Have you ever wondered why America, unlike virtually any other industrial nation, continues to show so much religious vitality? Or why are the varieties of religion found in the United States are so numerous and diverse? In this vigorous series of 24 lectures, Professor Allitt argues that the best way to look for explanations of this truly remarkable vitality and diversity is to study the nation's religious history.
That's a task, though, that involves more than simply examining religion from the directions you might expect, including its formal beliefs, its ideas, its communal or institutional loyalties, and its styles of worship. It also requires looking at 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, such as Martin Luther King Jr. using a mixture of biblical references and appeals to patriotism to press the case for civil rights.
The lectures also address 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 sounds of hymns, prayers, and chants; smelled in Catholic or Buddhist incense, or even tasted, as you discover when you learn why the casserole may be the most "Protestant" of all dishes!
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses
I never would have sought out this course, but I picked it up on a whim, based entirely upon the reviews on The Great Courses website. I must say thank you to all the reviewers, because I found this to be one of the most delightful and captivating of the 30+ Great Courses I've listened to.
Professor Allitt is completely engaging, and packs each lecture with great portraits of historical significance, entertaining anecdotes, and recommendations for continued reading.
His enthusiasm for the subject is evident throughout, and his ability to help one view the U.S. through an outsider's perspective (he's British) makes him a modern day de Tocqueville.
If I had any complaint, it might be that non-western religions get very little attention. However, that very well may be the proper proportion given the dominance of judeo-christian religions in U.S. history.
Do not hesitate to listen to this course. It's a guaranteed winner.
I enjoyed this study and the presentation. the evolution of our relationship with religion and God is interesting and the professor keeps his views at bay while offering a full scope the American religious history.
Andy from FL
Pretty good book. I especially liked the first half. The second half he got into comparative religious teaching and the introduction of Darwin's theory of evolution and it is easy to tell that he sides on the secular view vs the Biblical view. Also, the first half I felt the topics were covered in a brief but thorough way. The second half he discusses various sects like the JWs and Mormons which was interesting but I wish more time had been spent on these topics as it seemed they were covered too briefly.
I did feel that he attempted to be as unbiased as possible but when discussing a topic like religion, this is easier said than done. This book is definitely worth the time it takes to listen to it but as with all books that deal with history, be on your guard and don't just swallow something as fact just because a Prof states it as "fact". Prove all things.
Good overview of American religious history from a mostly objective view point. I enjoyed the journey and would recommend it for a first read or as a refresher
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