Hindoos, Hindus, Spelling, and Theory

What is the relationship between spelling and theory? I often tell people my research is about "Hinduism in nineteenth century America." But it's really not. It's not about Hinduism at all. It can't be because the idea of "Hinduism," a world religion comparable to other world religions, isn't invented until the late nineteenth century. That's … Continue reading Hindoos, Hindus, Spelling, and Theory

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On International Women’s Day: Hannah Adams and Early American Comparative Religion

Today is International Women's Day . As a historian of American religious cultures, IWD reminds me of the foundational role women have played and continue to play in American religions. The story of Hindu religions in American culture that I laid out in my dissertation brought many women typically on the edges of American religious … Continue reading On International Women’s Day: Hannah Adams and Early American Comparative Religion

Lydia Maria Child Is Oddly Prescient in an Election Year: Red and Blue Spectacles

Reading the last chapter of Lydia Maria Child's The Progress of Religious Ideas I came across this passage that seemed timely during our election season: Little or no progress toward truth is usually made, because passages of ancient books are taken up hundreds of years after they were written, and are used in a sense … Continue reading Lydia Maria Child Is Oddly Prescient in an Election Year: Red and Blue Spectacles

James Freeman Clarke and the Post-Protestant Metaphysical Roots of Comparative Religion in America

I came across this on page 1 of James Freeman Clarke's Ten Great Religions (1871): [The present work] is an attempt to compare the great religions of the world with each other. When completed, this comparison ought to show what each is, what it contains, wherein it resembles the others, wherein it differs from the … Continue reading James Freeman Clarke and the Post-Protestant Metaphysical Roots of Comparative Religion in America

On the Anniversary of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ and Its Place in American Religious History

Today marks the 158th anniversary of Henry David Thoreau's Walden. It couldn't have come at a better time. Right now I am knee deep in Transcendentalists, Thoreau included, as I wade through my chapter on Transcendentalist representations of Hinduism. The combination of today's anniversary and my current writing work got me thinking about how Henry … Continue reading On the Anniversary of Thoreau’s ‘Walden’ and Its Place in American Religious History

Transcendentalists and the Smoke Monster of Religion

I've made it to the Transcendentalists! The chapter on Unitarian and evangelical ideas about Hinduism is done and passed along to The Adviser. Now, I'm changing gears. The chapters I've written so far were exercises in uncovering. Only a couple previous studies had looked at the materials and so my basic work was to dig … Continue reading Transcendentalists and the Smoke Monster of Religion

The Invention of American Evangelicalism; or, Why Ed Blum is Mad

The following is a cross-post from Religion in American History. Check out the great comments on the original post. (If you're unsure what made Ed mad read this post.) [Update: Ed says he's not mad anymore, just passionate. Also, read this post from Ed where he expands his thoughts on race and evangelicalism. His thoughts echo much … Continue reading The Invention of American Evangelicalism; or, Why Ed Blum is Mad

The First Hindu in America? Maybe…

From the diary of Rev. William Bentley of Salem, Mass. December 29, 1799: Had the pleasure of seeing for the first time a native of the Indies from Madras. He is of very dark complection, long black hair, soft countenance, tall, & well proportioned. He is said to be darker than Indians in general of … Continue reading The First Hindu in America? Maybe…

Remembering When the Klan Tried to March Through Town: Kelly J. Baker’s ‘Gospel According to the Klan’

I was in fourth grade when the Klan tried to march through town. At that time I was living in my Dad's small hometown in southeastern Georgia. I don't remember how I heard but I remember hearing that a group called the KKK wanted to parade through town. Everyone seemed very worked up about it. … Continue reading Remembering When the Klan Tried to March Through Town: Kelly J. Baker’s ‘Gospel According to the Klan’

Engines of Change and Chronology in American Religious History

Cross-posted from Religion in American History While we are all aflutter over this weekends' American Academy of Religion, I would ask us to take a moment and turn our attention to another scholarly society--the American Society of Church History. Earlier this month the ASCH launched its very own blog that is open to contributions from … Continue reading Engines of Change and Chronology in American Religious History