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HISTORY OF RELIGIONS > ROLE OF RELIGION IN HISTORY

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 15, 2010 09:08AM) (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
This is a thread to begin and/or continue discussions on the role of religion in history. We have decided to open up a folder on religions and I will add threads as we go along. If there is a thread that you do not see readily available, please let me know in the Suggestion Box thread and/or send me a PM.

Enjoy.

Bentley


message 2: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (last edited Aug 10, 2010 10:05AM) (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
I'm moving the following 11 posts, an interesting discussion on the role of religion on society, from the Iran thread:


message 219: by James
Aug 05, 2010 01:30pm

Barbaric is right.

Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and even Buddhism all teach and practice the subjugation of women, but this is worse than anything going on today in the latter four. There seems to be a pattern in the evolution (choice of word intended) of religions over time. When these faiths were founded, at least three (Islam, Christianity, and Buddhism) were relatively even-handed in their treatment of women, but over time (and as their function shifted more to that of a power system integrated with political structures) they got more and more oppressive to women. I think it's one of the stronger arguments against religion as a basis for any civil law. Laws based on religion almost always seem to to one or more of three things: 1) single out some people as inferior and promote their abuse (also witness the Prop 8 situation in California), 2) take natural human drives like sex and treat them as sins for which people must feel perpetual guilt and always be making atonement, or 3) teach people to accept suffering, deprivation, and abuse by a social elite as conditions for some kind of reward after death.

Religion often has no connection, or even a negative relationship, with spirituality and basic decency.


message 3: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 221: by Erick (last edited Aug 07, 2010 05:43am)
Aug 06, 2010 04:37pm

James wrote: "Barbaric is right.

Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and even Buddhism all teach and practice the subjugation of women, but this is worse than anything going on today in the latter four. Th..."

I agree with your observation that the integration of religion and political structures often leads to abuses. The authority of the state generally comes from force with religion's authority coming from a moral position. When those two powerful forces are consolidated into one person or a group of people more power is available to support abuses. A situation where church and state balance each other is a much better system.

However, I don't believe the basic problem lies with religion but with the people who use it (misuse it really) to gain power over others. We must also recognize that religion lays out morals that help people live together and do good things. I must rely on my knowledge of Christianity here but there are strong directions to treat others, especially the weak, with great care. If people do not follow those directions, the blame cannot be laid at the feet of the religion.

I understand that the Koran, and I believe this is referenced in the above article, does not proscribe stoning as a punishment for adultery. I use this example to show it is certain persons who are using religion to enforce their own views on a group of people.


message 4: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 222: by James (last edited Aug 06, 2010 07:09pm)
Aug 06, 2010 07:06pm

These religions generally started out in a benign and positive way, I think, arising from people's sincere desire to find a spiritual path - but once they are organized as human institutions, they create positions of power within themselves for some people, and (even if initially out of self-preservation) they tend to align themselves with the political power structure in which they find themselves. Then the longer they exist as human institutions, the more they become vivid proof of the saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Their sacred writings contain a lot that's positive, e.g. the admonitions to protect the weak, and so on. But the religious hierarchy itself, after a while, ends up leading the way in doing the opposite - witness the Inquisition and the witch trials, this stoning business, the atrocities perpetrated with impunity against Untouchables by Hindus of higher castes, the violence that the ultra-orthodox element in Israel today directs against anyone who disagrees with them, Palestinians and more liberal Jews alike. Or we have a Roman Catholic church founded in the spirit of renunciation of wealth and luxury, now headed by a pope who lives in an opulent palace complex paid for by the tithes of poor people around the world. The ultimate abuse of power, of course, is the sexual exploitation by clergy of the people they're sworn to serve.

I can think of only one example of a spiritual system that is not subject to the corruption of power - that is the 12 step system in A.A. and the many other programs that are modeled on it. They are carefully set up to ensure that no one has any significant power over anyone else, and holding any office is a temporary situation in which every action is subject to the review and approval or disapproval by vote of the group. One group even made a rule that whoever is elected to be the group's president for a given year automatically becomes the clubhouse janitor the following year. Nothing like knowing you'll be scrubbing the toilet next year to keep your feet on the ground while you're the president and ensure that people really take the position out of a desire to be of service.

Maybe we should look into doing that with elected officeholders in government!


message 5: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 224: by Erick
Aug 07, 2010 06:19am

AA has a very interesting procedure, I had not heard of that before. It certainly helps keep people humble - in a good way. I would like to continue to stress the separation between the people who administer the religion and the religion itself. I believe the abuses, perpetrated by people in power, exist from the beginning and the religion itself remains intact. I feel it is also necessary to point out that good leaders far out weigh the bad, at least in Christianity of which I am much more familiar. History, and current news reports, focus on the abuses. I believe this is proper because religious leaders should be held to a higher standard. However, we cannot let this bend our perception into thinking that all religious leaders abuse their power or abuse is a necessary outcome of religious leadership.


message 6: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 225: by James
Aug 07, 2010 05:33pm

There are many religious leaders who are very good people - I can think of some chaplains I knew in the service - but overall I believe that the effect of religion on the development of civilization has been more harmful than beneficial. All the benefits usually listed as the justifications for religion - prosocial codes of ethics and morality, systems of law, various cultural achievements - either can be achieved by individual reflection and effort or have also been created by secular means; all the evils of which human beings are capable - murder, rape, torture, war, genocide, slavery, suppression of knowledge - have been condoned and even demanded by religion. Religion has been the biggest single brake and drag that has ever existed on human progress. It's a parasitical institution on society, and like most human institutions, religion blindly grasps for ever more power for its own sake. We see the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations attempting to inject themselves into our secular politics in ways ranging from threatening to excommunicate people whose votes they dislike, to supporting a disinformation campaign presenting the false message that America was founded as a Christian society, in clear defiance of the First Amendment, to the Mormons running an undercover operation to violate campaign finance law and support Proposition 8 in California. Religion is about power.

The majority of religious people who are good and decent would almost surely be that way without it. It's also true that the minority of religious people who are evil would very likely be evil without religion, but doesn't it say something that their religion either has no impact on their nature or abets their abuse of power and of other people?


message 7: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 226: by Erick
Aug 07, 2010 06:20pm

James wrote: "There are many religious leaders who are very good people - I can think of some chaplains I knew in the service - but overall I believe that the effect of religion on the development of civilizatio..."

I am not sure how you can support those assertions. Religion has been intertwined with human culture throughout written history, how can you say if its effect has been positive or negative? How can anyone say if the world would be better or worse if religion never existed?


message 8: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 227: by James (last edited Aug 07, 2010 07:27pm)
Aug 07, 2010 07:22pm

Well, I'm looking at a number of factors.

As far as religion being a drag on civilization, I'm thinking about the way that organized religions, once they achieve power, hoard knowledge and stifle innovation (ranging from the Church refusing to even conduct services in the language of the congregation until within my lifetime, to silencing Galileo and then taking 500 years to even admit that the "infallible papacy" was wrong about the solar system, to the burning of the library at Alexandria, to the terrorist activities of the Wahabi branch of Islam to prevent women from becoming literate - the list could go on for hundreds more words).

I'm thinking of the many wars and genocides that have been directed by religions, fought over them, or both.

I'm thinking of the ruthless squeezing of money and resources from the poor to support luxurious lifestyles for religious leaders who do nothing for those people in return except promise that they'll be rewarded in some afterlife.

I'm thinking of the institutional emphasis on saving face over doing right, as in the many sexual and financial scandals, some of which could not have taken place without the involvement of the very highest leaders in the organizations involved.

I'm looking at the way religion teaches and encourages moral and philosophical laziness and cowardice by presenting people with a rulebook, a cookbook, and telling them that if they do the hokey-pokey exactly as instructed they'll go to heaven and if they don't they'll go to hell - even to the degree of insistence on the literal word-for-word inerrancy of texts that have gone through thousands of years of translations of translations (for example, the same Aramaic word was used for "camel" and "rope", but when it came to the text about the rich man getting into heaven (one a lot of preachers apparently don't think applies to them), some dim-witted scribe decided the analogy talked about a camel fitting through the eye of a needle rather than a rope.) Religion is a way for people to hide from the adult responsibility of deciding for themselves what is right and wrong, what values are highest. Have you seen the film "Jesus Camp"? There's a passage in which a leading Protestant minister advises people that the wonderful thing about religion is that it means they don't have to think or make decisions, just do what the book says. That passage became unintended comedy a bit later, because that minister was Ted Haggard, who got busted spending his flock's money on crystal meth and male prostitutes.

I'm thinking of the fundamental difference between progress based on reason, experimentation, and science's humble search for truth, including its constant testing of what it believes is true and willingness to change those beliefs when the evidence points to new interpretations, and the dogmatic insistence of religion on the truth of unproven, unprovable and mutually contradictory ideas. Most of the progress of humanity has been based on learning more and more about how the world works, but religion as an institution does not contribute anything to that learning - there have been some religious people who did, including some clergy, but that work was unconnected with their religious roles.

Throughout history, religion has led people to pour huge amounts of effort and resources into building grandiose monuments - usually while neglecting the needs of the poorest among them - and has served to divide people more than to unite them. Religions by their nature lead people to form their sense of identity in an exclusive way rather than an inclusive one - to divide the world into us and them; and by telling us that our ways and beliefs are decreed by some god and are the only right ones, drawing the conclusion that those who aren't like us are living the wrong way, and often that they are themselves wrong or evil.

Another good thing that the 12 step programs do - that makes sure they're spiritual and not religious - is insist that each person must find his or her own understanding of a god or a power greater than themselves, and no one can tell anyone else their understanding is right or wrong (although it seems most groups contain some fundamentalists who didn't get the memo and try anyway, in between practicing medicine without licenses by telling people what they should be doing about their psych meds if they're taking them.)

At the heart of nearly every religious system I've ever seen is an unquestioning assumption of its own rightness and the right, even duty, of its adherents to impose it on others. Religion is the implacable enemy of freedom, of skepticism, of diversity, and of change. If it were up to the religions of the world, we'd still be living the life of the middle ages.

Most human progress has been driven by people defying the spirit and letter of religion by challenging accepted beliefs, by looking at the way things are and trying to make them better. A lot more of them have been held down, sometimes tortured and killed, for that by the organized religions of their times and places than have been encouraged. We're still seeing it, with the lack of adequate support for stem-cell research thanks to religion's illicit intrusion into government policy, with the resistance to distributing the HPV vaccine that protects women from a previously incurable STD and lowers their risk of cervical cancer... because of the fear that young women will become promiscuous sinners if they're protected from these diseases? That is crazy from any sane point of view.

If religion had never existed, there would have been no crusades, no jihads, no pogroms, no witch-hunts, no Inquisition. No Aztec altars drenched in the blood of millions of sacrificial victims, no wars fought to capture people for those sacrifices. No wars fought over the Shi'ite/Sunni schism, no Troubles in Northern Ireland. Many of the wars in human history would not have been fought. The development of the sciences and the rest of human knowledge would have taken place a good deal faster. The resources that went into building pyramids, cathedrals, grand mosques, and megachurches could have gone into public works projects. We wouldn't have the Church fighting efforts to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy by telling people it's a sin to use condoms. We wouldn't have the teachings that are the basis for most of the homophobic bias and violence we see all over the world. We wouldn't have the 8/9/10 cover of Time Magazine, a photo of a young Afghan woman whose nose was cut off for the heretical sin of objecting to a forced marriage to a man three times her age.

Throughout history, the societies that were the most saturated in religion - monotheism in particular - were the ones that moved the most slowly in advancing standards of living, science, knowledge in general, and enlightened treatment of other people. Religion is to a society as Parkinson's Disease is to an individual.

Based on about forty years of studying history now, that's how I can support those assertions.


message 9: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 228: by Erick
Aug 09, 2010 09:45am

You have provided an excellent list of abuses by religion and religious; I could add to the list if I were inclined to do so.

But that list doesn't encompass all the history of religion. How many hands were stayed from violence due to religious beliefs? How many orphans were provided for? How many travelers were given shelter instead of being turned away? It is impossible to say but we know that these events occur and that they occur often. Religion provides societal constraints that help people to communicate and live in harmony with one another.

History also has its wars that are not associated with religion. Some notable examples are the Macedonian conquest of the Near East, the Roman Empire, the early Mongol invasions, the barbarian invasions of Europe. More recently we have the conquest of Asia by the Russian empire, and the wars generated by Napolean. While the harsh colonization methods of Central and South America had the patina of religion, they were really based on greed.

The people of the 20th century suffered through a horrific amount of violence that was generated by ideologies that were directly opposed to religion. Everyone is familiar with those examples some of which are, Nazi Germany, The Soviet Union, the Communists and Nationalists of China and other Communist regimes such as the Cambodian government of Pol Pot.

While much violence has been conducted under the name of religion, it certainly isn't the sole cause of violence.

The Catholic Church is aware of the difficulties of complying with the rules it has imposed. The Church accepts those difficulties because it places a higher value on the person's eternal soul than the suffering in this life.

Religion provides solace and meaning to a great number of people. Do some people take that too far? Yes, and often. Recently, many religious in positions of authority have used their influence to reduce violence and pressure governments to reduce the oppression of their citizens. Religious leaders have also used their influence to try and bring other religions together.

I am certainly not trying to convince you of my position; I simply want to make sure this position is represented to the best of my ability.


message 10: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 229: by James
12 hours, 54 min ago

I understand what you're saying, and I agree that the impact of religion on humanity has been mixed - if there's a way to quantify the two, I surely don't know what it is, and I don't think there can be, because there's no way to measure what didn't happen, on either side of the scale.

And of course history has seen countless wars that weren't religious in origin, although religious establishments nearly always seem more to encourage the people of their societies to fight than to urge them to avoid it.

It's not quite true to say that Nazi Germany was directly opposed to religion. Hitler regularly made a point of identifying himself as a believing Catholic Christian, and the relationship between the Nazis and the Vatican was disturbingly cozy - there were some in the Vatican who selflessly risked their lives to protect Jews, but more that helped run an evil underground railroad helping Nazis escape Europe at the end of the war. Basically, the Nazis and the Italian Fascists were willing to either embrace or attack religion depending on whatever was more tactically useful at the moment.

As for the various communist states you mention, they did indeed attack religion (and still do, in China's case.) No argument there. There is a case for regarding communism as a pseudo-religion in its own right, though; it displays most of the stigmata - subjugation of the majority in service of an elite; insistence on the truth of a dogmatic body of doctrine without supporting evidence, and suppression of channels of inquiry that threaten to disprove parts of that doctrine; a tendency toward censorship and the rewriting of history; a disturbing history of rationalizing that good ends justify evil means.

I think we've reached an impasse at which it's clear that neither of us will persuade the other that our views have more validity, and that's okay... from what you've written here, I trust that if you found yourself in the presence of people using religion to justify evil behavior, you would not join in and would confront what you were seeing.

As for me, the impact I've seen religion having has been more toxic than nurturant, and the more power it has placed in the hands of anyone, the more systemic abuse usually seems to result.

I'm convinced that the good people of faith that I've known would have been good people if they'd been agnostics or atheists, too.

When a religion argues that imposing hardships on people because their eternal souls are more important than their experience in this life, I have to say that argument depends on two assumptions I've never seen any evidence to support.

First, why and how do the privations and hardships to which religion consigns people do any good for their eternal souls?

Second, I've never seen an eternal soul or any evidence that such a thing exists - it's an arbitrary construct, an idea that can offer some comfort in comparison with the prospect that there is no life after death, but that doesn't make it any more likely to be true. On that issue, I take the same position as my grandfather who was asked when he was dying whether he was worried about it. He shook his head and said, "If there is an afterlife I'll know soon enough, and if not, I won't be around to be disappointed."

What matters most is to be the best person one can be, and when I've been informed by people that I have no morality because I'm not religious, or that a God of infinite power, wisdom, and mercy demands sacrifices from me and will torture me forever if I break His rules, it's always struck me as ridiculous and usually insulting as well. Who is more moral - a person who does the right thing in the hope, fear, or expectation of some consequence after death, or a person who does the right thing for its own sake with no expectation of reward (or fear of punishment for not doing it?)

I had an epiphany about that whole "fear of God, serve God, etc." thing once, years ago - I was out on a run and found myself passing a church. Inlaid into the wall over the doors was the message, "May Your Sacrifice and Mine Prove Satisfactory." It really rankled, even beyond the ridiculousness of thinking that a God who is the creator and master of the entire universe could need or have a use for anything I have to give as a sacrifice, and I had to figure out why - as I ran, it kind of fell into place for me: I am a father (and now, a grandfather.) I don't WANT my children making sacrifices for me - I've made sacrifices for them, as my parents did for me, and I want them to pass those on to their own children.

I don't want my children to fear me or the consequences of disappointing me. I want them to know that they can trust that I will love them no matter what and that they will never have reason to fear me.

I can't reconcile the idea of being loving with being jealous - jealousy is about treating others as property, an I-It outlook rather than an I-Thou. When my kids were growing up, I always wanted them to have as many positive, safe, nurturing adults in their lives as possible.

I kept thinking about it, and I realized that the general personality and behavior pattern of the God presented to me by Christianity was nothing like the ideal father I've tried to be, but it wasn't unfamiliar, either - it was a pattern I've seen many times as a psychotherapist, namely an abusive alcoholic/addict parent.


message 11: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 231: by André (last edited 7 hours, 4 min ago)
7 hours, 4 min ago

Great posts here! The way I see things its not necessarily religion (no matter what religion) posing a problem. As with so many other things it's us humans, our interpretations and writings and the acts in the name of religion and/or God, destroying the balance.


message 12: by Bryan, Honorary Contributor - EMERITUS (new)

Bryan Craig | 11638 comments Mod
message 232: by Erick
2 hours, 28 min ago

How each of us views religion is a very personal thing. The premise behind my beliefs is based on faith and I don't pretend there are logical arguments to support it.

From an historical perspective, I would try to argue to religion having a mixed impact on society with no real way to quantify the impact or where the balance is, in essence exactly as James said.

As we know, the U.S. will work with people who are morally reprehensible if they decide it is in our best interest. I have been involved in those activities and I have come to the conclusion that people do evil to gain power. If religion is involved it is used as a tool to gain power. I see this in very much the same way as Andre described.

I look at many events through that lens; including Bin Laden's use of Islam to Hitler's opportunistic use of Christianity and the inquisition.

I think other events, such as the Crusades, were grave mistakes that possibly began with good intentions or perhaps were the best option out of a range of poor options. Other events are perhaps people trying to do the right thing and failing due to human weakness. There is no real way to tell what is in people's hearts so we will never know for sure.

I have known too many non-religious and non-spiritual people with very high moral standards to think you need religion to be a good person.

China is an interesting example, religion has been suppressed for quite a few years but I don't think they were a religious society to begin with. Can anyone provide any insights into religious history in China? In any case, there is a striking difference between how sexual activities are viewed there compared to the West. In China, there is no sexuality in advertising and divorce and extra-marital affairs are rare, at least on the surface. It was explained to me that this is cultural (losing face) not religious.

An the other hand, I have been involved in fulfilling activities through my religious affiliation. One example is the money my church has collected and sent to a small town in southern Haiti over the past five years or so. I used to think of how lucky they are to have us but now I realize how lucky we are to have them.

As an afterword, I have gained a lot from this group and I present my opinions with the greatest respect for the opinions of others. When I say respect, I mean that I try to learn from what other people have to say. As James states, I don't think we will convince each other; but at the very least, it helps me to avoid hubris.


message 13: by James (new)

James Same here (avoiding hubris.) My perspective is also flavored by my life experience, which has brought me to a view where spirituality and living a moral and examined life are the foundation on which the rest of my life has to be based. I've tried to achieve that via organized religion more than once, starting in childhood, but in most of those cases the sordid games over status, power, and appearances left a rancid taste in my mouth; I recall incidents like one in which, in the middle of a church service, my abusive and erratic stepmother suddenly hit my six-year-old brother so hard she almost knocked him out - that backhand blow echoed in that church like a gunshot - and all those people sat there looking straight ahead and pretending they hadn't seen or heard it. I was nine. I looked around and thought to myself, "This is a sham. If there was anything redeeming about it, the service would have stopped to confront what they just saw and heard; everyone in this building is a coward and a hypocrite."

Or the dean of another church who refused to let my mother get remarried there because she hadn't made a financial pledge (she gave what she could, but we were too poor for her to be sure she could give any set amount every week) - so when she and my stepfather got married in his mother's garden, after they got back from their honeymoon, that church refused to give her communion. The same dean who decided that the most spiritually enlightening thing for the Sunday school kids to be doing was for him to rent us out to paint stripes in parking lots every Sunday morning (this was a rich church; our old Plymouth was out of place every week in its parking lot full of Cadillacs, Lincolns, etc.)

Or the minister in another church who, when one of my best friends died in our junior year of high school, gave a eulogy that made it sound as if his heart was breaking - then in the procession to the cemetery (I was a pallbearer and was in the same car), spent the whole drive telling jokes with the funeral director in between discussing their real estate ventures, then put his tragic mask back when we got to the cemetery and resumed his fake grief without missing a beat.

The exception was the Quakers. I admire them deeply but cannot subscribe to their degree of pacifism (not a good fit with being a career Marine.) The 12 step model has worked for me for a couple of decades now, and while I was in the military I volunteered for a number of years as a lay team member in a spiritual retreat program called CREDO that the Navy provides, based loosely on the cursillo model of the Catholic church. But each of those groups make a point of setting aside hierarchy, dogmatism, and the rest of that stuff. That has left me with the conviction that if a program hoping to achieve spirituality has a chain of command and a cookbook recipe for salvation, it's dooming itself to be part of the problem more than part of the solution.


message 14: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 248 comments Our experiences certainly drive our thinking and how we perceive the world. One of the attractions of History is that I am able to get a broader perspective. When the news claims "this is the worst ever" or "this has never happened before" I can often see how their analysis is at least exaggerated.

I think it is interesting, and important, to understand the context surrounding the events. For example, I understand the Catholic Church gained secular power in reaction to being threatened by other governments. The memory of the Roman persecutions lasted for a long time although I am sure that once power is gained it is not released easily.

I take so much for granted about religion and its history that it is interesting to see what actually occurred and the context it occurred in.

A couple of books I have read that touch on this area are:

Charlemagne Father of a Continent by Alessandro BarberobyAlessandro Barbero The author went into some detail about Charemagne's interaction with the Catholic Church. Charlemagne was always working to dominate the church and use it for his own ends. He was more or less successful depending on the will of the Pope he was dealing with.

The Templars The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades by Piers Paul ReadbyPiers Paul ReadThe book deals with the origins and history of the early Crusades, how they began and how they were propagated. A lot of influence is given to a particular Catholic monk who holiness was respected and who was beyond reproach. It also describes how the Pope who called the Crusade almost always lost control of the army and the intent of the Crusade was lost in an orgy of conquest and looting; as often as not against Christian kingdoms. There is an example of a crusading army stopping off in Sicily and Cyprus to gain lands for the English king before continuing on to the Holy Land. Of course, there is the infamous sacking of Constantinople.


message 15: by James (new)

James Power is certainly addictive for most people and even more for institutions. Regardless of the original purpose for which people create an organization, it usually takes on a life of its own and comes to place its own power and enrichment above other priorities. That's true whether it's a religion, a government, or a Microsoft.

One of the main reasons for the Crusades was practical. In the intermissions between European wars, the nobility and armed companies had nothing constructive to do and, in the case of the troops that had been doing the fighting, no legitimate way to make a living, or to get home unless it was a short trip - so they tended to continue terrorizing and laying waste whatever places they found themselves in. The Crusades were a way to get them out of Europe - the farther away and the longer they were gone the better, from the perspective of the Church, the royalty, and the peasantry of the European kingdoms affected.


message 16: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Aug 11, 2010 09:17AM) (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Like anything I suppose if folks get obsessive, possessive, wrapped up in their rightness and everybody else's wrongness, then trouble erupts and people are killed. It is just hard to imagine why religion has played such a role in so many people dying. It really should be the other way around but since the beginning of time; it does not seem to have had that role. Religion whether Christianity, Islam or any of the religions should celebrate life and the perpetuation of life as well as peace among their fellow man no matter what religion that others may be following. But therein seems to lie the problem.


message 17: by Patricrk (new)

Patricrk patrick | 475 comments Bentley wrote: "Like anything I suppose if folks get obsessive, possessive, wrapped up in their rightness and everybody else's wrongness, then trouble erupts and people are killed. It is just hard to imagine why ..."

I think it is more that the peace and living part aren't written about so aren't part of the history we study. How many weddings, christenings, confirmations and other celebrations of life are held by organized religion every year. How many make the news?


message 18: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 248 comments Patricrk, I agree with your assessment. We know from our experience with news that the information is slanted to the drama or even the violence. I certainly wouldn't read a book titled "The Births, Deaths, Christenings and Weddings of Stedding on Cline from 1220-1234".


message 19: by James (new)

James Not only that, the news is always telling us about the deaths of famous people, but how often do we hear about one being born?


message 20: by Elizabeth S (new)

Elizabeth S (esorenson) | 2063 comments James wrote: "Not only that, the news is always telling us about the deaths of famous people, but how often do we hear about one being born?"

:) Good one!


message 21: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 248 comments James wrote: "Not only that, the news is always telling us about the deaths of famous people, but how often do we hear about one being born?"

That is really funny.


message 22: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
What makes people famous anyways? Do you think it is their good deeds or their bad ones.


message 23: by James (new)

James It seems as if some are famous for good deeds, e.g. Dr. Schweitzer; some for bad, e.g. Dr. Mengele; some for one and then the other - the only example that comes to mind right now is John Wilkes Booth - and in this media age we have a new phenomenon, people who are famous just for being famous, e.g. Paris Hilton.


message 24: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Very true James. I think the human race has some curious predilections for gossip and mayhem.

Everybody seems so curious about other peoples' lives which creates a media frenzy around those who really have no business being famous but are.


message 25: by James (new)

James I've never understood why anyone wants to be famous anyway. I'd rather be rich, powerful, and totally obscure - fame seems to include having to deal with paparazzi, stalkers, con artists and extortionists.


message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Very true. I am with you.


message 27: by Erick (new)

Erick Burnham | 248 comments A collection of short commentaries from leading Muslim intellectuals and politicians.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001...


message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Thank you Erick for the add.


message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Erick wrote: "A collection of short commentaries from leading Muslim intellectuals and politicians.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001..."


Thanks, Erick. I look forward to reading this.


message 30: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Here is an interview:

Role of Religion in Human History: Interview with Alexander Saxton
By Political Affairs


http://www.politicalaffairs.net/artic...


Religion and the Human Prospect by Alexander Saxton by Alexander Saxton

Brief Review:

“Religion and the Human Prospect is a work of amazing originality and profound scholarship that is an urgent tract for our time. Saxton brings us face to face with the massive worldwide religious revival of the past quarter century and the flight of major social scientists from Enlightenment values and scientific conquests. In response, he offers huge, and disconcerting, analyses of the universality of religion in human societies, of its historical role in sustaining the species, of its capacity to circumvent the most devastating intellectual criticisms, and of its current potential for accelerating environmental destruction and bringing on war. Saxton has, in previous incarnations, given us the classic proletarian novel, The Great Midland, and path-breaking studies of working-class racism. His new, rigorously argued book might be his most important contribution yet. None of us can afford to ignore it.”
—Robert Brenner, director, Center for Social Theory and Comparative History, UCLA, author of The Economics of Global Turbulence

“In this astonishingly learned study, the great historian and novelist Alexander Saxton illuminates the central questions of human existence and of our time. Brilliantly applying materialist methods, even when departing from specifics of Marx's conclusions on religion, Saxton's work ranges widely from anthropology to history, from revolution to theology, from Milton to the faith-based brutalities surrounding us. Alive to contradiction, this book is among our best and most spirited guides to what Saxton calls the 'common-law marriage' of science and religion and, we might add, of capitalism and fundamentalisms.”
—David Roediger, Babcock Professor of History, University of Illinois, author of History Against Misery

“Alexander Saxton has written yet another brave and important book. In his proletarian novels, his histories of race and class in America, and now his long-awaited study of religion and human life, he tells big and uncomfortable truths. He is a writer to be treasured.”—Marcus Rediker, professor of history, University of Pittsburgh, author of Who Built America? and Villains of All Nations

“Whither the world in the new millennium, as we face the perils of nuclear annihilation and ecological death? Anxiously concerned for what the future may hold, Saxton ponders the role of religion in creating our frightening human condition. His brilliant and deftly written treatise is a jeremiad of hopeful despair.”—Ronald Takaki, author of Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb


message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 15, 2010 07:25PM) (new)


message 32: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (Loboz) | 1190 comments In my view Religion was used as a tool for the few to control the masses through fear and propoganda. Which is why in today's modern world some religions are struggling to find there place in societys as this role has been replaced by the media. Yes I know it is a broad statement and there is a lot more to it, but this is my very breif view of religion and it's place in history.


message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Sep 15, 2010 10:17PM) (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Interesting view Michael and I am sure that more than a few folks share your perspective on organized religion.

Propaganda has been used by many groups to control the thinking of the general population.

Though I belong to an organized religion and try to find my own special place and spirituality within and outside the domain of that space; I can see why others would have a diametrically opposed point of view.

Some folks feel more akin to god when mowing their lawn or hiking a trail versus being in church.

There are probably as many different roles for religion as their are people and since the beginning, religion has played its role in history and has sometimes dominated it. Most Christian countries have a separation of church and state whereas most Muslim countries I think do not. In fact many of them are secular governments controlled by their religious leaders.

So I think we can still find parts of our globe controlled by religion, controlled by fear and propaganda by one form or another.

Religion is a big topic with quite a bit of personal emotion attached to it.


message 34: by Michael (new)

Michael Flanagan (Loboz) | 1190 comments I understand a lot of people have an emotional attachment to religion, and I can see it's role on a personal level is important one. People's spirituality and beliefs to me are important to respect, my comment is more aimed at religion in a more political/business sense.

As you mentioned religion is a big topic and therefoe multi-facited which covers personal and political issues.


message 35: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Understood and your points were quite apropos. Very true.


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Bentley wrote: "BOOKS BY HUSTON SMITH ON RELIGION

The World's Religions Our Great Wisdom Traditions by Huston SmithThe Tibetan Book of the Dead (Mystical Classics of the World) by Huston Smith[bookcover:Why Religion Matters: The Fate of th..."


Bentley -- Huston Smith is SO interesting and important, in my opinion. Did you see Bill Moyers's take on him a few years back on PBS? I miss Bill Moyers!


message 37: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
I miss Bill Moyers too...no I missed it.


message 38: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I'm afraid Religion isn't my thing (no disrespect to those who are religious) but one book that I have on my list to read one day (soon I hope) covers an interesting period in the history of three religions: "The Ornament of the World".

The Ornament of the World How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain by Maria Rosa Menocal by Maria Rosa Menocal
Review:
"Menocal (R. Selden Rose Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and director of Special Programs in the Humanities, Yale Univ.) has previously published The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage, as well as other books on the role of the vernacular in medieval cultures. This book certainly reflects her deep scholarship. Menocal offers persuasive evidence that the Renaissance was strongly foreshadowed by the intellectual climate of Spain in the preceding centuries, starting in 783 with the founding of Andalusia by Abd al-Rahman, an Umayyad from Syria. The culture created was receptive to intellectual pursuits not allowed in the rest of Europe for several centuries, including the creation of impressive libraries and the study and translation of Classical authors. Menocal claims that this environment was largely a result of the tolerance shown by this ruler and his successors toward Christians and Jews and their cultures. Menocal has not given us a history book so much as a demonstration that puritanical cultures of any ilk are detrimental to the development of science, art, and literature. Her arguments are convincing even without the dark background of September 11." - Library Journal


message 39: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
It sounds quite good Aussie Rick.


message 40: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) It does sound like a good book Bentley on a very interesting topic so I should try and make the effort and read it sooner than later!


message 41: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) I've just ordered a copy of this book that looks very, very interesting and fits well within this topic of conversation; "Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain' by Matthew Carr.

Blood and Faith The Purging of Muslim Spain by Matthew Carr by Matthew Carr
Reviews:
"Without demonizing Christian or Muslim, Matthew Carr depicts the events that culminated in mass purges in 17th century Spain." - New York Times

"The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 is a well-known tragedy. Less well-known is the later expulsion in 1609 of the descendants of the Moors, who had ruled Spain for centuries. Carr (The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism) examines the uneasy coexistence of Christians and Muslims beginning in 1492, when Spain was united under the Christian Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Over the next century, Christian leaders grew less and less tolerant of Iberian Muslims, requiring them to convert to Catholicism. In April 1609, this growing intolerance culminated in an edict accusing these converts, known as Moriscos, of heresy and apostasy and decreeing their expulsion. Over the next five years, an estimated 350,000 Muslims were forced to abandon their homes; many died on the journey to the ships that would take them to North Africa, and many others were terrorized, raped, robbed and killed by forces that were supposed to protect them. Carr deftly narrates the complex events leading up to this little-known but horrific episode as a warning against religious intolerance and xenophobia." - Publishers Weekly

"In this first comprehensive appreciation in many decades of the Muslim expulsion from Spain, Blood and Faith meticulously recaptures the fateful self-mutilation of a society that might have become Europe's first multicultural nation and offers a grim lesson about religious and racial repression in our contemporary age of contested faiths." - David Levering Lewis, Professor of History, NYU and author of God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

"Blood and Faith is a fascinating account of perhaps the first major episode of European ethnic cleansing and, just as importantly, the story of the beginning of the conviction that 'blood' matters more than belief; a conviction that led, in the end, to modern racism. In an age when so may people, on both 'sides,' believe we face an historic confrontation between Christendom and Islam, it is essential to place the relations between these two global Abrahamic religions in a wider historical framework. This book does that eloquently and judiciously." - Kwame Anthony Appiah, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University


message 42: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Interesting - let me know how you like it.


message 43: by 'Aussie Rick' (last edited Sep 25, 2010 05:47PM) (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Hi Bentley, I will try and fit it in with my November reads! Below are two links to a recent reviews of the book from The New York Times and Arab Media Watch:

BLOOD AND FAITH: The Purging of Muslim Spain
(The New York Times)

Book review: Blood & Faith - The Purging of Muslim Spain
(Arab Media Watch)


message 44: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Great thank you...I was able to open the second one.


message 45: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (AussieRick) Here is another book (released 2011) that covers three faiths and one place and looks like it may well be a very interesting historical account; "Jerusalem: The Biography" by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Jerusalem The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Publishers blurb:
Jerusalem lies at the centre of the world, the capital of three faiths, the prize of many conquerors, the jewel of many empires, and the eye of the storm of today's battle of civilisations. But the city lacks a biography. It lacks a secret history. Simon Sebag Montefiore's epic account is seen through kings, conquerors, emperors and soldiers; Muslims, Jews, Christians, Macedonians, Romans and Greeks; Palestinians and Israelis; from King David via Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Herod, Caesar, Cleopatra, Jesus and Saladin, to Churchill, King Hussein, Anwar Sadat and Ariel Sharon. Their individual stories combine to form the biography of a city - a gritty, dramatic, violent tale of power, empire, love, vanity, luxury and death, bringing three thousand years of history vividly to life. In the course of its history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. It has been Arab, Persian, Jewish, Roman, Greek, Babylonian, Turkish, Marmeluke, British, Byzantine, Crusader, Ottoman; Napoleon almost took it but marched past, Kaiser William visited, the Allied forces fought for it in the First World War. The extraordinarily rich history of this small city in the Judean hills forms nothing less than a history of the world.


message 46: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 11, 2010 09:13AM) (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
PBS SERIES - GOD IN AMERICA (October 11,12, and 13)

http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/

There is also a preview video which also discusses civil rights. It looks like it is on PBS13 at 9 PM for three nights. Also tonight at 11PM is God in New York.

How has religious belief shaped American history? What role have religious ideas and spiritual experience played in shaping the social, political and cultural life of what has become the world's most religiously diverse nation?

For the first time on television, God in America, a presentation of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE and FRONTLINE, will explore the historical role of religion in the public life of the United States.

The six-hour series, which interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews with religious historians, will air over three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Oct. 11, 2010.

God in America examines the potent and complex interaction between religion and democracy, the origins of the American concept of religious liberty, and the controversial evolution of that ideal in the nation's courts and political arena. The series considers the role religious ideas and institutions have played in social reform movements from abolition to civil rights, examining the impact of religious faith on conflicts from the American Revolution to the Cold War, and how guarantees of religious freedom created a competitive American religious marketplace. It also explores the intersection of political struggle and spiritual experience in the lives of key American historical figures including Franciscan Friars and the Pueblo leader Po'pay, Puritan leader John Winthrop and dissident Anne Hutchinson, Catholic Bishop John Hughes, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, reform Rabbi Isaac Meyer Wise, Scopes trial combatants William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, evangelist Billy Graham, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Moral Majority's Jerry Falwell.

"The American story cannot be fully understood without understanding the country's religious history," says series executive producer Michael Sullivan. "By examining that history, God in America will offer viewers a fresh, revealing and challenging portrait of the country."

To extend the reach of the series beyond the television screen, God in America has formed strategic partnerships with The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, The Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, the Fetzer Institute, Sacred Space International and other organizations. An integrated multimedia campaign set to launch six months prior to broadcast will include community engagement activities, media events and a comprehensive God in America Web site. The campaign will deepen public understanding of religion and spiritual experience in the life of the nation by encouraging the public to explore the history of their own religious communities and their individual spiritual journeys.

"Americans are awash in a sea of faith, but their knowledge about religious faiths and religious history often runs as shallow as their commitment to religion runs deep," notes Stephen Prothero, chief editorial consultant for God in America, professor of religion at Boston University, and author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't. "A series like God in America can help correct that imbalance and provide the basis for a common understanding of the role religion has played in American public life."

God in America is an AMERICAN EXPERIENCE/FRONTLINE co-production, headed by series executive producer Michael Sullivan, series producer Marilyn Mellowes, series director David Belton, and producer/directors Greg Barker and Sarah Colt. The executive producer for FRONTLINE is David Fanning. The executive producer for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is Mark Samels.

Source for the above: PBS


message 47: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 11, 2010 08:11PM) (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Folks, the above PBS special is quite enlightening. This first segment deals with the Spanish and also the plight of the poor Pueblo Indians. Quite astounding. The Franciscans thought they were actually converting the Pueblos. The Pueblos thought they were just adding to their existing spirituality not replacing their old religious beliefs with Christianity. The Pueblo leader Po'Pay was even imprisoned just because he was practicing the old Pueblo religious beliefs.

August 10, 1680 - the Pueblo Indians fought back and over 50% of the priests were targeted. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 or Popé's Rebellion was an uprising of the Pueblo people against Spanish colonization of the Americas in the New Spain province of New Mexico; but it was really due to the denigration and prohibition of their traditional religion.

Here is a write-up on Wikipedia on the Pueblo Revolt:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pueblo_R...

Then the PBS special discusses the Puritans and their coming to Massachusetts in 1630 wanting to go to a New World because their king would not purge the Church of England of more of the Catholic rituals. In fact the whole point of the Protestant Reformation was supposedly to cleanse the religion and bring it back to its purest form which the Puritans were trying to do by their leave taking.

It then discusses John Winthrop and he then becomes the governor of the colony and he was very committed to making this colony succeed.

The colony is tested in 1634 with the arrival of Anne Hutchinson and her husband. She had 11 children which is hard to believe but she also was saying that she had received a message from God and was saved. The Puritans believed that nobody knew who had been saved.

The male dominated Puritans threatened by Ann Hutchinson brought her to trial and charged her with sedition; she was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and later killed by Indians in New York - the Siwanoy Native Americans. Only one of her children was spared because of her red hair. One other older daughter had not gone with her mother since she was married.


message 48: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Oct 11, 2010 08:42PM) (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
The special then went on to discuss George Whitefield and his idea of being born again or rebirth; he started the revival meetings. He also became very good friends with Benjamin Franklin.

Who was George Whitefield?

George Whitefield (pronounced /ˈhwɪtfiːld/) (December 16, 1714 – September 29, 1770) was an Anglican Protestant minister who helped spread the Great Awakening in Britain and, especially, in the British North American colonies. He was one of the founders of Methodism and of the evangelical movement generally.[1] . He became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because he traveled through all of the American colonies and drew great crowds and media coverage, he was one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America.

Source: Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W...

The Puritans had renamed themselves the Congregationalists. Out of this rebirth and revival preaching came folks like Jonathan Edwards, etc.


message 49: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
PBS has just put up the ability to watch the entire program on line. Here is the link. I believe they will have the first part operational by tomorrow:

http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/view/

Here are some discussion questions on the first part (The New Adam) that you can discuss here on this thread if you like:

What role did religion play in the cultural misunderstandings and colonial relations of Europeans and Native peoples in the New World? How did the religious worldviews of the Europeans and Indians differ?

What is religion? How do you define it? Is it a matter of doctrines, creeds, rituals and traditions, as it was for Catholic Spain? Is it an all-encompassing way of seeing and experiencing the natural world, as it was for the Native inhabitants encountered by the Franciscans?

How would you describe John Winthrop's vision of a Puritan community, and how attainable do you think it was? What advice was he giving to his companions?

What did the Puritans hope to achieve? What was the goal of their religious and political community? Why did they consider conformity so necessary for their cohesion?

How did the Puritan religious community define itself, and how would you compare it to the ways contemporary religious communities define themselves today?

What did conversion mean for the Puritans, and what does it mean today? Is it a single, blinding moment of faith, or is it a prolonged and arduous journey that proceeds in fits and starts, a process that requires commitment and tenacity?

"Anne Hutchinson is the future," says religion professor Stephen Prothero. What links do you see between her 17th-century understanding that "God is speaking to each of us," as Prothero describes it, and contemporary American spirituality? Between her religious experience and George Whitefield's understanding of "inward change"?

Evangelical preacher George Whitefield embodied "this perennial radical Protestant idea of immediate connection between God and the individual soul," as religion professor Stephen Marini puts it. Historian Harry Stout calls Whitefield "the divine dramatist," and Daniel Dreisbach, a law and religion scholar, says Whitefield brought Americans together "by a common message of revival." How would you describe Whitefield's message of rebirth?

George Whitefield challenged prevailing church authority and upset the religious establishment when he preached wherever people could be gathered, usually outside of churches. His new form of religion was more in tune with changing 18th-century society than it was with the standing social and religious order. What were the basic differences between George Whitefield and Charles Chauncy, between those who supported revivalism and those who opposed it? Where did each of them think religious authority resides, and who decides?

What democratic overtones do you hear in early expressions of both Puritan and evangelical Protestantism in America? How did religion penetrate early American political thought? What did religious choice and freedom have to do with political choice and freedom in American history? How did personal religious experience of the revivals and Great Awakenings of the 18th century influence the American Revolution?

The American story is many things, including the story of "us in relationship with God," says religion professor Stephen Prothero at the beginning of this episode. At the end, he compares the American story to the Exodus story in the Bible. Why do you think the Puritans saw themselves as a New American Adam and Eve -- new people with a new identity? How was the American experience of freedom and liberty like the story of the Exodus? What made Americans see themselves as "chosen people"?



message 50: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 31936 comments Mod
Here are the discussion questions to The New Eden which is episode two: Feel free to discuss any of these questions here or start a discussion on any of them:

"People can encounter God and experience God for themselves -- in fact not only can but must," says Baptist pastor James Slatton, describing the views of Baptists in 18th-century Virginia. Discuss the shift from Puritanism to evangelicalism in American Protestantism. What changed?

The intellectual Thomas Jefferson and the evangelical Baptists of Virginia set aside their differences and together defend a belief they shared: the right to worship freely. Why does Jefferson argue for religious liberty? Why do the Baptists? What are the similarities and differences in their views?

What does the First Amendment say about religion? How do its words contribute to sustaining American religion? What do you think Thomas Jefferson's famous phrase "wall of separation between church and state" means?

Religion professor Stephen Prothero says Baptists "were seen as a significant threat" in colonial Virginia. Why? How did they test religious tolerance in America?

Several of the historians in this episode stress the themes of religious choice, a competitive religious atmosphere, and the rise of the religious marketplace of ideas in early 19th-century America. Do you see similar religious circumstances in America today? Describe the current American religious marketplace.

Cynthia Lynn Lyerly notes that one of the consequences of expanding religious choices in America was opening them up to include "none of the above." Discuss how freedom of religion allowed ordinary people to take charge of their own religious destinies and the extent of the diversity that resulted.

Revivals and camp meetings followed the expanding American frontier. They were democratic, egalitarian and traditional in their appeal. How did they reshape religion in America? One effect of the revivals was a heightened sense of the "religion of the heart." Another was an interest in individual moral reform and the improvement of social ills -- the creation of a "New Eden." How and why do you think evangelical revivals contributed increased attention to social reform as well as individual piety?

Methodists were key to Protestant expansion in America. What were the characteristics that contributed to this expansion and to the varieties of Protestantism that flourished after 1800?

One impact of Protestant expansion was opposition to Catholicism and suspicion of the Roman Catholic Church. How would you describe the tensions between Protestants and Catholics in 19th-century New York City? How did Archbishop John Hughes appeal to the principle of religious freedom "to see," as he said, "that the religious rights of my flock should not be filched away from them"?

How did Catholic immigrants "expand the idea of what it meant to be an American"? Why did Protestants think, as religion professor Stephen Prothero says, that "Catholicism threatens the whole American project"?

Historian Richard Shaw says the essence of Archbishop Hughes' argument was that "this country will live up to what it claims to be." Religion professor Stephen Prothero echoes this idea when he observes at the end of the episode that despite examples in our history of the denial of religious liberty, the America story "is always working on us." Do you agree? What examples or evidence can you cite that this might be so?

What insights do the stories about religious liberty in this episode offer for understanding religion in America today?



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Books mentioned in this topic

The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar, the Most Powerful Military Order of the Crusades (other topics)
Charlemagne: Father of a Continent (other topics)
Religion and the Human Prospect (other topics)
The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life (other topics)
Beyond the Post-Modern Mind (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Piers Paul Read (other topics)
Alessandro Barbero (other topics)
Alexander Saxton (other topics)
Huston Smith (other topics)
María Rosa Menocal (other topics)
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