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Patrik, Check Your History, Too

Reader comment on item: A Christian Boom

Submitted by Jeff Foster (United States), Nov 26, 2002 at 20:24

Patrik Ian Taylor writes: "... it was fundamentalist Christians who established this country and its noble idea of tolerance/relgious freedom."

Um, no.

The fundamentalist Christians who founded Massachusetts in the early 1600s and ran it as a theocracy were famously intolerant, of Catholics and Jews of course, but also of other milder forms of Protestantism. Massachusetts was where church attendance was mandatory, and enforced at gunpoint.

One of the reasons the northern English Colonies were divided as they were, rather than being one large Colony, was to afford safe haven for different religious groups, each within their own borders. Maryland was almost all Catholic because Catholics were forbidden to live in other colonies. Pennsylvania was Quaker for the same reason. Some colonies allowed members of other faiths to live there, but restricted their rights to vote, to hold land, or to openly practice their faith.

Most of the authors of the Constitution were Deists or freethinkers, not fundamentalists in any meaningful sense of that word. Writing in the late 1700s, they looked back at 150 years of intolerance and interfaith hatred and strove to eliminate it from the civic life of the nation they were creating. And to a great extent, their efforts worked. Whatever our flaws and divisions and internal disagreements, the US is not Bosnia or Northern Ireland or Nigeria...
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