Monday, July 15, 2024

LETTER: Religion in Colonial America

| December 8, 2023 11:32 AM

Most Americans assume the colonies had one form of Christianity. However, religion was more diverse than that. 

Before any colonists arrived, the East Coast Indian tribes practiced various beliefs and rituals connecting people, nature and animals as a way to seek harmony in the world and within the tribal members. They adjusted to the colonists’ religious influences at times, but kept their core beliefs intact. 

The European colonists brought with them their religion. Before 1790, the following religious beliefs were added: Christianity – Catholicism and Protestantism (Anglican, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Pietist, Pilgrim, Presbyterian, Puritan, Quaker). Deism, Islam and Judaism were also present. African slaves brought polytheism, animism and Islam. 

There was no total agreement among the colonies as to which European religion they would all practice. Five colonies had an Anglican base: Virginia, New York, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. Three colonies established Congregationalism as their base: Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire. Five colonies named no particular religion: Delaware, Rhode Island, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 

Such diversity seemed to make the colonies appealing to future immigrants: E pluribus unum (From many, one). 

That should sound very familiar, as America was and is made one nation from many.

Duane Pitts
Moses Lake

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