**** Schedule Change: This will be Thursday rather than Wednesday
As our interests have been shifting lately from solely being critical to trying to really understand why people are religious, what the American religious landscape actually looks like, and the foundations for the particular forms of religious influence in the United States. James Morone answers a lot of questions, but this book equally generates new ones.
It is a bit long, so if you are planning on reading it to prep, start now. It is $35, but as a pivotal work in this area, this is a great investment.
From Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Hellfire-Nation-Politics-American-History/dp/0300105177)
"This insightful new conceptualization of American political history demonstrates that—despite the clear separation of church and state—religion lies at the heart of American politics. From the Puritan founding to the present day, the American story is a moral epic, James Morone says, and while moral fervor has inspired the dream of social justice it has also ignited our fiercest social conflicts.
"From the colonial era to the present day, Americans embraced a Providential mission, tangled with devils, and aspired to save the world. Moral fervor ignited our fiercest social conflicts—but it also moved dreamers to remake the nation in the name of social justice. Moral crusades inspired abolition, woman suffrage, and civil rights, even as they led Americans to hang witches, enslave Africans, and ban liquor. Today these moral arguments continue, influencing the debate over everything from abortion to foreign policy.
"Written with passion and deep insight, Hellfire Nation tells the story of a brawling, raucous, religious people. Morone shows how fears of sin and dreams of virtue defined the shape of the nation."