Religion in America Essay
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There is a rather complex juxtaposition between the ideals of the founding of the United States and the presumption of religious conversion. The historical and sociological paradigm of religion in America actually spans the great migration of tribes from Asia over the Alaskan land bridge and evolved into various Native American cultures and the European contact between the early 1600s and even into the 20th century. Most of the Amerindian cultures worshiped a naturalistic religion that focused on harmony with nature, a group of Gods that represented spirits of parts of nature, and ways to explain all the natural phenomenon (weather, birth, death, etc.) that are common to human cultures. Religion was more all-encompassing and an approach to explain the universe. Since everything within the universe was part of the natural order, and therefore sacred, these cultures tended to revere all that was in nature and placed humans as Guardians who had the rel="follow">responsibility to revere Mother Earth.
With European contact, however, the situation became more complex. Now cultures were in conflict with one another. For example, Dutch Missionary, John Megapolensis, writing about the Iriquois tribe in 1644, noted, "They are entire Strangers to all Religion, but they have a & #8230; Genius which they put in the Place of God… but present Offerings to the Devil… They have otherwise no Religion. . . (Lippy). Yet imagine, if you will, the confusion that Amerindian cultures might have when confronted with the notion that their Gods and Spirits were false, and this new religion, posited by strangers to their lands, was the only correct path? For instance, a Huron tribesman noted to a French Jesuit missionary in 1635, "You tell us fine stories, and there is nothing in what you say that may not be true; but that is good for you who come acorss the seas. Do you not see that, as we inhabit a world so different from yours, there must…
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This conundrum was not adequately addressed during the Constitutional Convention, and it was not until Thomas Jefferson became President that the issue became publically important. In 1802, for instance, members of the Danbury Baptist Association wrote to Jefferson with concerns about the Constitutional requirement for freedom of religion. Jefferson replied, assuring the coalition that there freedoms would be protected and cherished. He noted his previous work from 1777-79 under the Virginia Statute for religious freedom: "Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free… That even the forcing him to support [a state religion] or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions…That our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry…yet we are free to declare… the natural rights of mankind" Lippy). This, in essence, formed the basis of the notion that the State cannot make a law establishing a religion or force individual citizens to follow anything other than what they deem appropriate for their own individual belief and need.
Lippy, C. Introducing American Religion. New York: Routledge, 2009.
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