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Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People
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Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People

3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  122 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Challenging the formidable tradition that places early New England Puritanism at the center of the American religious experience, Yale historian Jon Butler offers a new interpretation of three hundred years of religious and cultural development. Butler stresses the instability of religion in Europe where state churches battled dissenters, magic, and astonishingly low churc ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published February 1st 1992 by Harvard University Press (first published 1990)
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Jan 04, 2012 Susie rated it really liked it
Butler tackles three centuries (1550-1865) of American religiosity in this book with the goal of constructing a more complex history than is often presented. His interest is not in perpetuating the Puritan lore, but instead to focus on what he sees as the eclectic religious tapestry of America. He emphasizes the importance of authority, both religious and secular, in forming American religious practice and history. Published before Finke and Stark's seminal work, The Churching of America, Butler ...more
Dec 30, 2013 Charlie rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Jon Butler's work on American (but not Native American) religion up to the Civil War presents an unusual but fruitful combination of narrative, quantitative data, and a near-anthropological approach to popular religion.

Since Butler's thesis is that the origins of American religion cannot be reduced to a homogenous New England Puritanism, the first chapter is a summary of the complexity of religion in Europe. The summary is so good I might assign it as a reading for high school or college studen
Sep 06, 2016 Kristin rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Jon Butler's Awash in a Sea of Faith is a compendium of ideas organized around the concept of Christianization and focused primarily on the intellectual and cultural history surrounding American colonial religion. Through the use of lectures, sermons and almanacs, Butler provides a brief review of religion in the United States from the early 17th century up to the Civil War in order to question the prevailing scholarship supporting early American Protestantism. He ultimately believes that Americ ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Samuel rated it really liked it
In Jon Butler’s Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People, the author “proposes that we attach less importance to Puritanism as the major force in shaping religion in America and more importance to the religious eclecticism that has long been prominent” (2). Countering the powerful myth—most famously perpetuated by Robert Baird and Stephen Colwell in the 1850s—that America had been a uniformly Christian nation since its colonial beginnings, Butler demonstrates how focusing on t ...more
Feb 20, 2013 John rated it really liked it
The scope of Jon Butler’s Awash in a Sea of Faith is extremely impressive. Butler examines religious life in all the colonies that would become part of the United States, from the early 17th century all the way to the Civil War, and provides a fascinating survey of an early America that was perhaps not as devoutly Protestant as some historians would have us believe. Though the diversity of the colonies and the long sweep of time make a coherent narrative seem improbable, Butler manages to assemb ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 06, 2011 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: religion
One of my high school friends, Walt Wallace, went on to study American history in college and graduate schools, writing a lengthy thesis on the religious beliefs of colonial soldiers during the revolution. I'd been with him on some of his research to the archives of libraries in Illinois and Wisconsin and actually read the finished product while staying at the apartment he shared with Arthur Kazar near Northern Illinois University where I was to take the GRE. Being interested in American history ...more
Steve Wiggins
Nov 09, 2014 Steve Wiggins rated it really liked it
Butler does a wonderful job demonstrating that America as a "Christian nation" is quite overstated. I particularly enjoyed his exploration of lingering witch-type practices in culture that is nominally Christian. An academic book, but certainly readable by anyone with a deep interest in American religion. More comments may be found on my blog: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World.
Judith Ellen
Jan 18, 2013 Judith Ellen rated it really liked it
Shelves: academia
Read this for a grad class called Religions in North America. If you are interested in the following list of things, you should read this book: the church of England, all American denominational differences, QUAKERS!, magic and the occult, persecution of American ladies for witchcraft, sacred landscapes, and more.
Sam Newton
Jan 19, 2013 Sam Newton rated it liked it
Butler emphasizes a Christian ascension and greater religious pluralism before the great awakening, which he discounts.
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