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Religion in America

Is the United States a Christian nation or the most religious diverse country in the world? Does the story of religion in America begin in 1492, 1619, or 1776? What does “religious freedom” mean in society built on slavery and settler colonialism? And why do these questions matter? Students will engage each of these questions and more as they are introduced to religion in the 4 Americas broadly and in the United States in particular. The course will situate religion in America in its historical and cultural context. It will also unearths our assumptions about what “religion” and “America” are in the first place. In addition, students will debate contemporary issues at the intersection of religion, race, and politics in America. Topics explored include the convergence of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans in the context of Christian empires; Jews, Catholics, and African Americans negotiating religious freedom in the nascent U.S. nation; as well as the ways Asian, African, and American im/migrants changed the religious landscape in the 20th and 21st centuries. Oh, and we’ll listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton and debate Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations” while we’re at it.


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

Matthew J. Cressler

College of Charleston

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies

General Comparative Traditions
Religous Tradition

Class/Power, Politics/Law/Government, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars, Race/Ethnicity

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