Deism and Changes in Religious Tolerance in America Essay

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Deism and Changes in Religious Tolerance in America Religious conscience in America has evolved considerably since the first settlers emigrated here from Europe. Primary settlements were established by Puritans and Pilgrims who believed "their errand into the wilderness [America] was above all else a religious errand, and all institutions - town meeting, school, church, family, law-must faithfully reflect that fact" (Gaustad 61). However, as colonies grew, dissenters emerged to challenge Puritan authority; indeed, many of them left the church to join untraditional religious sects such as "the Ranters, the Seekers, the Quakers, the Antinomians, and the Familists" (Westbrook 26). Debates over softening the stance on tolerance in…show more content…
Rejecting the assumption that God controls all actions on earth, "most Deists believe that God created the universe, [. . .] and then disassociated himself from his creation" (Robinson 3). This definition leads to the supposition that deistic thought was partly conceived out of scientific discovery: a Darwinian takeover theory. Perhaps the nuances of scientific knowledge manifested a directive in the argument for religious freedom. Certainly, Deist's supported what Benjamin Franklin termed, "spiritual Liberty," which asserted that "no man ought to resign his Liberty," in "mak[ing] Choice of his Minister as his Judgement and Conscience direct him" (qtd. in Walters, Franklin 138). Thomas Paine, Deism's most notable advocate, maintains this line of thinking saying, "I do not believe in the creed professed by [. . .] any church that I know of," but, "I do not mean this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine" (22). Religious tolerance would gain many formidable voices among America's Founding Fathers, a development that poses a challenge to the harsh dogmatic attitude of early Puritan leaders. Intolerance for opposing views in religious matters was a renowned element in Puritanical practices during the seventeenth century. Few persons had the courage to speak against church doctrine, as it would certainly pronounce their expulsion. One such person, Roger Williams,

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