American Religious History ONLINE.  Department of History at WVU


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WVU Department of History

American Religious Experience

Journal of Southern Religion

Instructor: Briane Turley, Ph.D.
Fall Semester, 2003

Office: 402 White Hall
On-line Office Hours: (by appointment).
Office Hours are arranged as either a text-based chat using the course WebCT system or audio chat using AOL Instant Messenger.

Image of US Map with symbols of several religious tradtionsGerman theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once remarked 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 Native-American religion and the European religious traditions transplanted into the sixteenth- and 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 review responses (30%) Students will read all books listed below and respond to a short series of questions that demonstrate the their familiarity with the primary themes of the books and their ability to assess each book's significance for the study of American religion. The Hudson-Corrigan text is required reading but is not assigned for review. Since there are four required books in addition to the Hudson-Corrigan text, students may select one book that they need not review.

When grading book reviews, the instructor will pay attention to the topical content of the paper and will also evaluate grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the rhetorical devices of style and logic. 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

Quizzes (30%) Students complete five of six objective on-line quizzes. If you elect to take all six quizzes, the instructor will drop the lowest grade. Quizzes may be taken at any time before the deadline. However, if a student fails to take the quiz by the scheduled deadline, it will no longer be available at the WebCT site, and the student will receive a zero for that quiz.

Comprehensive Final examination (25%) will be made available during the week of December 7-13. You may take the exam at any time during the week, but once you begin you must complete it within 3 hours.


Web-Based Term Paper (30%) Students may opt out of the final examination by submitting a web project to be publisheded at the American Religious Experience Student Center Site. As an incentive, the term paper carries a potential 5% extra-credit component. If you choose this option, you must inform the instructor by e-mail before October 15. In addition, students must inform the instructor of the topic of their web project on or before October 31. Web projects must be submitted on or before December 10.

Class participation (15%) Student attendance (even virtual attendence) and participation is important to the success of any class. Active participation in the course discussion area will count 15% toward the final grade. Each student must post at least 25 messages to the course discussion string before the end of the semester. Messages are evaluated based on content quality, so they should reflect familiarity with lecture material and/or the readings. Please note that like many of our students, the instructor work other full-time jobs. Consequently, response to e-mail queries may be slow at times. The instructor will respond to e-mails only in the evening and Saturdays.

Tardy work A largely "asynchronous", seminar-level course, American Religious History on-line provides students with significant flexibility with assignment completions. Assingment will be posted and made available for several days, and students may elect the time most convenient for them to complete each one within the scheduled time window. Only under the most rigorous circumstances may a student obtain permission to submit late work. Such circumstances might include a medical emergency attested to by a medical doctor or a documentable death in the student's immediate family.

Course readings are available on-line at and Barnes and Noble. Some may also be obtained at reasonable cost through discount book sites such as Add All

1) Winthrop S. Hudson and John Corrigan, Religion in America, 6th edition, 1998.
2) Joel W. Martin,
The Land Looks after Us: A History of Native American Religion.
3) Abraham Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky (any edition).
4) Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem.
5) Andrew Manis, A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, 1999

Other selected primary source materials will appear as hypertext links at 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 midterm and final exam study guides will be available from the course Web site and will not be distributed in class.

Disability Issues
Please contact the instructor immediately if you have a disability that may interfere with your enjoyment or performance in this web-based course. The student should also make appropriated arrangements with Disability Services at (304) 293-6700. The instructor welcomes individuals with disabilities in his classes and will respond quickly to accommodation issues whenever possible. Students requiring assistance with assistive technology devices should contact the instructor.

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 and quizzes, 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.

The course modules may be viewed by logging in at the
WebCT site.

Course Schedule


Module Titles/Assignments

August 23 Course/Web CT Introductions. Use this week to review the Course site and become familiar with it
August 30 Introduction to European Religions
September 6 Puritanism in America
Regionalism and Religion in America

Take Quiz #1

September 13 Pietism
The Great Awakening
September 20 The Impact of Enlightenment in American Religion
Denominationalism and The Millennial Hope

Take Quiz #2

September 27 Second Great Awakening
The Utopian Quest
October 4 Anti-Slavery Sentiment
Revivalism and Reform

Native American Religion review is due

Take Quiz #3

October 11 Catholic Immigration
Religion as Liberation
October 18 Christian Liberalism
The Social Gospel

Take Quiz #4

October 25 Mind Cure: Escape from Industrialization
Adventism and Fundamentalism

Rise of David Levinsky review is due

November 1 American Catholic Church in the 20th Century
Judaism in the U.S. (View "Righteous Remnant" video)

Take Quiz #5

November 8 The Sixties
New American Cults

The Madonna of 115th Street review is due

November 15 African-American Religion After the Civil War

Take Quiz #6

November 21 Religions of the New Age
View "Jolo Serpent Handlers" video
November 22-30

Thanksgiving Break

December 5- December 7-12

A Fire You Can't Put Out review is due December 5.

By Friday, December 12, 11:45 p.m., you must complete the final examination. Submission of optional term paper is due by evening of December 10.

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