American Religion

No Western nation is as religion-soaked as ours, where nine out of ten of us love God and are loved by him in return. That mutual passion centers our society and demands some understanding, if our doom-eager society is to be understood at all.

— Harold Bloom, The American Religion

Extreme and bizarre religious ideas are so commonplace in American history that it is difficult to speak of them as fringe at all. To speak of a fringe implies a mainstream, but in terms of numbers, perhaps the largest component of the religious spectrum in contemporary America remains what it has been since colonial times: a fundamentalist evangelicalism with powerful millenarian strands. The doomsday theme has never been far from the center of religious thought. The nation has always had believers who responded to this threat by a determination to flee from the wrath to come, to separate themselves from the City of Destruction, even if that meant putting themselves at odds with the law and with their communities or families. . . . We can throughout American history find select and separatist groups who looked to a prophetic individual claiming divine revelation, in a setting that repudiated conventional assumptions about property, family life, and sexuality. They were marginal groups, peculiar people, people set apart from the world: The Shakers and the Ephrata community, the communes of Oneida and Amana, the followers of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

— Philip Jenkins, Mystics and Messiahs

There is a dark side to religious devotion that is too often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane — as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout — there may be no more potent force than religion.

— Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven

And it shall come to pass that I, the Lord God, will send one mighty and strong, holding the scepter of power in his hand, clothed with light for a covering, whose mouth shall utter words, eternal words; while his bowels shall be a fountain of truth, to set in order the house of God.

The Doctrine and Covenants, Section 85
Revealed to Joseph Smith on November 27, 1832

2 thoughts on “American Religion

  1. “Give me the storm and stress of thought and action rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will but first let me eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge” — Robert Ingersoll.

    Great post. Always refreshing to see other rationalists are out there.

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