1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Custom Sections
  14. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  15. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  16. Severe Weather Protocol
  17. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  18. Religious Observances
  19. UAct Statement

American Religious History

REL 241-001Spring 2017 | 3 Credit Hours


Michael Altman

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

No prereqs found

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

This course offers a survey of religious themes and movements in American culture from the period before European colonization to the present. It is of particular use for students interested in American history, law, American studies, religious studies, and cultural studies.

This course offers a survey of religious themes and movements in American culture from the period before European colonization to the present.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:
  • BLUM / COLOR OF CHRIST (Choose One)

Course Objectives

This course offers a survey of religious themes and movements in American culture from the period before European colonization to the present.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Students will analyze primary sources in American religious history.

2. Students will recall important figures and events in American religious history.

3. Students will critique historical narratives of religion in America.

4. Students will analyze constructions of “religion” in American history.

Other Course Materials


UA Box: http://oit.ua.edu/oit/ua-box-welcome/uaboxinfo/

All course readings beyond the required books will be in a shared Box folder.


I will be using the Blackboard grade book and you will turn your final essay in through Blackboard.

Outline of Topics


 1/12 Introductions

 1/17 “Religion” and “America”

Catherine Albanese, “Introduction: An Elephant in the Dark”

Thomas Tweed, “Expanding the Study of U.S. Religion: Reflections on the State of a Subfield


 1/19 Spanish Colonies

The Religious History of America (RHA) Chapter 1

 “Franciscans in New Mexico”

American Religions: “The Bull Sublimus Deus” (2-3)

 1/24 Puritans in New England

American Religions:            John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity” (16-19)

Increase Mather, “Sleeping at Sermons is a Great and Dangerous Evil” (20-21)

Anne Hutchinson, “The Examination of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson” (37-63)
Roger Williams, “Letter to the Town of Providence on the Limits of Religious Liberty” (75-76)

 1/26 The Middle Colonies

RHA Chapter 4

American Religions:            William Penn, “A Persuasive to Moderation to Church Dissenters, in Prudence and Conscience” (76-80)

                                   “The Petition of the Philadelphia Synagogue to Council of Censors of Pennsylvania” (148-150)

 1/31 The Southern Colonies

RHA Chapters 2 and 5

Virginia Documents

North Carolina & South Carolina Documents

American Religions:            Charles Woodmason, “1 Cor. 14 v. 40 Let All Things Be Done

Decently and in Order” (109-114)

 2/2 Native and Colonial Americans

American Religions:            Mary Rowlandson, “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” (63-73)

                                    William Penn, “Letter to the Indians” (73-75)

                                    David Brainerd, “From Journal” (138-148)

2/7 Colonial Slaves

Jon Butler, “Slavery and the African Spiritual Holocaust”

American Religions: Phillis Wheatley (121-127)

 2/9 Review Day

 2/14 Quiz 1


 2/16 “Religion” in a New Republic

RHA Chapter 6

American Religions:            Thomas Jefferson, “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” (150-152)

                                    James Madison, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments” (152-156)

 2/21 National Revivalism

RHA Chapter 7

American Religions: Alexis de Toqueville, “from Democracy in America” (245-262)

 2/23 The Black Church

Albert Raboteau, “The Independent African Church Movement”

American Religions: Jarena Lee, “from The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee”


2/28 Slave Religion

Raboteau, “‘The Invisible Institution’: Religion Among the Slaves”

Nat Turner, “from The Confessions of Nat Turner”

American Religion: Frederick Douglas, “from Narrative of the Life of an American Slave” (213-220)

 3/2 Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism

Sydney Ahlstrom, “The Expansion of the Roman Catholic Church” & “Anti-Catholicism and the Nativist Movement”

Nativism Documents

 3/7 Review Day

 3/9 Quiz 2



 3/21 The Protestant Establishment

Ahlstrom, “The Protestant Establishment and the New Nativism”

Reynolds v. United States

American Religions:           

                                    Josiah Strong, “from Our Country” (365-382)

 3/23 “World Religions”: in America

Richard Hughes Seager, “General Introduction” from The Dawn of Religious Pluralism

United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind

Asian Exclusion Act

American Religons: Mabel Potter Daggett, “The Heathen Invasion of America” (384-


James Freeman Clarke, “The Ten Religions and Christianity” (389-402)

Swami Vivekananda, “Hinduism as a Religion” & “Farewell” (402-411)

3/28 Religion in the “American Way of Life”

RHA Chapter 15

American Religions:

Will Herberg, “from Protestant-Catholic-Jew” (517-533)

3/30 The Race of Religion in America

American Religions:            Howard Thurman, “What We May Learn from India” & “Howard and Sue Bailey Thurman Meet with Mahatma Gandhi” (492-502)

                                    Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” (502-514)

                                    Malcolm X, “Letters from Abroad” (514-517)

4/4 “Religion” in Public

RHA Chapter 16

Employment Division v. Smith

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (syllabus only)

American Religions:            U.S. Department of Education, “Religious Expression in Public Schools” (624-627)

4/6 Pluralism, Protestantism, Nationalism

RHA Chapter 18

American Religions:            Franklin Graham, “from The Name” (602-605)

“Letter for Franklin Graham from the Council on American-Islamic Relations” (605-606)

4/11 The New Age, the Spiritual But Not Religious, and the Nones

Albanese, “Fundamentals of the New Age: Present-time Pluralism and Postpluarlism”

American Religion: Robert N. Bellah, from Habits of the Heart (609-624)

4/13 “American Religion”

Albanese, “The Public, the Civil, and the Culture of the Center”

Tracy Fessenden, “The Objects of American Religious Studies”

4/18 Review Day

4/20 Quiz 3

4/25 The Color of Christ discussion

Essay draft due

4/27 Peer Review Day

Final Essay Due on Tuesday May 2nd via Blackboard

Exams and Assignments


Readings are listed underneath each date on the schedule. Complete the readings before you come to class that day.

Readings under American Religions (AR) and The Religious History of America (RHA) come from the required book. The rest are posted in the course’s UA Box folder: https://alabama.box.com/v/REL241SP17

I recommend you annotate your readings. Write in your book. Write on the article. Make notes, underline, and highlight things. If you choose not to print readings, use a PDF annotator such as Foxit (Windows) or Preview (Mac).


3 Quizzes- 60% (3 X 20%)

The quizzes will be a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and fill-in-the-blank. The focus of the quizzes will be the key events, figures, documents, and ideas from the readings. Relevant content from class discussions is also testable material.

Final Synthetic Essay - 40%

Drawing on everything we have covered this semester, what do you think is the major theme, trope, pattern, conflict, or argument in the history of religion in America? To put it another way, how would you sum up the big story of religion in American history? Give three specific examples or case studies that support your claim, drawing on the secondary and primary sources we read this semester. Conclude your essay by explaining what your claim means for the future of religion in America and whether you see your claim holding true into the future.

Do not do any research or use any sources beyond what we read this semester. The essay should be 1500-2000 words (5-7 pages) in length, double-spaced, in 12pt readable font. You may use whatever citation style you are comfortable with as long as you are consistent and I can tell which of our course materials you are citing.

Essay Draft (15%)

Students will turn in a draft of their final essay that will be peer-edited by a classmate. I will provide a rubric for peer-editing. The essay draft grade is a combination of turning in a proper essay draft and a thorough review of your partner’s essay. A proper draft fulfills the required word count (1500-2000). An outline or part outline, part draft will not get full credit. I will hand out a peer-review guide with requirements for the peer-review as the due date approaches.

Final Essay (25%)

The final draft of your essay after it has been discussed, peer-edited, and revised. It will be brilliant, don’t worry.

Grading Policy

A+       95-100%        C         70-74

A         90-94              D+       65-69

B+       85-89              D         60-64

B         80-84              D-        50-59

C+       75-79              F          below 50

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Excused Absences During Quizzes and Exams

Evidence of your legitimate absence must be presented to the professor in a timely fashion if you wish it not to count against you in the course. If you miss a quiz, you must contact the professor immediately to explain your absence; make-up quizzes are not an option in this course; instead, for quiz absences that the professor deems legitimate, the portion of the grade dedicated to the missed quiz will be completely transferred to the next quiz.

Late Work

I do not accept late work. I do give extensions in the case of extraordinary circumstances, but I expect that you will ask for the extension promptly. Do not email asking for an extension unless it is under extreme circumstances outside of your control (like a relative died over the weekend and you need to leave immediately. See technology policy regarding technological “emergencies.”) I allow for make up exams in extraordinary circumstances and only with appropriate documentation that a student missed the exam for reasons outside of their control.

Technology policy

Let’s face it: technology breaks. Servers go down. Transfers time out. Files become corrupt. The list goes on and on. These are not considered emergencies. They are part of the normal production process. An issue you may have with technology is no excuse for late work. You need to protect yourself by managing your time and backing up your work.

Attendance Policy

You are expected to attend class. I will take attendance. Your attendance is expected unless there is an emergency outside of your control. You may miss up to 4 classes during the semester without penalty. Every missed class after 4 will result in a 2-point reduction of your final grade. I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences except in the case of the three quiz days (see below).

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The UAct website provides an overview of The University's expectations regarding respect and civility.