Segment descriptions
Topics in American History Series:
Religion, Part 2        

                Description: Religion 4

Religion, Part 2
               sampler  2’-54”      (58’ lecture)

What is Deism, the acknowledged religious belief of many of America’s founding fathers, and how does it manifest itself in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights?
play sampler


Protestant society is still dominant.  The Constitution provides for periodic revolution.  Especially in times of economic and social insecurity people tend to turn to the certitude of emotional religious answers.


The new immigration from the 1880s to the 1920s, answers the demand for cheap labor due to the rapid industrialization after the Civil War.  Originating from south and east Europe, including Catholics, Jews, and Eastern Christian Orthodox, they are greeted with great hostility, endure the city life of poverty. 




Responses of Religion


The response to poverty.  The social gospel is mostly protest.  Moral concern for the poor is expressed in the idea that the "meek shall inherit the earth."  


The slavery period.  Slaves, with their animism brought from West Africa, are seen as not worthy of Christianity.  A shift in the 1800s to conversion as a way to control the slaves by sermon to obey the master.    Black Christianity evolves with Moses as the hero who leads the slaves to the promised land.  The slave-preacher is a natural leader, becomes active in revolts. 


20th century.  The period after the social reforms of the 19th century.  The religious revivalism of the 1920s.  The millennium and the anticipated 2nd coming of Christ. 


The Mormons, led by Brigham Young, settle in Utah, are a despised minority having a belief in polygamy.  


The Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920s as modernity and technology become threatening to religions which want a literal interpretation of the bible.  Evolution is accepted by many religious leaders as God's way.  Scopes issue is still with us today. 


Judaism.  Many religious Jews immigrate in the new immigration of 1880s to 1920s, holding on to their heritage and religious faith.  By the 2nd or 3rd generations this faith is modified into orthodox, conservative and reform denominations. 


Catholicism.  Irish immigration to America starts before the Civil War and continues into the 20th century to escape poverty and seek opportunity.  New immigration is from Italy.  Catholicism becomes a potent force in the U.S. 




Religions in current American society


Judaism.  Divisions of Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed.  Issues of maintaining membership, intermarriage, attempts of convert Jews to Christianity. Ultra-Orthodox within the Orthodox.  Time of transition or time of crisis? 


Islam in the U.S. Growing significantly.  Cloud of prejudice hovering over Muslims since 9/11.  The Black Muslims   Nation of Islam during the Jim Crow Era in the early 1900s argued for separation of the races, emphasis on purity of the body, and the rise of the charismatic Malcolm X becomes its spokesman until he disavows it because of corruption, and is assassinated.  .


American Catholicism.  Influence of Pope John the XXIII and Vatican II Conference calling for reforms in the Catholic Church, including the issue of birth control, the celibacy of priests, support of at times radical liberation theology based on the bible, . 


American Protestantism.  A degree of social reform movement in old line denominations. 

are now thriving despite earlier fears of their theocracy and elements of polygamy. 
The Evangelical Movement
, deeply emotional, ties to early Puritanism and a one-to-one relationship with God, born again, is particularly associated with the Southern Baptists, now spread nationally and more dominant than the old line denominations.  Economic and political implications when viewing government as hampering individualism.  Emphasis on individualism, opposing government role in society.  An emphasis on rugged individualism as part of the American heritage. Promotes American Exceptionalism.  This has increasing influence on Conservative politics, especially Republicans, arguing for America as a Christian country, challenging basic American tenants such as separation of religion and state. Sense of insecurity in current times is a factor.  There is also a crusading element of converting the world.