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Religion: American Christianity-Dr. Cook

An online guide for Religion with information, links and tips for library resources.


This guide, updated in February 2020, is for students taking Dr. Cook's "American Christianity" course (RLGN 1106). 

See also the main Religion library guide. Just click the "Home & Reference" tab at the top of this page.

Reference Books

The reference collection is usually the best place to start researching a topic.  Reference books will provide background information, bibliographies of further readings, and often ideas for search terms to use, or for directions in which to take your research.


The 15-volume Encyclopedia of Religion (call number REF BL 31 .E466 2005) is often a good place to start.  You can look up a denomination in the index, or read the entry on "Christianity in North  America" (volume 3, pages 1708-1717).  This book is also available in PDF in the Gale eBooks database.


Religion books, both in reference and on the lower level, are in BL to BX range (BR for Christianity, BX for Christian Denominations, e.g. Mormonism in the BX 8601-8695 range).  For a breakdown of call number ranges, see the Library of Congress breakdown of call numbers.


Some other reference books that may be of interest:


Encyclopedia of Christianity (REF BR 95 .E8913 1999; article on "United States of America" in vol. 5, pp. 625-632)
Encyclopedia of American Religions
(REF BL 2525 .M449 1999)
Handbook of Denominations in the United States
(REF BL 2525 .M425 2010)
Contemporary American Re
ligion (REF BL 2525 .C655 2000)
Encyclopedia of the American Religious Experience
(REF BL 2525 .E53 1988)
Encyclopedia of American Religious History
(REF BL 2525 .Q444 2001)
Encyclopedia of Religion in the South
(REF BR 535 ,E52 2005)
Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America
(REF BL 2525 .M45 1986)
Biographical Dictionary of American Cult and Sect Leaders
(REF BL 2525 .M448 1986)

Encyclopedia of Protestantism (REF BX 4811.3 .E533 2004, 4 vols.)
Religions of the World (REF BL 80.3 .R455 2002, 4 vols.; “United States” in vol. 4)
Encyclopedia of African American Religions (REF BR 563 .N4 E53 1993)
Columbia Sourcebook of Mormons in the United States (REF BX 8611 .C63 2014)
Encyclopedia of Evangelicanism (REF BR 16490 .B355 2004)
The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (REF BL 501 .E553 1998, 3 vols.)
Encyclopedia of Science and Religion (REF BL 240.3 .E433 2003, 2 vols.; article on Scopes trial)
Encyclopedia of Religious Controversies in the United States (REF BR 515 .E53 1997)
The Religious Right:  A Reference Handbook (REF BR 526 .U88 2007)
Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals (REF BL 31 .E477 2004; articles on Shakers, snake handling, etc.)


Though most reference books on religion are in the Bs, you’ll find some in other areas, e.g. the first volume of the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (REF F 209 .N47 2006) is Religion.  Other reference books will provide biographical information, e.g., Absalom Jones is in American National Biography (REEF E 176 .D58) and African American National Biography (REF E 185.96 .A446 2008).  Ask for reference books on your specific topic; the Scopes monkey trial is covered in law books in the K’s such as the Encyclopedia of American Law (REF KF 154 .W47 2011).

For demographics on religious denominations, see pp. 62-64 of Statistical Abstract of the United States 2014 (REF HA 202 .S89 2014); note that this is a few years old.

Online catalog

Use the online catalog to locate books, e-books, DVDs, etc. 

You can do a keyword (“All fields”) search, but if you want books that deal specifically with your topic, you’ll probably also want to do a “Subject” search.  The subject heading (assigned by the Library of Congress) may or may not be what you expect.  The simplest way to determine the subject heading:

  1. Type your topic, e.g. “Mormonism,” and do a “Title” search (or, if that doesn’t work, a keyword search).
  2. Choose a book that looks good and click on its title to get the catalog record.
  3. Look for the subject heading(s), e.g.

Subject Term:  Mormon Church -- United States.

  1. Click on the “Subject” link.


Here are some sample subject headings (more or less in the order listed on your syllabus); you can click on them to find more books on that topic.  Note that this won’t retrieve all our books dealing with that subject, so you should also try a keyword search, or experiment with other search terms.  If you don’t find what you want, see a librarian.  If we don’t have what you want, we can order books from other libraries on interlibrary loan.

Subject Term: United States -- Church history.
Evangelicalism -- United States.
Catholic Church -- United States.
Pentecostalism -- United States -- History.
Fundamentalism -- United States.
Methodist Church -- United States -- History.
Mormon Church -- United States.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- United States -- History.
Christian Science.
Religious right -- United States.
Adventists -- United States.
African Americans -- Religion.
African American churches -- History.
Orthodox Eastern Church.
Unitarianism -- United States -- History.
Judaism -- United States.
Jews -- United States.
Islam -- United States -- History.
Muslims -- United States
Jehovah's Witnesses.
Cults -- United States.


Here are a few more subject terms, from topics Dr. Cook told me some of you were doing this semester (Spring 2020):

Witchcraft -- Massachusetts -- Salem.
Trials (Witchcraft) -- Massachusetts -- Salem -- History.

Snake cults (Holiness churches)

Creationism -- History.

Journal Articles

The best database for journal articles on Religion is the ATLA Religion Database, also known as ATLAS .  You can access it through GALILEO's home page (click on "Search Databases A-Z") or directly here.


You'll probably want to use the "Advanced search" page.  To restrict your search to scholarly journals, click on the "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" box.  You can also restrict your search to "English," by date, etc.

Remember that in most databases, your search terms must match exactly those in the database record, so avoid long strings of words (such as "denominationalism's effect on Christianity in America").  You will usually retrieve only records that have all the words you type in the search box, in the same order, in the title or subject headings, or abstract (if any).  Use single words or short phrases, and combine your search terms by using Boolean operators:  “AND,” “OR,” or “NOT.” 

For more tips on searching in databases, see the Lewis Library Reference LibGuide.

Use truncation to retrieve multiple forms of a word.  Mormon* will retrieve "Mormon," "Mormons,"' "Mormonism" etc.  Most GALILEO databases use * as the truncation symbol.

Look at the full record for articles you retrieve and note the subject terms, which may help you find relevant articles more quickly.


If an article isn't available in full text:

  • If there's a "Full Text Finder" link, it should take you directly to the article.
  • We may have the journal on the shelf; ask or e-mail the reference librarian.
  • If we don't have an article, we can usually obtain it from another library on interlibrary loan.  See or e-mail the reference librarian (but try to allow time for us to get it).
  • If you have a citation for an article and want to see if we have full text online, use the Journal Locator database ("Search Journals A-Z" on the library home page).  Type the journal title (not the article title) in the search box.


JSTOR also has full text of numerous scholarly journals in Religion (you can restrict your search to Religion journals by using the "Advanced Search"), but ATLAS  is the best place to start; it has more complete coverage and more recent articles.

If you have a question, contact the reference librarian, or you can contact all the librarians at Lewis Library by using Ask a Librarian.


Books and E-books

We have many books on the lower level you can check out.  I’ve listed a few; you’ll find more books on these topics with similar call numbers (and still more as e-books in the catalog).

  • The Religious History of America (call number BR 515 .G3 2002)
  • Histories of American Christianity (BR 515 .E935 2013)
  • Set in Stone:  America’s Embrace of the Ten Commandments (BR 517 .J67 2017)
  • World Religions in America, 3rd edition (BL 2525 .W57 2003)
  • Gods in America:  Religious Pluralism in the United States (BL 2525 .G827 2013)
  • Fundamentalism:  Perspectives on a Contested History  (BL 238 .F825 2014; also available as an e-book)
  • Evangelicals:  Struggle to Shape America (BR 1642 .U5 F565 2017)
  • American Apocalypse:  A History of Modern Evangelicalism (BR 1640 .S88 2014)
  • The Cambridge Companion to American Methodism (BX 8235 .C36 2013)
  • The Mormon Quest for Glory (BX 8635.2 .H36 2013)
  • Seeking a Sanctuary:  Seventh-day Adventists and the American Dream (BX 6153.2 .B85 2007)
  • Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah’s Witnesses (3rd ed.) (BX 8526 .P46 2015)
  • Christian Science on Trial:  Religious Healing in America (BX 6950 .S344 2003)


We also have books on other religions in America, including:

  • Islam:  An American Religion (BP 67 .U6 M3713 2017)
  • Muslims and the Making of America (BP 67 .U6 H86 2016)


We have many e-books, including:

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