Religious Studies 128
History of American Religions
Instructor: Dr. Briane Turley
Spring Semester, 2000
Th 6:00 p.m., 116, Woodburn Hall

Office: Woodburn G14; 293-4692
Office Hours: Thursday, 5 p.m. (and by appointment)
American Religion Home Page:
Arizona State/WVU List service: (You must activate an e-mail account)

German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once opined that "it has been granted to the Americans less than any other nation on earth to realize the visible unity of the church of God." What is religion's role and function for a society as religiously pluralistic as the United States? Bonhoeffer's striking observation reflects upon American expressions of the Christian tradition only. Yet a countless variety of other traditions can be found throughout the United States. Our survey of religion in America will address this question of pluralism vs. cultural identity by reference to the historical development of religion in the U.S. We will begin with a careful examination of the European religious traditions transplanted into the seventeenth-century American milieu. We will also investigate the development of traditions indigenous to the North American continent and examine the underlying American consciousness of "manifest destiny," "sacred space," and the pervading characterization of Americans as a "chosen people." 


Three Book Reviews (45%) Students will read all books listed below and provide a succinct and coherent analysis of their content along with an objective assessment of each book's significance for the study of American religion. The length of these evaluations should not exceed five double-spaced pages (1250 words). The Hudson-Corrigan text is required reading but is not assigned for review. Late papers are assessed a 10% per day reduction.

On-line Book Review (15%) Students will read Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason at and write an objective review following the guidelines found above. Late papers are assessed a 10% per day reduction.

Comprehensive Final examination (30%) will be administered on April 27 at 6:00 p.m.

Class participation (10%) Student attendance and participation is important to the success of any class. The instructor may add up to 10% to the student's final grade for solid attendance and active participation in discussions in class and on the course list service which will be linked with another American religion class at Arizona State University. The instructor will also subtract up to 10% of the student's grade for poor attendance and participation. The instructor will take regular attendance, and more than one unexcused absence will affect the student's participation grade by 5% per absence. If a student must miss class for a valid reason he or she must contact me before the missed class to receive an excused absence. Excused absences normally involve documented medical emergencies, death in the immediate family, unavoidable government obligation such as military service or jury duty, and a university-sponsored activity that requires the student's participation in an athletic event.

When grading reviews and evaluations, the instructor will pay particular attention to the topical content of the paper along with the conventions of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the rhetorical devices of style and logic. Assessment of the student's writing is based on the Chicago Manual of Style, and grading will follow the criteria established by the University's English 1 program. Students may also wish to consult William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1979. For your convenience, an electronic version of Elements of Style is available at .


1) Winthrop S. Hudson and John Corrigan, Religion in America, 6th edition, 1998.

2) Charles Sheldon, In His Steps (any edition).

3) Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem.

4) Malcolm X with Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

5) Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason, Available online at 

Other selected primary source materials will appear as hypertext links on the online course syllabus. Students who have not yet activated their University accounts must do so at their earliest convenience. Selected readings are appended as hypertext links to the online version of this syllabus. Please note that the final exam study guide will be available from the course Web site and will not be distributed in class.

Disability Issues

Please see the instructor immediately if you have a disability that may interfere with your enjoyment or performance in this course. The instructor welcomes individuals with disabilities in his classes and will respond quickly to accommodation issues whenever possible.

Academic Misconduct

Students should be familiar with the WVU statement on Academic Integrity/Dishonesty published in the undergraduate catalog. In keeping with University policy, Plagiarism, cheating on exams, submitting another person's work as your own and all other behaviors defined as academic dishonesty will be referred to the Dean of Arts and Sciences office and to the Dean of the college in which the student is enrolled. If a student is found to be guilty of misconduct, the penalty involves the assignment of an unforgivable F for this course and could, at the Dean's discretion, include even more severe penalties.

Course Outline:

1/13 Introduction and course overview

European heritage.

1/20 British and American Puritanism. Puritan Readings.

The Southern and Middle Colonies. Corrigan Chs 1-2.

1/27 The Pietists.

The Great Awakening. Corrigan Ch 3.

2/3 The American Enlightenment. The Jefferson Bible.

Denominationalism and the Millennial Hope.

2/10 Catholic immigration After 1820. Corrigan Ch 10. **The Age of Reason due.**

American Catholicism in the twentieth Century

2/17 Women Preachers, Revivalism, and Reform.

The Utopian Quest. Corrigan Ch 8.

2/24 Guest Lecturer: John Corrigan: AReligion and Emotion on the American Frontier@

**Madonna of 115th Street due**

3/2 Religion as Liberation: Black Religion in the Old South.

Black American Religions. Corrigan 338-41.

3/9 In His Steps and other Liberal Expressions.

"The Day of Brotherhood:" American Social Gospel. Corrigan Ch 11.

3/16 Christian Reform and the Expanded Role of Women

Judaism in America. **Malcolm X Due*

3/23 The Fundamentals.

Mind Cure. Corrigan 271-75.

3/30 Spring Break

4/6 Contested Ground: Christianity in the Upper Monongalia Valley, 1909-1929

**In His Steps Due**

4/13 The Vision Shattered?: Religion in the Sixties.

The Origins of the Religious Right

4/20 Conflict and Consensus: Alternatives to the American Mainstream.

4/27 Final Examination