This course is a historical study of the social, political and philosophical roles of religion in America.
Religious symbol systems exist as one means of integrating personal experience with collective human experience. Within a given civilization, religious systems are interdependent with other social systems in fulfilling this function. The study of religion involves examination of the religious symbol system and its integration with the civilization as a whole.
The specific study of religion in America must take cognizance of the reciprocity between the civilization and the religious symbol system. The shape of American religion was determined, in large part, by the nature of American civilization. The prevailing democratic spirit in America gave rise to a religious system characterized by voluntarism and pluralism. This course examines the substantive nature of religion in light of the formation of American civilization and the functional role of religion within American civilization.
The overall strategy of the course takes the form of an ongoing dialogue between the symbol system and the civilization. The course seeks an answer to the question, "How has American civilization affected and been affected by religion?"