Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? (Part IV)

3. EARLY SETTLERS DID NOT FLEE ENGLAND AND BUILD NEW WORLD COLONIES IN ORDER TO ESTABLISH “FREEDOM OF RELIGION.” For the most part, those Colonists motivated by religious conviction more than a desire for financial gain wanted to establish faith-based utopias that would be more rigorous and restrictive, not less zealous, than the Mother Country. 

The Puritans behind the original New England colonies (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire) and two later states (Vermont and Maine) wanted strict enforcement of Sabbath rules, mandatory attendance at worship services, tax money to support religious seminaries (prominently including Harvard and Yale), and other rules befitting a “Christian Commonwealth.” If anything, they distrusted the Church of England for its backsliding, corruption and compromises rather than its vigorous imposition of religious standards. 

Other denominations (Quakers in Pennsylvania, Catholics in Maryland) founded their colonies not to create secular or diverse religious environments, but to provide their own versions of model communities and denominational havens. Among the original colonies, only Roger Williams’ Rhode Island made a consistent priority of religious tolerance and pluralism.


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