead introduce the student to religion in America through the consideration of three thematic approaches to a description of American religion as a whole. These thematic approaches cut across religious traditions and attempt to characterize some of the ways in which the extraordinary variety in the American religious imagination shares characteristics by virtue of its common environment and its common history. The three thematic descriptions of American religion that we will examine are Natural Religion, Denominational Religion, and Constitutional Religion. There are of course other themes that could be chosen and we will from time to time note those other themes as they touch on our work. The object of the course is to develop in the student a beginning competence in thinking, talking and writing about American religion.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

Washington and Lee University

Private College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Intro, Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies

General Comparative Traditions, Indigenous
Religous Tradition

Family/Children/Reproduction, Politics/Law/Government, Race/Ethnicity

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