Religion in the Colonies - History

Religion in the Colonies - History

REligion in the Colonies

Religion was the key to the founding of a number of the colonies. Many were founded on the principal of religious liberty. The New England colonies were founded to provide a place for the Puritans to practice their religious beliefs. The Puritans did not give freedom of religion to others, especially non-believers. Sabbath laws were strictly enforced. It was expected that everyone would attend church on Sundays. The colonies of New England, with the exception of Rhode Island, all had an official church, the Congregational Church. By the end of the 17th century, other churches began to be allowed in New England. In the south, the Anglican Church was the official church of many of the colonies. However, it was considered the church of the landed class, and not of the people.

In the early 1730's, a religious movement began which became known as the First Great Awakening. The Awakening began as a sense spread that people were lacking religious fervor. To revive the religious fervor that was missing preachers started traveling from town to town preaching and holding large revival meetings. The preaching had a major effect. Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia wrote: "From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street."


Christianity and colonialism

Christianity and colonialism are often closely associated with each other because Protestantism and Catholicism participated as the state religions of the European colonial powers [1] and in many ways they acted as the "religious arms" of those powers. [2] According to Edward Andrews, Christian missionaries were initially portrayed as "visible saints, exemplars of ideal piety in a sea of persistent savagery". However, by the time the colonial era drew to a close in the last half of the twentieth century, missionaries became viewed as "ideological shock troops for colonial invasion whose zealotry blinded them", [3] colonialism's "agent, scribe and moral alibi". [4]

In some areas, almost all of the colony's population were removed from their traditional belief systems and were turned into the Christian faith, which the colonizers used as a reason to destroy other faiths, enslave the natives, and exploit the lands and seas. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]


Both Portugal and France brought missionaries to the Americas to evangelize the native populations. Moreover, both countries established Catholicism as the official state religion in the American colonies. Beyond this, there were significant differences in Portuguese and French policies towards the native peoples.

The Portuguese introduced commercial plantation agriculture into Brazil, and in the early stages of economic development relied heavily on Indian slave laborers. The colonists of São Paulo engaged heavily in the trade in Indian slaves, and in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries Paulistas (colonists from São Paulo), also known as bandeirantes, ranged through the interior of South American enslaving Indians. In the 1630s the Paulistas attacked the Jesuit missions in the Río de la Plata region.

African slaves gradually replaced Indian slaves on the plantations. Jesuit missionaries came to Brazil and organized communities of natives called aldeias that were in some ways similar to Spanish frontier missions. However, the aldeias were generally located close to Portuguese settlements and served as labor reserves for the settlers.

The French in Canada, on the other hand, sought profit from the fur trade, and they relied on Indians for trade. Agriculture was developed at only a subsistence level and did not rely on Indian labor. Jesuits and other missionaries established missions for natives in Canada, the Great Lakes region, also known as the Terre Haut, and Louisiana. The Jesuit missions among the Hurons in the 1620s to late 1640s were the most successful, and the Black Robes, as native peoples called the Jesuits, converted about a third of the total Huron population. Sainte Marie des Hurons, located in Ontario, Canada, is a reconstruction of one of the missions. However, conflict between the Huron and the Iroquois led to the destruction of the Jesuit missions.

The state religion of England in the seventeenth century was the Church of England, and by law all residents of England were required to adhere to the doctrine of the church contained in the Book of Common Prayer, which was a compromise between Catholicism and the beliefs of the different Protestant sects. The colonies in North America offered "dissenters" (groups that rejected the doctrine of the Church of England) an opportunity to practice their beliefs free of persecution.

The Calvinists, commonly known as the Puritans, were one group that migrated to North America to practice their religious beliefs without interference. They created a theocracy that endured for some fifty years. The Catholic nobleman Lord Baltimore (Cecil Calvert, ca. 1605–1675) established Maryland in the 1630s as a haven for persecuted Catholics. William Penn (1644–1718), whose father had been an admiral and had connections at court, established Pennsylvania in 1682 for members of the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, a radical Protestant sect founded by George Fox (1624–1691). Pennsylvania during the colonial period was a haven for persecuted religious minorities. The German Pietists, better known as the Amish, was one such group that migrated to Pennsylvania to escape persecution in Europe.

Unlike the Spanish, the English did not initiate a systematic campaign to evangelize the native peoples they encountered in North America, and they generally viewed the natives as an obstacle to creating European communities in America. One exception was the effort by Puritan John Eliot (1604–1690) to establish what he called "praying towns" in New England. Eliot first preached to the Nipmuc Indians in 1646 at the site of modern Newton, Massachusetts. In 1650 Eliot organized the first praying town at Natick, also in Massachusetts. By 1675, there were fourteen praying towns, eleven in Massachusetts and three in Connecticut, mostly among the Nipmuc. Eliot also translated the Bible into the native language and published the translation between 1661 and 1663. The outbreak of the conflict between the English and native peoples known as King Philip's War (1675–1677) led to the collapse of the praying towns.

Protestant missions to native peoples continued in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and even into the twentieth centuries. In the second half of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, the missions often operated on reservations created by the United States government. Protestant missionaries often ran the schools for native children that attempted to obliterate most aspects of their native culture, which identified the missions with the assimilationist policies of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Why did Catholic missions achieve a higher degree of success than did Protestant missions? Three possible explanations have been suggested. The first has to do with the very nature of colonization by the Spanish, French, and English. The Spanish developed a colonial system based on their contacts with advanced sedentary native societies in central Mexico and the Andean region. Their colonial system relied on the exploitation of the native populations, and, as noted above, they gained legitimacy for their conquests from the papal donation that required the evangelization of the native peoples. This, taken with the experience of the reconquista, the drive towards orthodoxy within Iberia in the fifteenth century, and the longstanding crusader ethic, gave rise to the impulse to bring the true faith to the native peoples.

The vision of Europe's Hapsburg monarchs in the sixteenth century only reinforced these tendencies. The Hapsburgs viewed themselves as the defenders of the true faith, and led crusades against the Turkish threat in the Mediterranean world and the growing number of Protestants in central Europe.

The government-supported missionaries and the evangelization of French and English colonies in North America were quite different from that of the Spanish. The French established settlements in the Saint Lawrence River valley, but also engaged in trade with native groups for furs. The French also believed their faith to be superior and to be the only true faith, and felt the responsibility to take that faith to the native peoples. At the same time the presence of missionaries, particularly Jesuits among the Huron, also facilitated the fur trade.

The English colonies were different from the French and Spanish. The English came to America to firmly implant Europe there. They came to establish towns and farms, and arrived in large numbers and wanted the land that was occupied by the natives. Whereas the Spanish and French had reasons to establish relations with native peoples, the English did not. The American natives occupied lands the English wanted, and the native inhabitants were generally viewed as a threat to the English settlements. Thus the colonial governments did not support missions in the same way that the Spanish and French did.

The nexus of relations between the English and native peoples can be see in the example of the New England Puritan colonies, as well as early Virginia. The Puritans believed that God had given them the land in New England to exploit, and Puritan leaders were inclined to push native communities aside. The relationship was often violent, as evidenced by the Pequot War in 1636 and 1637 and King Philip's War. The latter conflict was a desperate attempt by native peoples to preserve their society and culture in the face of aggressive English occupation and creation of new communities that forced natives off of their lands.

In Virginia, the colonization of Jamestown and other new communities was met by resistance from native groups almost from the beginning, resulting in two major conflicts in the 1620s and again in the 1640s. These conflicts, and the general attitude of the English towards native peoples, did not create a climate conducive to the launching of missionary campaigns. Moreover, the English colonists developed generally autonomous local governments that tended to be unsympathetic to evangelization of native peoples.

A second factor was theological. Catholicism was and is a religion with mass appeal, because it offers salvation to those who repent. Moreover, doctrine dictates the baptism of children as soon as possible after birth, because of the belief that unbaptized children will go to purgatory after they die. Furthermore, a degree of syncretism occurred in Catholic missions established on native communities in central Mexico, the Andean region, and the fringes of Spanish territory, such as the north Mexican frontier. Syncretism, such as the association by native peoples of old gods with Catholic saints, was a key factor in what the missionaries believed to be the conversion of native peoples to the true faith.

The sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, on the other hand, introduced new beliefs that did not lend themselves to the conversion of native peoples with cultures that did not have a foundation in Christianity. The Anabaptists, for example, rejected the baptism of newborn children, and instead believed that the acceptance of God's covenant should be a decision made when people could fully understand the decision being made. The Calvinist belief in predestination, the idea that God had already chosen those who would gain salvation and those who would not, also did not lend itself to mass conversion.

Moreover, the seventeenth-century Puritan theocracy in New England, which afforded full church membership only to the "elect" (those who could show that they had God's grace and would gain salvation), was a cause of friction between native peoples in the region and the colonists. The Puritan leadership expected native peoples to live by an alien set of moral and social rules, even if the natives had chosen not to embrace the new faith. This policy contributed to the outbreak of King Philip's War, and it certainly did not make the new religion attractive to native peoples. Puritan leaders did not tolerate any deviation from their teachings, and they did not tolerate the syncretism that facilitated "conversion" in Spanish America.

Finally, demographic patterns undermined evangelization, particularly in Protestant English colonies. In the centuries following the first European incursions into the Americas, native populations declined in numbers because of disease and other factors. Mortality rates were particularly high among children, the segment of the native population in which missionaries placed their greatest hopes for indoctrination.

In the California missions, for example, the Franciscans continued to relocate pagans on the missions while indoctrinating the children and adults already living there. This meant that there were always large numbers of pagans interacting with new converts already exposed to varying levels of Catholic indoctrination. These conditions created a climate conducive to the covert survival of traditional religious beliefs. Moreover, infant and child mortality rates were high, and most children died before reaching their tenth birthday. This limited the ability of the missionaries to create a core of indoctrinated children in the mission populations.

The United States today is a Christian country because of the imprint of European colonists and their descendants and not because of the conversion of native peoples to the new religion. The trajectory of Spanish colonization established a strong Catholic tradition in much of Latin America.

The Role of Religion in Colonial America

The colonization of America by the British dates back to as early as 1607 when British founded the first colony in Jamestown, Virginia. The presence of British colonizers increased over time, as did the number of colonies, such that there were over two million people living and working in thirteen North America territories under colonial rule by 1770. Economic and religious factors are some of the factors that led to the establishment and expansion of the thirteen colonies that constituted Colonial America. The role of religion in Colonial America is discussed in detail in the following part of this essay.Religion led to the foundation and expansion of colonial territories in America.

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Religious intolerance in Europe, especially in Great Britain, made some people to flee Britain to escape religious persecution. Such people settled and founded colonies in North America on the basis of their religious beliefs and convictions. For example, Plymouth was established in 1923 by Pilgrims, who wanted to disassociate themselves from the Church of England. The Puritans were Christians who did not wish to separate from the Church of England but rather to reform it. They settled and founded the Massachusetts territory in 1928 and established strict rules. Maryland colony was established in 1934 by Catholics who wanted to practice their faith freely. Other regions such as Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were founded by people who wanted religious freedom. Such territories were liberal and were inhabited by people of all religions.

Most of the laws, rules, and regulations that governed Colonial America were founded on religious bases. Religion was viewed as the moral basis of the colonies and had a significance influence on the governments that ruled over the territories. The founders of the colonies believed that religion and morality were inseparable from good government and were necessary for the success of their colonies. They, therefore, promoted religion and morality in their public policies. For example, the Puritans in Massachusetts based their 1939 constitution on their religious beliefs while the delegates who established the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut emphasized on the fact that their government would only pursue religious purposes. The colonial governments banished people who did not adhere to the laws. For example, Roger Williams was banished from Massachusetts for not adhering to the Puritan way of life. He fled the colony to establish a more liberal Rhode Island.
Religion also played a significant role during the struggle for independence in colonial America. It was used in various ways by revolution leaders to support the effort to the war. For example, religious leaders supporting the struggle for independence served as chaplains for the soldiers fighting in the battle. Others even took up arms and led troops to the battlefields. The contribution of the religious leaders to the war effort was so significant the George Washington, who commanded the Continental Army, asked the Congress to offer them generous salaries to attract more of them to the war. Washington believed in the significance of blessings in the safety and defence of his soldiers and required them to attend religious services whenever possible. Besides, it was found that religion enhanced the motivation of the soldiers and kept them from undesirable activities such as drunkenness.
As discussed in the essay, religion played three primary roles in colonial America. It led to the formation and expansion of the American colonies. Some of the thirteen colonies were formed by people who had fled religious persecution in Great Britain and other parts of Europe. It helped in the development of the rules and regulations that governed the colonies. The colonies founded standards and governments based on the religious beliefs and convictions of their inhabitants. Lastly, religion played a significant role in the struggle for independence. Some religious leaders led in the war while religion also boosted the morale of the freedom fighters.

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2 Answers 2

In general, each colony had an official, established church which did its best to impose a religious monopoly. In the article "Religious Deregulation: Origins and Consequences", Roger Finke argues:

Politicians and preachers alike considered the idea of religious freedom, or even religious toleration, a dangerous and heathen notion that was sure to to undermine the authority of the state and the very survival of the church. The religious liberties that gradually followed were offered as a solution to the immediate needs of a new nation, rather than an ideal for its future.

The cases of Massachusetts and Rhode Island are generally thought of as opposite ends of the spectrum. The Congregationalist Church was strong in Massachusetts while Rhode Island was famous for tolerance. However, an article by Alison Olson shows that the reality in these two colonies were not as different as one might imagine, especially later on:

By the 1730s both colonies had compromised their original positions. The British government had forced Massachusetts to admit men of property to freemanship, and later Baptists, Quakers, and Anglicans were exempted from paying taxes to the Congregational Church. Rhode Island, on the other hand, proceeded to tighten its grip by disfranchising Catholics in 1729 and barring Jews from office shortly hereafter. Still, the Congregational / Presbyterian church remained legally established in Massachusetts, and Rhode Island remained open to all faiths.

This article also shows that an important limitation on religious diversity in practice was economic. European populations in the early colonies was relatively sparse and for a town to support more than one church, it typically needed well over 1,000 residents. This helped to encourage tolerance at the level of the colony (Rhode Island hoped toleration might attract more residents) but it meant many towns were to small to support visible diversity at that level.

How did religion affect the pattern of colonization in America and life in those colonies? Cause and Effect Essay

When the Europeans begun their exploration and subsequent colonization in North America, their religious beliefs and practices were a significant tool in how they conquered and approached the local natives, although majority of them already had their own religious practices. These religious influence dictated how they interacted with the natives, got rights to land and subsequently got control of the land from the natives (Wright et al. 156).

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It is no doubt that the quest for religious influence and autonomy was one of the aiding factors in the colonization of America by the Europeans. The Europeans felt that the local native religions were very naïve and barbaric and hence sought to change their beliefs.

On the other hand, there were a lot of religious conflicts and discriminations that were taking place in Europe which resulted in bloodshed and loss of livelihood. Hence, most of the immigrants who were migrating into North America were doing so in the search for a land where they would practice their own religious practices without any discrimination from rival denominations which was happening at the time.

Therefore, many different religions came to North America and settled in different geographical regions which formed a base on how religion influenced the colonization of these states. Consequently, the different states adopted different types of denominations across North America, thus each denomination exercised its religious influence through colonization of its given geographical area resulting in different pattern’s of religious denominations settlements across North America.

The immigrants, who were Europeans, felt that they were superior to the natives who were mostly Red Indians and it was their responsibility to convert these locals to their respective denominations that they had observed in Europe. Despite the fact that the Europeans professed to be religious and act in accordance to Christianity and respective religious denominations, they were always in conflict with their religious ideologies.

For instance, they saw themselves as more superior to other people, natives, and considered them less of humans as compared to them. This was contrary to their religious beliefs which observed that all humans were equal before God. In addition, they used religion as a basis to propagate colonization of North America instead of using it to promote peace and understanding between the immigrants and the natives.

Also, the Europeans did not respect the rights and practices of the natives. The natives considered the environment sacred and so did the Christian religious views. But the Europeans who confessed to Christianity did not observe this as they fell down trees and hunted animals for the fun of it which was not only offensive to the Red Indians but was in conflict with the Christian ideologies on tolerance, respect and the environment.

In addition the locals were treated in a very inhumane manner, whereby the Europeans liked them to animals. In some states the natives were persecuted when they objected to be convert to Christianity which they, Europeans, termed as a salvation process.

Additionally, the Europeans engaged in massive looting and plundering of natural resources that initially belonged to the natives, for instance they looted the Indians gold mines on the pretext of converting lost souls to Christianity, which was in total conflict with the Christian teachings (Tindall & Shi 98).

In conclusion religion played a great role in the colonization of North America as the Europeans used it as a tool to spread their ideologies to the natives whom they considered uncivilized. Nevertheless, even though the Europeans considered themselves as having the “right religion” they did not adhere to its ideologies but merely used it to spread their own ideologies which contradicted with the Christian views.

Religion in Early America

This website is based on an exhibition that was on view at the National Museum of American History from June 28, 2017 to June 3, 2018.

Religious freedom is a fundamental principle of American life. While taken for granted today, its acceptance emerged only gradually in the nation’s history. The many peoples who called early America home represented a great variety of spiritual traditions. Although most colonies had established churches that received state support, the framers of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights determined that the nation as a whole should not follow this precedent, but protect the free exercise of all religions. Rather than limiting belief or practice, religious freedom fostered diversity and growth.

Map of United States, 1830s
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division


Religion in the United States (2019) [8]

The U.S. census has never asked Americans directly about their religion or religious beliefs, but it did compile statistics from each denomination starting in 1945. [9]

Finke and Stark conducted a statistical analysis of the official census data after 1850, and Atlas for 1776, to estimate the number of Americans who were adherents to a specific denomination. In 1776 their estimate is 17%. In the late 19th Century, 1850–1890, the rate increased from 34% to 45%. From 1890 –1952, the rate grew from 45% to 59%. [10]

Pew Forum data Edit

According to the Pew Research Center the percentage of Protestants in the United States has decreased from over two-thirds in 1948 to less than half by 2012 with 48% of Americans identifying as Protestant. [11]

Gallup data Edit

The data here comes from Gallup, which has polled Americans annually about their denominational preferences since 1948. Gallup did not ask whether a person was a formal member of the denomination. Blank means that there is no data available for a given year. All of the percentages here are rounded to the nearest percent, so 0% could mean any percentage less than 0.5%. [12]

This decline in Protestant immigration has corresponded to the relaxation of immigration restrictions pertaining to mostly non-Protestant countries. The percentage of Catholics in the United States increased from 1948 all the way to the 1980s, but then began declining again. The percentage of Jews in the United States has decreased from 4% to 2% during this same time period. There has been very little Jewish immigration to the US after 1948 in comparison to previous years. The number of people with other religions was almost nonexistent in 1948, but rose to 5% by 2011, partially due to large immigration from non-Christian countries. The percentage of non-religious people (atheists, agnostics, and irreligious) people in the US has drastically increased from 2% to 13%. The number of Americans unsure about their religion and religious beliefs stayed roughly the same over the years, always hovering at 0% to 4%. [12]

Percentage of Americans by Protestant religious affiliation (1992–2011)
Religion 1992 1995 2000 2005 2010 2011
Southern Baptist 9% 10% 8% 5% 4% 4%
Other Baptist 10% 9% 10% 11% 13% 9%
Methodist 10% 9% 9% 8% 7% 5%
Presbyterian 5% 4% 5% 3% 3% 2%
Episcopalian 2% 2% 3% 3% 2% 1%
Lutheran 7% 6% 7% 5% 5% 5%
Pentecostal 1% 3% 2% 2% 2% 2%
Church of Christ 2% 2% 2% 1% 2%
Other Protestant 11% 9% 4% 5% 4% 5%
Non-denominational Protestant 1% 3% 4% 5% 5% 4%
No opinion 5% 1% 2% 1% 2% 1%

Over the last 19 years, some of the more traditional Protestant denominations/branches experienced a large decline as a percentage of the total American population. These include Southern Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Other Protestants. The only Protestant category that significantly increased its percentage share over the last 19 years is non-denominational Protestantism. [12]

Native American religions are the spiritual practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Traditional Native American ceremonial ways can vary widely, and are based on the differing histories and beliefs of individual tribes, clans and bands. Early European explorers describe individual Native American tribes and even small bands as each having their own religious practices. Theology may be monotheistic, polytheistic, henotheistic, animistic, or some combination thereof. Traditional beliefs are usually passed down in the forms of oral histories, stories, allegories and principles, and rely on face to face teaching in one's family and community. [13]

From time to time important religious leaders organized revivals. In Indiana in 1805, Tenskwatawa (called the Shanee Prophet by Americans) led a religious revival following a smallpox epidemic and a series of witch-hunts. His beliefs were based on the earlier teachings of the Lenape prophets, Scattamek and Neolin, who predicted a coming apocalypse that would destroy the European-American settlers. [14] Tenskwatawa urged the tribes to reject the ways of the Americans: to give up firearms, liquor, American style clothing, to pay traders only half the value of their debts, and to refrain from ceding any more lands to the United States. The revival led to warfare led by his brother Tecumseh against the white settlers. [15]

Native Americans were the target of extensive Christian missionary activity. Catholics launched Jesuit Missions amongst the Huron and the Spanish missions in California) and various Protestant denominations. Numerous Protestant denominations were active. By the late-19th century, most Native Americans integrated into American society generally have become Christians, along with a large portion of those living on reservations. [16] [17] The Navajo, the largest and most isolated tribe, resisted missionary overtures until Pentecostal revivalism attracted their support after 1950. [18]

The New England colonies were settled by English men and women who, in the face of religious persecution, refused to compromise passionately held Christian religious convictions. [19] They were conceived and established "as plantations of religion." Some settlers who arrived in these areas came for secular motives—"to catch fish" as one New Englander put it—but the great majority left Europe to worship in the way they believed to be correct. [20] They supported the efforts of their leaders to create "a City upon a Hill" or a "holy experiment," whose success would prove that God's plan could be successfully realized in the American wilderness.

Puritans Edit

Puritans were English Protestants who wished to reform and purify the Church of England of what they considered to be unacceptable residues of Roman Catholicism. Their position was opposed by the ruling class by the 1620s, which insisted that the Puritans conform to Anglican religious practices. Puritans in England were threatened as England verged on civil war.

Beginning in 1630 and for the decade as many as 20,000 Puritans emigrated to America from England. Most settled in New England, but some went as far as the West Indies. Some went back to England during the English Civil War 1642-1646 and the Commonwealth. Theologically, the Puritans were "non-separating Congregationalists." Unlike the Pilgrims, who came to Massachusetts in 1620, the Puritans believed that the Church of England was a true church, though in need of major reforms. Every New England Congregational church was considered an independent entity, beholden to no hierarchy. There were no bishops. The membership was composed, at least initially, of men and women who had undergone a conversion experience and could prove it to other members.

Persecution in America Edit

Although they were victims of religious persecution in Europe, the Puritans supported the theory that sanctioned it: the need for uniformity of religion in the state.

Once in control in New England, they sought to break "the very neck of Schism and vile opinions." The "business" of the first settlers, a Puritan minister recalled in 1681, "was not Toleration, but [they] were professed enemies of it." [21] Puritans expelled dissenters from their colonies, a fate that in 1636 befell Roger Williams and in 1638 Anne Hutchinson, America's first major female religious leader.

Those who defied the Puritans by persistently returning to their jurisdictions risked capital punishment, a penalty imposed on the Boston martyrs, four Quakers, between 1659 and 1661. Reflecting on the 17th century's intolerance, Thomas Jefferson was unwilling to concede to Virginians any moral superiority to the Puritans. Beginning in 1659, Virginia enacted anti-Quaker laws, including the death penalty for refractory Quakers. Jefferson surmised that "if no capital execution took place here, as did in New England, it was not owing to the moderation of the church, or the spirit of the legislature." [22]

Founding of Rhode Island Edit

Expelled from Massachusetts in the winter in 1636, former Puritan leader Roger Williams issued an impassioned plea for freedom of conscience. He wrote, "God requireth not an uniformity of Religion to be inacted and enforced in any civill state which inforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civill Warre, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisie and destruction of millions of souls." [23] Williams later founded Rhode Island on the principle of religious freedom. He welcomed people of religious belief, even some regarded as dangerously misguided, for nothing could change his view that "forced worship stinks in God's nostrils." [24]

Jewish refuge in America Edit

A shipload of 23 Jewish refugees fleeing persecution in Dutch Brazil arrived in New Amsterdam (soon to become New York City) in 1654. By the next year, this small community had established religious services in the city. By 1658, Jews had arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, also seeking religious liberty. Small numbers of Jews continued to come to the British North American colonies, settling mainly in the seaport towns. By the late 18th century, Jewish settlers had established several synagogues.

Quakers Edit

The Religious Society of Friends formed in England in 1652 around leader George Fox.

Recently, church historians have debated whether Quakers may be regarded as radical Puritans since the Quakers carry to extremes many Puritan convictions. [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] Historians in support of the Puritan classification of Quakers notice that Quakers stretch the sober deportment of the Puritans into a glorification of "plainness." [30] Theologically, they expanded the Puritan concept of a church of individuals regenerated by the Holy Spirit to the idea of the indwelling of the Spirit or the "Light of Christ" in every person.

Such teaching struck many of the Quakers' contemporaries as dangerous heresy. Quakers were severely persecuted in England for daring to deviate so far from orthodox Christianity. By 1680, 10,000 Quakers had been imprisoned in England and 243 had died of torture and mistreatment in jail.

This reign of terror impelled Friends to seek refuge in Rhode Island in the 1670s, where they soon became well entrenched. In 1681, when Quaker leader William Penn parlayed a debt owed by Charles II to his father into a charter for the province of Pennsylvania, many more Quakers were prepared to grasp the opportunity to live in a land where they might worship freely. By 1685, as many as 8,000 Quakers had come to Pennsylvania from England, Wales, and Ireland. [ citation needed ] Although the Quakers may have resembled the Puritans in some religious beliefs and practices, they differed with them over the necessity of compelling religious uniformity in society.

Pennsylvania Germans Edit

During the main years of German emigration to Pennsylvania in the mid-18th century, most of the emigrants were Lutherans, Reformed, or members of small sects—Mennonites, Amish, Dunkers, Moravians and Schwenkfelders. The great majority became farmers. [31]

The colony was owned by William Penn, a leading Quaker, and his agents encouraged German emigration to Pennsylvania by circulating promotional literature touting the economic advantages of Pennsylvania as well as the religious liberty available there. The appearance in Pennsylvania of so many religious groups made the province resemble "an asylum for banished sects."

Roman Catholics in Maryland Edit

For their political opposition, Catholics were harassed and had largely been stripped of their civil rights since the reign of Elizabeth I. Driven by "the sacred duty of finding a refuge for his Roman Catholic brethren," George Calvert obtained a charter from Charles I in 1632 for the territory between Pennsylvania and Virginia. [32] This Maryland charter offered no guidelines on religion, although it was assumed that Catholics would not be molested in the new colony. His son Lord Baltimore, was a Catholic who inherited the grant for Maryland from his father and was in charge 1630–45. In 1634, Lord Baltimore's two ships, the Ark and the Dove, sailed with the first 200 settlers to Maryland. They included two Catholic priests. Lord Baltimore assumed that religion was a private matter. He rejected the need for an established church, guaranteed liberty of conscience to all Christians, and embraced pluralism. [33]

Catholic fortunes fluctuated in Maryland during the rest of the 17th century, as they became an increasingly smaller minority of the population. After the Glorious Revolution of 1689 in England, the Church of England was legally established in the colony and English penal laws, which deprived Catholics of the right to vote, hold office, or worship publicly, were enforced. Maryland's first state constitution in 1776 restored the freedom of religion. [34]

Virginia and the Church of England Edit

Virginia was the largest, most populous and most important colony. The Church of England was legally established the bishop of London who had oversight of Anglican in the colonies made it a favorite missionary target and sent in 22 clergymen (in priestly orders) by 1624. In practice, establishment meant that local taxes were funneled through the local parish to handle the needs of local government, such as roads and poor relief, in addition to the salary of the minister. There was never a bishop in colonial Virginia, and in practice the local vestry consisted of laymen who controlled the parish and handled local taxes, roads and poor relief. [35]

When the elected assembly, the House of Burgesses, was established in 1619, it enacted religious laws that made Virginia a bastion of Anglicanism. It passed a law in 1632 requiring that there be a "uniformitie throughout this colony both in substance and circumstance to the cannons and constitution of the Church of England." [36]

The colonists were typically inattentive, uninterested, and bored during church services according to the ministers, who complained that the people were sleeping, whispering, ogling the fashionably dressed women, walking about and coming and going, or at best looking out the windows or staring blankly into space. [37] The lack of towns meant the church had to serve scattered settlements, while the acute shortage of trained ministers meant that piety was hard to practice outside the home. Some ministers solved their problems by encouraging parishioners to become devout at home, using the Book of Common Prayer for private prayer and devotion (rather than the Bible). This allowed devout Anglicans to lead an active and sincere religious life apart from the unsatisfactory formal church services. However, the stress on private devotion weakened the need for a bishop or a large institutional church of the sort Blair wanted. The stress on personal piety opened the way for the First Great Awakening, which pulled people away from the established church. [38]

Especially in the back country, most families had no religious affiliation whatsoever and their low moral standards were shocking to proper Englishmen [39] The Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and other evangelicals directly challenged these lax moral standards and refused to tolerate them in their ranks. The evangelicals identified as sinful the traditional standards of masculinity which revolved around gambling, drinking, and brawling, and arbitrary control over women, children, and slaves. The religious communities enforced new standards, creating a new male leadership role that followed Christian principles and became dominant in the 19th century. [40] Baptists, German Lutherans and Presbyterians, funded their own ministers, and favored disestablishment of the Anglican church. The dissenters grew much faster than the established church, making religious division a factor in Virginia politics into the Revolution. The Patriots, led by Thomas Jefferson, disestablished the Anglican Church in 1786. [41]

Against a prevailing view that 18th century Americans had not perpetuated the first settlers' passionate commitment to their faith, scholars now identify a high level of religious energy in colonies after 1700. According to one expert, Judeo-Christian faith was in the "ascension rather than the declension" another sees a "rising vitality in religious life" from 1700 onward a third finds religion in many parts of the colonies in a state of "feverish growth." [42] Figures on church attendance and church formation support these opinions. Between 1700 and 1740, an estimated 75–80% of the population attended churches, which were being built at a headlong pace. [42]

By 1780 the percentage of adult colonists who adhered to a church was between 10 and 30%, not counting slaves or Native Americans. North Carolina had the lowest percentage at about 4%, while New Hampshire and South Carolina were tied for the highest, at about 16%. [43]

Church buildings in 18th-century America varied greatly, from the plain, modest buildings in newly settled rural areas to elegant edifices in the prosperous cities on the eastern seaboard. Churches reflected the customs and traditions as well as the wealth and social status of the denominations that built them. German churches contained features unknown in English ones. [ citation needed ]

Deism Edit

Deism is a philosophical position that posits that God does not interfere directly with the world. These views gained some adherents in America in the late 18th century. Deism of that era “accepted the existence of a creator on the basis of reason but rejected belief in a supernatural deity who interacts with humankind.” [44] A form of deism, Christian deism, stressed morality and rejected the orthodox Christian view of the divinity of Christ, often viewing him as a sublime, but entirely human, teacher of morality. [42] The most prominent Deist was Thomas Paine, but many other founders reflected Deist language in their writings.

Great Awakening: emergence of evangelicalism Edit

In the American colonies the First Great Awakening was a wave of religious enthusiasm among Protestants that swept the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American Christianity. It resulted from powerful preaching that deeply affected listeners (already church members) with a deep sense of personal guilt and salvation by Christ. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made relationship with God intensely personal to the average person by creating a deep sense of spiritual guilt, forgiveness, redemption and peace. Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom sees it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Pietism in Germany, the Evangelical Revival and Methodism in England. [45] It brought Christianity to the slaves and was an apocalyptic event in New England that challenged established church authority. It resulted in division between the new revivalists and the old traditionalists who insisted on ritual and doctrine. The new style of sermons and the way people practiced their faith breathed new life into Christian faith in America. People became passionately and emotionally involved in their relationship with God, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. Ministers who used this new style of preaching were generally called "new lights", while the preachers of old were called "old lights". People began to study the Bible at home, which effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious manners and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation. [46]

The fundamental premise of evangelicalism is the conversion of individuals from a state of sin to a "new birth" through preaching of the Bible leading to faith. The First Great Awakening led to changes in American colonial society. In New England, the Great Awakening was influential among many Congregationalists. In the Middle and Southern colonies, especially in the "Backcountry" regions, the Awakening was influential among Presbyterians. In the South Baptist and Methodist preachers converted both whites and enslaved blacks. [47]

During the first decades of the 18th century, in the Connecticut River Valley, a series of local "awakenings" began in the Congregational church with ministers including Jonathan Edwards. The first new Congregational Church in the Massachusetts Colony during the great awakening period, was in 1731 at Uxbridge and called the Rev. Nathan Webb as its Pastor. By the 1730s, they had spread into what was interpreted as a general outpouring of the Spirit that bathed the American colonies, England, Wales, and Scotland.

In mass open-air revivals powerful preachers like George Whitefield brought thousands of souls to the new birth. The Great Awakening, which had spent its force in New England by the mid-1740s, split the Congregational and Presbyterian churches into supporters—called "New Lights" and "New Side"—and opponents—the "Old Lights" and "Old Side." Many New England New Lights became Separate Baptists. Largely through the efforts of a charismatic preacher from New England named Shubal Stearns and paralleled by the New Side Presbyterians (who were eventually reunited on their own terms with the Old Side), they carried the Great Awakening into the southern colonies, igniting a series of the revivals that lasted well into the 19th century. [42]

The supporters of the Awakening and its evangelical thrust—Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists—became the largest American Protestant denominations by the first decades of the 19th century. Opponents of the Awakening or those split by it—Anglicans, Quakers, and Congregationalists—were left behind.

Unlike the Second Great Awakening that began about 1800 and which reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety, and their self-awareness. [46]

Evangelicals in the South Edit

The South had originally been settled and controlled by Anglicans, who dominated the ranks of rich planters but whose ritualistic high church established religion had little appeal to ordinary men and women, both white and black. [48] [49]

Baptists Edit

Energized by numerous itinerant missionaries, by the 1760s Baptist churches started drawing Southerners, especially poor white farmers, into a new, much more democratic religion. [50] They welcomed slaves to their services, and many slaves became Baptists at this time. Baptist services emphasized emotion the only ritual, baptism, involved immersion (not sprinkling as in the Anglican tradition) of adults only. Opposed to the low moral standards prevalent around them, the Baptists strictly enforced their own high standards of personal morality, and especially opposed sexual misconduct, heavy drinking, frivolous spending, missing services, cursing, and revelry. Church trials took place frequently, and Baptist churches expelled members who did not submit to discipline. [51]

Many historians have debated the implications of the religious rivalries for the coming of the American Revolution of 1765–1783. [52] The Baptist farmers did introduce a new egalitarian ethic that largely displaced the semi-aristocratic ethic of the Anglican planters. However, both groups supported the Revolution. There was a sharp contrast between the austerity of the plain-living Baptists and the opulence of the Anglican planters, who controlled local government. Baptist church discipline, mistaken by the gentry for radicalism, served to ameliorate disorder. The struggle for religious toleration erupted and played out during the American Revolution, as the Baptists worked to disestablish the Anglican church. [53]

Baptists, German Lutherans and Presbyterians funded their own ministers, and favored disestablishment of the Anglican church.

Methodists Edit

Methodist missionaries were also active in the late colonial period. From 1776 to 1815 Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury made 42 trips into the western parts to visit Methodist congregations. In the 1780s itinerant Methodist preachers carried copies of an anti-slavery petition in their saddlebags throughout the state, calling for an end to slavery. At the same time, counter-petitions were circulated. The petitions were presented to the Assembly they were debated, but no legislative action was taken, and after 1800 there was less and less religious opposition to slavery. [54]

Masculinity and morality Edit

Especially in the Southern back country, most families had no religious affiliation whatsoever and their low moral standards were shocking to proper Englishmen. [39] The Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and other evangelicals directly challenged these lax moral standards and refused to tolerate them in their ranks. The evangelicals identified as sinful the traditional standards of masculinity which revolved around gambling, drinking, and brawling, and arbitrary control over women, children, and slaves. The religious communities enforced new standards, creating a new male leadership role that followed Christian principles and became dominant in the 19th century. [40]

The Revolution split some denominations, notably the Church of England, whose clergy (priests often referred to as 'ministers') were bound by oath to support the king, and the Quakers, who were traditionally pacifists. Religious practice suffered in certain places because of the absence of ministers and the destruction of churches.

Church of England Edit

The American Revolution inflicted deeper wounds on the Church of England in America than on any other denomination because the English monarch was the head of the church. Church of England priests, at their ordination, swore allegiance to the British crown.

The Book of Common Prayer offered prayers for the monarch, beseeching God "to be his defender and keeper, giving him victory over all his enemies," who in 1776 were American soldiers as well as friends and neighbors of American parishioners of the Church of England. Loyalty to the church and to its head could be construed as treason to the American cause.

Patriotic American members of the Church of England, loathing to discard so fundamental a component of their faith as The Book of Common Prayer, revised it to conform to the political realities. After the Treaty of Paris (1783) in which Great Britain formally recognized American independence, Anglicans were left without leadership or a formal institution. Samuel Seabury was consecrated bishop by the Scottish Episcopal Church in 1784. He resided in New York. After the requirement to take an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown two Americans were consecrated bishops in London in 1786 for Virginia and Pennsylvania. The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States was created in 1787 as an autonomous in communion with the Church of England. It adopted a modified Book of Common Prayer which most notably used the Scottish Canon (Eucharistic Prayer). This consecration prayer moved the eucharistic doctrine of the American Church much closer to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox teachings and virtually undid Cranmer's rejection of the eucharist as a material sacrifice offered to God (which had been the accepted theology from the early 3rd century).

Historians in recent decades have debated the nature of American religiosity in the early 19th century, focusing on issues of secularism, deism, traditional religious practices, and newly emerging evangelical forms based on the Great Awakening. [55] [56]

Constitution Edit

The Constitution ratified in 1788 makes no mention of religion except that no religious test is allowed for office holders. However, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted in 1791, has played a central role in defining the relationship of the federal government to the free exercise of religion, and to the prohibition of the establishment of an official church. Its policies were extended to cover state governments in the 1940s. The government is not allowed to hinder the free exercise of religion, and is not allowed to sponsor any particular religion through taxation of favors. [57]

"Not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion" Edit

The Treaty of Tripoli was a treaty concluded between the US and Tripolitania submitted to the Senate by President John Adams, receiving ratification unanimously from the US Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed by Adams, taking effect as the law of the land on June 10, 1797. The treaty was a routine diplomatic agreement but has attracted later attention because the English version included a clause about religion in the United States.

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Frank Lambert, Professor of History at Purdue University, asserts that

"By their actions, the Founding Fathers made clear that their primary concern was religious freedom, not the advancement of a state religion. Individuals, not the government, would define religious faith and practice in the United States. Thus the Founders ensured that in no official sense would America be a Christian Republic. Ten years after the Constitutional Convention ended its work, the country assured the world that the United States was a secular state, and that its negotiations would adhere to the rule of law, not the dictates of the Christian faith. The assurances were contained in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797 and were intended to allay the fears of the Muslim state by insisting that religion would not govern how the treaty was interpreted and enforced. John Adams and the Senate made clear that the pact was between two sovereign states, not between two religious powers". [58]

Notwithstanding the clear separation of government and religion, the predominant cultural and social nature of the nation did become strongly Christian. In an 1892 employment case Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States the US Supreme Court stated, "These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation."

The "Great Awakenings" were large-scale revivals that came in spurts, and moved large numbers of people from unchurched to churched. The Methodists and Baptists were the most active at sponsoring revivals. The number of Methodist church members grew from 58,000 in 1790 to 258,000 in 1820 and 1,661,000 in 1860. Over 70 years Methodist membership grew by a factor of 28.6 times when the total national population grew by a factor of eight times. [60]

It made evangelicalism one of the dominant forces in American religion. Balmer explains that:

"Evangelicalism itself, I believe, is quintessentially North American phenomenon, deriving as it did from the confluence of Pietism, Presbyterianism, and the vestiges of Puritanism. Evangelicalism picked up the peculiar characteristics from each strain – warmhearted spirituality from the Pietists (for instance), doctrinal precisionism from the Presbyterians, and individualistic introspection from the Puritans – even as the North American context itself has profoundly shaped the various manifestations of evangelicalism.: fundamentalism, neo-evangelicalism, the holiness movement, Pentecostalism, the charismatic movement, and various forms of African-American and Hispanic evangelicalism." [61]

Second Great Awakening Edit

In 1800, major revivals began that spread across the nation: the decorous Second Great Awakening in New England and the exuberant Great Revival in Cane Ridge, Kentucky. The principal religious innovation produced by the Kentucky revivals was the camp meeting.

The revivals at first were organized by Presbyterian ministers who modeled them after the extended outdoor communion seasons, used by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, which frequently produced emotional, demonstrative displays of religious conviction. In Kentucky, the pioneers loaded their families and provisions into their wagons and drove to the Presbyterian meetings, where they pitched tents and settled in for several days.

When assembled in a field or at the edge of a forest for a prolonged religious meeting, the participants transformed the site into a camp meeting. The religious revivals that swept the Kentucky camp meetings were so intense and created such gusts of emotion that their original sponsors, the Presbyterians, as well the Baptists, soon repudiated them. The Methodists, however, adopted and eventually domesticated camp meetings and introduced them into the eastern states, where for decades they were one of the evangelical signatures of the denomination.

The Second Great Awakening (1800–1830s), unlike the first, focused on the unchurched and sought to instill in them a deep sense of personal salvation as experienced in revival meetings. The great revival quickly spread throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and southern Ohio. Each denomination had assets that allowed it to thrive on the frontier. The Methodists had an efficient organization that depended on ministers known as circuit riders, who sought out people in remote frontier locations. The circuit riders came from among the common people, which helped them establish rapport with the frontier families they hoped to convert.

The Second Great Awakening exercised a profound impact on American religious history. By 1859 evangelicalism emerged as a kind of national church or national religion and was the grand absorbing theme of American religious life. The greatest gains were made by the very well organized Methodists. Francis Asbury (1745–1816) led the American Methodist movement as one of the most prominent religious leaders of the young republic. Traveling throughout the eastern seaboard, Methodism grew quickly under Asbury's leadership into the nation's largest and most widespread denomination. The numerical strength of the Baptists and Methodists rose relative to that of the denominations dominant in the colonial period—the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Reformed. Efforts to apply Christian teaching to the resolution of social problems presaged the Social Gospel of the late 19th century. It also sparked the beginnings of groups such as the Mormons, the Restoration Movement and the Holiness movement.

Third Great Awakening Edit

The Third Great Awakening was a period of religious activism in American history from the late 1850s to the 20th century. It affected pietistic Protestant denominations and had a strong sense of social activism. It gathered strength from the postmillennial theology that the Second Coming of Christ would come after mankind had reformed the entire earth. The Social Gospel Movement gained its force from the Awakening, as did the worldwide missionary movement. New groupings emerged, such as the Holiness movement and Nazarene movements, and Christian Science. [62]

The Protestant mainline churches were growing rapidly in numbers, wealth and educational levels, throwing off their frontier beginnings and become centered in towns and cities. Intellectuals and writers such as Josiah Strong advocated a muscular Christianity with systematic outreach to the unchurched in America and around the globe. Others built colleges and universities to train the next generation. Each denomination supported active missionary societies, and made the role of missionary one of high prestige. The great majority of pietistic mainline Protestants (in the North) supported the Republican Party, and urged it to endorse prohibition and social reforms. [63] [64] See Third Party System

The awakening in numerous cities in 1858 was interrupted by the American Civil War. In the South, on the other hand, the Civil War stimulated revivals and strengthened the Baptists, especially. [65] After the war, Dwight L. Moody made revivalism the centerpiece of his activities in Chicago by founding the Moody Bible Institute. The hymns of Ira Sankey were especially influential. [66]

Across the nation drys crusaded in the name of religion for the prohibition of alcohol. The Woman's Christian Temperance Union mobilized Protestant women for social crusades against liquor, pornography and prostitution, and sparked the demand for woman suffrage. [67]

The Gilded Age plutocracy came under harsh attack from the Social Gospel preachers and with reformers in the Progressive Era who became involved with issues of child labor, compulsory elementary education and the protection of women from exploitation in factories.

All the major denominations sponsored growing missionary activities inside the United States and around the world. [68] [69]

Colleges associated with churches rapidly expanded in number, size and quality of curriculum. The promotion of "muscular Christianity" became popular among young men on campus and in urban YMCAs, as well as such denominational youth groups such as the Epworth League for Methodists and the Walther League for Lutherans. [70]

Union Edit

The Protestant religion was quite strong in the North in the 1860s. The Protestant denominations took a variety of positions. In general, the pietistic or evangelical denominations such as the Methodists, Northern Baptists and Congregationalists strongly supported the war effort. More liturgical groups such as the Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans and conservative Presbyterians generally avoided any discussion of the war, so it would not bitterly divide their membership. Some clergymen who supported the Confederacy were denounced as Copperheads, especially in the border regions. [71] [72]

The churches made an effort to support their soldiers in the field and especially their families back home. Much of the political rhetoric of the era had a distinct religious tone. [73] The interdenominational Protestant United States Christian Commission sent agents into the Army camps to provide psychological support as well as books, newspapers, food and clothing. Through prayer, sermons and welfare operations, the agents ministered to soldiers' spiritual as well as temporal needs as they sought to bring the men to a Christian way of life. [74]

No denomination was more active in supporting the Union than the Methodist Episcopal Church. Historian Richard Carwardine argues that for many Methodists, the victory of Lincoln in 1860 heralded the arrival of the kingdom of God in America. They were moved into action by a vision of freedom for slaves, freedom from the persecutions of godly abolitionists, release from the Slave Power's evil grip on the American government and the promise of a new direction for the Union. [75] Methodists gave strong support to the Radical Republicans with their hard line toward the white South. Dissident Methodists left the church. [76] During Reconstruction the Methodists took the lead in helping form Methodist churches for Freedmen and moving into Southern cities even to the point of taking control, with Army help, of buildings that had belonged to the southern branch of the church. [77] [78] The Methodist family magazine Ladies' Repository promoted Christian family activism. Its articles provided moral uplift to women and children. It portrayed the War as a great moral crusade against a decadent Southern civilization corrupted by slavery. It recommended activities that family members could perform in order to aid the Union cause. [79]

Confederacy Edit

The CSA was overwhelmingly Protestant, and revivals were common during the war, especially in Army camps. [80] [81] Both free and enslaved populations identified with evangelical Protestantism. Freedom of religion and separation of church and state were fully ensured by Confederate laws. Church attendance was very high and chaplains played a major role in the Army. [82]

The slavery issue had split the evangelical denominations by 1860. During the war the Presbyterians and Episcopalians also split. The Catholics did not split. Baptists and Methodists together formed majorities of both the white and the slave population. [83] [84] Elites in the southeast favored the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America, which reluctantly split off the Episcopal Church (USA) in 1861. [85] Other elites were Presbyterians belonging to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, which split off in 1861. Joseph Ruggles Wilson (father of President Woodrow Wilson) was a prominent leader. [86] Catholics included an Irish working class element in port cities and an old French element in southern Louisiana. [87] [88]

Scholars disagree about the extent of the native African content of Black Christianity as it emerged in 18th-century America, but there is no dispute that the Christianity of the Black population was grounded in evangelicalism. [89] [90]

The Second Great Awakening has been called the "central and defining event in the development of Afro-Christianity." [91] During these revivals Baptists and Methodists converted large numbers of blacks. However, many were disappointed at the treatment they received from their fellow believers and at the backsliding in the commitment to abolish slavery that many white Baptists and Methodists had advocated immediately after the American Revolution.

When their discontent could not be contained, forceful black leaders followed what was becoming an American habit—they formed new denominations. In 1787, Richard Allen and his colleagues in Philadelphia broke away from the Methodist Church and in 1815 founded the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, which, along with independent black Baptist congregations, flourished as the century progressed. By 1846, the AME Church, which began with eight clergy and five churches, had grown to 176 clergy, 296 churches, and 17,375 members. [92] [93]

After the Civil War, Black Baptists desiring to practice Christianity away from racial discrimination, rapidly set up several separate state Baptist conventions. In 1866, black Baptists of the South and West combined to form the Consolidated American Baptist Convention. This Convention eventually collapsed but three national conventions formed in response. In 1895 the three conventions merged to create the National Baptist Convention. It is now the largest African-American religious organization in the United States. [94] The predominantly white denominations operated numerous missions to Blacks, especially in the South. Already before the Civil War Catholics had set up churches for Blacks in Louisiana, Maryland and Kentucky. [95]

1875-1900 Edit

Sidney Mead has argued organized religion met two great challenges in the late 19th century: the one to its social program, the other to its system of thought. Changing social conditions forced a shift from the gospel of wealth to the Social Gospel. the "Gospel of wealth" was an appeal to rich Christians to share their wealth in philanthropy, while the Social Gospel called on ministers to take the lead themselves in eliminating social evils. The second challenge emerged from modern science, where evolutionary Darwinism generated quite different religious responses in terms of biblical authoritarianism, romantic liberalism and scientific modernism. Protestantism gradually abandoned its emphasis on individual salvation and laissez-faire individualism although this tendency was resisted by fundamentalists who sought, often blindly, to cling to the theological foundations of Christianity to which the denominations have begun again to return. [96]

Increasingly the nation encountered new minority religions which, unlike the Mormons, were not in a far off locale but right next door. According to historian R. Laurence Moore, Christian Scientists, Pentecostals, Jehovah Witnesses and Catholics responded to hostile comments by sensing themselves as persecuted Americans on the margins of society, which made them cling tightly to their status as full citizens. [97]

The South Edit

Historian Edward Ayers describes an impoverished South with a rich Spiritual life:

Religious faith and language appeared everywhere in the New South. It permeated public speech as well as private emotion. For many people, religion provided the measure of politics, the power behind law and reform, the reason to reach out to the poor and exploited, a pressure to cross racial boundaries. People viewed everything from courtship to child-rearing to their own deaths in religious terms. Even those filled with doubt or disdain could not escape the images, the assumptions, the power of faith. [98]

The Baptists formed the largest grouping, for both Blacks and whites, with its loose networks of numerous small rural churches. In second place for both races came the Methodists, with a hierarchical structure at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Baptists. Smaller fundamentalist groups that grew very large in the 20th century were starting to appear. Clusters of Roman Catholics appeared in the region's few cities, as well as southern Louisiana. Elite white Southerners, for the most part, were Episcopalians or Presbyterians. Across the region, ministers held high prestige positions, especially in the black community where they were typically political leaders as well. When the great majority Blacks were disenfranchised after 1890, the black preachers were still allowed to vote. Revivals were regular occurrences, attracting large crowds. It was usually the already converted who attended, so the number of new converts was relatively small but new or old, the all enjoyed the preaching and the socializing. [99] [100] Of course no liquor was served, for the major social reform promoted by the Southerners was prohibition It was also the major political outlet for women activists, for the suffrage movement was weak. [101]

Social Gospel Edit

A powerful influence in mainline northern Protestant denominations was the Social Gospel, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with traces extending to the 21st century. The goal was to apply Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice and social evils such as economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, unclean environment, child labor, lack of unionization, poor schools, and the dangers of war. Theologically, the Social Gospelers sought to put into practice the Lord's Prayer: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". [102] They typically were postmillennialist that is, they believed the Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. Social Gospel theologians rejected premillennialist theology, which held the Second Coming of Christ was imminent, and Christians should devote their energies to preparing for it rather than social issues. That perspective was strongest among fundamentalists and in the South. The Social Gospel was more popular among clergy than laity. Its leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing of the progressive movement, and most were theologically liberal. Important leaders included Richard T. Ely, Josiah Strong, Washington Gladden, and Walter Rauschenbusch. Many politicians came under its influence, notably William Jennings Bryan and Woodrow Wilson. The most controversial Social Gospel reform was prohibition, which was highly popular in rural areas – including the South – and unpopular in the larger cities where mainline Protestantism was weak among the electorate. [103]

Fundamentalism resurgent and pushed back Edit

These "strident fundamentalists" in the 1920s devoted themselves to fighting against the teaching of evolution in the nation's schools and colleges, especially by passing state laws that affected public schools. William Bell Riley took the initiative in the 1925 Scopes Trial by bringing in famed politician William Jennings Bryan as an assistant to the local prosecutor, Bryan drew national media attention to the trial. In the half century after the Scopes Trial, fundamentalists had little success in shaping government policy, and they were generally defeated in their efforts to reshape the mainline denominations, which refused to join fundamentalist attacks on evolution. Particularly after the Scopes Trial, liberals saw a division between Christians in favor of the teaching of evolution, whom they viewed as educated and tolerant, and Christians against evolution, whom they viewed as narrow-minded, tribal, obscurantist. [104] [105] [106] [107]

Webb (1991) traces the political and legal struggles between strict creationists and Darwinists to influence the extent to which evolution would be taught as science in Arizona and California schools. After Scopes was convicted, creationists throughout the United States sought similar antievolution laws for their states. They sought to ban evolution as a topic for study, or at least relegate it to the status of unproven theory perhaps taught alongside the biblical version of creation. Educators, scientists, and other distinguished laymen favored evolution. This struggle occurred later in the Southwest than in other US areas and persisted through the Sputnik era. [108]

Great Depression of the 1930s Edit

Robert T. Handy identifies a religious depression in the United States starting around 1925, that only grew worse during the economic depression which began in 1929. The identification of Protestantism with American culture undermined the religious messages. The fundamentalist churches said over expanded and were financially troubled. The mainstream churches were well enough financed in the late 1920s, but lost their self-confidence in terms of whether their social gospel was needed in an age of prosperity, especially since the great reform of prohibition was a failure. In terms of their network of international missions, the mainstream churches realized that the missions were a success in terms of opening modern schools and hospitals but a failure in terms of conversions. The leading theorist Daniel Fleming proclaimed that the continents for Christian outreach and Christian .conquest were no longer Africa and Asia, but rather, materialism, racial injustice, war and poverty. The number of missionaries from mainstream denominations began a steep decline. By contrast, the evangelical and fundamentalist churches—never wedded to the social gospel—escalated their efforts worldwide with a focus on conversion. [109] [110] At home the mainstream churches were forced to expand their charitable roles in 1929–31, but collapsed financially with the overwhelming magnitude of the economic disaster for ordinary Americans. Suddenly in 1932–33, the mainline churches lost one of their historic functions in distributing alms to the poor, and the national government took over that role without any religious dimension. Handy argues that the deep self-doubt the religious revivals customary in times of economic depression was absent in the 1930s. He concludes that Great Depression marked the end of the dominance of Protestantism in American life. [111] [112] [113] [114]

World War II Edit

In the 1930s, pacifism was a very strong force in most of the Protestant churches. Only a minority of religious leaders, typified by Reinhold Niebuhr, paid serious attention to the threats to peace posed by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, or militaristic Japan. After Pearl Harbor in December 1941, practically all the religious denominations gave some support to the war effort, such as providing chaplains. The pacifist churches, such as the Quakers and Mennonites were small but maintained their opposition to military service. Many young members, such as Richard Nixon voluntarily joining the military. Unlike in 1917–1918, the positions were generally respected by the government, which set up non-combat civilian roles for conscientious objectors. Typically, church members sent their sons into the military without protest, accepted shortages and rationing as a war necessity, purchased war bonds, working munitions industries, and prayed intensely for safe return and for victory. Church leaders, however, were much more cautious while holding fast to the ideals of peace, justice and humanitarianism, and sometimes criticizing military policies such as the bombing of enemy cities. They sponsored 10,000 military chaplains, and set up special ministries in and around military bases, focused not only on soldiers but their young wives who often followed them. The mainstream Protestant churches supported the "Double V campaign" of the black churches to achieve victory against the enemies abroad, and victory against racism on the home front. However, there was little religious protest against the incarceration of Japanese on the West Coast or against segregation of Blacks in the services. The intense moral outrage regarding the Holocaust largely appeared after the war ended, especially after 1960. Many church leaders supported studies of postwar peace proposals, typified by John Foster Dulles, a leading Protestant layman and a leading adviser to top-level Republicans. The churches promoted strong support for European relief programs, especially through the United Nations. [115] [116] In one of the largest white Protestant denominations, the Southern Baptists, there was a new awareness of international affairs, A highly negative response to the axis dictatorships, and also a growing fear of the power of the Catholic Church in American society. [117] The military brought strangers together who discovered a common Americanism, leading to a sharp decline in anti-Catholicism among veterans. In the general population, public opinion polls indicate that religious and ethnic prejudice were less prevalent after 1945, some degree of anti-Catholic bias, anti-Semitism, and other discrimination continued. [118]

Since the late 19th century, right wing Christian nationalists have emphasized that the United States of America is essentially Christian in origin. They preach American exceptionalism, oppose liberal scholars, and emphasize the Christian identity of many Founding Fathers. critics argue that many of these Christian founders actually supported the separation of church and state and would not support the notion that they were trying to found a Christian nation. [119] [120]

In Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States a Supreme Court decision in 1892 Justice David Josiah Brewer used the opportunity to present his personal views on the nation's religious base and concluded it was "a Christian nation". He later wrote and lectured widely on the topic, stressing that "Christian nation" was an informal designation and not a legal standard, :

[In] American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and its society, we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth. Among other matters, note the following: the form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the Almighty the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer the prefatory words of all wills, "In the name of God, amen" the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet the multitude of charitable organizations existing everywhere under Christian auspices the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation. There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning. They affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people. [121] [122]

Restorationism Edit

Restorationism refers to the belief that a purer form of Christianity should be restored using the early church as a model. [123] : 635 [124] : 217 In many cases, restorationist groups believed that contemporary Christianity, in all its forms, had deviated from the true, original Christianity, which they then attempted to "Reconstruct", often using the Book of Acts as a "guidebook" of sorts. Restorationists do not usually describe themselves as "reforming" a Christian church continuously existing from the time of Jesus, but as restoring the Church that they believe was lost at some point. "Restorationism" is often used to describe the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. The term "Restorationist" is also used to describe the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and the Jehovah's Witness Movement.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Edit

The origins of another distinctive religious group, the Latter Day Saint movement—also widely known as Mormon—arose in the early 19th century in an intensely religious area of western New York called the burned-over district, because it had been "scorched" by so many revivals. Smith said he had a series of visions, revelations from God and visitations from angelic messengers, providing him with ongoing instructions as prophet, seer, and revelator and a restorer of the original and primary doctrines of early Christianity. After publishing the Book of Mormon—which he said he translated by divine power from a record of ancient American prophets recorded on golden plates—Smith organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1830. He set up a theocracy at Nauvoo Illinois, and ran for president of the United States in 1844. His top aide Brigham Young campaigned for Smith saying, "He it is that God of Heaven designs to save this nation from destruction and preserve the Constitution." [125]

Mormon beliefs in theocracy and polygamy alienated many. Anti-Mormon propaganda was also common violent attacks were common and the Mormons were driven out of state after state. [126] Smith was assassinated in 1844 and Brigham Young led the Mormon Exodus from the United States to Mexican territory in Utah in 1847. They settled the Mormon Corridor. The United States acquired permanent control of this area in 1848 and rejected the Mormons' 1849 State of Deseret proposal for self-governance, and instead established the Utah Territory in 1850. Conflicts between Mormons and territorial federal appointees flared, included the Runaway Officials of 1851 this eventually led to the small-scale Utah War of 1857–1858, after which Utah remained occupied by Federal troops until 1861.

Congress passed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 to curb the Mormon practice of polygamy in the territory, but President Abraham Lincoln did not enforce this law instead Lincoln gave Brigham Young tacit permission to ignore the act in exchange for not becoming involved with the American Civil War. [127]

Postwar efforts to enforce polygamy restrictions were limited until the 1882 Edmunds Act, which allowed for convictions of unlawful cohabitation, which was much easier to prosecute. This law also revoked polygamists' right to vote, made them ineligible for jury service, and prohibited them from holding political office. The subsequent 1887 Edmunds–Tucker Act disincorporated the LDS Church and confiscated church assets. It also: required an anti-polygamy oath for prospective voters, jurors and public officials mandated civil marriage licenses disallowed spousal privilege to not testify in polygamy cases disenfranchised women replaced local judges with federally appointed judges and removed local control of schools. After a 1890 Supreme Court ruling found the Edmunds–Tucker Act constitutional, and with most church leadership either in hiding or imprisoned, the church released the 1890 Manifesto which advised church members against entering legally prohibited marriages. Dissenters moved to Canada or Mormon colonies in Mexico, or into hiding in remote areas. With the polygamy issue resolved, church leaders were pardoned or had their sentences reduced, assets were restored to the church, and Utah was eventually granted statehood in 1896. After the Reed Smoot hearings began in 1904, a Second Manifesto was issued which specified that anyone entering into or solemnizing polygamous marriages would be excommunicated, and clarified that polygamy restrictions applied everywhere, and not just in the United States. [128]

Thanks to worldwide missionary work, the church grew from 7.7 million members worldwide in 1989 to 14 million in 2010. [129]

Jehovah's Witnesses Edit

Jehovah's Witnesses comprise a fast-growing denomination that has kept itself separate from other Christian denominations. It began in 1872 with Charles Taze Russell, but experienced a major schism in 1917 as Joseph Franklin Rutherford began his presidency. Rutherford gave new direction to the movement and renamed the movement "Jehovah's witnesses" in 1931. The period from 1925 to 1933 saw many significant changes in doctrine. Attendance at their yearly Memorial dropped from a high of 90,434 in 1925 to 63,146 in 1935. Since 1950 growth has been very rapid. [130]

During the World War II, Jehovah's Witnesses experienced mob attacks in America and were temporarily banned in Canada and Australia because of their lack of support for the war effort. They won significant Supreme Court victories involving the rights of free speech and religion that have had a great impact on legal interpretation of these rights for others. [131] In 1943, the United States Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette that school children of Jehovah's Witnesses could not be compelled to salute the flag.

Church of Christ, Scientist Edit

The Church of Christ, Scientist was founded in 1879, in Boston by Mary Baker Eddy, the author of its central book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which offers a unique interpretation of Christian faith. [132] Christian Science teaches that the reality of God denies the reality of sin, sickness, death and the material world. Accounts of miraculous healing are common within the church, and adherents often refuse traditional medical treatments. Legal troubles sometimes result when they forbid medical treatment of their children. [133]

The Church is unique among American denominations in several ways. It is highly centralized, with all the local churches merely branches of the mother church in Boston. There are no ministers, but there are practitioners who are integral to the movement. The practitioners operate local businesses that help members heal their illnesses by the power of the mind. They depend for their clientele on the approval of the Church. Starting in the late 19th century the Church has rapidly lost membership, although it does not publish statistics. Its flagship newspaper Christian Science Monitor lost most of its subscribers and dropped its paper version to become an online source. [134]

Some other denominations founded in the US Edit

    - began as an inter-denominational movement. Its most vocal leader was William Miller, who in the 1830s in New York became convinced of an imminent Second Coming of Jesus. /Disciples of Christ - a restoration movement with no governing body. The Restoration Movement solidified as a historical phenomenon in 1832 when restorationists from two major movements championed by Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell merged (referred to as the "Stone-Campbell Movement"). - founded as an offshoot of the Church of England now the United States branch of the Anglican Communion. - the largest African American religious organization in the United States and the second largest Baptist denomination in the world. - movement that emphasizes the role of the Holy Spirit, finds its historic roots in the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, from 1904 to 1906, sparked by Charles Parham , the largest Baptist group in the world and the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. In 1995, it renounced its 1845 origins in the defense of slavery and racial superiority. - a theologically liberal religious movement founded in 1961 from the union of the well established Unitarian and Universalist churches. - formed in 1957 as a united and uniting church from a merger of the Congregational Christian Church and Evangelical and Reformed Church. Congregations participating in the merger descended from Congregationalist churches of New England, German Lutheran and Reformed Churches largely from the Midwest, and various of Campbellite, Christian Connexion and "Christian" churches. - founded in 1810 in Dickson County, Tennessee by Samuel McAdow, Finis Ewing, and Samuel King.

Benevolent societies were an extremely new and conspicuous feature of the American landscape during the first half of the 19th century. Originally devoted to the salvation of souls, they eventually focused on the eradication of every kind of social ill. Benevolent societies were the direct result of the extraordinary energies generated by the evangelical movement—specifically, by the "activism" resulting from conversion. "The evidence of God's grace," Presbyterian evangelist Charles Grandison Finney insisted, "was a person's benevolence toward others." [135]

The evangelical establishment used this powerful network of voluntary, ecumenical benevolent societies to Christianize the nation. The earliest and most important of these organizations focused their efforts on the conversion of sinners to the new birth or to the creation of conditions (such as sobriety sought by temperance societies) in which conversions could occur. The six largest societies in 1826–27 were: the American Education Society, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, the American Sunday School Union, the American Tract Society, and the American Home Missionary Society.

Most denominations operated missions abroad (and some to Indians and Asians in the US). Hutchinson argues that the American desire to reform and rehabilitate the secular world was greatly stimulated by the zeal of evangelical Christians. [136] Grimshaw argues that women missionaries were enthusiastic proponents of the missionary endeavor, contributing, "substantially to the religious conversion and reorientation of Hawaiian culture in the first half of the 19th century." [137]

Religion on the Indian reservations Edit

Starting in the colonial era, most of the Protestant denominations operated missions to the Native Americans. After the Civil War, the programs were expanded and the major Western reservations were put under the control of religious denominations, largely to avoid the financial scandals and ugly relationships that had previously prevailed. [138] In 1869, Congress created the Board of Indian Commissioners and President Ulysses Grant appointed volunteer members who were "eminent for their intelligence and philanthropy." The Grant Board was given extensive power to supervise the Bureau of Indian Affairs and "civilize" Native Americans. Grant was determined to divide Native American post appointments "up among the religious churches" by 1872, 73 Indian agencies were divided among religious denominations. [139] A core policy was to put the western reservations under the control of religious denominations. In 1872, of the 73 agencies assigned, the Methodists received 14 reservations the Orthodox Quakers ten the Presbyterians nine the Episcopalians eight the Catholics seven the Hicksite Quakers six the Baptists five the Dutch Reformed five the Congregationalists three the Disciples two Unitarians two American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions one and Lutherans one. The selection criteria were vague and some critics saw the Peace Policy as violating Native American freedom of religion. Catholics wanted a bigger role and set up the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions in 1874. The Peace Policy remained in force until 1881. [140] Historian Cary Collins says Grant's Peace Policy, failed in the Pacific Northwest chiefly because of sectarian competition and the priority placed on proselytizing by the religious denominations. [141]

1880s–1920s Edit

By 1890, American Protestant churches were supporting about 1000 overseas missionaries, and their wives. Women's organizations based in local churches were especially active in motivating volunteers and raising funds Inspired by the Social Gospel movement to increased activism, young people on college campuses and urban centers such as the YMCA, a great surge brought the total to 5000 by 1900. From 1886 to 1926 the most active recruiting agency was the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), which used its base on campus YMCAs to appeal to enlist over 8,000 young Protestants. The idea quickly was copied by the new World's Student Christian Federation (WSCF), with strength in Great Britain, and Europe, and even as far as Australia, India, China and Japan. Preliminary training at first focus on a deep understanding of the Bible only later was it appreciated that effective missionaries had to understand the language and the culture. [142] [143] [144] Important leaders included John Mott (1865–1955 the head of the YMCA), Robert E. Speer (1867–1947 the chief Presbysterian organizer and Sherwood Eddy (1871–1963). Eddy, A wealthy young graduate of Yale College and Union Theological Seminary, concentrated on India. His base was the YMCA-organized Indian Student Volunteer Movement he focused on the poor and the outcasts. In 1911–31, he was secretary for Asia for the International Committee, splitting his enormous energy between evangelistic campaigns in Asia and fund-raising in North America. [145]

Mott promoted the YMCA across the United States and across the world. Its educational and sports programs proved highly attractive everywhere, But the response to religious proselytizing was tepid. Mott explained about China in 1910:

It is Western education that the Chinese are clamoring for, and will have. If the Church can give it to them, plus Christianity, they will take it otherwise they will get it elsewhere, without Christianity—and that speedily. If in addition to direct evangelistic and philanthropic work in China, the Church can in the next decade trained several thousands of Christian teachers, it will be in a position to meet this unparalleled opportunity. [146]

With wide attention focused on the anti-Western Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901), American Protestants made missions to China a high priority. They supported 500 missionaries in 1890, more than 2000 in 1914, and 8300 in 1920. By 1927 they opened 16 universities in China, six medical schools, and four theology schools, together with 265 middle schools and a large number of elementary schools. The number of converts was not large, but the educational influence was dramatic and long-lasting. [147]

Laymen's Report of 1932 Edit

The First World War reduced the enthusiasm for missions. Mission leaders had strongly endorsed the war the younger generation was dismayed amid growing doubts about the wisdom of cultural imperialism in dealing with foreign peoples. [148] [149] In 1930–1932, Harvard Professor William Ernest Hocking led the Commission of Appraisal, which produced the Laymen's Inquiry which recommended a shift on Christian missionary activities from evangelism to education and welfare. [150]

Catholicism first came with the Spanish explorers. In the Thirteen colonies, Catholicism was introduced with the settling of Maryland in 1634 this colony offered a rare example of religious toleration in a fairly intolerant age. Maryland law remained a major center, as exemplified by the pre-eminence of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Catholic circles. However, at the time of the American Revolution, Catholics formed less than one percent of the white population of the thirteen states. [151] Religiously, the Catholics were characterized by personalism, discipline, and a prayer life that was essentially personal, demanding only a small role for priests and none for bishops. Ritualism was important, and focused on daily prayers, Sunday Mass, and observance of two dozen holy days. [152]

The main source of Catholics in the United States was the huge numbers of European immigrants of the 19th and 20th centuries, especially from Germany, Ireland, Italy, and Poland. Recently, most Catholic immigrants come from Latin America, especially from Mexico. [153]

The Irish came to dominate the church, providing most of the bishops, college presidents and lay leaders. They strongly supported the "ultramontane" position favoring the authority of the pope. [154]

In the latter half of the 19th century, the first attempt at standardizing discipline in the church occurred with the convocation of the Plenary Councils of Baltimore. These councils resulted in the Baltimore Catechism and the establishment of The Catholic University of America. [155]

In the 1960s the church went through dramatic changes, especially in the liturgy and the use of the language of the people instead of Latin. The number of priests and nuns declined sharply as few entered and many left their vocations. Since 1990 scandals involving the coverup by bishops of priests who sexually abused young men has led to massive financial payments across the country—and indeed in Europe as well.

Eastern Orthodoxy spread to the North American continent with the founding of Russian America, in what is today the State of Alaska. The spreading of the Orthodox faith went along with the Russian colonization of the Americas during the 18th and 19th centuries. From there, it spread to the continental United States with the influx of immigrants from Eastern Europe.

The history of the Jews in the United States comprises a theological dimension, with a three-way division into Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. In social terms the Jewish ethnic community began with small groups of merchants in colonial ports such as New York City and Charleston. In the mid- and late-19th century well-educated German Jews arrived and settled in towns and cities across the United States, especially as dry goods merchants. From 1880 to 1924 large numbers of Yiddish-speaking Jews arrived from Eastern Europe, settling in New York City and other large cities. After 1926 numbers came as refugees from Europe after 1980 many came from the Soviet Union, and there has been a flow from Israel. By the year 1900 the 1.5 million Jews residing in the United States were the third most of any nation, behind Russia and Austria-Hungary. The proportion of the population has been about 2% to 3% since 1900, and in the 21st century Jews were widely diffused in major metropolitan areas around New York or the Northeastern United States, and especially in South Florida and California. [156] [157]

Establishment in the colonial era Edit

Early immigrants to the American colonies were motivated largely by the desire to worship freely in their own fashion, particularly after the English Civil War, but also religious wars and disputes in France and Germany. [158] They included numerous nonconformists such as the Puritans and the Pilgrims, as well as Roman Catholics (in Baltimore). Despite a common background, the groups' views on broader religious toleration were mixed. While some notable examples such as Roger Williams of Rhode Island and William Penn ensured the protection of religious minorities within their colonies, others such as the Plymouth Colony and Massachusetts Bay Colony had established churches. The Dutch colony of the New Netherlands had also established the Dutch Reformed Church and outlawed all other worship, although enforcement by the Dutch West India Company in the last years of the colony was sparse. Part of the reason for establishment was financial: the established Church was responsible for poor relief, and dissenting churches would therefore have a significant advantage.

There were also opponents to the support of any established church even at the state level. In 1773, Isaac Backus, a prominent Baptist minister in New England, observed that when "church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued." Thomas Jefferson's influential Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was enacted in 1786, five years before the Bill of Rights.

Most Anglican ministers, and many Anglicans outside the South, were Loyalists. The Anglican Church was disestablished during the Revolution, and following the separation from Britain was reorganized as the independent Episcopal Church.

Establishment Clause Edit

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ." In a letter written in 1802, Thomas Jefferson used the phrase "separation of church and state" to describe the combined effect of the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. Though "separation of church and state" does not appear in the Constitution, it has since been quoted in several opinions handed down by the United States Supreme Court. [159]

Robert N. Bellah has argued in his writings that although the separation of church and state is grounded firmly in the constitution of the United States, this does not mean that there is no religious dimension in the political society of the United States. He used the term Civil Religion to describe the specific relation between politics and religion in the United States. His 1967 article analyzes the inaugural speech of John F. Kennedy: "Considering the separation of church and state, how is a president justified in using the word 'God' at all? The answer is that the separation of church and state has not denied the political realm a religious dimension." [160]

This is not only the subject of a sociological discussion, but can also be an issue for atheists in America. There are allegations of discrimination against atheists in the United States.

Jefferson, Madison, and the "wall of separation" Edit

The phrase a "hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world" was first used by Baptist theologian Roger Williams, the founder of the colony of Rhode Island. [161] It was later used by Jefferson as a commentary on the First Amendment and its restriction on the legislative branch of the federal government, in an 1802 letter.

Jefferson's and Madison's conceptions of separation have long been debated. Jefferson refused to issue Proclamations of Thanksgiving sent to him by Congress during his presidency, though he did issue a Thanksgiving and Prayer proclamation as Governor of Virginia and vetoed two bills on the grounds they violated the first amendment.

After retiring from the presidency, Madison argued in his detached memoranda [162] for a stronger separation of church and state, opposing the very presidential issuing of religious proclamations he himself had done, and also opposing the appointment of chaplains to Congress.

Jefferson's opponents said his position meant the rejection of Christianity, but this was a caricature. In setting up the University of Virginia, Jefferson encouraged all the separate sects to have preachers of their own, though there was a constitutional ban on the State supporting a Professorship of Divinity, arising from his own Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. [163]

Test acts Edit

The absence of an establishment of religion did not necessarily imply that all men were free to hold office. Most colonies had a Test Act, and several states retained them for a short time. This stood in contrast to the Federal Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the employment of any religious test for Federal office, and which through the Fourteenth Amendment later extended this prohibition to the States. [164]

Article Six of the United States Constitution provides that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States". Prior to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights, this was the only mention of religious freedom in the Constitution.

First Amendment Edit

The first amendment to the US Constitution states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" The two parts, known as the "establishment clause" and the "free exercise clause" respectively, form the textual basis for the Supreme Court's interpretations of the "separation of church and state" doctrine.

On August 15, 1789 Madison said, "he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience. ” [165]

All states disestablished religion by 1833 Massachusetts was the last state. This ended the practice of allocating taxes to churches.

Supreme Court since 1947 Edit

The phrase "separation of church and state" became a definitive part of Establishment Clause jurisprudence in Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947), a case that dealt with a state law that allowed government funds for transportation to religious schools. While the ruling upheld the state law allowing taxpayer funding of transportation to religious schools as constitutional, Everson was also the first case to hold the Establishment Clause applicable to the state legislatures as well as Congress, based upon the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. [166]

In 1949 Bible reading was a part of routine in the public schools of at least thirty-seven states. In twelve of these states, Bible reading was legally required by state laws 11 states passed these laws after 1913. In 1960, 42 per cent of school districts nationwide tolerated or required Bible reading, and 50 per cent reported some form of homeroom daily devotional exercise. [167]

Since 1962, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that prayers organized by public school officials schools are unconstitutional. Students are allowed to pray privately, and to join religious clubs after school hours. Colleges, universities, and private schools are not affected by the Supreme Court rulings. Reactions to Engel and Abington were widely negative, with over 150 constitutional amendments submitted to reverse the policy. None passed Congress. [168] It is a matter of the government promoting an establishment of religion. The Supreme Court has also ruled that so-called "voluntary" school prayers are also unconstitutional, because they force some students to be outsiders to the main group, and because they subject dissenters to intense peer group pressure. In Lee v. Weisman The Supreme Court held in 1992:

the State may not place the student dissenter in the dilemma of participating or protesting. Since adolescents are often susceptible to peer pressure, especially in matters of social convention, the State may no more use social pressure to enforce orthodoxy than it may use direct means. The embarrassment and intrusion of the religious exercise cannot be refuted by arguing that the prayers are of a de minimis character, since that is an affront to . those for whom the prayers have meaning, and since any intrusion was both real and a violation of the objectors' rights. [169] [170]

In 1962, the Supreme Court extended this analysis to the issue of prayer in public schools. In Engel v. Vitale 370 U.S. 421 (1962), the Court determined it unconstitutional for state officials to compose an official school prayer and require its recitation in public schools, even when it is non-denominational and students may excuse themselves from participation. As such, any teacher, faculty, or student can pray in school, in accordance with their own religion. However, they may not lead such prayers in class, or in other "official" school settings such as assemblies or programs.

Currently, the Supreme Court applies a three-pronged test to determine whether legislation comports with the Establishment Clause, known as the "Lemon Test". First, the legislature must have adopted the law with a neutral or non-religious purpose. Second, the statute's principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion. Third, the statute must not result in an excessive entanglement of government with religion. [166]

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