Colonial America Not That Christian By Neil Nissenbaum Christian apologists and televangel

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Colonial America Not That Christian By Neil Nissenbaum Christian apologists and televangelists, bent on proving America a "Christian" nation, generally look to the alleged piety of colonial Americans. This erroneous claim is also utilized to show America's "fall" into secular humanism and atheism. Colonial America was not that Christian, contrary to apologist claims and declarations. Tony Campolo, a well-known Christian educator, author, and evangelist, stated on the "700 Club," much to Pat Robertson's chagrin, that there were very few Christians in colonial America. He also said that America could not be called Christian on the basis of its colonial population. (He then went on to credit this tiny group of believers for making America good and great, which was a stretch by any means. The credit surely goes to the great majority who were not believers.) Campolo's statement is confirmed in The Perfect Crisis: The Beginning Of The Revolutionary War, by Neil R. Stout (New York University Press, 1976). Stout credited information about church membership to Hofstadter's America At 1750. "America's religious life was just as paradoxical. Many colonies had established churches; Anglican in the south and Congregationalist in New England. Even Rhode Island, founded as an experiment in religious freedom, limited full citizenship to Trinitarian Protestants. America had gone through one of history's biggest revival movements--The Great Awakening--during the 1740's, and its effects were still felt in 1774. Political speeches and even business transactions were liberally sprinkled with biblical quotations. Newspapers and magazines constantly printed theological discussion. America probably had more religious sects living side by side than any other area of the western world. However, church membership was probably the lowest in American history. Even in New England, founded as the 'New Wilderness Zion' and where Sunday blue laws were still strictly enforced, only one person in seven was a church member. South of New England the average was less than half that. This was not because the churches made admission to communion difficult; indeed, the clergy were so worried about the loss of membership that there were hardly any restrictions. It is evident that, whatever Americans' private religious beliefs, there were not much taken with organized religion." Ideas, suggestions, leads and references welcome. Mail to Neil Nissenbaum may be addressed c/o FFRF, Inc., for direct forwarding. ---------------------------------------------------------- This article is reprinted (with permission) from the April 1993 issue of Freethought Today, bulletin of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. For more information, write or call Freedom From Religion Foundation P. O. Box 750 Madison, WI 53701 USA (608) 256-8900 -----------------------------------------------------------

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