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Religion in America

The primary goal of this course is to understand the principal expressions of American religion from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. We will examine the relationship between religion and society, and look intermittently at institutional change, but our primary focus will be on religious thought (theology). That is, we will try to comprehend how Americans have thought about God and the religious life. A secondary goal of this course is for students to begin to think as historians. That is, they should learn to regard primary texts both as interpretations and as documents requiring interpretation. They should learn to restrict their interpretations to what can be discerned from textual evidence, and to seek to place each text or passage within its contexts–social, intellectual, political and religious. We will study American religious traditions to an extent proportionate to their relative prominence in American history. That is, we will give the most time to Protestant Christian traditions and thinkers because that tradition has been the most dominant in American religious history. Less (but still substantial) time will be given to Roman Catholic, Jewish and Native American traditions.


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

Gerald McDermott

Roanoke College

Private College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies, History

General Comparative Traditions
Religous Tradition

Gender/Women/ Sexuality, Race/Ethnicity, Theology/Liturgy

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