September 25, 2010

America's history of religious intolerance

America's True History of Religious Tolerance

The idea that the United States has always been a bastion of religious freedom is reassuring—and utterly at odds with the historical record

By Kenneth C. Davis
In the storybook version most of us learned in school, the Pilgrims came to America aboard the Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. The Puritans soon followed, for the same reason. Ever since these religious dissidents arrived at their shining “city upon a hill,” as their governor John Winthrop called it, millions from around the world have done the same, coming to an America where they found a welcome melting pot in which everyone was free to practice his or her own faith.

The problem is that this tidy narrative is an American myth. The real story of religion in America’s past is an often awkward, frequently embarrassing and occasionally bloody tale that most civics books and high-school texts either paper over or shunt to the side. And much of the recent conversation about America’s ideal of religious freedom has paid lip service to this comforting tableau.

From the earliest arrival of Europeans on America’s shores, religion has often been a cudgel, used to discriminate, suppress and even kill the foreign, the “heretic” and the “unbeliever”—including the “heathen” natives already here. Moreover, while it is true that the vast majority of early-generation Americans were Christian, the pitched battles between various Protestant sects and, more explosively, between Protestants and Catholics, present an unavoidable contradiction to the widely held notion that America is a “Christian nation.”
Comment:  The article continues with many examples of America's religious intolerance.

Funny how Americans buy into these historical myths so readily. Are other countries this self-deluded, or is it just us?

For more on the subject, see Time's "Brief History of Intolerance," Villaraigosa's Pro-California Propaganda, and Religious Freedom for Everyone, Except Indians.

Below:  "Philadelphia's Bible Riots of 1844 reflected a strain of anti-Catholic bias and hostility that coursed through 19th-century America."

1 comment:

Burt said...

Great article Rob. There is a book entitled, "How The Irish Became White" by Noel Ignatiev (Routledge 1995).

This book explains how the Irish met discrimination when first arriving in America and within the first century, replaced much of the work and labor force held firstly by African Americans.

The Massacre at Mystic, Connecticut on May 26th, 1637 during the Pequot Wars was highly motivated by the Puritans Christian zeal for lands and dominance over the very people that saved them from freezing to death and starvation.

When the question arose as to why kill the 400 to 700 native elderly, women and children, Captain John Mason simply stated that, "it was Gods will!"