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This comprehensive narrative account of religion in America from 1607 through the present depicts the religious life of the American people within the context of American society. It addresses topics ranging from the European/Puritan origins of American religious thought, the ramifications of the “Great Awakening”, the effect of nationhood on religious practice, and the shifting religious configuration of the late 20th century.
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Professor John Corrigan (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1982) teaches American religious history, religion and emotion, and theory and method in the academic study of religion. He has served as regular or visiting faculty at the University of Virginia, Harvard, Arizona State University, Oxford, University of London, University of Halle-Wittenberg, University College (Dublin) and as a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome. He also has taught in the FSU program in Florence. His books include The Hidden Balance (Cambridge University Press, 1987); The Prism of Piety (Oxford University Press, 1991); Religion in America (coauthor, Prentice Hall, 1992, 1998; 2003); Jews, Christians, Muslims (coauthor, Prentice Hall, 1998); Readings in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (coeditor, Prentice Hall, 1998); Emotion and Religion (coauthor, Greenwood, 2000); Business of the Heart: Religion and Emotion in the Nineteenth Century (University of California Press, 2002); Religion and Emotion: Approaches and Interpretations, ed., (Oxford, 2004), and French and Spanish Missions in North America, an interactive electronic book (co-author, California Digital Library/University of California-Berkeley 2005). He is editor of the Oxford Handbook of Religion and Emotion (OUP, forthcoming 2007), serves as coeditor of the journal Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture and on editorial boards of several other journals, and is the editor of the Chicago History of American Religion book series published by the University of Chicago Press. He recently has written an overview of emotion, religion, and capitalism since the sixteenth century, and currently is writing a book-length study, Religious Intolerance in America: A History of Hatred and Forgetting, and editing, with Amanda Porterfield, Religion in American History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008) and co-authoring, with Lynn Neal, Religious Intolerance in America: A Documentary History (University of North Carolina Press, 2008). His current research interests are religious conflict and emotion in religious practice.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
This is a story about religion in America. But it is not the only story about religion in America. At certain points in the telling, it corresponds with other stories about people, places, and religious things. Sometimes, on the other hand, this story takes turns that distance it from these other stories. Like all other stories of a nation's past, it is an intertwining of many threads of narrative. Here and there those threads are woven into a relatively sturdy, even fabric. In other places, the warp and woof are uneven, ragged, or fragile. History is complex, to some extent indeterminate, and is subject to constant revision. This history of the development of American religious life is, accordingly, a work in progress.
A story changes with each telling, and this story is no different. In preparing Religion in America for a seventh edition, I have added several new sections, and have enlarged and detailed others. In this edition I note the important Reformation and Catholic Reformation backgrounds to Christian missionizing in North America, and especially the way in which the struggles between Protestants and Catholics in Europe translated in certain ways to the vigorous Jesuit and Franciscan and Sulpician ventures on this side of the Atlantic. The legacy of the Spanish presence in colonial North America—in the form of a distinctive Hispanic Catholicism—is also the subject of a more detailed discussion. This treatment is particularly appropriate in view of the recent dramatic growth of that part of the population whose background is Hispanic.
The careful work undertaken by historians in recent years to enlarge our understanding of African American religious history has made possible a broader and deeper picture of that aspect of the story. Drawing on this ongoing research, I have added material on the emergence of the African American denominations, on the role of religion in African American social movements (from mutual aid societies to the Convention Movement), on the formation of black women's religious societies, and on the growing popularity of Islam and Islamic movements among African Americans.
Historical scholarship continues to confirm the primary roles of women in sustaining religious institutions in America. In a new section on the "female majority," I describe some of the roles played by women, as well as the resistance that they encountered, as they sought to expand the scope of their religious activities in antebellum America. In discussing this period, I also address in greater detail the ways in which Catholics and Jews organized their religious life and the ways in which that life changed as those communities grew and diversified. There likewise is a fuller discussion of the most important of nineteenth-century national revivals, the Businessmen's Revival (or, Union Revival) of 1858, which served at one level to accentuate ethnic, gender, class, and age differences in religious groups at the same time that it fostered unity on another level.
Pentecostalism has proven to be one of the most vital and fast-growing branches of Christianity, both in America and in many other parts of the world. The story in this edition takes more time with the beginnings of Pentecostalism in America, noting the ways in which Pentecostalism, over the course of the twentieth century, has moved from the periphery of American religious life into the mainstream of popular culture. By the same token, Islam has developed from its status as a religion practiced solely by first- and second-generation immigrants to a faith embraced by a broad base of Americans, and especially as a religion that appeals to African Americans. I address this development in greater detail, noting the differences in styles of Islam in America and the ways in which it has been connected or disconnected with Islam as it is practiced elsewhere. I likewise note how the events of September 11, 2001, have affected the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in America.
The essential pattern of this history, for all of these additions, remains the same. Three overlapping contexts frame the story. First, religion is pictured in its relations with other aspects of American life. Religious traditions and communities exercise a profound influence on the formation of culture in America. Religion, in turn, is constantly being shaped by forces outside the church, synagogue, mosque, and meetinghouse. Religion in America addresses religious life as a whole as it arises in the context of this reciprocal relationship.
Second, the transatlantic dimension forms a key part of the story. Although religions in America exhibit distinctive features, most religionists engage in practice that bears the mark of a predominantly European background. After the initial migration of Europeans to America, the European influence was sustained in various ways and most conspicuously through waves of immigration. It is true as well that in the course of being translated to an American context, religion that originated in Europe was modified. In some cases the change was minimal, and in other cases the process of adaptation resulted in dramatic recastings of religious belief and practice. In the twentieth century, the migration of persons from Asia and from Latin America—added to communities of various sizes already established within the national borders of the United States—enlarged this other dimension of influence. But even in these cases, the religious background of immigrants was often substantially shaped by European religions. The majority of Asian immigrants, for example, are Christian. The most significant case of religious influence of a non-European stripe is the other transatlantic pathway, the African diaspora, which brought persons to the Americas as slaves. After the European influence, the African influence has been most significant. As greater numbers of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and others settle in the United States and establish centers of religious practice, they have further complicated the religious pluralism of the nation. We ought to expect that as these communities grow and participate more fully in the give and take of public life, they will help to shape the religious landscape in new ways. Just what those shapes will be, however, we do not yet know.
Third, the story of religion in America emerges out of the interaction of many religious groups. At times that interaction was manifest in cooperative projects of missionizing, education, and reform. On other occasions, conflicts in the form of nativism, heresy accusations, and regional differences, alongside an assortment of race, class, and gender issues, broke the surface of denominational life. In early America, patterns of interaction were relatively simple because the religious spectrum was narrow. With the full-scale development of the institution of slavery, and as religious and ethnic diversity increased during the nineteenth century, relations between religious groups invariably became more complex. In the early twenty-first century, complexity born of a broad pluralism appeared as an exclamation point to the story. The durability of that pluralism was tested by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. For some, such as Florida pastor and Southern Baptist Convention leader Rev. Jerry Vines, the attacks illustrated the principle that Islam was a demonic religion and that the nation's problems were caused precisely by religious pluralism. For others, the vigorous and ongoing public discussion of religion in the wake of the attacks led to a more hospitable and understanding view of non-Christian and minority religions in America. One poll indicated that a much greater percentage of Americans viewed Islam positively after the attacks than before them.
Finally, it is important to recognize that much religion in America began as popular religion, as "religion of the people" (populus). Religious groups such as Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, and many others began as popular religious movements. And individuals who have located their religious life largely within the confines of well-established denominations have, nevertheless, sometimes also embraced popular religious ideas and participated in religious rituals of a popular sort. American interest in religious entrepreneurialism and the "customizing" of religious life—through innovation, borrowing, and adaptation—is a leading theme of the nation's religious history.
My work on this book has required that I constantly attempt to see the material as would a person just beginning the study of religion in America. I am grateful to those colleagues who, from their positions in the classroom trenches, communicated to me their suggestions on enriching and clarifying the story.
I am especially indebted to the following reviewers for their help: Sandy Duane Martin, The University of Georgia; Paul P Parker, Elmhurst College; and Elaine McDuff, Iowa State University. I also thank Howell Williams and Heather Nicholson for their help in preparing the manuscript for publication, and Art Remillard for his excellent work on the Index. I have had many outstanding copy editors over the years, but Carolyn Ingalls's work was simply extraordinary.
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