American Heretics: Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the History of Religious Intolerance
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In the middle of the nineteenth century a group of political activists in New York City joined together to challenge a religious group they believed were hostile to the American values of liberty and freedom. Called the Know Nothings, they started riots during elections, tarred and feathered their political enemies, and barred men from employment based on their religion. The group that caused this uproar?: Irish and German Catholics―then known as the most villainous religious group in America, and widely believed to be loyal only to the Pope. It would take another hundred years before Catholics threw off these xenophobic accusations and joined the American mainstream. The idea that the United States is a stronghold of religious freedom is central to our identity as a nation―and utterly at odds with the historical record. In American Heretics, historian Peter Gottschalk traces the arc of American religious discrimination and shows that, far from the dominant protestant religions being kept in check by the separation between church and state, religious groups from Quakers to Judaism have been subjected to similar patterns of persecution. Today, many of these same religious groups that were once regarded as anti-thetical to American values are embraced as evidence of our strong religious heritage―giving hope to today's Muslims, Sikhs, and other religious groups now under fire.
and not a member of the Semitic race.” Their wordy specificity reflects the uncertainty surrounding the terms “Aryan,” “Semitic,” and—perhaps most of all—“white.” This did not inhibit students from circulating on the campus stereotyped depictions of Jews as freely as they did caricatures of blacks. African American and Jewish university students formed their own fraternities in response to their exclusion, but the national conference would not recognize them. Meanwhile, on both the
Indeed, Judaism’s moral structure appeared similar to that of other nations in part because it had influenced so many, while, he stressed, the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism were greater than those between any branch of Judaism and Christianity.44 Despite these protests, Ford in his writings appeared to ultimately conclude that the religious failures of Jews had condemned them to their powerful yet wretched position. Referring to the Hebrew Bible narrative, he declared that
400 years later, many saw it as the work of Satan. The loss of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth, and other biblical sites associated with Jesus’s life further added to this perception. As some European Christians began to learn more about their foes—who followed military and religious success with commercial and scientific accomplishments at a time when Europe was trapped in the Dark Ages—the more alarmed they became. Unlike the pagan enemies the Christian Roman Empire had once battled, the Muslim
teats,” supposedly found on those who suckled satanic imps.6 Both Hutchinson’s and Dyer’s miscarriages of malformed fetuses were further evidence to their disapproving contemporaries. The later slaughter of Hutchinson and most of her children by Indians appeared as God’s vengeance for the preacher’s unorthodoxy. Meanwhile, Dyer, like other Puritans who were unwilling to abide by certain laws but willing to accept corporal and even fatal punishment, prompted some Puritans to suspect demonic
1813), 44, 46 Reformation. See Protestant Reformation Religious Society of Friends. See Friends Reno, Janet, 156 Republicanism, 46, 114 Revelation, Book of. Puritan interpretations, 32–33 Davidian interpretations, 141, 142, 146, 147–148, 157–158, 160 Revelations, 19, 110–112, 114, 117, 121, 127, 148 Rhode Island, 14, 15, 19, 21, 23, 32, 33, 86, 169 Ricci, Scipio de (1741–1810), 44 Riots, 30, 36, 43, 45–46, 49, 51–52, 82, 117, 191 Roberts, B. H. (1857–1933), 121, 124 Roden, Ben