REL12 – Religion and Society in America

Dartmouth College

Department of Religion


Scheduled Meeting Times:

Carson Hall L02

MWF 12:30 – 1:35pm

X Hour Tues. 1:00 - 1:50 pm


Instructor Information:

Kent A. McConnell

Office - Thorton 206


Office Hours:  Fridays 10:00 am – 12:15 pm

                          (or gladly by appointment)


Note:  If you have any questions concerning assignments or points of clarification outside of class, please feel free to contact me by e-mail using REL12 in the subject line of your correspondence.



Course Description:


This course is intended to expose students to the rich and vital religious landscape of the United States.  Through the engagement of primary and secondary texts, participants will encounter the first three centuries of religious life in America gaining exposure to the major expressions of religion in the United States.  Students will examine the expansion of religious life in the nation and seek to understand how particular ideas underpinning American society have continuously informed and reshaped religious expression.  Two leading questions will guide our exploration of the complex terrain of American religious history, namely:  “What discursive elements of society shape America’s religious identity?” and “Given the plurality of religious expression in American history, what does it mean to be ‘one nation under God?’”  In discerning some answers to these complex questions, particular attention will be given to the subjects of ethnicity, gender, and race.


Course Aims and Objectives:


This course is intended to give students an understanding of and appreciation for the history and subsequent variety of religious expressions in the United States.  Students are expected to demonstrate their growing knowledge by means of thoughtful discussions, written exercises, and class presentations.


Course Web Site:


The course web site is a resource for students to explore particular subjects of interest and build upon readings and lectures.  The web site also contains resources for students to carry out their research.


General Course Requirements:


Reading and Classroom Requirements:

Each student is expected to do all the readings assigned by the instructor.  Students should be prepared to discuss assigned texts on their scheduled dates.  Students will receive a grade for their attendance and participation in classroom discussions.


Written Course Assignments:

Written work will constitute a significant portion of the student’s grade (see grading policy section for percentages).  Each student will be expected to prepare one paper, approximately eight pages in length due in class Monday, February 24th.  In addition to a final draft, students will be asked to turn in a preliminary outline, bibliography, and thesis statement for a grade.  Late papers will receive half a letter grade deduction for each day beyond the assigned due date and time (March 5th 1:35 pm).  See “Writing a Term Paper” for some guidelines and helpful hints concerning this project.


Identification Quizzes:

During two designated times in the term, students will take a short identification quiz lasting up to 50 minutes in length.  During this exam, class participants will be asked to succinctly identify terms, people, places, and dates. 


Course Texts:


All textbooks are available for purchase at Wheelock Bookstore.  Please be aware all reading materials (with the exception of Butler and Stout’s work) are also on two-hour reserve at Baker Library.


Butler, Jon and Harry S. Stout, eds.  Religion in American History: A Reader.  Oxford University Press, 1997.  ISBN: 0195097769.


Carmondy, Denise and John Carmondy.  Republic of Many Mansions:  Foundations of American Religious Thought.  Paragon House, 1990.  ISBN: 1557783926  (Call # BL2525 .C365 1990)


Gaustad, Edwin S., ed. A Documentary History of Religion in America -Volume 1, 2nd Edition.  William B. Eerdmans Publishers, 1994.  ISBN: 0802806171 (Call # BL2530 .U6 G38 1982 v.1)


Gaustad, Edwin S., ed. A Documentary History of Religion in America since 1865 -Volume 2, 2nd Edition.  William B. Eerdmans Publishers, 1994.  ISBN: 080280618X (Call # BL2530 .U6 G38 1982 v.2)


Hudson, Winthrop S. and John Corrigan. Religion in America. 6th Edition.  Pearson Education Press, 1998.  ISBN: 002351328 (Call # BL2530 .U6 H8 1981)


Porterfield, Amanda.  The Transformation of American Religion: The Story of Late-Twentieth Century Awakening.  Oxford University Press, 2001.  ISBN: 0195131371 (Call # BL2525 .P669 2001)


Course Schedule:


An Introduction to Religion in America

Week 1 (January 6 - 10)

Readings:          HudsonReligion in America – “Backgrounds and Beginnings” & “England & America

                                    GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 1 – pp.100 - 124


***Note: No class meeting Wednesday, January 8th – Tuesday X hour meeting


Foundations of Religious Thought in America

Week 2 (January 13 - 17)

Readings:          CarmondyRepublic of Many Mansions – pp.19 – 35; 44 – 50; 87 – 90; 102 – 117; 155 - 177

GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 1 – pp.132 – 159


Building a “city set on a hill”

Week 3 (January 20 - 24)

Readings:          HudsonReligion in America – “The Great Awakening”

ButlerReligion in American History – pp.129 – 142

GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 1 – pp.212 – 214



***Note: Monday, January 20th MLK Day no class meeting – Tuesday X hour meeting


The Democratization of Religion in the United States

Week 4 (January 27 - 31)

Readings:          HudsonReligion in America – “Protestant Expansion and Consolidation” “Countervailing Trends & the Triumph of Methodism”

GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 1 – pp.332 – 339


Alternative Voices in the Benevolent Empire

Week 5 (February 3 - 7)

Readings:          ButlerReligion in American History – pp.145 – 179

HudsonReligion in America – “The New Intellectual Climate”

GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 1 – pp.364 – 381



***Note – Friday, February 7th Carnival holiday, classes moved to X hour



Challenges to the “Protestant Empire”

Week 6 (February 10 - 14)

Readings:          ButlerReligion in American History – pp.198 – 221

HudsonReligion in America – “The Shifting Religious Configuration”

GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 2 – pp.157 – 176; 243 - 252




Modernity and Religion in the United States

Week 7 (February 17 - 21)

Readings:          ButlerReligion in American History – pp.335 – 344; 370 – 396   

GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 2 – pp.262 – 271; 277 – 285; 292 – 304


IDENTIFICATION QUIZ #1 (Monday, February 17th)


E Pluribus Unum” and “Christian America”


Week 8 (February 24 - 28)

Readings:          ButlerReligion in American History – pp.468 – 485

HudsonReligion in America – “Old and New Centers”

GaustadA Documentary History Vol. 2 – pp.512 – 522; 555 – 559 



Postmodern America and Beyond

Week 9 (March 3 - 7)

Readings:          Porterfield – The Transformation of American Religion – pp.135 - 148; 169 - 198; 202 - 231



IDENTIFICATION QUIZ #2 (Friday, March 7th)





Students are expected to abide by the rules of the Dartmouth College Honor Code.


Attendance Policy:

Given the limited time we will have together as a class, course attendance for all classes is mandatory.  Absences will result in the lowering of a student’s grade (see grading guidelines for percentage).  Emergency absences (e.g. death in the family, severe illness) will be dealt with on an individual basis.  In these rare cases, students should make a genuine effort to contact the instructor prior to class.  In addition, habitual tardiness will lower one’s attendance grade.  If you become aware you will be absent the day an assignment is due, please make arrangements with the instructor to turn in your work before class.


Grading Guidelines:


Final Research Paper – 55%

Thesis, Outline, and Bibliography – 5%

Identification Quizzes – 30%

Class Attendance and Participation – 10%