Airing over three consecutive nights beginning Monday, Oct. 11 (check local listings), the six-hour PBS series "God in America," a co-venture of "Frontline" and "American Experience," blends documentary footage, historical dramatizations and interviews with religious historians to tell the story of how faith is interwoven through the history of the United States.
Says "Frontline" executive producer Michael Sullivan, "The genesis of this series we can really trace back to a conference (PBS station) WGBH held several years ago, a series of discussions with a room full of scholars and thinkers about religion in America.
"The consensus at that conference was that America had what the scholars called 'a religious literacy problem,' that though many Americans were deeply involved in their faith, many were also really ignorant about religion, about other faiths certainly, and sometimes even their own.
"So out of those discussions, the idea for 'God in America' was born. We'd decided to try to tell the often-neglected historical story of how religious ideas and spiritual experience shape the public life of the country."
Campbell Scott narrates; the cast includes Michael Emerson as Puritan leader John Winthrop, Chris Sarandon as Abraham Lincoln and Keith David as Frederick Douglass.
Airing Monday are "A New Adam," looking at how the New World and native peoples challenged the faith of European settlers and how preacher George Whitefield kindled a rebellious spirit, and "A New Eden," which looks at America's experiments with religious liberty.
Airing Tuesday, Oct. 12, are "A Nation Reborn," about how religious ideas suffused the Civil War, and "A New Light," looking at the effect of modernity during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Wednesday, Oct. 13, "Soul of a Nation" focuses on the post-World War II era with the rise of such leaders as Billy Graham and Martin Luther King Jr., and "Of God and Caesar" examines the ways religious views clash and cooperate with politics.