My “American Religious History” Exam List

Continuing where I left off on Friday, here’s the second of four exam lists. I think it’s important we help each other out with these sorts of things so that our doctoral programs can be as useful to us as possible. So, hopefully this is a help to some other struggling Americanist. It’s a bit more of an “old school” list than the theory one from last week.

Again, if anyone out there is interested in talking about or exchanging outlines of any of these either locally or via the inter-webs let me know.

American Religious History Exam List


Ahlstrom, Sydney E. 2004. A religious history of the American people. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Albanese, Catherine L. 2007. America, religions and religion. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth Pub. Co.

———. 2007. A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religoin. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Evans, Curtis J. 2008. The burden of Black religion. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Holifield, E. Brooks. 2003. Theology in America: Christian thought from the age of the Puritans to the Civil War. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press.

McLoughlin, William Gerald. 1978. Revivals, awakenings, and reform : an essay on religion and social change in America, 1607-1977. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tweed, Thomas A. ed. 1997. Retelling U.S. Religious History. Berkley: University of California Press.

Tradition Focused Surveys:

Dolan, Jay P. 2002. In search of an American Catholicism : a history of religion and culture in tension. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

McGreevy, John T. 2003. Catholicism and American freedom: a history. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton.

Sarna, Jonathan D. 2004. American Judaism : a history. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Seager, Richard Hughes, 1999. Buddhism in America. New York: Columbia University Press.

Shipps, Jan. 1985. Mormonism : the story of a new religious tradition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Pre-20th Century:

Bonomi, Patricia U. 2003. Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America, Updated Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Brekus, Catherine. 1998. Strangers Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America, 1740-1845. Chapel Hill.: University of North Carolina Press.

Butler, Jon. 1990. Awash in a sea of faith: Christianizing the American people, Studies in cultural history. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Hall, David D. 1989. Worlds of wonder, days of judgment: popular religious belief in early New England. New York: Knopf.

Hatch, Nathan O. 1989. The democratization of American Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Jackson, Carl T. 1981. The Oriental Religions and American Thought: Nineteenth Century Explorations. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Kidd, Thomas S. 2007. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press

Morgan, Edmund Sears. 1963. Visible saints: the history of a Puritan idea. [New York]: New York University Press.

Orsi, Robert A. 1985. The Madonna of 115th Street: faith and community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Raboteau, Albert. 1980. Slave Religion: “The Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Schmidt, Leigh Eric. 2005. Restless souls: the making of American spirituality. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Seager, Richard Hughes. 1995.The World’s Parliament of Religions: The East/West Encounter, Chicago 1893. Bloomington: Indiana University Press

Tweed, Thomas A. 1992. The American encounter with Buddhism, 1844-1912 : Victorian culture and the limits of dissent, Religion in North America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Wilson, Charles Reagan. 1980. Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

20th Century:

Allitt, Patrick. 2003. Religion in America since 1945: a history, Columbia histories of modern American life. New York: Columbia University Press.

Chidester, David. 2005. Authentic fakes: religion and American popular culture. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.

Huthcinson, William R. 1976. The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Marsden, George M. 2006. Fundamentalism and American Culture.Oxford.: Oxford University Press.

Marty, Martin E. 1986. Modern American Religion. 3 vols. Chicago.: University of Chicago Press. [SKIM]

McDannell, Colleen. 1995. Material Christianity: religion and popular culture in America. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Roof, Wade Clark. 1999. Spiritual marketplace: baby boomers and the remaking of American religion. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Wacker, Grant. 2001. Heaven below : early Pentecostals and American culture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Wuthnow, Robert. 1998. After heaven: spirituality in America since the 1950s. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Peter Berger, “Easternizing Spirituality,” and the Colonial Difference

In case you haven’t stumbled upon it yet, sociologist Peter Berger has a new blog, Religion Other Curiosities, at the American Interest Online. It’s a great blog and worth checking out on a regular basis. Berger has keen insights into Religion and culture and it’s great that he’s decided to jump into the blogosphere. (EDIT- See Stephen Prothero’s brief review of Berger’s blog here)

What caught my eye today was his post on Sai Baba and the spread of Eastern religions to the West. Berger rightly notes that Asian religions have tended not to missionize in the West, a few Buddhist groups and Swami Vivekananda aside, but rather that Asian religions have floated into Western culture through various means:

But the much more significant impact of Asian religiosity on the West has not come by way of missionary organizations. It has been much more diffuse, seeping into the culture through miscellaneous informal channels—books, periodicals, electronic media, small groups of friends and acquaintances, and last but not least through the influence of celebrities (“Hollywood Buddhism” and the like). The diffusion probably dates from the late 19th century, when the alleged wisdom from the East attracted wide interest in Europe and America. Later this trend grew into the so-called New Age movement, then burst into prominence with the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s, and today can be found in the many cases when people say that they are “not religious, but spiritual”.

The diffusion dates earlier than Berger notes-I would trace it to the turn of the 19th century-but his brief history sums things up nicely. It also points out the difficulties of trying to write a history of Asian religious influences in America. Catholics and Jews came to America in rather set patterns of immigration and brought institutions and communities with them. Asian religions, and specifically for me Hinduism, traveled through diffuse networks, across a myriad of media, and was represented and imagined in all sorts of ways starting in the late eighteenth century.

Berger then takes his post in a different direction than I had hoped, following Colin Campbell in his book The Easternization of the West, Berger sees the “Easternizing spirituality” as a challenge to the core beliefs of “the West.”

In think that Campbell is correct in seeing this last complex of ideas as offering the sharpest challenge to core Western values. If one goes back in history, everywhere, one comes on what may be called the mythic matrix of all human cultures—a worldview in which the individual is embedded in a community that includes humans, animals, nature and the gods. I think that Eric Voegelin’s philosophy of history has given the best descriptions of what he called “leaps in being”—ruptures in this fabric of cosmic unity. Two ruptures have been seminal for Western civilization—those of ancient Israel and ancient Greece—the exodus of the people of Israel from the mythic world of the surrounding cultures of the Near East—and the different but equally powerful force of Greek reason in challenging the compact universe of myth. Of course these two ruptures did not immediately bring about what we now call Western individualism. It took centuries for this to happen. Perhaps the best metaphor of the original rupture is that moment in Greek sculpture when individual human figures stepped out of the archaic friezes and stood free, by themselves. “Easternization” in all its forms implies the suggestion that we should step back into the frieze. This would be a far-reaching reversal of the entire course of our civilization. We should think very carefully before we recommend such a step.

A “far-reaching reversal?” Berger invokes a standard piece of colonial discourse. There is the rational Hebraic-Greek West which has stepped out of the mythical world and then there is the mythic East that is still locked in the imaginative and dreamy land of myth where the individual is “embedded in a community that includes humans, animals, nature and the gods.” The Easternization of spirituality then becomes a backsliding by rational Westerners into the “frieze,” a euphemism for mythic life. Berger’s image of the mythic and spiritual East versus a demytholigized and individualized West draws on a series of Western contrasts built before and during colonialism to help the West make sense of itself and of its Others. Richard King outlines the properties of the West and East nicely in his Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial Theory, India, and the Mystic East. The West: Public / Society / Science / Institutional Religion / Secular / Rational / Male and the East: Private / Individual / Religion / Personal Religion (Mysticism?) / Sacred / Irrational or Non-rational / Female. These essentialist distinctions were born in the Enlightenment and worked out in the colonies, especially in India. The “Easternization” of the West, or America, is a problem only insofar as the West imagines itself in these terms and in contrast to the East. The need for an Other against which America or the West could construct and imagine itself requires the East to remain mystical and irrational. To step out of the frieze we must keep the frieze in a museum somewhere.

Who is America’s God?

Stanely Hauerwas claims that America’s god is dying. The Duke theologian argues that the god of America is unique to American Protestantism:

That is why it has been possible for Americans to synthesize three seemingly antithetical traditions: evangelical Protestantism, republican political ideology and commonsense moral reasoning. For Americans, faith in God is indistinguishable from loyalty to their country.

American Protestants do not have to believe in God because they believe in belief. That is why we have never been able to produce an interesting atheist in America. The god most Americans say they believe in is just not interesting enough to deny. Thus the only kind of atheism that counts in America is to call into question the proposition that everyone has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Hauerwas goes on to argue that this “belief in belief” has had grave consequences for the church and is leading to the death of American Protestantism as we know it.  Hauerwas ends pointing out that America’s god is not the God that Christians worship. The full piece is worth your attention.
What jumped out to me, though, was  the connection between Hauewas’ argument and this passage from Emile Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life:
[The totem] expresses and symbolizes two different kinds of things. From one point of view, it is the outward and visible form of what I have called the toemic principle or god; and from another, it is also the symbol of a particular society that is called the clan. It is the flag of the clan, the sign by which each clan is distinguished from the others, the visible mark of its distinctiveness, and a mark that is borne by everything that in any way belongs to the clan: men, animals, and things. Thus if the totem is the symbol of both the god and the society, is this not because the god and the society are one and the same?

Durkheim was describing the religious life of aboriginal Australians but re-read that quote and substitute “nation” or “state” or “country” for “clan.” This is the same phenomenon Hauewas is pointing out. As Hauerwas points out in the opening of his article, American Protestantism grew up in a new country that did no have to identify itself over and against at Catholic past (the Catholic was always an interloping immigrant to the American Protestant, not a historical precursor). Protestantism, then, became part and parcel of American society along with the Enlightenment values of republicanism, and common sense philosophy. As such, the God of America functions-at least as Durkheim and Hauerwas would see it-as the god of the aboriginal clan; flags and all. American exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, Spreading Democracy, freedom, equality, the city on a hill, capitalism, In God We Trust, separation of church and state, and all the other ideas, rituals, and myths of the Right and Left in this country carry “the visible mark of its distinctiveness.” They are “everything that in any way belongs to the clan.” They all make up the totem of America’s god. A god placated, promoted, relied upon, and upheld by the religious and the secular, the poor and the rich, the Right and the Left.

Somehow “civil religion” is to shallow a name for the cult of America’s god. It captures everything considered sacred and powerful in the American imagination. It truly is America’s god.

NIMBY Mosques and the Taxonomies of Religion in America

Cross-posted at the Religion in American History Blog

In case you missed it, there are plans to build a mosque in New York two blocks from the the site of World Trade Center attack.  The proposed mosque has ignited a variety of discourses about religion in American culture.  Opponents of the mosque have various reasons for their opposition but a recent ad from the National Republican Trust PAC offers the most obvious examples of the “us” and “them” language opponents are employing.

The ad was rejected by by CBS and NBC.  As Entertainment Weekly reports:

CBS and NBC have rejected an ad by the National Republican Trust PAC that seeks to rally viewers against a proposed mosque that would be built two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York City. The one-minute spot (embedded below) begins with the words “the audacity of JIHAD” flashing on the screen followed shortly thereafter by the image of a plane flying into the World Trade Center; an accompanying voiceover declares that “to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.”

The national spot “didn’t meet our broadcast standards,” said a spokesperson for CBS, confirming the network’s decision not to run it. An NBC spokesperson also confirmed the decision to reject the spot, but did not offer an explanation why. Nonetheless, EW obtained a letter from NBC Universal advertising standards manager Jennifer Riley to the NRT PAC explaining that: “An ad questioning the wisdom of building a mosque at ground zero would meet our issues of public controversy advertising criteria. However, this ad which ambiguously defines ‘they’ as referenced in the spot, makes it unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque. Consequently the ad is not acceptable under our guidelines for broadcast.”

As I read it, the basic message of the ad is “If the mosque gets built then the terrorists win.”  Patrolling the borders of acceptable religion has been a mainstay of American culture: colonial Quakers, nineteenth century Catholics, twentieth century Communists, and now, twenty first century Muslims  What is remarkable about this ad is just how unremarkable it is in its rhetoric.  The same strategies always work.  Slap on a foreign label (“Jihad” or “Papist” or “Pinko”), add violence (terrorism, nuclear threat, licentious priests and nuns), predict the downfall of “American values” (read Anglo Protestantism) then stir until a nice foment of emotionalism forms.

Read the rest of this entry »

Women’s History is Tea Party History?

This morning I read this great piece from Ruth Rosen over at the History News Network where she unpacks the role of women in the Tea Party movement.

Women also play a decisive role in the Tea Party and now make up 55 percent of its supporters, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll.  Hanna Rosin reports in Slate that “of the eight board members of the Tea Party Patriots who serve as national coordinators for the movement, six are women.  Fifteen of thetwenty-five state coordinators are women.”

Why, I’ve wondered, does this chaotic movement appeal to so many women?  There are many possible reasons.  Some of the women in these groups are certainly women who love men who love guns and who hate the government and taxes.  Professor Kathleen Blee, who has written widely about right-wing women, suggests that there are probably more religious right-wing women than men in general, that Tea Party rallies may attract more women who are not working and therefore can attend them, and that the Tea Party emphasizes family vulnerability to all kinds of external danger.

Then, tonight I was getting back to my exam reading, which included Tom Tweed’s edited volume Retelling U.S. Religious History.  I was re-reading Ann Braude’s chapter in the book, “Women’s History Is American Religious History,” where she argues that women have always made up the majority of religious adherents in American history.  Her essay calls for a history of religions in America that takes into account the presence of women, rather than traditional narratives that focus on the presence and absence of men.

So, connecting the dots, I began to wonder.  To what extent is the Tea Party movement channeling the same dynamic that has driven American religion?  Are the reasons that women have supported religious institutions that have largely excluded them from authority and power the same as the reason why women are now supporting Tea Party conservatism? Maybe the Tea Party’s greatest connection to American religious history is its women.

What theories and theorists guide your work?

The Religion in American History Blog has a discussion question on their Facebook page about theories that guide scholars work.  Kelly Baker asked, “How do you all approach American Religious History? What methods, theories or theorists guide your work?”

I posted an answer there but I thought I’d copy it here as well. What about you? What are your guiding lights for your work, religious studies or otherwise?

Here are the three strands I try to pull together in my approach to American religious history:

1) Emile  Durkheim: Those who know where I am and who I’m working with ought not be surprised here. The category of “the sacred,” for me, offers a chance to look at a whole host of things previously left unconsidered in American religious history. Burning Man, sports, and all the other usual examples are just the start. Recent work on Oprah points the way to more and more places we can reconsider “American Sacred History.”

2) Thomas A.Tweed’s Crossing and Dwelling:  I really like Tweed’s focus on positionality and his focus on the movement and motion of religions. I think it adds a dynamism to our study that has been lost in an under-theorized notion of culture and snapshot approach to religions.

3) Foucault, Said, and post-colonial theory generally:
In thinking about religions in American history I’m always wanting to find ways to rigorously account for power. In my current diss. research on representations of Hinduism in America I’m realizing more and more the ways “religion” as a category functioned in the deployment, maintenance and organization of power. I think religious historians are often wary of reducing religions down to “just power” without thinking about the ways religions function to channel power, resist power, and basically move it around and (dis?)organize it.

So, that’s my triparte answer. Wow, Kelly, really good question. I’ve never thought it through like this. Helpful.


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