1680: Crops, Catastrophes, and Religious Crises

This is about how we write religious history, and also about a dimension of that history that we need to think through. When we study the history of religions, we usually focus on significant moments of change – great revivals, conflicts, persecutions, awakenings, and reformations. In my next few columns, I am going to suggest [Read More…]

Ben Franklin, Anti-Catholicism, and the Founding of the University of Pennsylvania

Historians have generally cast the founding of the University of Pennsylvania (or the College of Philadelphia) in 1755 as a step toward secular education in America. While the early college met in the great evangelist George Whitefield’s preaching building, Ben Franklin was the brains behind the school. As I noted in an an earlier post, [Read More…]

Hating One’s Enemy in Early America

1755 was one of the bleakest years in the history of Britain’s American colonies. That year, Britain launched a massive campaign to stop French aggression in the Ohio river valley, in the early stages of the Seven Years’ War (also known as the French and Indian War). Benjamin Franklin tried to warn British General Edward [Read More…]

Anti-Catholicism: The Defining Religious Principle of Early America?

I have been reading Owen Stanwood’s excellent book The Empire Reformed: English America in the Age of the Glorious Revolution, which has taken me back to my own doctoral research and first book (now a cult classic!) The Protestant Interest: New England after Puritanism. Stanwood shows just how much weight “anti-popery” carried in early English America, and [Read More…]

MASONS AND CATHOLICS

I have been posting on the pervasive influence of Freemasonry in Anglo-American culture. Usually, that tradition was very wide-open and generous in terms of its racial and religious attitudes, but there is one enormous exception to that rule, and that concerns Roman Catholics. Indeed, much of European and American politics over the past two centuries [Read More…]

THE DAMNATION OF THERON WARE

I recently described the problem of finding useful novels that could be used to teach on American religion, and particularly evangelicalism. As I remarked, some books are wonderful as sources, but they are anything but friendly to evangelical Christianity. As a case in point,  I cite Harold Frederic’s The Damnation of Theron Ware (1896), which [Read More…]


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