A Religious History of the American People

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A Religious History of the American People (1st ed. 1972, 2nd ed. 2004) is a book by Sydney E. Ahlstrom and published by Yale University Press. The first edition was 1158 pages in length, the second 1192. The book has been widely reviewed and well-received, including positive mentions in both Christianity Today and Christian Century. The book has been noted for its readability, accuracy, and importance.


The first edition of the book consists of nine parts that divide up sixty-three chapters in total. Part one European Prologue. Part two The Protestant Empire Founded. Part three The Century of Awakening and Revolution. Part four The Golden Day of Democratic Evangelicalism. Part five Countervailing Religion. Part six Slavery and Expiation. Part seven The Ordeals of Transition. Part eight The Age of Faltering Crusades. Part nine Toward Post-Puritan America. It also has illustrations, a preface, bibliography, and index.

Second edition

The second edition contains an additional chapter and preface covering the last three decades. These were contributed by another noteworthy historian of religion David D. Hall. There are new sections on "Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal" (pp. 1103-1106), "Roman Catholicism" (pp. 1107-1109), "Newcomers and outsiders: Jews, Mormons, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims" (pp. 1109-1113), "African Americans: Christians and Muslims" (pp. 1113-1115), and "Moderate and Liberal Protestants" (pp. 1115-1117). Unlike Ahlstrom's carefully restrained phrasing, Hall falls into various liberal trappings in his new chapter. On the last page (p. 1117) of this addition he seemingly-in-agreement writes "Feminists like Mary Daly, a Catholic who eventually rejected Christianity were voicing a deeper discomfort as they began to uncover the misogyny of the Christian tradition." On page 1108, Hall mentions John Paul II's 1981 encyclical Laborem Exercens but fails to mention that its proper place was truly 1980's Poland, while its application to South America was disastrous.

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