Religion as an Indicator of Social Decay in America
Religion in America naturally aligned itself with regional differences, which existed from the beginning – New England in the North and Virginia in the South. With Pennsylvania (founded by the Quakers) as neutral territory. We have the testimony of Benjamin Franklin, in his Autobiography, of the religious intolerance in Boston – from which he fled to Philadelphia, and made his fortune there.
The Founding Fathers, which all came from Virginia – with the outstanding exception of John Adams – were not very religious. They represented the Enlightenment. They got America off to the right start – which, however did not last too long.
The election of Andrew Jackson – along with the Second Great Awakening – marked the beginning of a new America that would lead to Civil War. This is the subject of this posting.
I have worked hard at recognizing the positive effects of religion. It is only fair that I should now speak of its negative effects. In what I am going to say, I limit myself it the effect of religion in America. And I should probably limit myself even further – and speak of American Protestantism and all its many offspring in the 19th Century – including my family’s religion – Mormonism.
I have always been puzzled by that, and wondered why it was so successful. The answer, of course, is that the social climate of the time made it possible. Or perhaps even (in a strange way) made it happen.
The book The Stammering Century, which I must get in the paper version, states that these changes were in response to the difficulties of life due to growing Industrialization – or Frontier life. Either situation produced mass men with their extreme emotional (and social) problems.
Their solution – radical religion – helped produce the America of today – a country unable to cope with its problems – because it has never been able to understand them. In Latin America, where I live now, Evangelicalism is strong – and is having the same effects – mass stupidity.
It is hard to say how any particular religion, at any particular time, on any particular people, affects their behavior. That being said, however, some things can be said – and I am going to say them now.
These religions (and there were a number of them, and more appear all the time) are against anything that questions their authority. At the same time, they were capable (as Christianity always has been) to merge their authority (and their income) with another authority – notably, that of Business. Which has become a religion of its own. But I am getting ahead of myself.
I need to return to the Second Great Awakening. This was an indicator of the great social changes that were taking place in America. Many of them for the worse. We can date the decline of America to that time. Two hundred years ago.
There were also great technological changes – as I have said repeatedly. And they kept snowballing. The net result was that religion is now stronger than ever.
And America is in as big a trouble as ever.