Editors: Paul Harvey & Edward J. Blum
Publisher: Columbia University Press – 462 pages
Book Review by: Paiso Jamakar

Twenty-two scholars write on major themes in this book on a diverse range of religious traditions in the United States. Among these themes are:

  • The growth and spread of evangelical culture
  • The mutual influence of religion and politics
  • The rise of fundamentalism
  • The role of gender and popular culture
  • The problems and possibilities of pluralism

Among the benefits that students, researchers, scholars and readers in general can derive from this study are:

  • An extensive glossary listing crucial concepts, groups, historical events, movements, and people, enhanced by statistical data
  • An alphabetized list of top leaders, thinkers and “isms” in U.S. religious history
  • Bibliographies listing relevant articles, books, film, media resources, and music
  • Broad surveys of specific fields

This book that contains a collection of 21 essays begins in the Introduction with a broad exploration (almost 50 pages in length) of American religious history and culture with special focus on ten dominant themes by editors Paul Harvey and Edward J. Blum.

It is followed by discussions of specific topics and themes in each of its 20 chapters, by the contributors, illuminating the main questions and lines of inquiry that have preoccupied scholars over the years.

For further inquiry, research and study, a list of References is provided at the end of each chapter.

The coverage of religions, religious culture, religious history, and religion as it relates to different aspects of society is quite extensive in this book of more than 460 pages. Here is an overview by chapter:

  • Colonial Encounters
  • Native American Religions
  • Civil Religion and National Identity
  • Theology
  • Evangelicals in American History
  • Religion and Politics
  • Religion and the Law in American History
  • Religion, War and Peace
  • Religion, Gender and Sexuality
  • Religion, Race and African American Life
  • Religion, Ethnicity and the Immigrant Experience
  • Asian American Religions
  • Alternative Religious Movements in American History
  • Religion and the Environment
  • Religion and Popular Culture
  • Religious Conservatism and Fundamentalism
  • Catholicism in America
  • American Judaism
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)
  • Islam in America

This is a comprehensive history of religion and religious thought and movements in the United States. Besides being a book of religious history, it provides the readers a broad overview of religions in contemporary America.

A lot of painstaking research has obviously gone into it, and we commend its editors Paul Harvey and Edward J. Blum as well as its 20 contributors for their hard work and excellent writing that makes this volume stand out among books on religion in America.

Paul Harvey is a professor of history and Presidential Training Scholar at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. He is the author of Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities Among Southern Baptists, 1865-1925, and Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era.  

Edward J. Blum is associate professor of history at San Diego State University. He is the author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion and American Nationalism, 1865-1898, and W.E.B. Dubois: American Prophet.