Annotated Bibliography

In the course of American history individuals put cultural or physical distance between themselves and others thus creating a segmented society where religion was used to demonstrate distinctiveness. Churches provided society with rites of passage that enabled people to cope with difficulties that rose from adolescence, death, birth and marriage. A French observer by the name Alexis de Tocqueville noted that religion was the most important American institution as it provided cohesion for this particular society cloaking with legitimate national objectives and interests. Religious experience is central to American life and relates to all aspects of life thus viewed as a cultural stabilizer. Swift (1998) also notes that knowledge of the cultural and social history of American religion plays a key role in facilitating understanding of the complexities called the American people and American culture. Religious concerns as well as a global view founded in religious ideas contributed to the coming of the American Revolution. Hostilities and disagreements between religious groups such as those witnessed in France often reflect key societal changes as well as divisions.

However, in America immigrants who had not practiced their religions in the old nation often became religious in the country as the church protected them from hostile nativists and embraced their cultural differences. The author also points out to the fact that some people were nonbelievers and wanted to keep the church in their community. This is because they perceived it as a stabilizing factor especially in times of change. The church was considered a safe haven where some individuals responded to social transformations by becoming ‘come-outers’ who joined new or relatively new churches. Religious principles came to underpin the perfervid arguments of abolitionists bringing about social reform movements which served as the foundation of subsequent reform efforts.

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