The Center for the Understanding of Religion in American History explores the influence of religion on every facet of life in the United States.

The root of the word religion means “to bind.” Throughout American history, religion has bound us together: In communities. Within families. As a search for meaning that crosses racial, political, and cultural lines.

Yet binding is not always positive. Religion has also kept people in bondage. It has created boundaries. It has led to violence.

The Center examines the binds that gather us in and those that pull us apart.

Through thoughtful exhibitions and active programming, we examine the complex interaction of diversity, devotion, creativity, and critique that has marked American attitudes toward religion.

To learn more, explore our collections, programs, and research below.


The Center for the Understanding of Religion in American History is made possible through generous support from Lilly Endowment Inc. and the John Templeton Foundation.

From Our Blog

Detail from the cover of the magazine, ONE: The Homosexual Viewpoint, with a black-and-white illustration of the Biblical Magi

I was surprised . . . by the dialogue I encountered in a December 1960 issue of ONE: The Homosexual Viewpoint, titled “Homosexual, Servant of God,” which actively and openly discussed reconciling sexuality and Christian religious identity nine years before the famous Stonewall uprising in New York City.

U.S. map. One large arrow beginning in Jamestown, Virginia cuts through the U.S. South, labeled “God’s Curse Slavery.” Another arrow, starting in Plymouth, Massachusetts, cuts through the U.S. North, labeled “God’s Blessing Liberty.”
Is there room in Americans’ Thanksgiving celebrations for both thankfulness and mourning? That challenging question arose as my colleagues and I took a new look at encounters in the 1600s between English Pilgrims and the Wampanoag people in eastern Massachusetts.
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