American Religious History and American Democracy

Old abandoned white wooden chapel on prairie at sunset with cloudy sky.

Recently the good folks at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) asked me to write a short piece on why we should study American religious history.  It is posted today at the AASLH website.

Here is a taste:

In 1822, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his friend, the noted physician Benjamin Waterhouse, lamenting the irrationality of much of American religious life. “I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests,” the retired President of the United States wrote, “the genuine doctrine of only one God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.” 

Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment. As a believer in progress he could not imagine that traditional Christian beliefs—the Trinity, the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the inspiration of the Bible—would last very long under reason’s relentless assault. 

He could not have been more wrong.

Read the rest here.