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Religion in America

This course provides an introduction to the development, character, and impact of religion in the United States from the pre-colonial era to the present. Guiding our investigation will be the ideas of “contact,” “conflict” and “combination” as ways to characterize the American religious experience. Course readings and discussions will center on the relationship between religion and the development of American culture. We will explore the variety of religious traditions and experiences that have shaped and been shaped by the American context. Given the time constraints of a quarter the course cannot be exhaustive. Instead, we will examine representative episodes in American spiritual history that highlight larger themes and major turning points. The course will proceed in a chronological order. Among the topics covered are Native American traditions; colonial religious impulses; slavery; revivalism; spiritual creativity; religion and war; immigration; race; church and state; and modern religious pluralism.


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

James B. Bennett

Santa Clara University

Private College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, History

Indigenous, New Religious Movements
Religous Tradition

Immigration/Refugees, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars, Race/Ethnicity, Nationalism/War/Civil Religion

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