Two Americas: Polarization in Religion and Politics GOVT 391/ RELG 308 (S20)

Welcome to the launch page for Two Americas: Polarization in Religion and Politics. All course readings, assignments and announcements will be posted through the Blackboard page.

This course is part of the Reveley Interdisciplinary Fellows program. You can read more here

The conflation of conservative Christianity and conservative politics in the 1980s led the younger generation to identify as “not religious” in order to avoid association with a conservative political paradigm that many young people see as homophobic and overly strict. Swift growth of the “nones” (as some religious studies scholars call them) constitutes the most significant shift in the American religious landscape since the turn-of-the-century. This course investigates how this shifting landscape has changed the way Americans use cultural and social signals to recognize religious and political identities. The core question for this course is: “How do contemporary Americans use cultural codes and social signals to infer the religious and political affiliations of their fellow Americans?” Americans often signal their political identities in ways that are not explicitly political, and political scientists have explored how these differences manifest in contemporary culture. For example, scholars have found that liberals and conservatives have different consumer habits, lifestyle preferences, and even tastes in art. Many of these cultural associations are highly correlated with religious practice and religious expression. We will address such questions as:

  • What are the most significant shifts in America’s religious landscape over the last 70 years?

  • What caused the growth of the religiously unaffiliated population?

  • How do fundamentalist/evangelical ideas on creation and the apocalypse inform their politics?

  • Why might a person’s religiosity be related to their political views?

  • What is the culture war about, and who is fighting in it?

  • How do politicians strategically use religious identity for political gain?

  • Links:

    Required Books: