Religious Freedom and Pluralism in Antebellum America
Publication Year: 2013
In Earnestly Contending, Dickson Bruce examines the ways in which religious denominations and movements in antebellum America coped with the ideals of freedom and pluralism that exerted such a strong influence on the larger, national culture. Despite their enormous normative power, these still-evolving ideals—themselves partly religious in origin—ran up against deeply entrenched concerns about the integrity of religious faith and commitment and the role of religion in society. The resulting tensions between these ideals and desires for religious consensus and coherence would remain unresolved throughout the period.
Focusing on that era’s interdenominational competition, Bruce explores the possibilities for and barriers to realizing ideals of freedom and pluralism in antebellum America. He examines the nature of religion from the perspectives of anthropology and cognitive sciences, as well as history, and uses this interdisciplinary approach to organize and understand specific tendencies in the antebellum period while revealing properties inherent in religion as a social and cultural phenomenon. He goes on to show how issues from that era have continued to play a role in American religious thinking, and how they might shed light on the controversies of our own time.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright
Download PDF (151.2 KB)
Download PDF (73.5 KB)
Download PDF (130.0 KB)
The study that follows may require a word of explanation. It is an effort to explore, using antebellum American history as its focus, both the pos-sibilities for and barriers to realizing ideas and ideals of religious toleration and religious freedom. It grows out of my own conviction that dominant approaches to many of the dilemmas having to do with issues of religion ...
one“Divisions among You”
Download PDF (179.7 KB)
To a great extent, the dilemmas and diffi culties that characterized the con fl ict between a normative discourse of freedom and toleration and the realities of religious diversity in the antebellum period grew out of signifi -cant elements in the discourse itself, including both its historical sources and its course of development from colonial times through the fi rst half of ...
two“And They Shall ContendOne with Another”
Download PDF (179.1 KB)
As one examines antebellum efforts to reconcile faith, freedom, and tol-eration, the degree to which the eraâs religious concerns were shaped by more general properties of religionâespecially its transcendent power for explanation, prediction, and controlâbecomes readily apparent. The rel-evance of such properties becomes especially clear as religion is seen to ...
three“And the Truth of the LordEndureth Forever”
Download PDF (174.6 KB)
To the extent that religion represents, for a community, a statement of ulti-mate reality, of transcendent forces and purposes, then, clearly, diversity in belief and practice represents a real challenge to the character of that truth and gives a profundity to questions of limits that goes beyond mat-ters of simple consensus and cooperation. How much variation can there ...
four“With One Spirit, with One Mind”
Download PDF (164.3 KB)
It was because of the confrontation with boundary concernsâdefi ned in ways consistent with an understanding of the singularity of religious truthâthat, with increasing urgency in the antebellum religious explo-sion, two issues came up almost endlessly in religious writings, sermons, and even theological debates trying to come to terms with ideals of free-...
five“The Keeper of Her Laws”
Download PDF (189.3 KB)
The normative discourse of religious freedom and toleration described in the preceding chapter posed some of its most signifi cant problems as antebellum Americans sought to defi ne religionâs role in regard to prob-lems of morality and moral consensus. Morality, in the dominant view, was inseparable from religion, and religion was, for its part, inseparable ...
six“That This LandBe a Land of Liberty”
Download PDF (172.0 KB)
In antebellum America, one of the issues that gave great urgency to prob-lems of moral community and moral consensus had to do with the ways in which religious faith was connected to notions of national identity, a connection succinctly summarized by the prosecutor in Abner Kneelandâs blasphemy trial, in an assertion that âthe happiness of the people, and ...
seven“The Knowledge of the Holy”
Download PDF (194.5 KB)
Exacerbating dilemmas spawned by ideals of freedom and facts of diver-sity in the antebellum religious world were signifi cant intellectual devel-opments that, while antedating the nineteenth century, were to have great impact on antebellum religious thought. These intellectual and cultural changes heightened the concerns and anxieties regarding religion, as such, ...
Download PDF (107.3 KB)
This exploration of ante bellum American approaches to ideals of religious freedom and to religious diversity has looked in two directions. On the one hand, it has sought to delineate the demands of what I have called a ânormative discourseâ of freedom and toleration made on those who felt compelled to maintain strong religious foundations for American life and ...
Download PDF (261.8 KB)
Download PDF (128.8 KB)
Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013