Andy Miller's Reviews > Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul by John M. Barry
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Mar 14, 12

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Read in March, 2012

A great biography about a great man with not only great ideas but with the convictions and fortitude to put them into action. Like most of us I learned about Roger Williams in school, how he left the Puritans to found Rhode Island and build a society based on toleration of different religious beliefs

But this book shows that there was much more to his story. Much of its beginning dealt with Williams' mentor, the lawyer Coke and how he laid the foundation for many of our current legal and political principles. The emphasis of the politics in England and persecution of Puritans foreshadows the irony of the later Puritan persecution of different religious beliefs in America

Equally fascinating was the basis of Williams' belief in separation between church and state; he believed that church involvement in state matters would lead to the corruption of the church, his tolerance of other religions, including ones he strongly disagreed with such as Catholic and Quaker followed from his concerns about the corruption of the church

Also forgotten or downplayed in our history was Williams' treatment and attitude toward Native Americans. He was of a small minority of the time that believed that the Native Americans owned the land and that it could not simply be taken. The respect he showed individual Native Americans was recipocrated by them, especially when they aided him during his escape from the Puritans.

If I had a complaint, it would be that I wish that the author spent more time on Williams the man as opposed to his philosophy and theology and the political and religious thoughts of the time, though the author never claimed that this would be a personal biography

I recommend this outstanding read without reservation
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