Fall 2007

SOCS 636
Religion and Politics in the United States

Eisner,Marc A.

09/11/2007 - 12/11/2007
Tuesday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Public Affairs Center 136

The United States is, by all measures, a highly religious nation. Since 1944, the Gallup organization has asked: "Do you believe in God?" For more than sixty years, the percentage of the population expressing belief has ranged between 94 and 99 percent (between two and seven times the level of belief exhibited in most wealthy democracies). Indeed, it is difficult to understand recent elections without considering the role of religion in shaping voting behavior. If the Bush administration appears to be beholden to Evangelical Protestants, it is for a simple reason: they provided 40 percent of his votes.

Although public opinion polls provide us with a clear snapshot of the role of religion in contemporary politics, one cannot understand the trajectory of American political development without examining the role of religion. Major events (e.g., the American Revolution, the Civil War) and reform movements (e.g., the abolition, suffrage, temperance and social gospel movements) were shaped, in part, by waves of revival that swept the nation. Similarly, the social gospel movement played an important role in setting the stage for the Progressive Era and New Deal reform agendas. In the postwar period, the politics surrounding civil rights, the Vietnam War, women's liberation, gay rights, and abortion were infused with religion. Often, religion supported contradictory positions--opponents and advocates of slavery, for example, believed that they were furthering the cause of Christ--and it is often unclear whether religion serves as a motivating factor or a justification for otherwise self-interested actions.

This class will begin with an overview of American religious beliefs today and their role in politics. We turn, then to an examination of the role of religion in the evolution of the American state and public policy. The course concludes with an examination of the role of religion--Evangelical Protestantism in particular--in the Bush presidency and the question of whether the Democratic Party can succeed in the electoral arena without engaging people of faith.

Reading includes major essays and books, ranging from primary works to social scientific analyses of religion and political behavior.

Students will be required to write short essays.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
http://www.wesleyan.edu/masters/courses/Fall_2007/fall07_syllabi/syb_socs636.html


Marc Eisner (B.A. University of Wisconsin; M.A. Marquette University; M.B.A. University of Connecticut; Ph.D. University of Wisconsin) is professor of government and Henry Merritt Wriston chair in public policy. He is author of six books, including Governing the Environment: The Transformation of Environmental Governance (Lynne Rienner, 2007), and is past president of the New England Political Science Association. Click here for more information about Marc Eisner.


ENROLLMENT INFORMATION

Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Robert Fowler, RELIGION AND POLITICS IN AMERICA (Westview Press), Paperback

Damon Linker, THE THEOCONS: SECULAR AMERICA UNDER SIEGE (Anchor), Paperback

James Morone, HELLFIRE NATION: THE POLITICS OF SIN IN AMERICAN HISTORY (Yale University Press), Paperback

READING MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323 Order your books online

Register for Courses



Contact glsinquire@wesleyan.edu to submit comments or suggestions. 
Copyright Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, 06459