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Religion in Contemporary America

This course is a study of the ways in which religion is understood and expressed in contemporary American society. More specifically, we shall focus upon the changing religious climate in the United States since the end of the Second World War. At least since 1920, the idea that America is–or ever has been–a “Christian nation” has become increasingly problematic. And while our coinage may remind us daily that “In God We Trust,” some Americans have rightly asked, “Whose God?” Is it the God of the Christians, or that of the Jews, or that of the growing number of Muslims, or perhaps one of the many deities of the Asian faiths or even of the Native American Indians? Is this God white, black, or red? Is God male or female? As Americans have become aware of the great ethnic, racial and spiritual diversity within this country, the reality of pluralism has challenged traditional understandings of religious freedom and American identity. People are rightly asking how religion relates to politics, education, and the great social issues of the day. Given these changes, what role can or should religion play in contemporary American society?


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

Lawrence W. Snyder

Western Kentucky University

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies

General Comparative Traditions
Religous Tradition

Politics/Law/Government, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars, Race/Ethnicity, Nationalism/War/Civil Religion

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