Essay about Religion in America

1983 Words 8 Pages
Religion in America


OVERVIEW

The history of religion in America is fascinating, both on its own terms and also with respect to what it teaches us about other aspects of American culture. The period we are studying is especially interesting, because it was during this era that many developments and changes within American society occurred; in some cases these effects challenged the development of religion in general, while other effects promoted it, or at least specific varieties of it.

I shall proceed to examine several of these changes; while this list is by no means comprehensive, it hopes to capture the overall texture of religion in America during the modern era, or roughly the period between the Civil War and World War
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For example, philosopher Daniel Dennett asserts that evolutionary theory has destroyed theology, and that Darwinism's metaphysical implication is that life has no purpose, and certainly no divine direction (cf. Haught 77).

Some theologians and philosophers see kind of conclusion as problematic. It is widely thought that the kind of assertion Dennett makes, for example, is an example of "scientism"-the metaphysical claim that truth can only be found through science (cf. Smith 59-60). Its cousins are materialism, the belief that the material world constitutes the whole of reality, and reductionism, which asserts that explanations of the most fundamental units are the most accurate. It is undeniable that the reductionist and materialist perspectives are invaluable to progress through the scientific method. Whether they can be logically extended to the metaphysical realm is a contentious subject, but the philosophical adoption of Darwinism's implications is seen by many to this day as a major advance in human thought. Teleological systems of thought, and most especially those citing the authority of a personal God, were rejected by philosophers such as Nietzsche and, in the early part of the 20th century, the existentialists; these thinkers viewed Darwinian theory as an important step out of the dark ages of theological intellectualism. Not surprisingly, this perspective was taken as an attack on religion and, in America, on Fundamentalist Christianity…

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