REL 241.001

American Religious History

T, R | 11:00-12:15

PRH 308

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On the surface, this course looks at religious themes and movements in American culture, including everything from indigenous traditions to contemporary movements we call “religious.” But beneath the surface, we will explore how history is produced and narrativized and to what social ends. Because classes just like this one have a huge role in shaping answers to those questions, we are going to read an older textbook (cheaper for you!) commonly used in courses like this. We will consider the author’s approach to telling the story of “religion in America” and think about how these types of books, these types of courses, and this type of discourse among the general public actually shapes the way we conceive of both “religion” and “America.” Along the way, you will have the opportunity to gain many new insights into the doctrinal and ritual dimensions of several cultural practices; however, the main point of the course is to figure out and articulate the assumptions, values, and goals that shape our thinking about America (and other stuff!).


Gaustad, Edwin and Leigh Schmidt.
The Religious History of America: The Heart of the American Story from Colonial Times to Today
New York: HarperOne, 2004

Books are available at the SUPe Store and online through vendors such as

Online Readings

Blackboard Other texts will be available through the Blackboard course site.