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American Religious History  By  cover art

American Religious History

By: Patrick N. Allitt,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Patrick N. Allitt
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Publisher's Summary

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

What listeners say about American Religious History

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What a surprise. I loved it!

Would you listen to American Religious History again? Why?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

26 people found this helpful

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Mostly post Civil War

I am a fan of Christian history. Even though I have read a number of books and taken multiple classes on Christian history, there is so much to learn. The Great Course’s lecture on American Religious History is from professor Patrick Alitt. He is a British (Anglican) immigrant to the US. So he brings a unique perspective as an outsider to American Religious history.

I certainly would not have organized the class in the way that he did, but I did learn a number of things. Most of the focus was on post-Civil War history, which is good with me. I have read more about early American Religious history anyway.

Some Christians may be surprised by the inclusion of non-Christian religious history here, but the lecture on Native American religious history, the inclusion of information on Mormons, Muslims, Jewish and other religious history is necessary to the whole story of religious history in the US. In many ways I think some of these minor subjects should have been covered in more depth. But there is so much that can be theoretically covered, that it is hard to complain too much about the balance of choices.

While I did enjoy it, I did not think it was as good as The History of Christian Theology, but it was worth listening to.

6 people found this helpful

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Short but Incredibly Sweet

WHAT TO EXPECT:
Allitt(le) bit on the short side but seriously engaging.

THE NARRATOR:
Patrick N. Allitt excels in everything I've heard by him and absolutely should be considered one of the best teachers on the Great Courses. His style of presentation is consistently captivating and occasional off-script comments quite insightful. His grasp of the material (as well as the strong accent) make for an enjoyable classroom listening experience. He shows his cards in a few places by extensively focusing on early American Catholic activity, which is his specialty.

THE CONTENT:
It's the broadstrokes of American religious history, notably beginning before the British settlements. Covers early Spanish and French missions and fragmented records of indigenous religions, which is much appreciated. Since the topic is so daunting it must be structured in a series of snapshots; it nonetheless succeeds as a general survey. He draws on primary sources (records, letters, poems, etc) that enhance and drive home his points. It's not an exhaustive series by any means but works for basic education on the subject.

OVERALL:
Amazing job, one of the most enjoyable Great Courses I have heard. I wholeheartedly recommend.

5 people found this helpful

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Good Survey of American Religious Life

I'm an ordained Lutheran pastor so this is familiar ground. But I did learn things I hadn't known before. And it is a really accessible, cogent overview of the religious trends in a nation based on the freedom to pursue a diversity of religious expressions (something I think we lose track of these days with a rise in xenophobia, etc.....). I warmly and highly recommend this course.

4 people found this helpful

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Unbiased, analytical

Allitt is one of my favorite lecturers. Wonderful voice. Smart. No hidden, or visible, ideological agenda.

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Excellent overview

I've always been curious about religious roots in the US and Prf Allitt provides a chronological account with interesting anecdotes about the many religious flavors.

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WINNER! ~ Well worth your time~

If you want a solid chronological religious overview of the United States, look no further.
Almost no wasted words as our professor churns through these deep waters at a brisk pace yet helps you feel that you're getting a solid look at each vantage point.
Excellent.

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The Rising Tide of Non-belief

I agree with Prof. Allitt regarding the topics he listed in the final lecture which he regretted not being able to address more fully. All of them are, in my opinion, deserving of a more full examination.

Additionally, I would have liked to have heard some mention of the rise in activity among atheist/agnostic, groups in recent years. There is virtually no mention of atheism except as an accusation hurled about by various proponents of one religious tradition at those supporting some competing system. That is to say, it's mentioned only as something people have always tried to avoid association with.

The release date given here is 2013. I'm not certain if that refers to the year it was produced by The Great Courses or its availability on Audible. If it was recorded in 2013 then it seems odd that there would be nothing said about, say, the effect of the internet on religious discussion and the resulting rise of the number of peo

3 people found this helpful

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Good read

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.

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Unbiased and Informative

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.

3 people found this helpful

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  • AfterBuy
  • 09-12-21

worth the listen

Prof. Allitt has a thorough understanding of American Religious history. He presents it in a non-bias way. I enjoyed listening to it and appreciated the complexity of the American society.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-11-20

Superb

An amazing series. Every chapter is perfectly constructed and the series at a whole is well-paced and engaging.