History 356

HIST 356
History of American Religious Thought

Catalog Entry

HIST 356
History of American Religious Thought
Three hours lecture/discussion: (3)

Prerequisite: Three hours of History at the 100 level.
Course offers a survey of important developments in American religious thought including Puritanism, Unitarianism, Transcendentalism, New Thought and Positive Thinking, the Social Gospel, Fundamentalism, and Neo-Orthodoxy.

Detailed Description of Content of Course
The course follows a topical treatment within a chronological framework:

I. Native American Religion
II. The European Background of American Religious Experience
    A. Calvinism
    B. Puritanism
III. The First National Event in America--The First Great Awakening
IV. Challenges to Orthodoxy
    A. The Enlightenment in America
    B. Unitarianism
    C. Transcendentalism
V. The Second Great Awakening
VI. Sectarians and Utopians
VII. New Thought and the Positive Thinkers
VIII. The Social Gospel
IX. Fundamentalism
X. Neo-Orthodoxy
XI. Recent Trends: Ecumenism, Fundamentalism, and the Electronic Church

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Although the course would generally be classified as lecture, significant portions of class time are devoted to questions designed to stimulate critical thinking skills and the examination of primary documents (such as Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Divinity School Address," and William James's lectures on "The Varieties of Religious Experience") which introduce students to the basic raw materials of historical study. In addition, regularly scheduled class periods are reserved for discussions on assigned readings and monographs. Students prepare written critical analyses as preparation for thoughtful discussions.

Goals and Objectives of the Course

Departmental Goals and Objectives:
1. Students will practice thinking critically and analytically about historical issues, acquire a broader knowledge and deeper understanding of pertinent historical events and processes, and cultivate a familiarity with the concepts of historical argument and interpretation.

2. Students will develop disciplinary research skills by designing strategies to locate and analyze primary and secondary source evidence, processing and organizing the resultant data, and composing proper citation and bibliographical entries.

3. Students will apply their critical thinking, research, and compositional skills to the creation and presentation of thesis driven essays that discuss, for example, historical social, economic, political, and/or cultural developments and that address issues such as the causes and consequences of historical change and continuity.

Course Goals and Objectives:
1. Students will be able to discuss the diversity, richness, and centrality of American religious thought and expression.
2. Students will be able to demonstrate through oral and written analyses how present religious developments flow from and are intimately connected to the past.
3. Students will develop historical consciousness by comparing and contrasting primary and contemporary sources.
4. Students will be able to think critically and demonstrate this skill through various modes of writing.

Assessment Measures

Knowledge and understanding of the material covered in this course will be measured using an array of assessment tools that may include, among other things, class attendance and participation, written examinations, formal writing assignments of various types, and informal writing assignments. All exercises are designed to expand the student's ability to evaluate historical events and to develop his or her ability to compose persuasive arguments.

Other Course Information

Previously, History 354 and History 355 included the religious dimension of the American experience (under the title, American Social and Religious History) in a two-semester sequence. In recent years, social history has burgeoned to such an extent that teaching it coupled with religious history dilutes both of these important subjects. Religious history is a vital part of social history, but deserves distinct and concentrated treatment. Therefore, on February 20, 1991, the Curriculum Committee approved a restructuring which retained the previous two-semester sequence History 354 and History 355 under the revised title, American Social History (see revised syllabi), and added History 356 as a one-semester course to focus on the religious component of the American experience.

Review and Approval
October 2010 Reviewed and Approved by Sharon A. Roger Hepburn, Chair