Other Essays

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A Brief History of American Fundamentalism

by Yefim Galkine


Thesis: the rise of the Religious Right is one of the greatest threats to American civil rights and civil liberties today.

Religion has always exerted great influence in America. The early colonists: the Pilgrims, the Puritans, the Quakers, the Jews, and others have come to this country to avoid religious persecution. Some of these groups, like the Puritans, however, were not tolerant to other religions. This intolerance has continued to this day. The Christian Fundamentalists of the Religious Right, much like the Puritans of the early Colonies, believe that only their idea of what's right and what's not is important. The fundamentalists, then, have launched a crusade to turn America into a Christian empire, and in doing so, went against the ideas of the Founding Fathers, written in the Constitution. This Paper will examine their reasons for doing so, and what exactly do they have in store for America.

Before this can proceed, several terms need to be clarified:

This Paper will compare the religious intolerance of the of the Puritans of the early colonies to the religious intolerance of the Religious Right in modern America. It will also compare the Enlightenment principles of government expressed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to the theocratic principles of the Religious Right. Finally, it will discuss the crusade of the Religious Right to impose their views on America.

This Paper will focus on the following time periods: the early American colonies, to describe the religious intolerance of the Puritans and compare it to the tolerance in the other colonies. It will also focus on the late 18th century, to show that the US Constitution was based on secularist Enlightenment ideals. Finally, it will focus on the second half of the 20th century and show the rise of the Religious Right.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus had made his famous voyage, and opened America to European colonization. Many Europeans have used this opportunity to settle in America. Some of them brought ideas of religious tolerance. Others fled religious persecution in England only to oppress other religious groups. This Paper will describe these early settlers, and will show how the religious differences of the early colonies have continued to exist to this day.

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1"Fundamentalism", Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1999 ed

2"Atheism", Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1999 ed.

3"New Right", Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online

4"Evangelism", Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1999 ed.

5"Lobby", Random House Webster's College Dictionary, 1999 ed.

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