American Religious History: Belief and Society through Time

ABC-CLIO. 3 vols. Dec. 2020. 1,150p. ed. by Gary Scott Smith. ISBN 9781440861604. $335. REF
Religion has played a role in American history, shaped society and culture, and influenced the economy, education, and civil rights. This three-volume encyclopedia, edited by Smith (history, emeritus, Grove City Coll., PA), analyzes the interaction of religion with American culture in various spheres of life. It contains 360 signed alphabetical entries on people (Muhammad Ali, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Mary Baker Eddy), institutions and organizations (the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the American Civil Liberties Union), religious denominations and sects (Hinduism, Mormonism), and other relevant topics (abortion, deism, temperance). There are 30 thematic essays on domestic life, the Bible in the United States, religions of Indigenous peoples in the U.S., and other subjects. Major themes explored include pervasiveness and diversity of religion in the U.S., major controversies, the impact of revivalism, social reform, and religious freedom. There are also 110 primary source documents with notes. A time line (1537–2020) provides a framework for all three volumes. The first volume explores the colonial era to the Civil War; the second tackles Reconstruction to World War II; and the third covers World War II to the present. Each volume contains a table of contents for the full set, and the third volume has a bibliography and detailed index. This encyclopedia’s interdisciplinary approach offers new ways to look at religion in American society and provides a strong framework for understanding how history influences current events.
VERDICT A valuable resource for teachers, students, and anyone interested in religion and contemporary American society.
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