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UI 336-01 Religion in America
Fall 2012
 Dr. Bruce W. Gentry

Class Times: Tuesday and Thursday 2:00-3:15pm
 Classroom:  Carnahan 113
Office:  Baptist Student Center (909 Normal Ave)
 Office Phone:  335-6489
Office Hours:  By Appointment Only

Web Assisted Site:

Note:  The Drop Box, Forum, Online Tests, and Grade book will be used in this class.  A number of sources/course content will be posted on the Class Content Page.  The Content Page functions as a calendar. 

Course Requirements

Description:  This course is a study of the historical, social, political, and philosophical roles of religion in America.

 The following two rental texts are required for the course:

Charles H. Lippy, "Introducing American Religions" (Routledge Press, 2009) ISBN:  978-0-415-44859-8

R. Marie Griffith, "American Religions" (Oxford, 2008) ISBN:  978-0-19-517045-0

Course Objectives:

  1. to appreciate the diversity, depth, and influence of religion in America

  2. to understand the contribution of religious traditions to the founding of America and freedom of the practice of religion

  3. to understand how religions have influenced and have been influenced by major historical events and movements

  4. to examine particular religious traditions sociologically and historically

  5. to enhance ability in working together with a team on a common goal

  6. to understand and articulate contemporary issues in regard to religion in America

  7. to improve research and writing skills.


Prerequisites:  None

Student Learning Outcomes:

A. Students will demonstrate proficiency by scoring 60% or more on a comprehensive objective exam covering significant facts about the history and development of religion in America.

B. Students will score at least a minimum proficiency level (4 on a 6-point scale) on a short essay about a selected topic in American religion requiring comparison and contrasting of intellectual and theological perspectives.

C.  Students will score at least a minimum proficiency level (4 on a 6-point scale) on a short essay tracing the effect of pluralism on some aspect of American politics and culture.


  1. One group project/presentation                                           100 points     (Scheduled Later)

Students will sign-up for one topic and, as a group, plan, research, and a give an in-class presentation on the selected topic.   Members of the group will share the same grade for the project.  Students will be expected to comment on the class presentations within the forum on the class web site.  Use any kind of media (video, power point, guest speaker).  Group will be graded upon depth and insight into topic, research, creativity, and engaging fellow students in the topic.   A list of topics is available on the class information page.  Please provide Dr. Gentry with a copy of your slides (3-4 slides to a page) or outline of your presentation with an attached page of sources before you begin your presentation.  The goal for each group size is 3-4 students per group.

  1. One Topical Paper                                                                100 points/each  
                                                                                            Due in Drop Box:  Thursday, November 8, Midnight

Paper should be at least six pages in length, double spaced, bibliography included, on any topic on religion in America of your choosing.  Make sure your topic is about religion in America (i.e., not just a summery of Islam, Buddhism but relate a religion to its practice/context in the USA).  Your  paper can be about a movement religion, history, beliefs, etc.  You may even want to research your own religion , church, or tradition.  I may help you revise your topic.  If you have trouble researching your topic, try perusing through the textbook for ideas. 

All sources must be cited as you use them with either endnotes or footnotes.  The actual style is up to you; just be consistent. 

You should have AT LEAST four good sources in your bibliography.  Do NOT use any open internet sources for your paper unless it is the official website of a particular religion.  You CAN (and I encourage you to use) the library search engines for journal articles.

Easy 5 points:  Decide on the topic you want to research for your individual papers, type the title and brief explanation in your document, and upload file in the drop box. 

  1. Two  Tests                                                                             100 points/each
    Midterm:  Thursday, October 4
    Final:  Check Finals schedule 


  1. Observation Papers                                                             150 points  (Due in drop box on Thursday, December 6)

Students will be expected to visit four different worship services or religious events and write a reflective paper analyzing, comparing, and contrasting them.  Dr. Gentry will provide a worksheet to help.  Students are encouraged to choose religious traditions different from their own.  The paper should at least be six  pages. 

Observation Paper Handout

Information on Local Points of Worship:

A.  Link to Cape Girardeau area Churches

B.  Islamic Center, 298 West End

C.  Orthodox

D.  PDF Files from the  Southeast Missourian Church pages:  Page One   Page Two


5.  Forum Discussion                                                                        30 points/session (Start and cut off dates will be announced in class and posted on Contents Page)

I will assign reading assignments and use the forum for a class discussion for a limited period of time. Thirty point sessions will be open for an extended time. I will assign a demo forum at some point to let everyone get used to how this works.

There will be a few topics for class discussion during the semester.  Students will be expected to comment on presentations in the forum after class presentations.  This is a subjective grade for each comment you make.  You are expected to participate in the entire forum.  Every post will be given a score.  All of your posts will be added up after the forum closes.


6.  Interactive Assignments--Giving in class to be  turned in during class or at a later date.                                                                                                                                                 20points/assignment


1.   Book Review (25 points)--Choose a book from the website or from the textbook bibliography.   Other book must be approved by Dr. Gentry or no credit will be given.

2. Attendance of university events (5 points or Announced)--Provided at Dr. Gentry's discretion and will be announced in class and posted on the web site. 

All bonus work must be turned in before the last day of class!

Expectations and Policies:


While attendance per se can not be required of students, there are consequences associated with absences and policies governing excused- and non-excused absences.  The official statement about attendance, derived from the Undergraduate Bulletin, may be accessed at:

Class attendance is expected and class participation is encouraged.  If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to cover what you missed on your own.  Tests will be made up only in case of emergency or upon prior approval of Dr. Gentry.  Students are responsible for all assigned material.  Reading assignments will be made during class.  All papers must be uploaded into the drop box and should be submitted as a Word file. 

Academic honesty

The Undergraduate Bulletin defines academic dishonesty as “…those acts which would deceive, cheat, or defraud so as to promote one’s scholastic record…”, and states that “[v]iolations of academic honesty represent a serious breech of discipline and may be considered grounds for disciplinary action, including dismissal from the university”.

Civility and Harassment

  • A major determinant of a successful educational experience is a shared sense of respect among and between the students and their instructor. 
  • The academic study of religion is only possible in an atmosphere of freedom, respect, and openness.
    • Disrespectful behavior, either in the classroom or in the forum, will not be tolerated.
    • Every person, regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, etc. is entitled to their own free opinion.


  • Diversity in all its forms merit the respect of the faculty, and this applies equally to students with disabilities.
  • Students with any type of disability should contact the professor before class begins at the beginning of the semester.


  • The website is a considerable part of this course.
  • The DropBox is required for the submission of written assignments.  Online tests will be used for testing.  The forum will be used for at least two grades.  The Class Content page will be an important resource for the class and will be used as a class calendar. 

Other Helpful Information:

  1. The best time to talk with Dr. Gentry is before or after class.  For extended appointment, it is best to set up an appointment.  Dr. Gentry’s office is located in the Baptist Student Center, 909 Normal, on the corner of Normal and Pacific.

  2. Since there are several writing assignments for this course, you would be well advised to consult SEMO’s writing center.  The writing center is located in the library.

  3. For papers, follow a consistent method of documentation, i.e., MLA.

  4. Academic Integrity:  The university handbook is the guide this policy.  If you have questions about quotations, materials, or writing style, consult Dr. Gentry for specific questions. 

  5.  Research:  The library has a fairly decent collection on religion.  You can also find good academic religion resources through the libraries search engines.  Avoid using the the web directly for sources unless the source is exceptionally first rate!  The Baptist Student Center also has a library which students are welcomed to use.  The library works on an honor system, and we only ask that you follow the rules of the library that are posted. 

  6. Dr. Gentry has a zero toleration policy on plagiarism.  Dr. Gentry simply will not grade plagiarized material!

    Recommended Online Sources:

    Oxford Reference Online - Religion
    Oxford Reference Online - History
    Project Muse Database
    JSTOR Database
    Social Science Full Text
    Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature

    Select Bibliography

    Madeline Albright, The Mighty and the  Almighty (NY:  Harper Collins, 2006).

    Nancy T. Ammerman, Congregation and Community. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1996.

    Robert N. Bellah and Frederick E. Greenspahn, eds. Uncivil Religion: Interreligious Hostility in America. New York: Crossroad, 1987.

    Boucher, Sandy. Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism

    Budde, Michael and R. Brimlow. Christianity Incorporated: How Big Business is Buying the Church.

    Butler, Jon. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People. Harvard, 1990. (BL2525 B87x 1990) F; CCL.

    Henry W. Bowden, American Indians and Christian Missions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

    Ann Braude, Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth Century America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1989.

    Forrest Church, The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State (Harcourt Books, 2007).

    William A. Clebsch, From Sacred to Profane: The Role of Religion in American History. Tallahassee, Fla.: American Academy of Religion, 1981.

    Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

    Clarke Garrett, Spirit Possession and Popular Religion: From the Camisards to the Shakers. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.

    Harrison, J.F.C. The Second Coming: Popular Millenarianism: 1780-1850. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1979.

    Miller, Timothy, When Prophets Die:  The Postcharismatic Fate of New Religious Movements (Albany, NY:  State University of NY Press, 1991).

    Hardesty, Nancy A. Women Called to Witness: Evangelical Feminism in the 19th Century

    Hatch, Nathan. The Democratization of American Christianity. Yale, 1989.

    Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America  (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 2003). 

    Kevin Phillips, American Theocracy: the Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century (NY:  Viking, 2006).

    Richard N. Ostling and Joan Ostling, Mormon America:  The Power and the Promise (Harper One, 2007).

    W. Scott Poole, Satan in America:  The Devil We Know (Lanham, MD:  Rowman and Littlefield, 2010).

    Putnam, Robert G. American Grace:  How Religion Divides Us and Unites Us (NY:  Simon and Shuster, 2010).

    Albert Raboteau, Slave Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

    Anne C. Rose, Transcendentalism as a Social Movement, 1830-1850. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981.

    Deloria Vine, Jr, God is Red:  A Native View of Religion (Golden, Colorado:  North American Press, 1992), 2nd edition. 

    Tinker, George E. Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Cultural Genocide

    Turner, Richard Brent. Islam in the African-American Experience

    Wallace, Anthony F. C. The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca

    Weisenfeld, Judith and Richard Newman, This Far By Faith: Readings in African-American Women's Religious Biography