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July 2001 Issue
The Geographical Review
July 2001, Vol. 91 (3), pp. 565-585
THE UNIQUENESS OF THE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE
Keywords: American exceptionalism,
architecture, churches, landscape, names, religion, signs.
The assemblage of objects that constitute the publicly visible religious landscape of the United States - houses of worship and a variety of church-related enterprises - deviates so markedly from its counterparts in other lands that we can regard its uniqueness as a significant argument for American exceptionalism. The diagnostic features in question include the extraordinary number and variety of churches and denominations, their special physical attributes, the near-random microgeography of churches in urban areas, and, most especially, their nomenclature and the widely distributed signage promoting godliness and religiosity. Such landscape phenomena suggest connections with much-deeper issues concerning the origin and evolution of American society and culture.