Empire and American religion today

One of the courses I’m teaching this semester is a 100-level intro titled “Empire and American Religion.” The course is organized as a chronological “grand narrative.” When I designed the syllabus, I deliberately left the next-to-last class session blank so I could plug in whatever might be happening in current events that’s relevant to the theme of the course. Here’s the assignment I finally decided to give students for that day.

For your last For-Credit Reading Analysis of the semester, I’m assigning you two very recent texts that represent two very different viewpoints on American power. One is a story that Donald Trump told at a campaign rally about something that an American general supposedly did during the war against the Filipino rebels after 1898. The other is an essay by Phil Torres, an American atheist.



Answer both of these questions: (1) For what reasons does Torres believe that the United States is “the greatest threa[t] to human civilization”? Pay special attention, of course, to what he says about religion. (2) Critics of Trump have been appalled by the story you heard him tell. Analyze this story, though, as an empathetic outsider: What about this story do Trump’s listeners seem to find appealing?


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