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The History of Religion in America Returns for the Weekend.

I’m re-watching the God In America programs on Public Television today, having watched both nights (4 hours) last week. I find it a fascinating view of American History as it relates to the early congregations that escaped Europe to eventually found our country and the development of Reform movements, both in Christianity and Judaism, and, of course, the parallel rise in the 20th Century of non-belief and how it fits into the religious population of the American continent.

While the program followed the interpretations of biblical scholars, mostly, and not those of scientists or humanitarian thinkers who question the faithful and find solutions beyond holy creation. Getting through the Spaniards trying to convert the Pueblo Indians to Catholicism as their ONLY religion and creating a war because of it, the Puritans leaving England for the freedom to worship in their way and then denying any different method to others, the arrival of Methodists, Baptists (with “rebirth”), Congregationalists and others, we run right into Jefferson who believed that we had the freedom to believe and worship any way we wanted, since this was God’s plan.

The Anglican Church in Virginia is shown as a taxing authority and the new Protestant religions, especially the Baptists, drew converts which pulled government away from the Anglican rich. The licensing of preachers in Virginia was the jailable issue that brought the Baptists into revolutionary fervor. And, finally, the attachment of Thomas Jefferson to the cause of a religiously Free Virginia brought the passage of a bill which allowed this risk to be taken… a year before the Constitution was made in Philadelphia.

I learned a great deal in this program about the creation of Reform Judaism and the Conservative response to it (not to mention the Orthodox response to both Conservatives and Reformers.) There is very little difference here between the actions of Reform Jews and the actions of Reform Christians, other than the Deist interpretation of Christ.

I’ll watch the rest of this… although I wish the series was longer and got much further into non-belief.