It is very often the case that today people think that laws, customs, and values are so ingrained in the public that they believe they have always been that way. This could be referred to as the hubris of the present. It is important, however, to remember that beliefs and…
that historical reality by addressing the modern-held belief that an individual ought to have the right to choose his or her religion and practice it freely. His method is to analyze the nature of religion and the freedom to worship (or lack thereof) in seventeenth century New England to see if said freedom then existed or not. His thesis is such that early colonial America, particularly New England, was a predominantly intolerant and rigid place wherein religious autonomy was often suppressed and the division of church and state did not exist. According to Miller, the modern separation of church and state and the freedom to worship only developed later and over time and in no way represented a pre-determined or guaranteed historical development.
Miller points out that religion was but one of many reasons people came to the New World from the Old. He wants to dispel the idea that people cam for religion alone and that religious toleration existed from the start. Other motives which brought settlers included economic reasons, social promise, and the general desire to start anew. He wants to show that religious motives often masked other social and economic ones. An early declaration by members of the Virginia Plantation stated “…we are first to preach and baptize into Christian Religion, and by propagation of the Gospell, to recover out of the armes of the Divell, a number of poore and miserable soules, wrapt up into death, in almost invincible ignorance.” Miller then continues by citing the Charter of New England which declared “We trust to his Glory. Avee may with Boldness goe on to the settling of soe hopeful a Work, which tendeth to the reducing and Conversion of such Savages as remaine wandering in Desolation and Distress, to Civil Socitie and Christian Religion…” (2008, p. 2). Thus religion served as a sort of template to justify other motives.
The main drive of Miller’s article is to demonstrate that early America was a far from ...
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