Religious Studies | Religion in Early America
R335 | 3975 | Stein


The religious situation that exists in the United States in the first
decade of the twenty-first century owes much to historical
developments in earlier centuries. Most notably, the principles of
the free exercise of religion and of religious diversity are by-
products of the colonial and early national period of American
history. These principles are enshrined in the First Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution. This course seeks to make sense out of religious
developments in America in the two and a half centuries before the
Civil War. The story of religion in early America involves a great
deal of conflict--competition among denominations, debate over
theological issues, controversy about moral values, contention over
patterns of spiritual experience, and strife directed at alternative
religious groups. Yet out of this conflict--indeed, in part because
of this conflict--the United States adopted a way of dealing with
religion that in principle provided liberty for all. This course
probes the circumstances leading to the First Amendment, and then
examines how well the principle of religious liberty works in
practice during the decades of the nineteenth century preceding the
Civil War.  Evaluation is based on three hourly exams and three short
papers.