Religion plays an important role in American society, just as it does in most societies. Religion in America is not, however, quite like religion in other countries. It has it's own unique history and it's own understanding of the nature of religion, of Christianity, and of civil society. Learn here about some of the best recent books published about religion in America.
It can be argued that understanding American history and politics requires understanding Christianity as well, but the connection between America and Christianity goes farther than that. For a long time theological language, imagery, and ideas were pervasive in American political and cultural discourse - Christian theology was the common language of Americans in all walks of life.
The history of slavery in America may not be hidden, but widely unknown is the degree to which Christianity was used to defend not only slavery but also later segregation and discrimination. This secret alliance between religion and bigotry is a largely untold story which more people need to learn about in order to dispel the notion that religion is necessarily a force for good.
Religion in America has been changing over the past few decades - and the change is one which reflects similar changes in previous centuries. Earlier changes were called "Great Awakenings" - mass movements of people reaching radical new understandings of their religion, their spirituality, and the place religion had in their lives. According to Amanda Porterfield, that is what is happening again.
What is the "Bible Belt" and how did it originate? Why is it that the location of the most conservative strains of Christianity moved from New England down to the South? Much has been written about Southern evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity in America, some of it positive and some of it negative. But not a lot has been written about its very earliest origins - how a mostly Anglican region based upon money and commerce was converted to the Baptist and Methodist denominations.
Opponents of gay marriage rely heavily on the argument that marriage has been defined in a particular way for hundreds and thousands of years; thus, altering the legal definition to include unions between members of the same sex is an unacceptable breach with the past. Such arguments are devoid of historical reality...
Jesus appears to be alive and well in America. Many people seek to discover the 'historical' Jesus who gave rise to the Christian religion, but at least as interesting is the 'cultural' Jesus which has given rise to all sorts of modern religious movements, political developments, and cultural progress...
Most people realize that one of the central features of modern American fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism is a distinctive vision of gender roles both in society at large and in the family in particular. When fundamentalists are criticized, it is often on the basis of their perceived reactionary ideas about women, sex, and gender.
Religion played an important role in the Civil War - far more important than most people realize. Both sides viewed the conflict in explicitly Christian terms and claimed that God was on their side such that their victories or defeats were signs of God's preferences. Even less well known is the role played by religion in the South after the Civil War.
Both religion and race have played important - and sometimes deeply interconnected - roles in American history. Religion was used to justify both slavery and abolition; likewise it was used to justify both segregation and desegregation. Today even conservative Christians support equality between the races, but that doesnt mean that everything is settled or peaceful...
America is arguably both the most modern and the most traditionalist society in the world today. This contradiction lies at the heart of the various problems America has had with its foreign policy. Every nation has some form of nationalism, but American nationalism consists of both strongly forward-looking and strongly backwards-looking elements.