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Religion in American Culture

Americans frequently distinguish between being religious and belonging to a church or some other religious organization. In this course we will try to take this distinction seriously. If the religious expressions of the American people are not necessarily tied to the institutions which dot our landscape, then where ought we look in order to understand the role of religion in our culture? In what parts of our lives does religion crop up? What is religion anyway? We will focus our efforts on examining various features of American culture in order to trace the many different ways in which religious aspirations shape and reflect the changing nature of life in America.

While we will be somewhat attentive to the variety of religious groupings which have either migrated to or developed over time on American soil, our primary approach will not be historical. Instead our focus will be on those aspects of religion that are intertwined with other parts of American culture. We will attempt to provide a comparative and socio-cultural perspective on the forms of American religion and their role in American culture, as well as examine the sorts of religious interpretations which have been given to the American experience itself.


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

Matthew Glass

South Dakota State University

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies, History, Sociology

General Comparative Traditions
Religous Tradition

Popular Culture/Media/Music/Sports

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