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In this richly told story of ideas, Chris Beneke demonstrates how the United States managed to overcome the religious violence and bigotry that characterized much of early modern Europe and America. The key, Beneke argues, did not lie solely in the protection of religious freedom. Instead, he reveals how American culture was transformed to accommodate the religious differences within it. The expansion of individual rights, the mixing of believers and churches in the same institutions, and the introduction of more civility into public life all played an instrumental role in creating the religious pluralism for which the United States has become renowned. These changes also established important precedents for future civil rights movements in which dignity, as much as equality, would be at stake.
Beyond Toleration is the first book to offer a systematic explanation of how early Americans learned to live with differences in matters of the highest importance to them --and how they found a way to articulate these differences civilly. Today when religious conflicts once again pose a grave danger to democratic experiments across the globe, Beneke's book serves as a timely reminder of how one country moved past toleration and towards religious pluralism.
In many ways, religion was the United States' first prejudice—both an early source of bigotry and the object of the first sustained efforts to limit its effects. Spanning more than two centuries across colonial British America and the United States, The First Prejudice offers a groundbreaking exploration of the early history of persecution and toleration. The twelve essays in this volume were composed by leading historians with an eye to the larger significance of religious tolerance and intolerance. Individual chapters examine the prosecution of religious crimes, the biblical sources of tolerance and intolerance, the British imperial context of toleration, the bounds of Native American spiritual independence, the nuances of anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism, the resilience of African American faiths, and the challenges confronted by skeptics and freethinkers.
The First Prejudice presents a revealing portrait of the rhetoric, regulations, and customs that shaped the relationships between people of different faiths in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century America. It relates changes in law and language to the lived experience of religious conflict and religious cooperation, highlighting the crucial ways in which they molded U.S. culture and politics. By incorporating a broad range of groups and religious differences in its accounts of tolerance and intolerance, The First Prejudice opens a significant new vista on the understanding of America's long experience with diversity.
In this volume, a distinguished cast of international scholars examines the profound difficulties blasphemy raises for modern societies. Contributors examine how the sacred is formed and maintained, how sacrilegious expression is conceived and regulated, and how the resulting conflicts resist easy adjudication. Their studies range across art, history, politics, law, literature, and theology. Because of the global nature of the problem, the volume’s approach is comparative, examining blasphemy across cultural and geopolitical boundaries.