American Originals

Homemade Varieties of Christianity

By Paul K. Conkin

360 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4649-0
    Published: September 1997
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6085-4
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6876-3
    Published: November 2000

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In a work of striking breadth and clarity, Paul Conkin offers an even-handed and in-depth look at the major American-made forms of Christianity--a diverse group of religious traditions, each of which reflects a significant break from western Christian orthodoxy. Identifying six distinctive types, Conkin examines the major denominations representative of each original variety of American Christianity: restoration (Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ); humanistic (Unitarians, Universalists); apocalyptic (Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses); Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints); spiritual (Christian Science, Unity); and ecstatic (Holiness and Pentecostal denominations). Focusing on the early years and maturation of these groups, he discusses their founders and leaders, origins and Old World roots, and essential doctrines and practices. Conkin closes each chapter with a guide to further reading. The first comprehensive survey of these American originals, this book will serve as a valuable resource on a number of religious traditions whose members not only comprise a significant percentage of the American population but also make up an increasing proportion of Christian converts worldwide.

About the Author

Paul K. Conkin is Distinguished Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. His many books include The Uneasy Center: Reformed Christianity in Antebellum America.
For more information about Paul K. Conkin, visit the Author Page.


“With great skill, Paul Conkin . . . plows this fertile soil of religious novelty in America. . . . His careful ‘reading guides’ . . . are up to date and useful.”--Catholic Historical Review

“As the most comprehensive and insightful study of its kind on the market, American Originals should become required reading for students in undergraduate and graduate level classes in American religious history.”Journal of Church and State

“A volume of great value to anyone wishing to survey those distinctly American contributions to the evolvement of Christian diversity. . . . [This book] will be useful as an initial reference source for the student who seeks basic history and doctrinal exposition relative to any of these ‘American Originals,’ but its greatest value will be found in Conkin’s integrative sweep of the movements and submovements. This is a study that provides far more than just a fact-based encyclopedic approach to religious leaders, theological doctrines, and behavioral variances: it engages the reader in an exploration that is analytically astute and thought provocative.”--Georgia Historical Quarterly

”This thoroughly excellent book explains so much about the foundations of our religious thinking and behavior that Americans ought to read it, not only for its profound insight into our common historical experience, but also for its enthusiasm, lucidity, and wit.”--Seventeenth-Century News

"A well-conceived work, suitable for reference or classroom use."--Choice

"Helpful for all readers who need a nonbiased account on these groups that are sometimes misrepresented in the public arena."--Library Journal