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Religion and American History

People of strong religious beliefs have been part of America through our history.

The Native Americans who were the Anasazi, the Iriquoi Federation member nations, the Gabriolino and Chumash over in California, all these and many more native peoples had complex religious beliefs. The pre-historic Ancestors of these people often left a record through rock art. No doubt shaman expressed religious beliefs in that rock art.

Many of the colonies that in 1776 became the United States of America were settled by people of deep religious convictions who in the seventeenth century crossed the Atlantic Ocean to come to a new land where they could practice their faith freely.

That the religious intensity of the original settlers would diminish to some extent over time was perhaps to be expected, but new waves of eighteenth century immigrants brought their own religious fervor across the Atlantic and the nation’s first major religious revival in the middle of the eighteenth century injected new vigor into American religion.

The result was that a religious people rose in rebellion against Great Britain in 1776, and that most American statesmen, when they began to form new governments at the state and national levels, shared the convictions of most of their constituents that religion was, to quote Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation, indispensable to the maintenance of republican institutions.

The efforts of the Founders of the American nation to define the role of religious faith in public life and the relation of Government and Church is one part of American History we will explore during this class

We will also look at the active role of many different religions in shaping the culture and society which came to be called American.