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Religion & Spirituality

The U.S. has been almost unique in reducing religious persecution without subduing religious passion. 

The Reverend John Waller was preaching in Caroline County, Virginia, in 1771 when an Anglican minister strode up to the pulpit and jammed the butt end of a horse whip into his mouth. Waller was dragged outside, where a local sheriff beat him bloody. Read more >>

Divisions in society and religion that still exist today resulted from the "Great Awakenings" of the 18th Century

For my Part I can’t but think ... Read more >>

Thomas Jefferson took his scissors to the Bible in search of truth

LIKE A CURMUDGEON who writes cranky letters to the editor, retired president Thomas Jefferson wanted to get the news without editorial bias or commentary—the Good News, that is, because he was reading the Bible. Read more >>

A visit to two villages that still share the nineteenth century’s conviction that we can communicate with the dead

A century and a half ago two young girls started hearing noises they said came from beyond the grave—and embarked on a lifetime career that began a national obsession with spiritualism that has lasted to this day

“I looked down at my foot,” Joseph Merrill said, “and saw a white substance the size of a golf ball. As I watched, that golf ball expanded and took features: arms and a head. It was a woman. She passed through me and through my friend Harry. Read more >>

Our ancestors look gravely and steadily upon things that we cannot

In the course of this lethal century, death has been rendered increasingly abstract—a choreographed plunge on the television screen, the punch of a red button in a bomber or a computer game, a statistic in a column of print. Read more >>

How Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture sent an eccentric Russian mystic on a sensitive mission to Asia and thereby created diplomatic havoc, personal humiliation, and embarrassment for the administration

Early in 1934 Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Read more >>

Forget your conventional picture of America in 1810. In the first half of the nineteenth century, we were not at all the placid, straitlaced, white-picket-fence nation we imagine ourselves to have been. By looing at the patterns of everyday life as recorded by contemporary foreign and native observers of the young republic and by asking the questions that historians don't think to ask of another time—what were people really like? how did they greet one another in the street? how did they occupy their leisure time? what did they eat?—Jakc Larking brings us a portrait of another Americna, an America that was so different from both our conception of its past life and its present-day reality as to seem a foreign country.

WE LOOKED DIFFERENT Read more >>

He built a career and a fortune out of shocking his fellow Americans

Whatever town he was lecturing in—Chicago or Cheyenne, New York or Denver—Robert Green Ingersoll packed the house. When the seats were full, people would stand in the aisles, on the stage, in the wings. Read more >>

Eight generations back, the author discovered a forebear hanging on the family tree

WHEN A PUBLICATION wants to illustrate the story of Salem witchcraft, it often runs the painting The Trial of George Jacobs for Witchcraft , which hangs in the Essex Institute, Salem’s historical archive. Read more >>

The Founding, Fathers never did agree about the proper relationship between church and state. No wonder the Supreme Court has been backing and filling on the principle ever since.

THE SUPREME COURT has been busy of late scrutinizing the “wall of separation,” a figure of speech attributed to Thomas Jefferson. It is not like the ugly Berlin Wall, built of concrete blocks and topped with broken glass and barbed wire. Read more >>

In early Georgia, the founders of Methodism got off to a terrible start

THE SUCCESS OF John and Charles Wesley in founding Methodism is well documented, but what is seldom mentioned is that they started their ecclesiastical careers with a period of unrelieved bungling. Read more >>

The largest Gothic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere has the strangest stained-glass windows in the world

TO A CASUAL OBSERVER , the first window on the north face of New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine looks as traditional and reverent as stainedglass windows the world over. Read more >>

Did the fifty-five statesmen meeting in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention know that a witch-hunt was taking place while they deliberated? Did they care?

In 1913 the Ouija board dictated a novel. Twenty years later it commanded a murder. It is most popular in times of national catastrophe, and it’s selling pretty briskly just now.

PARKER BROTHERS , who bought the rights to the Ouija in 1966, denies that it is more than a game. Read more >>

In the shadow of Bunker Hill, bigots perpetrated an atrocity that showed a shocked nation that the fires of the Reformation still burned in the New World

On a sweltering Monday afternoon in July, 1834, Edward Cutter of Charlestown, Massachusetts, was startled by the sudden appearance of a woman in his house. Read more >>
“I had come to visit the people in that quiet Shaker village upon the mountain terrace,” Benson John Lossing wrote in August of 1856. Read more >>

The Shakers as a Nineteenth-Century Tourist Attraction

While touring the United States in 1842, Charles Dickens visited the Shakers at New Lebanon, New York. It was not one of his happier experiences. Read more >>

Unschooled and uncompromising, she founded her own faith

Mary Baker Eddy was, against all odds, one of the most influential women of her age. Born into unpromising circumstances, she never mastered the limited education that was available to her. She lacked literary talent and any real vocation for family life. Read more >>

The Brief, Sentimental Age of the Rural Cemetery

Several years ago Thornton’s Mortuary, an Atlanta funeral home, announced a new service available to its customers. Read more >>

TRUSTING OURSELVES

We like to say that this is a skeptical age. The landscape is all littered with the sad fragments of things we no longer believe in, and we wear the resulting pessimism proudly, as a fashionable garment. We are too smart to be kidded. Read more >>
“We are a religious people.…” The United States Supreme Court likes to quote this dictum by Justice William O. Douglas, who coined the phrase to accompany a decision in 1952. Read more >>

From Poverty and Persecution to Prosperity and Power

In the month of February, 1846, when conditions for travel were as unpropitious as possible, the Mormons began moving out of their newly built city of Nauvoo, Illinois, in order to cross the ice-strewn Mississippi, on the first leg of a long and uncertain journey. Read more >>

The Sunday afternoon broadcasts of Rev. Charles E. Coughlin, once described as the "voice of God," were avidly followed by a radio audience of thirty to fifty million Americans during the Thirties.

About 1935, anno Domini, the Reverend Charles E. Coughlin, pastor of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan, was perhaps the most beloved and most hated, the most respected and most feared man in the United States. Read more >>
The Pacific Ocean is vast and lonely. Read more >>

Mrs. Piper and the Professors

“If I may be allowed the language of the professional logic shop, a universal proposition can be made untrue by a particular instance. Read more >>

THE EARNEST QUAKER JOHN WOOLMAN PREACHED AND ACTUALLY PRACTICED THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN

On October 19, 1720, was born one of the few saints and prophets this country has produced. Read more >>

Shocking, exuberant, exalted, the camp meeting answered the pioneers' demand for religion and helped shape the character of the West.