American Religious History

Course No. 897
Professor Patrick N. Allitt, Ph.D.
Emory University
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Course No. 897
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Course Overview

Join historian Patrick N. Allitt in exploring the story of religious life in America from the first European contacts to the late 20th century. Along the way, you learn the answers to two important questions:

  • Why does America, unlike virtually any other industrial nation, continue to show so much religious vitality?
  • Why are the varieties of religion found here so numerous and diverse?

The best way to look for explanations of this truly remarkable vitality and diversity, argues Professor Allitt, is to study the nation's religious history.

On the one hand, that study includes examining religion from the directions you might expect, including its formal beliefs, ideas, communal or institutional loyalties, and its styles of worship.

But Professor Allitt also examines religion's influence on life "beyond the pews"—investigating the subtle but important links that have long brought religion into close contact with the intellectual, social, economic, and political concerns of Americans.

To give a notable and recent example: Professor Allitt explains how Martin Luther King, Jr., used a mixture of biblical references and appeals to patriotism to press the case for civil rights.

He also reflects on American religion as a sensory experience—a phenomenon whose deep spiritual and social meanings can in part be:

  • Seen in the design of churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples
  • Heard in the sacred sounds of hymns, prayers, and chants
  • Smelled in Catholic or Buddhist incense
  • Tasted, as you discover in learning why the casserole may be the most "Protestant" of all dishes!

The Living Voice

A wonderful feature of these lectures is Professor Allitt's practice of reading aloud from primary sources, including first-person documents, as if to give history back its voice. Some readings are quite famous; others are rescued from obscurity.

You will find them by turns sublime, deeply moving, informative, and at times even charming. They include:

  • Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address
  • Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech
  • A Civil War veteran's memory of how Catholic sisters cared for the wounded after the Battle of Shiloh
  • The heartfelt letter to Virginia's governor in which John Rolfe explains his spiritual motives for wishing to marry Pocahontas
  • An account of the religious diversity of New York City—in 1683
  • An Anglican cleric's impressions of revivalism in the Carolinas during the First Great Awakening of the 1740s.

Richly Detailed Personal Glimpses

You'll also enjoy biographical sketches and anecdotes about dozens of brilliant, charismatic, or otherwise remarkable American religious figures, among them:

  • Puritan divine Cotton Mather
  • Mormon prophet Joseph Smith
  • Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy
  • The patriotic revivalist Billy Sunday, who during World War I said, "If you turn hell over, you'll find 'Made in Germany' stamped on the bottom!"

After scene-setting lectures that explain the religious situation of Europe in the early modern period and the spirituality of native Americans, Professor Allitt moves on to discussions of religion during the colonial and founding eras, including:

  • The Puritans
  • The Great Awakenings
  • The Revolution
  • The flowering of uniquely American religious tendencies such as Mormonism
  • The story of African American religion
  • The sectional crisis and Civil War.

Religion in a Changing Society

By the mid-19th century, the American religious landscape was growing more variegated. Large numbers of Catholics, first from Ireland and later from Germany, Poland, and Italy, were coming to what had been an overwhelmingly Protestant land. And growing numbers of Jewish immigrants further diversified the urban religious landscape later in the century.

You learn how both groups sometimes became targets of suspicion and intolerance.

Professor Allitt also discusses another rising reality of the times—the rapid growth of industrial cities and an economically vulnerable working class.

Challenges for Religious Leaders

Faced with these new conditions, religious leaders had to rethink the relationships among virtue, prosperity, and God's favor.

And still another challenge came from 19th-century discoveries in geology, biology, physics, archaeology, and comparative religion.

All of these raised questions about the authority and origins of the Bible. Evolution in particular presented a world of constant predation and strife, promising anything but divinely sponsored harmony.

The 20th century inherited these dilemmas, and they continue to resonate up to the present, with strains between liberal and more traditional Protestants being only one example.

Professor Allitt leads you through these storylines very closely during the second half of the course, paying special attention to the possible implications they carry for church-state relations.

You learn how cherished First Amendment principles of church-state separation and religious freedom had to be applied, mid-century, to difficult cases involving minority religions.

And Professor Allitt explains how, in a string of controversial decisions, the Supreme Court has struggled to balance these two principles.

20th-Century Challenges

As America became a great power in the 20th century and played a leading role in the world wars and the Cold War, religious Americans agonized over how they should respond.

You learn how debates over the ethics of force and memories of cataclysms such as the Holocaust continue to haunt American religious life to this day.

And you see how the century's sweeping social changes were partly shaped by religion and how they in turn powerfully affected religious life:

  • Fundamentalism proved highly adaptable
  • Immigrants and their descendants assimilated to American society, but religious ties proved far more durable than old languages and ethnic customs
  • Catholicism and Judaism each took on a markedly "American" flavor that could discomfit coreligionists abroad.

At the Center of the Storm

You also learn how religion stood at the center of the upheavals of the 1960s. Many African American civil rights leaders were ministers, inspired by the message of the gospel as well as the promise of the American founding. Religious convictions likewise intensified debates over the Vietnam War and helped energize the feminist movement.

As the times have changed, so, too, has religion in America. Some Americans who felt dissatisfied with the Judeo-Christian tradition turned to variants of Islam or Asian spiritualities such as Zen Buddhism. And new waves of immigrants brought their own versions of these traditions, sometimes bumping up against unfamiliar American versions of Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism.

As this course shows, the story of American religious vitality and diversity continues to evolve.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Major Features of American Religious History
    American religious history is unusual for its diversity and for its sustained vitality, from the colonial period right through to the end of the 20th century. This course begins with Professor Patrick N. Allitt's discovery of American religious diversity and vitality when he came from Britain to live, work, and study in the United States. x
  • 2
    The European Background
    Not long after Columbus reached the Americas, the Reformation split Europe. The Puritans—English Protestant reformers opposed to the compromises of Anglicanism—were among the first religious separatists to contemplate moving to the New World. x
  • 3
    Natives and Newcomers
    Although native Americans had no word for or idea of "religion" as something distinct from other aspects of life, they had well-developed sacred ideas, rituals, and traditions, and it is possible to note both similarities and differences between their "religious" stance and that of the Europeans. x
  • 4
    The Puritans
    The Puritans wrote much; we can reconstruct their views in great detail. Here we consider how they created a religious and political way of life in New England; how they struggled to assure themselves of God's favor; how subsequent generations lamented the colony's loss of religious integrity; and the ways in which the Puritan outlook may have fed the Salem witch trials of 1692. x
  • 5
    Colonial Religious Diversity
    Even though few in the 17th century favored religious toleration in principle, the early presence of settlers from Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Holland, and Sweden created a situation of ethnoreligious diversity that would make toleration appealing. x
  • 6
    The Great Awakening
    The first truly "national" event in American history came in the form of a spellbinding English preacher named George Whitefield. He took the colonies by storm in 1740, founding the tradition of emotional revivalism that has played a central role in the nation's religious history ever since. By heightening the sense of immediate, individual ties to God, was Whitefield also helping to found the American Revolution? x
  • 7
    Religion and Revolution
    When the Revolutionary War began, both Rebels and Tories (as well as the pacifist Quakers) justified their actions in religious as well as political terms. Dozens of new, often millennial sects arose. Another outgrowth of this period was the First Amendment, which barred Congress from creating an established religion or preventing religion's free exercise. x
  • 8
    The Second Great Awakening
    This lecture traces the great revival of evangelical Protestantism in the early 19th century, the rise and significance of Methodism as a major Protestant group, and the links among the frontier, evangelicalism, social reform, and female leadership. x
  • 9
    Oneida and the Mormons
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of several new religions founded in America. Facing intense antipathy at first (in part because it blessed polygamy), it eventually established itself as a permanent and respectable part of the American religious landscape. Less enduring was the "Perfectionist" community of Oneida, New York, which also held unusual views of sex and marriage. x
  • 10
    Catholicism
    The arrival in the 1840s of numerous Irish Catholics, many of them driven out by famine, tested the limits of American religious tolerance, especially in eastern cities. Anti-Catholic literature, political movements, and rioting made Catholics feel besieged. They reacted partly by asserting that they too were good Americans, and partly by building a parallel educational and social world. x
  • 11
    African-American Religion
    Since the 1950s, historians have shown that the slaves mixed African traditions of conjure and music with Christianity in a blend that vitally sustained them through awful hardships. Christian beliefs also powerfully influenced whites on both sides of the slavery issue, slaveowners and abolitionists alike. x
  • 12
    The Civil War
    Divisions among the Protestant churches over slavery anticipated the Civil War. During the war, soldiers and civilians on both sides thought they were fighting a godly fight. Slaves saw their liberation in 1863 as a religious as well as political event, and both sides found a way to interpret the outcome of the war as further evidence of God's blessing. x
  • 13
    Victorian Developments
    The mid- and late 19th century saw new variants of Christianity bloom. Old preoccupations took on new forms amid a growing, urban-industrial society. Among the most important of these developments were the creation of movements linking religion and health, the growing role of women in religious life, and a new interest in biographical and literary approaches to the life and person of Jesus. x
  • 14
    Darwin and Other Dilemmas
    In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, developments in geology, biology, philology, and comparative religion threatened traditional ideas of nature and the Bible, provoking a crisis in American Christianity. Traditionalists and modernists both made intelligent and coherent cases for their views, but could find no common ground. x
  • 15
    Judaism in the 19th Century
    Between 1820 and 1860, America's scattered population of colonial-era Sephardic Jews was joined by a large German Jewish migration. Many joined the Reform movement and adopted American ways. A later and larger migration of Orthodox Jews from Eastern Europe, by contrast, resisted adaptation. The Conservative movement was a distinctive American compromise between these two alternatives. x
  • 16
    Fundamentalism
    While liberal or modernist Protestants sought to adapt their faith to new social and intellectual conditions, another group, now called fundamentalists, upheld the infallible authority of the Bible and embraced "dispensational premillennialism," the theory that the prophetic books of the Bible spell out timetables for the ages of world history and the coming apocalypse. x
  • 17
    War and Peace
    The United States became a world power in the 20th century, and faced hard ethical questions about whether, when, and how to fight. Religious groups did much to shape public opinion often, but not always, in support of military action. Quakers and Mennonites remained pacifists, while the Catholic Church, superpatriotic early in the century, later became a critic of policies that involved the use or threat of nuclear weapons. x
  • 18
    Twentieth-Century Catholicism
    The Irish-dominated American Catholic Church became far more ethnically diverse after 1880, as new immigrants arrived from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Church's distinctive beliefs and strong presence made for tension between Catholics and Protestants. But John Kennedy's presidential victory and the Second Vatican Council transformed both the Church's inner tone and outward relations with American society. x
  • 19
    The Affluent Society
    Amid postwar prosperity and suburbanization, churches played an ambiguous role. More people belonged and attended than ever before, but they looked to church more for comfort and aid than for doctrine and discipline. The church buildings themselves were often magnificent structures, but many influential religious voices of the era warned against the spiritual dangers of materialism. x
  • 20
    The Civil Rights Movements
    Churches have long been key political as well as spiritual institutions for African-Americans. Clergy, notably Martin Luther King, Jr., led the civil rights movement, using a powerful biblical rhetoric that appealed to blacks and whites alike. Black Muslims, by contrast, preached racial pride and separatism, also based on a sustaining religious vision. In years since, other protest movements have borrowed the rhetoric and style of the civil rights movement. x
  • 21
    The Counterculture and Feminism
    The 1960s saw the rise of an array of religious cults and sects, many of them short-lived, but a few more durable. They revisited some familiar themes in American history, especially the idea of charismatic religious leadership and apocalyptic end-times, but they were linked also to the Cold War environment, the age's technology, and the protest movements and "isms" that came in the wake of civil rights. x
  • 22
    Asian Religions
    Despite scattered interest among intellectuals, Asian religions "arrived" culturally in America only in the 20th century. The 1950s "Beats" and the 1960s counterculture were taken with forms of Asian spirituality. But what seemed exotic to whites was for Asian immigrants a familiar link to the lands they had left, and their experiences in the late 20th century mirrored those of earlier immigrant generations from Europe. x
  • 23
    Church and State
    The First Amendment requires nonestablishment and free exercise, but has not foreclosed disputes over what those mean or just where the boundaries between religion and politics should be drawn. Court decisions, political campaigns, and societal changes over the last 30 years have made such disputes vigorous indeed. x
  • 24
    The Enduring Religious Sensibility
    This course has shown that religion has played a central part in shaping American society and its distinctive characteristics. Most striking in comparative perspective is the fact that American religious involvement and commitment did not decline at a time when such declines were the experience of the other Western industrial nations. x

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  • 136-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Patrick N. Allitt

About Your Professor

Patrick N. Allitt, Ph.D.
Emory University
Dr. Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. The holder of a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt-an Oxford University graduate-has also taught American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow. He was the Director of Emory College's Center for Teaching...
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Reviews

American Religious History is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 94.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable Overview of Religion in America With so many different denominations and sects that are peculiar to American history, I enjoyed examining the people who began these groups and at what times they fit into history. To examine these groups without prejudice or bias, but rather in a factual manner, was refreshing.
Date published: 2018-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a history lesson, not a sermon I have several courses from Patrick Allitt and what attracted me to this course is how Dr Allitt seems to make every effort to objective by leaving his emotional opinions out. It appears that today that objective "just the facts" is increasingly being being replaced by "sensitivity" training on campus. I commend the Teaching Company for finding many such real historians such as Allitt. There are many highlights of this course. such as...lecture 2 which explains the European background which set the precedence for later events in American history. Martin Luther and Henry VIII were never Americans but sure shaped American religious history. Other topics that I found particularly informative are, Native American religion, the fate of George Whitfield's remains, Oneida sexuality, early events in Mormonism, anti-Catholic sentiment, African influences, Darwinism, branches of Judaism, and the ongoing church/state debates. As an Englishman, the professor offers what I consider some fascinating insight into American religiosity and why the US is relatively more religious than other Western cultures.
Date published: 2018-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding! In this substantial series of 24 lectures, Professor Patrick Allitt describes the important place of religion in US society and politics from colonial times to the 20th century. Clearly, much research has gone into preparing the lectures which are very informative and well organized. Visibly, they have been thoroughly fine-tuned in a classroom environment before being taped! Professor Allitt remains objective throughout and refrains from any personal issues, except for passing references to his British origins that his accent gives away anyhow. He covers not only Protestantism and Catholicism but also native religions, Judaism and, to a lesser extent, Islam and Eastern faiths. He is enlightening not only with facts but also with his analysis, for instance of how individual Americans are comfortable in choosing their own religion _ something surprising for foreigners_ and how religion is often a crucial connection to the home country for immigrants. Overall, this course is highly recommended to all interested in better understanding the United States.
Date published: 2018-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very enjoyable, fast-paced course I very much enjoyed this incredibly detailed course. The people and personalities come to life in this fast-paced presentation. Lectures of fascinating storytelling combined with thorough research-based knowledge. The course deepens the understanding of how religion has driven the history of the United States and how it remains an essential part of current culture. I will come back to this course again in the future. For the content and for the refreshing and very enjoyable style of the presenter. Very well done... !
Date published: 2018-02-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The things which professor Patrick Allitt chose to include, and the things which he chose to omit, make his course, "American Religious History" less scholarly and less inspirational than I had hoped. A few examples: When the 2 great preachers of the Great Awakening period, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, met each other one day, Prof. Allitt chose to share only how Whitfield admired Edward's wife, and how it re-energized his prays for a wife of his own. It thought it unprofessional when Prof. Allitt prefaced a quote by saying, "I don't know if this is true, but this is his description of what was going on." He then quotes a Charles Woodmason, who is opposed to the revivalists: "they are as drunk as ever, and they still have riots, frolics . . . they think nothing of pre-marital sex . . .". Is that scholarly? Choosing quotes which can't even be verified to make these converts of the Great Awakening sound so carnal? When Lewis and Clark encountered the Mandan Indians, Prof. Allitt described for his students the Indians sex ritual: the older and wiser men would transmit some of their wisdom to the younger men by sleeping with the younger men's wives. When the younger men were reunited with their wives and had sex, the wisdom would be transmitted. I'm not questioning the accuracy of this, but why include this and omit facts which could be edifying and encouraging to the student interested in the beneficial role religion played in American history? I also question the accuracy of a few statements Prof. Allitt made: Near the end of Lesson 3 he stated that most Europeans who came to the new world felt they had to convert the Indians or exterminate them altogether. Near the beginning of Lesson 7: "George Washington was an Anglican; he went through the motions, but he clearly wasn't a man of piety or devotion." One comes away from this course with the impression Protestantism in America has been a little bizarre, a little ridiculous, and often self-serving. Some of that no doubt has existed, but his presentation is one-sided.
Date published: 2018-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American Religious History I brought the courses American Religious History about a year ago. I have really enjoyed this courses. I wished that it had a video part to it. But never the less I learned a lot from it. If you are a student of Christian History it is a good course to help you understand the religious history of America. The teacher Mr. Patrick Allitt is a very good teacher. I would like to see a video developed and Mr. Allitt go into more details. Again the course was fun to listen too.
Date published: 2018-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! This course was fun. The instructor did a good job of covering a lot of information in a small space of time. I love history and I love religion. I learned a lot about the history of religion which went right along with an actual class I was taking at the same time. This course definitely helped me understand my other class a lot more. He kind of cracked me up at times with his accent and when he found something funny. He did flub up on the Mormon religion a bit - it is obvious he really didn't know exactly what he was talking about when he told what the Book of Mormon was and the origin of the people int he book (he couldn't have read the book - I have read the book and it isn't exactly what he said), which did make me wonder how much he was getting correct about the other religions he was talking about. But I really did enjoy this course and will listen to it again.
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent history lesson I purchased the CD version and enjoyed it completely. The presenter is from England, but his accent becomes understandable almost immediately. He looks at areas that I would have overlooked in a history of religion in the United States, such as the Civil War, 20th century wars and more recent developments such as the impact of Asian religions and feminism. Each session is complete unto itself, but the recommendation would be to follow the sequence Professor Allitt developed. I can see myself returning to this course in the future as it was well presented and was obviously the result of considerable research and study.
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best course I have ever taken This course added meaning to the history I was already familiar with. Presented important background to our current political climate.
Date published: 2017-07-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from America's Religious Evolution This set of lectures is a very good survey of the history and societal evolution of religion in America, starting with the native Americans and moving on to the increasing numbers of religiously disgruntled and persecuted Western European immigrants. For me, the lectures represented more a philosophical transition of religious beliefs modified by patriotic fervor. The religious philosophies often were in open conflict, but more commonly agreed to peacefully coexist, quietly sniping at one another either over the occasional Monkey Trial or the benefits of no-meat-Fridays. But in the long run, the country was made stronger because of these religious tensions. The lectures make you think... Good lecture set...Dr Allitt speaks very well, in a clear, wonderfully accented cadence. The lectures are well organized and fit well in the other lectures series that examine America's history. Recommended, especially when you can snag a discount, and have a coupon up your sleeve.
Date published: 2017-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What I wanted! Just started, but so far this is great! However, I thought I purchased the DVD, but unless there is something up with my computer, it appears that I have purchased the CD!! So far I do not get any video.
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good experience I am a retired history teacher & found great value in this course, both because it refreshed my own knowledge & provided some fresh insights.
Date published: 2017-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent content and presentation The presenter is one of the top two or three in my Great Courses collection. Some of the other lecturers should hire him to ghost-read for them!
Date published: 2017-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Religious Perspective on American History I have both a love of history and an aiding interest in religion, so this course is tailor-made for me. And perhaps my rating is greatly influenced by these interests. Even so I found Professor Allitt’s course to be interesting, informative and insightful. Much of this course follows a typical history of the United States, beginning with our European background, in this case focused on religious intolerance in (especially) England prior to the settlement of the colonies. Other than history focused on religion, there is nothing that seems to be particularly groundbreaking in these early lectures. Still, for me there was plenty of new information and different perspectives that I had not considered and that I found revealing. In these early lectures Dr. Allitt is laying a foundation for his thesis that he expands in his later lectures. That is the issues that allowed (and continue to allow) the emphasis in American society on religion to a degree, not found in other Western countries. Along the way we are treated to discussions of many, non-mainstream religions and movements, some of which I had passing familiarity and others that were almost entirely new to me. For me the course really hits its stride in the last quarter of the lectures. In particular his discussions on religion and the civil rights movement, church and state and the affluent society stood out. And the lecture on Feminism and the counterculture reminded me of things that were important at the time and that have not yet been fully resolved. Professor Allitt’s last lecture where he provides his reasoning as to why religion is so important even today in American society (as opposed to most of the rest of the West) goes all the way back to the groundwork he set out early and seems to me to be most convincing.
Date published: 2017-06-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I learned lots I very much liked the audio download format. I was able to listen while I was doing other things. I didn't give full marks for two reasons: I found the applause off-putting, and I would have liked this, and all other Great Courses, to show the date it was produced. In one of the lectures, Plymouth Rock and even Harper's Ferry were mentioned as places which have taken on something of an iconic symbolism. The World Trade Center site wasn't mentioned. I'm assuming that that's because the course was produced prior to 2001. I live in NYC, and I can tell you, the State of Liberty and the WTC site are iconic. They are things people most want to see and with reverence.
Date published: 2017-05-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from American Religious History I found the lecture interesting and very informative. My understanding of religion in America was greatly enhanced.
Date published: 2017-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Concise and Well-presented Listened twice and find it a fascinating overview of religion in America. Hits all of the major issues/events/trends with great wit and sarcasm when appropriate.
Date published: 2017-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent presentation... I have heard many courses in TGC on American history. In almost all of them, the religious angle is but one important aspect out of many, and it is discussed only in as much as needed to provide context to some other historical aspect which receives center stage attention. In this course, the roles are reversed: the religious aspect takes on center stage. In the first part of the course, the circumstances and dogmas of thought of each of the Christian denominations that originated in North America, such as the Oneida community, the Mormons, African Christian religions are discussed quite at length. Other lectures in the first part focus on immigrants belonging to persecuted Christian religious denominations that travelled to North America to live in peace and quiet. Professor Allitt demonstrates how this history was instrumental in creating a society with relative religious tolerance and diversity, so different than the situation in Europe. Many different key narrative aspects are also described including the first and second great awakenings, and the great American Theologians. The second part of the course is much more thematic in nature, and tries to explore how religious aspects interacted with other aspects of historical evolution such as for example, the civil rights movement, the Darwinian revolution, the interaction between church and state and the interaction with affluence. Aspects of other religious groups such as Jewish conservatives and reform are given consideration. I found Professor Allitt to be one of the best presenters in TGC. I have heard many of his other courses including “the industrial revolution”, “Vicotrian Britain”, and “Rise and fall of the British Empire” and enjoyed all of them tremendously. He has a very special presentation style. The approach is very personal – almost conversational – and he likes to quote a lot of contemporary source material to demonstrate the points he is trying to make. In all honesty, I found some of the lectures to be a bit of a slog to go through, but I think this is because I myself am interested in this topic mostly for understanding other aspects of American history and less in the topic in and of itself. Still, the lectures were well done and interesting and provided a lot of new content and perspectives that were new to me.
Date published: 2016-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Idea for new Mini Course Series I am so glad you have asked for my input. I have been a faithful customer for years and I would like to make a suggestion for future courses which I would most like to see. I would like to see a new option from the Great Courses - I would like to see a whole selection of "Mini Courses." I am a person who really likes to know a little bit about a broad range of subjects, rather than great depth on just a few. I have found that to listen to a course of more than 24 lectures is hard to keep my interest. I would love to see a whole new series of shorter courses on famous people (biographies) and countries. I would love to learn more about the history of England, China, Russia, India and other countries in Europe and Asia, but I am reluctant to buy your huge comprehensive courses of 36, 48 or more lectures. I'd just like to get a fast paced, engaging overview, laced with many interesting stories about the significant people and events. I'd also love to learn more about missionaries and other significant people who have contributed much to others. I'd like to learn more about Dr. Livingstone and Albert Schweitzer, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. for example. Thank you for considering my suggestions.
Date published: 2016-09-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Accumulated Perspectives I lied! Either to myself or to others. Seeing the great number, and quality, of courses for free online, I actually thought I'd buy no more from an old friend. Then came http://www.thegreatcourses.com/…/american-religious-history… . I'm impressed by the prof's attempt to explain the religious, evangelical tent show to a generation who never saw one, nor a circus. He relates it to the televised political conventions. Not party specific.
Date published: 2016-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview I thoroughly enjoyed the big picture overview. It also allowed me to identify my own particular religious background and experience. That combination helped me understand and appreciate others as well my own faith journey.
Date published: 2016-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid overview I teach similar survey undergraduate courses such as "Comparative Religion" and "Western Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam". As my own personal experience is in Judaism, reviewing the intricacies dividing various forms of Protestantism in America in this lively, entertaining course, was quite excellent. This is a solid overview of the topic presented in a clear, pleasant manner.
Date published: 2016-07-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from The Devaluation of Religion Professor Allitt never answered the question of "Why does America, unlike virtually any other industrial nation, continue to show so much religious vitality?". He began with the transfer of American religious heritage from Europe and never developed why religion should remain in America while it soon died in Europe. He never really discussed the formal core beliefs of American Christianity and rarely had anything good to say about the tremendous value that the Christian religion added to the development of America. Most of his teaching is anecdotal and it served primarily to denigrate religion of all kinds. Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and wrote "Democracy in America" in 1835 wherein he marveled at how Christianity was woven throughout American civil society, which lead to our greatness. Dr. Allitt failed to show how this same religion produced the great political, social and economic development of America.
Date published: 2016-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from American Religious History One of the best courses I have listened to; not bad after ordering more than 50 courses! It is somewhat ironic that the lecturer is British and providing such a comprehensive approach to American history. I can well understand why he was selected for this course. His students should be honored to learn from such a fine professor.
Date published: 2016-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, Balanced Survey I found this a very thoughtful, balanced series of lectures. I have taken a number of Prof. Allitt's courses and am a fan, so I was predisposed to enjoy his lecture style and approach and was not disappointed. As he does in a number of his other courses, Prof. Allitt uses numerous examples to illustrate broader themes, and he chooses these well once again. He has a conversational style and an appealing sense of humor, and his perspective as a native born Englishman yields a refreshing take, even on familiar subjects. He approaches these lectures on religious life in America strictly as an historian, as advertised, and he does not betray a particular point of view or render judgment. I found the course very informative, but even more, simply enjoyable and entertaining. High marks!
Date published: 2016-05-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The course is good but I didn't buy the CD set for that. I originally bought the course years ago, on cassette, for which players are increasingly scarce. I listen to courses in the car, for the most part, but few cars offer cassette players. I have a transfer deice to play the cassette into the computer and pull a CD from that, but it is time-consuming; a 24-lesson course requires 12 hours of copying. I could stream the courses I've bought, but the same problem exists; making a copy requires copying in real time, unlike downloading a new purchase for transfer to CD. When I was offered the CD version for about $20, I figured the per-hour value to me and decided it was worth buying a duplicate to get the transfer made for me. You might consider offering a special cost-plus rate for those of us who already own cassette versions but would rather have the disks.
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quality Riveting Presenations I have taught Religious History within a parochial High School context for over 15 years. I found these presentations enlightening. His presentations broadened my understanding and thus my teaching.
Date published: 2015-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Big Picture and the Details Too Professor Patrick Allitt has a good voice and a good presentation style, but it is the content that is the strength of this course. Allitt covers the subject matter of this series by looking at the forest and the trees of American religious history. He not only covers the history of the various major religions in the United States, buy takes a look at the conditions that early practitioners of those religions experienced throughout history. It is a vast topic, and one for which it is impossible to cover every sect or denomination in detail even in a 24 lecture series. Despite this Allitt manages to cover a lot of ground including the histories of Catholicism, Protestant denominations, African-American churches, Judaism and even eastern religions from their introduction into America up to modern times. He also talks about some of the prominent religious leaders, evangelists and personalities throughout who influenced American religious culture and politics. Professor Allitt covers this complex topic objectively and professionally, while maintaining a pleasant and sometimes humorous demeanor. This course will appeal to those both with an interest in religious history and in American history. The Great Courses have done it again, in presenting an interesting and enjoyable first rate course.
Date published: 2015-03-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good material poorly presented Good content, good material, well organized and worth the time to listen and absorb. Would be a better rating if not the presenter injected his own personal ideology into the material. Specifically he made judgements of Historical beliefs known by sniggering at them, laughing at them, anachronistically labeling them and otherwise showing his personal superiority. It was hard to ignore his condescension and pay attention to this fascinating subject. I will not participate in other courses by this presenter.
Date published: 2015-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Balanced, Objective I am deeply convicted that there is a god, and that that god is the God of the Bible, and I was concerned that somewhere in this course professor Allitt would seize the opportunity to zing people of faith like me. I was pleased that Allitt maintained scholarly objectivity throughout. The only way in which I found this course lacking is that Allitt was constrained by time to not go into greater depth, or cover some areas he said he would have liked cover. This course is a broad, not in-depth overview, and it would be nice if there could be follow-on courses to supplement.
Date published: 2014-12-22
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