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The vast majority of Native Americans today are true believing Christians who clearly embrace a religion and subscribe to its basic tenets. Many examples of indigenous religious institutions can be noted, including Pueblo ceremonialism, Creek rituals, the Long house religion of the Iroquois, ancestral rites such as the potlatch on the Northwest coast, and Navajo and Apache traditions. The ideas behind double burials and grave goods offerings bespeak native ideas of eschatology and the fate of the soul, or better, souls, because most native metaphysical theories were premised on multiple souls. The discussion of Native American religion has revolved around three essentialist positions regarding the original bases of religion: animism, totemism, and shamanism. Shamans in North America were not only diagnosticians of disease and curers of ailments, but they were also diviners who could predict game movements based on the weather and other factors.
This chapter discusses critical facets of early modern church governance, organization, and spirituality that help to understand the religious mindset of Catholic Europeans on the eve of their Atlantic encounters. The underlying argument is that the Catholic tradition was the single important ideological and cultural force shaping Western European societies prior to the Reformation. Three colonial nations would play a pivotal role in the Atlantic: France, Portugal, and Spain. The spread of Christianity resulted in the fragmentation of dioceses in Rome into smaller administrative units known as parishes. Secular church administration was hierarchical in nature, linking parochial religious life through the mediation of the office of bishop with the papacy itself. Monastic institutions in particular challenged a parochial structure, insisting that greater spiritual perfection was secured through a life lived in isolation from all worldly temptations. Catholic Reform or early modern Catholicism embraces the complex nature and broader context of the Catholic tradition.
Confessional loyalties, by 1600, had begun to harden among the various strands of the Protestant Reformation. Almost all immigrants to North America in the early seventeenth century had a religious allegiance, and most were serious about their religious commitment. This chapter deals with the Protestant reformations that originated on the European continent - Lutheran, Calvinist, and Radical, and their identity on the eve of the colonization of North America. Whereas the Lutherans and Calvinists who began to stream to North America in the seventeenth century represented churches founded by well-educated theologians and on sophisticated confessional schemes, the Anabaptists who joined them came from a movement of common people whose existence was as simple and as straight forward as their theology. Although latecomers when compared to the Lutherans, Calvinists, and Mennonites, the Pietists and Moravians also became an important part of the continental immigration to North America in the seventeenth century.
This chapter focuses on the Catholic tradition in Great Britain on the eve of colonization. Divergent views of the relationship of English Catholics to England and the English Catholic Christian past began to develop among Catholics both at home and in exile. The chapter also discusses the origin of Puritanism. Many of the men who found themselves recruited to the Elizabethan episcopate shared the impulses that were shortly to prompt Puritan schemes for further reformation. With the emergence of anti-Puritanism, some of the enemies of the godly started to claim that the Puritans represented just as serious a threat to the Church of England as the papists. The emergence of Puritanism as an increasingly distinctive, almost free standing religious identity was further helped by the activities of their enemies, which were not limited to the realm of polemical name-calling, crude stereotyping, and satirical caricature. The accession of James VI and I occasioned a rising of expectation among Puritans and Catholics.
This chapter outlines the nature and structures common to many African belief systems prior to 1800. There is a general cosmological worldview expressed in African mythology, narratives, and stories that explores the origins of the human universe. The Yoruba and Fon, groups from what are now Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, respectively, established elaborate pantheons. Numerous divinatory methods characterize indigenous African religions. Chadic-speaking people of the Jos Plateau in southeastern Nigeria such as the Ngas, Mupun, and Mwaghavul practice Pa divination. It resembles Ifá divination, but important differences exist between the two systems. On the contrary, Islam and Christianity, two powerful monotheistic traditions, began to penetrate into the African continent almost at the dawn of the two traditions from their places of origin in the Middle East. By the time of the transatlantic slave trade, religions in West Africa and central Africa were poised to make a significant impact on the Americas.
Iroquoian religion was an open system that more closely fit the shamanic paradigm of religion than it did the stratified religions of agricultural states and empires. Seventeenth-century Iroquoian ceremonies associated with dreams were described at length in the Jesuit Relations. Iroquoian visual expression varied considerably and entailed a number of different representational strategies, including painting, carving, tattooing, weaving, and ceramics. Iroquoian religion changed dramatically as a result of contact with Europeans. The Catholics and other Christian missionaries were ultimately very successful in converting the majority of Iroquoian peoples to Christianity. However, they did not completely destroy the indigenous religion that had developed in the Woodlands world system over the longue durée. Some of the information of Iroquoian religion continues to circulate in the twenty-first century global world system, to a great extent because of the efforts of past and present Haudenosaunee visionaries.
Mississippian religion was a distinctive Native American belief system in eastern North America that evolved out of an ancient, continuous tradition of sacred landscapes, shamanic institutions, and world renewal ceremonies. Mississippian deities dwelled in the above world as well as the beneath world and bestowed special or sacred gifts and chartered medicine bundles and rituals to supplicants. The basis for the cyclical life, death, and rebirth themes in Mississippian cosmology was predicated on Earth Mother's retrieval of souls from the realm of the dead in sacred containers. One of the functions of the Great Serpent was serving as protector and guardian of the Earth Mother and the souls of the beneath world. The Birdman's cosmological adversary was the Great Serpent. The sacred Twins were principal Mississippian above world deities who possessed extraordinary and miraculous powers associated with sacred bundles used to access the beneath world and to revitalize the dead.
The ancestors of contemporary Pueblos occupied the Colorado Plateau and the Four Corners area, the region around where the states of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico intersect. There is a consensus among scholars that contemporary Pueblo katsina religion had its beginnings in Mexico and was imported into what is today the American Southwest relatively late in the Anasazi period. The Ancestral Puebloans acquired a great deal of astronomical knowledge. The katsinas are ancestral spirits who act as messengers and intermediaries between the Pueblo people and their deities. As Chaco Canyon spun people out centrifugally, Mesa Verde ascended as the major center of Puebloan culture. The Kachina Phenomenon can also be thought of as katsina religion. Regardless of whether it can be linked directly to the Tlaloc cult, katsina religion was, another cultural phenomenon that, according to anthropologists, migrated northward from Mexico. Despite speculations, religion played a central role in the Great Abandonment.
Catholicism had left its imprint in most regions, by the last decades of the seventeenth century. The creative revisions of history illustrate how the imposition of Spanish Catholicism in America radically, affected not only contemporary indigenous reality, but also indigenous memory, by triggering a reinterpretation of the past in light of new experiences and pressures. Although certain elements of pre-Hispanic religion remained operational in some regions, a more or less orthodox version of Christianity eventually became part of the corporate identity of most indigenous groups subject to colonial civil and religious rule. Lay holy people, beatas, played an important role in the spiritual landscape of colonial Spanish America, even though the Church considered this a more treacherous spiritual path. The extreme limits of spiritual life set by the Catholic Church, the saint and the heretic, took on exceptional importance in mid-colonial Spanish America. Confraternities proliferated and ensured the regular involvement of all sectors of the population in religious life.
Most colonial-era histories still equate colonialism in America with the English Protestant experience and omit the other contact scenarios that unfolded in the New World, such as the different ways in which French Catholics dealt with the American realities in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Historically, the missionaries were the avant-garde of French discovery of America. Further west and south of Quebec City, the missionaries soon discovered semisedentary peoples, the Huron of the Iroquoian family, who constituted the central axis for the fur trade and whom they felt were the most promising prospects for conversion to Christianity. French Catholic women were given the possibility to fully participate in the foundations of a civil society in which charity, education, and health constituted the pillars of a welfare system that was literally transplanted in America. Slavery existed in all French colonial regions. In general, throughout the early period of French colonization, the settlers were practicing Catholics.
In Anglican Virginia and Calvinist New Netherland, religion held a real if subsidiary place in the colony's founding but came to play only a fitful role in its evolution. Filtering into several of these places but particularly concentrated in West Jersey and Rhode Island, Quakers and Baptists from off the radical edge of Puritanism generated unwitting laboratories in the possibilities and challenges of living collectively as dissenters. After 1648, however, with the Thirty Years War concluded and the Dutch no longer in need of a Swedish alliance, the Netherlands asserted its claims on the Delaware territory, finally invading n 1655 with a force of three hundred men under Pieter Stuyvesant's lead. Roman Catholics fared much better in Maryland, which, under Charles I's policy of relieving the religious out-parties in his realm via colonization, was separated from Virginia and given to the Catholic Calvert family as proprietors.
The story of Spanish Catholicism in the Caribbean and New Spain from the 1680s to the end of the colonial period falls easily into two distinguishable parts. The strongest influence on colonial Mexican religion was the Council of Trent. The Jesuits had a strong impact on the intellectual and academic life in New Spain. In the late sixteenth century, a new form of missionary structure emerged, the presidio/mission system. It was first used on the northern frontier and soon established itself as the standard form. By the late seventeenth century, the Spanish missionary effort had expanded to the north, then to the American Southwest, including Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. The famous of all Jesuit missionaries in northern New Spain and the American Southwest was, and probably still is, Eusebio Kino. While the Jesuits pushed up through central and northwestern New Spain, the Franciscans evangelized the eastern and northeastern areas.
In the early days of French expansion, there had been major differences between France and New France. The most significant one was that small Catholic community of New France lived side by side with the Indian nations. In the period from 1674 to 1727, the Canadian church was led by two bishops, Laval and Saint-Vallier. Laval succeeded in organizing a new church while reducing the Jesuits' over powering influence. Saint-Vallier reshaped the Canadian church after the French model. The Jesuits showed a measure of independence with regard to the Indian missions. A large percentage of the priests active in New France came from overseas, most of them from France. The erection of the bishopric of Quebec in 1674 did not have much influence on the fact that the Canadian church largely depended on personnel and material support from the Old World, mainly France. In New France, the influence of the Catholic Church was not limited to the spiritual domain.
New Englanders were well aware that both their region and their religious preferences were small parts of England's fast-growing empire. In 1722, Boston, the largest town in British North America, had, alongside its seven Congregational churches, Anglican, Baptist, and Huguenot churches and a Quaker meeting. Revivalists of strict Congregationalism in the 1760s gave the opposing position the sneering title that it has carried ever since, the halfway covenant. Congregationalism had little appeal for most English Puritans. English Presbyterians were likely to show greater flexibility in their Calvinism than the Congregationalists and greater engagement with non-Calvinist Anglican divines. Congregationalism was frayed both as a coherent theoretical system and as a communion of vital Christian communities. The New England Company, an English charity, provide the financial foundation of Indian Christianity. Unlike Quakers and Baptists, Church of England partisans were keen to challenge Congregational hegemony.
This chapter presents an overview of the diversity of the religious experience of the inhabitants of the Middle Colonies between 1680 and 1730, largely in terms of denominations broadly defined. The Dutch Reformed Church was the first organized religious body in the Middle Colonies. The first Jews in what would become the United States arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654, refugees from Brazil. By 1730, New York's Jews were confident enough to build their own synagogue, the first in the mainland British colonies. After 1700, in all four colonies, Anglicanism grew steadily, partly because of Anglican immigration, partly through the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG). By 1730, the Middle Colonies had become central to the future of the Baptist churches in North America. Quakers missionaries traveled over the British Isles to continental Europe and even the Ottoman Empire. The Delaware Valley became the great center of American Quakerism because of Pennsylvania.
The traditional story of religion in the southern colonies focuses on the Church of England, and then on the gradual ascendancy of an evangelical style. When permanent English settlement began in the southern colonies, the intent was to transplant religious structures and institutions from the mother country. In Virginia, those overseeing colonial development expected to grant the Church of England legal establishment, assuming it would function there much the same as it did in England itself. Protestants inclined toward a Calvinistic Puritanism outnumbered Catholics in Maryland within a few years of colonial settlement. In Maryland and Carolina, as in Virginia, interplay with Native Americans and African slaves added layers of complexity to ways of being religious. Slowly that interplay transformed the Christianity of the white colonists especially as it adjusted to support and sustain chattel slavery, and slowly that interplay also transformed the various tribal traditions as they absorbed some features of white colonial religious life.
Eastern Algonquians from the New England and mid-Atlantic riverine and coastal areas particularly experienced the religious ferment of the eighteenth century. This chapter focuses on history of Eastern Algonquians, although placing it in a larger context of religious developments among other Native American groups, including Iroquoian peoples, in the region of the British colonies. French Catholics had made inroads among Central Algonquians. The Jesuits' role also diminished among them in the eighteenth century, and traditional religion remained largely intact, beyond the reach of colonial direction. Of the missionaries from the Great Awakening era, heart religion reached its fullest expression among the Moravians, a predominantly German-speaking group that sent missionaries to Mohicans and Delawares beginning in the 1740s. Christian Indians continued to be shaped by traditional indigenous beliefs. Some Indians who did not fall under the classifications of baptized or mission resident were still influenced by past contacts with Christian teachings.
African slave religions were rooted in the cultural forms of western and central African religions. Important parallels existed across the varieties of Islam, Christianity, and Orisha religion in West Africa. West Africans used the gris-gris as a legitimate embodiment of the spiritual power to ward off evil and to ensure health and success. The religion of African slaves of the pre-Columbian era, like that of free Africans, was guided by enduring theological themes of ancestral veneration, spirit possession, sacrifice, and divination. The significance of human relations with the Orishas revolved around the principle of obligation. The Society for Propagation of the Gospel became the primary means of promoting Anglicanism throughout the colonies, and it was Anglo-Christianity's effort at Christianizing the African population. Among the exceptional cases of Christianization of African slaves is that of the Moravian Christians. In the Chesapeake, Methodists and Baptists produced their numerous converts, immediately following the Revolutionary War years.
The first known individual of Jewish origin to arrive in the New World was Luis de Torres, the interpreter who accompanied Christopher Columbus in 1492. The expulsion of Jews from Spain and Portugal applied to their New World colonies as well. The bulk of the Jews who settled in New Amsterdam, identified as Sephardim or Sephardic Jews, meaning Jews with roots in the Iberian Peninsula, known in Hebrew as Sepharad. In colonial America the two groups of Jews, Jews of the Germanic lands and Ashkenazic Jews, lived side by side, socialized, and married each other. As a matter of law, Jews were second-class citizens in all of the American colonies prior to the American Revolution. Judaism was the only organized non-Christian religious community in America aside from Native American religions. The American Revolution effected changes in law and in the relationship of religion to the state that transformed American Jewish life forever after.
The English Province of the Society of Jesus was responsible for the Catholic mission to the English North American colonies. Unlike their French and Spanish counterparts, the Jesuits sent to evangelize English North America did not have the support of the state or a mandate to establish a Christian empire. One-third of Catholic population was settled in Pennsylvania, with small numbers found in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. The Maryland Catholic community was ethnically and economically diverse. After the American Revolution, when Catholics were accepted on equal terms with their fellow citizens, they drew on this tradition to show the compatibility between Catholicism and the principles of the new nation and to ease the community's integration into the larger society.
Britain used its Anglican Church as a tool with which to undermine diversity and strengthen attachment to the empire. In South Carolina, where Anglicanism was established in 1706, ecclesiastical and political power was more diffused. In Maryland, where Anglicanism was established in 1702, the proxies of the crown retained much of the authority that lay Virginians had taken for themselves. Virginia also was the colonial heart of the Church of England, also known as the Anglican Church. The institutional manifestation of the seventeenth century Puritan movement, the Congregational Church functioned as New England's established church well into the nineteenth century. Anglicanism's status rose discernibly by midcentury. Even more than evangelical dissent, the dissent of Protestant immigrant groups both constrained and drew the ire of England's imperial authority. Immigrant dissent was most diverse in three broad regions: Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, and the Southern back country. Both Protestant diversity and English authority operated differently in each of those regions.
The Great Awakening was great because it created the evangelical movement in America. Evangelicalism descended from several pietist strains of European Protestantism, including movements within continental Protestantism, Scots-Irish Presbyterianism, and English Puritanism. The Great Awakening essentially began a new Baptist movement in America that emerged from radical evangelicalism. For the Radical evangelicals, the Great Awakening was a religious and social revolution. The evangelical attacks against slavery and establishment of religion show that the Great Awakening had direct political consequences. Evangelicalism probably made its greatest contribution to the Patriot cause in the form of rhetoric and style. Many evangelical Patriots ardently supported the war in moralistic and even apocalyptic terms. With its strong emphasis on conversions and outpourings of the Holy Spirit, evangelical Christianity transformed colonial American religion, with effects that linger in the contemporary religious world.