Sunday, December 01, 2013

American Religious History

American Religious History provides an overview of religion and its role in religious history. Religious has remained one of the most religious major economies. Most European countries have seen a great fall in religiosity as the economy boomed. America, however, has factors that have caused it to hold on to religion. One factor may be the establishment clause that prevents the country from establishing a religion.

In many European countries, a single religion is supported by the state. If people are upset with the state, they tend to be upset with the church also. By not supporting a religion the US may allow people to maintain the religion even when they object to the state.

The religions also have an important social role. Americans tend to be more on the move, and a particular congregation can be a social outlet in a new location. This is especially important for immigrants moving into the country. (They may congregate in the church from their homeland.)

I loved how these lectures went through the history of the United States with a focus on religion. This helped provide a better understanding of the events and the evolution of religious practice in the US. Many religions were imported from the old world and gradually modified to meet the needs of the new world. Other religions sprouted up locally, especially during the great awakening. The key to survival was often whether they could be successfully passed on to the younger generations.

Religion was important in the founding of the colonies for different reasons. At the time respecting and tolerating other beliefs was often seen as a vice rather than a virtue. Thus, various religious groups tended to run different colonies. (This also led to the creation of tolerant colonies.) Even nominally unreligious orators would use religious rhetoric to speak to the masses.

The civil war was a deeply religious war. The conflict was predicted by the separation of the churches into pro-slavery southern wings and anti-slavery southern wings. Each side thought they were fighting for God's justice as they knew it.

Religion also tends to converge. At times there would be a different catholic church for each group of immigrants. Gradually these converged to be just "Catholic". Similarly, Christianity as a whole has began to become more united as Islam and other non-Christian religions become more prevalent. However, each different sect retains its unique aspects contributing to a engaging history.

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