Established Religion - History

Established Religion - History

History of Religion in America

Introduction The issue of religious freedom has played a significant role in the history of the United States and the remainder of North America. Europeans came to America to escape religious oppression and forced beliefs by such state-affiliated Christian churches as the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. That civil unrest fueled the desire of America’s forefathers to establish the organization of a country in which the separation of church and state, and the freedom to practice one’s faith without fear of persecution, was guaranteed. That guarantee was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution (text) as, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. ”

The splintering of Christianity resulted in more than 900 denominations of that faith currently existing in the United States, of which the vast majority of Americans are members. The U.S. was the first western nation to be founded predominately by Protestants — not Roman Catholics. That fact alone expresses America’s willingness to experiment with the novel and a defiance of tradition. Its history includes the emergence of Utopian Experiments, religious fanaticism, and opening the door to such exotic religions as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Taoism. Such has been the winding road of religious evolution in America.

The role of religion among American Indians For untold generations before Europeans came to America, native peoples celebrated the bounty given to them by the Great Spirit. Across America, such Indian tribes as The Algonquians, The Iroquois, Sioux, and the Seminoles worshiped the Great Spirit, who could be found in animals as well as inanimate objects. Elaborate rituals and such dances as the Sundance, Round, Snake, Crow, Ghost and others were developed and led by such native leaders as Wodiziwob, Wovoka , Black Elk, Big Foot, Sitting Bull , and others. As white colonists drove Indians onto reservations, the fervency of their religious practices increased, even as Christian missionaries made inroads that influenced their spirituality.

Colonial religious splintering

Religious persecution and iron-fisted rule by state-affiliated Christianity in Europe began to loosen its hold in the 16th century when, for the sake of debate, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.

King Henry VIII founded the Church of England, owing to disagreements regarding papal authority. In later attempts to free themselves from the tie of the state governmental system imposed by the Church of England (Anglican Church), such denominations as the Reformed-Presbyterian churches and the European Free Church were formed.

Those religious parents gave birth to the next wave of Christian denominations. Reforms were brought by the Puritans to the American colonies. Such calls to “purify” the Anglican Church led to the birthing of the Baptists and Congregationalists in America. As later cries for reform and renewal took place, further splintering occurred among the Methodists, Pentecostals, Fundamentalists and Adventists, each bearing a diminished resemblance to their original parents.

Evangelical movement roots and branches

Evangelism has played an integral part in the history of religion in America, from colonial times to the present, while its methods of dissemination have changed dramatically. Spreading the “Good News” during colonial times was accomplished through books printed by the Puritans on the press brought to Boston in 1638, or carried across the Atlantic on ships loaded with colonists. During the Great Awakening of the 1740s, white Protestant evangelists proselytized to black Americans. The Methodists were most successful, owing to their belief in a “near” rather than “distant” god, self help, liberation of sin through conversion, and their lively preaching and singing methods of worship during evangelical revivals. During the 19th century, Methodists held camp meetings in the frontier states.

Evangelism turned to elaborate crusades in the 20th century when such preachers as Billy Sunday attempted to convince nonbelievers that they should "jump ship" from their ancestral Christian denominations. Tent revivals, broadcast by radio and television, were dynamic with charismatic preachers who captured the attention of millions of people.

"Televangelists" of the 1950s through the late 1980s brought a personality-based form of worship to the small screen, until scandals involving Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts, provoked widespread distrust of them. While they were relegated to cable TV networks, evangelistic websites slowly began to crop up on the Internet during the early 1990s. Because of the anonymous nature of that interactive communication tool, people felt more comfortable sharing their personal beliefs and faith over the Internet with a large audience, or with one unknown person. Media evangelists incorporated multimedia presentations with sound, the written word, movies and video technologies.

Major Protestant denominations in the colonies Although they crossed the Atlantic to be free of a state-sponsored religion, settlers' everyday lives were extensively shaped by their religious beliefs and practices. The First Amendment to the Constitution (narrative), which is called the “Establishment Clause,” states, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Also, the relationship between religion and politics was established in Article VI of the First Amendment that states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The definition of the separation of church and state found in the U.S. Constitution has caused more disagreement than any other in the nation’s history. To prevent a return to a centralized, overbearing government, the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution, without which ratification by Virginia and New York would not have occurred.

To fully understand the impact of the spread of Christian denominations in America, it is important to look at them and their origins individually. Listed below is a brief summary of those denominations, beginning with a proto-denomination, The Puritans.

Puritans The Puritans came to the New England colonies to escape religious persecution. The Puritans later gave birth to the Baptists and the Congregationalists. Led by John Winthrop, 900 Puritan colonists landed in Massachusetts Bay. Managing to endure the hardships of pioneer life and accustomed to caring for each other’s needs, they prospered, and their numbers grew from 17,800 in 1640 to 106,000 in 1700. Their attempt to “purify” the Church of England and their own lives was based on the teachings of John Calvin. Using the New Testament as their model, they believed that each congregation and each person individually was responsible to God. Their belief that their destiny was predetermined, their self-imposed isolation, and religious exclusivity, would later lead to witch hunts beginning in 1688. The expulsion of Roger Williams in 1636 and Anne Hutchinson in 1638 was caused by their neighbors' fear of "evil" in their midst. The Puritans also were responsible for the first free schooling in America and established the first American college, Harvard College, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Congregationalists Based on the Calvinist (Reformed) tradition and strictly opposed to external authorities, Congregationalists came to New England and established the Plymouth Colony in 1620. As part of the Separatist movement, Congregationalists broke from the Anglican Church and established independent congregations in which God was the absolute authority. Prone to splintering, those congregations experienced a great number of local schisms during the first Great Awakening in the 1740s. During the 1800s, membership declined as their Methodist and Baptist cousins continued to gain strength. Unitarianism developed as an offshoot of COngregationalism, initially due to disagreement over the reality of the Trinity. Over the years, their resistance to dependence and external secular and clerical authority has lessened. Many Congregationalist churches have subsequently merged with other churches from the Reformed tradition. Today their membership in the U.S. is slightly more than 120,000 members.

Methodists The tap root of Methodism was a group of Oxford University students, amongst whom were its founders, John and Charles Wesley. Begun within the Anglican Church, Methodists were not fleeing religious persecution from the Church of England when they came to the Mid-Atlantic colonies in the 1730s and ‘40s. When Francis Asbury arrived in 1771, Methodism comprised 1,160 members served by 10 preachers in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Asbury promoted circuit riding and thus increased American Methodism to 214,000 by the time of his death in 1816. Together with Philip William Otterbein, Reformed Church pastor Methodist preacher Jacob Albright, and Martin Boehm, Asbury created the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, and became one of its first bishops. One of the more liberal Christian denominations, the United Methodist Church has become the second-largest Protestant denomination in America with 8.6 million members.

Lutherans In no other American Christian denomination did national origin play such an important role in its history as the Lutheran Church. Members came from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway. The Lutherans settled on the East Coast and American Midwest, and celebrated worship services in their native tongues. From their first foothold in 1619, Lutherans began to establish a sum total of 150 synods. In the late 19th century, they began to merge as the Americanization process eliminated the language barriers that had previously kept them separate. After many previous mergers, three of the larger Lutheran bodies came together in 1988 to become the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which currently counts more than half of the Lutheran membership in the U.S. A more conservative branch is the Missouri Synod.

Presbyterians Bearing little resemblance to the liturgy, structure, and tradition associated with the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian and Reformed churches share a common origin in the teachings of John Calvin and the 16th century Swiss Reformation. By definition, the Presbyterian denomination is anchored in an active, representational leadership style for both ministers and lay members. Presbyterians mostly came from England, Scotland, and Ireland. With an elected body of elders (or presbyters) that work with the congregation’s ordained minister, their belief structure and practices are centered around the Bible and “the sovereignty of God.” Presbyterians make up one of the largest branches of Protestant Christianity today.

Quakers Founded in 1647 by English preacher George Fox, the Society of Friends emphasized a direct relationship with God. One’s conscience, not the Bible, was the ultimate authority on morals and actions. William Penn, whose writings about freedom of conscience (while imprisoned in England) formed the basis of religious understanding for Quakers around the world. Penn established what would later be called Pennsylvania, an American religious sanctuary in the late 17th century. He believed in religious toleration, fair trade with Native Americans, and equal rights for women. Quakers did not have a clergy or dedicated church buildings, and therefore held their meetings in which participants deliberated silently on issues and spoke up when “the Spirit moved them.” Dressed in plain clothes, Quakers preferred a simple life over one enjoyed by the aristocracy of England and the burgeoning merchant class in the colonies. They also shared an abhorrence of violence.

Major liturgical denominations in the colonies

The oldest Christian churches: Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, have left their unique stamp on the history of religion in America. Called "liturgical" for their adherence to an elaborate, set form of ritualistic worship practices, most of those churches observe seven sacraments throughout their members’ lives, whereas later Christian denominations usually celebrated only two. They practice an allegiance to certain creeds or doctrines that originated in the early centuries of the Christian church, and profess a succession of leadership from the founding of the Christian church at Pentecost.

Roman Catholicism Even though it was not the first to arrive in the colonies, Roman Catholicism ranks as the largest Christian tradition in the U.S. with 25.6 million members, or 23 percent of the population. Arriving with the Spanish in what is now Florida in 1513, and in the southwest and on the Pacific coast when Junípero Serra began to build missions in California, they received additional members when a group of colonists settled in Maryland in 1634. Roman Catholics had at one time held tightly to their cultural roots, but later joined the rest of American society. The American church has continued its allegiance to the pope, even though many of its members disagree with him on such issues as birth control, abortion, and women in the priesthood.

Anglicanism The Church of England (later the Episcopal Church in the U.S.) was first planted on American soil at the ill-fated Roanoke colony in Virginia, when their first services were held on August 13, 1687. Since that landing, they grew and experienced numerous schisms, especially in the 1970s when changes in their attitudes towards sexuality, women’s admission to the priesthood, and their Book of Common Prayer, aroused controversy. Their worship services are similar in some ways to those of Roman Catholicism, and their clergy orders are the same: bishops, priests, and deacons. They espouse an inclusive policy toward membership.

Eastern Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy in America consists of more than a dozen church bodies whose national origin is reflected by their names, such as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of America, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Eastern Orthodox beliefs are based on holy tradition, or doctrines from early Christianity, and the Bible. The decrees of church councils and the writings of early church fathers establish the authority of church beliefs. Their clergy consist of bishops, priests, and deacons. Their worship services are the most elaborate of all Christian traditions.

The rise and fall of utopian communities Utopian communities were established in America as places where adherents could achieve a perfect religious, political and social system. The first community was established by a group of Dutch Mennonites in 1663 near what is now Lewes, Delaware. Between 1663 and the American Revolution, approximately 20 communities were established. Some communal living arrangements were established for religious purposes, and often to withdraw from society. The great Harmonist Society, Christians who came from Germany during the late 1700s and 1800s, fled religious persecution, then flourished in Pennsylvania and Indiana. Other such utopian communities were established by the Amish and the Shakers.

Throughout its history, the U.S. has been fertile ground for such communal living arrangements, and provided an alternative to the mainstream culture, while still reflecting some of that culture’s fundamental values. By far, the most successful in U.S. history has been the Mormons, whose leader, Joseph Smith, established Mormon communities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. He produced the Book of Mormon and other religious texts, established missionary work around the world, and participated in temple construction, among other things in his brief 39 years.

During the 1960s and 70s, those seeking self-fulfillment and personal growth joined utopian communities, many with Eastern religious masters. The majority of such communities provided an alternative lifestyle that exemplified some of the best attributes that America's original forefathers sought to provide. While most are benign, some utopian-styled communities, such as Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas Charles Manson’s creation of “Helter Skelter” and the Jim Jones ill-fated settlement in Jonestown, Guyana, inflicted a disastrous impact on its members.

Ever-changing tide of 20th-century religious followings

As the fragmentation of Christian denominations accelerated, persons living in the 20th century experienced the ebb and flow of religious conservatism and liberalism. While technology raced to the moon and beyond, the following major events occurred during that fast-paced era:

Fundamentalism. The rise of fundamentalism occurred in reaction to liberal and progressive views of Americans in the mid-19th century, biblical higher criticism, and the influx of non-Protestant immigrants at the beginning of the last century. Fundamentalists became known for their desire to emphasize a strictly literal interpretation of the Bible, and time-honored cultural patterns. Distinctive roles for men and women, parents and children, clergy and laity, were defined by readings from the Bible.

Most famously known for their stand against Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection taught in public schools, the Fundamentalist movement also takes credit for birthing the Christian Right in Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, the rise of Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movements' style of worship of speaking in tongues.

Israel gains statehood After centuries of persecution, the Jewish people carved out a piece of Palestine on May 14, 1948, that became home. According to historians, President Harry S. Truman offered his country’s recognition of Israel’s statehood for the sake of those who had suffered in the Nazi concentration camps, as well as the American Jewish population. Truman’s decision went against a tide of strong opposition as represented by highly respected Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who feared retaliation from Arab countries. America’s continued support of Israel has faced much criticism and support over the years, the latter notably among American evangelical churches.

Black leaders of the Civil Rights movement Forced to take positions of influence in their local churches during America’s Reconstruction era, the Bible Belt’s black ministers emerged before the public, beginning in the 1950s after Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a public transit bus. During the next 20 years, such impassioned leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X created more change in the public and private sectors than had been seen before. Congregations from African-American Southern churches swelled and created a sustained presence on the American religious scene.

Spiritual hunger of the Sixties and Seventies Young people of the 1960s and 1970s lived during tumultuous times, witnessing the shooting of apresident, fighting the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of such civil rights leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. In their rebellion against the "establishment," those Baby Boomers and somewhat older confederates participated in the Free Speech Movement, experimentation with psychedelic drugs promulgated by former Harvard professor Timothy Leary, and explored such great world religions as Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Communes, run by eastern religious teachers, promised personal enlightenment and an escape from the complexity of modern society. Transcendental Meditation (TM) swept through America as young and old attempted to cope with society’s changing times. Beginning in 1965, the Jesus Movement swept the nation, offering inner transformation and a sense of togetherness not found in the drug culture where some 2,000 “hippies” had sought it.

New Age movement Buried in the psychic mysticism of the 1800s, the New Age movement emerged with clairvoyants and psychics giving advice on past and future lives, beginning in 1968. Having once identified with the wave of Eastern spiritual masters, New Agers began to look for answers in spirituality and the occult during the 1970s. Loosely organized in general, but also containing some highly structured groups and some authoritarian ones, the movement’s vision was one of universal transformation. The movement saw itself as part of a New Age with God as the universal bonding agent for all persons. Many different methods for a personal transformation weakened the efficacy of the movement as a whole, and by the 1980s, the movement had peaked. Hopes of imminent change in the social order faded by the 1990s. Those associated with New Age groups provided the basis for a full spiritual life with religious study and literature, learning experiences, and programs oriented towards spiritual practices and self-discipline. Scientology is the fastest-growing manifestation of the movement.

America continues to be a haven for those seeking religious freedom. Some 3,000 religious groups currently exist in the country. The residue from the New Age movement’s focus on a world view and lifestyle continue to benefit the relaxation of social divisions throughout the world in the new millennium. The fragmentation of Christian denominations has slowed, with a renewed interest in cooperation and ecumenism among many of those denominations. No longer considered a melting pot, the largely Protestant population is being exposed to the world’s “great religions” and multiple ethnic groups with Buddhist neighborhoods, Indian business owners, and Muslim colleagues. A growing antipathy toward the latter among some Americans stems from the infamous attack by terrorists on U.S. targets on September 11, 2001.

History of Roman Catholicism

At least in an inchoate form, all the elements of catholicity—doctrine, authority, universality—are evident in the New Testament. The Acts of the Apostles begins with a depiction of the demoralized band of the disciples of Jesus in Jerusalem, but by the end of its account of the first decades, the Christian community has developed some nascent criteria for determining the difference between authentic (“apostolic”) and inauthentic teaching and behaviour. It has also moved beyond the geographic borders of Judaism, as the dramatic sentence of the closing chapter announces: “And thus we came to Rome” (Acts 28:14). The later epistles of the New Testament admonish their readers to “guard what has been entrusted to you” (1 Timothy 6:20) and to “contend for the faith that was once for all handed down to the holy ones” (Jude 3), and they speak about the Christian community itself in exalted and even cosmic terms as the church, “which is [Christ’s] body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (Ephesians 1:23). It is clear even from the New Testament that these catholic features were proclaimed in response to internal challenges as well as external ones indeed, scholars have concluded that the early church was far more pluralistic from the very beginning than the somewhat idealized portrayal in the New Testament might suggest.

As such challenges continued in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, further development of catholic teaching became necessary. The schema of apostolic authority formulated by the bishop of Lyon, St. Irenaeus (c. 130–c. 200), sets forth systematically the three main sources of authority for catholic Christianity: the Scriptures of the New Testament (alongside the Hebrew Scriptures, or “Old Testament,” which Christians interpret as prophesying the coming of Jesus) the episcopal centres established by the Apostles as the seats of their identifiable successors in the governance of the church (traditionally at Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Rome) and the apostolic tradition of normative doctrine as the “rule of faith” and the standard of Christian conduct. Each of the three sources depended on the other two for validation thus, one could determine which purportedly scriptural writings were genuinely apostolic by appealing to their conformity with acknowledged apostolic tradition and to the usage of the apostolic churches, and so on. This was not a circular argument but an appeal to a single catholic authority of apostolicity, in which the three elements were inseparable. Inevitably, however, there arose conflicts—of doctrine and jurisdiction, of worship and pastoral practice, and of social and political strategy—among the three sources, as well as between equally “apostolic” bishops. When bilateral means of resolving such conflicts proved insufficient, there could be recourse to either the precedent of convoking an apostolic council (Acts 15) or to what Irenaeus had already called “the preeminent authority of this church [of Rome], with which, as a matter of necessity, every church should agree.” Catholicism was on the way to becoming Roman Catholic.

The Early Christian Church

After the ascension of Jesus Christ, as the apostles began to spread the gospel and make disciples, they provided the beginning structure for the early Christian Church. It is difficult, if not impossible, to separate the initial stages of the Roman Catholic Church from that of the early Christian church.

Simon Peter, one of Jesus' 12 disciples, became an influential leader in the Jewish Christian movement. Later James, most likely Jesus' brother, took over leadership. These followers of Christ viewed themselves as a reform movement within Judaism, yet they continued to follow many of the Jewish laws.

At this time Saul, originally one of the strongest persecutors of the early Jewish Christians, had a blinding vision of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus and became a Christian. Adopting the name Paul, he became the greatest evangelist of the early Christian church. Paul's ministry, also called Pauline Christianity, was directed mainly to Gentiles. In subtle ways, the early church was already becoming divided.

Another belief system at this time was Gnostic Christianity, which taught that Jesus was a spirit being, sent by God to impart knowledge to humans so that they could escape the miseries of life on earth.

In addition to Gnostic, Jewish, and Pauline Christianity, many other versions of Christianity were starting to be taught. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Jewish Christian movement was scattered. Pauline and Gnostic Christianity were left as the dominant groups.

The Roman Empire legally recognized Pauline Christianity as a valid religion in 313 AD. Later in that century, in 380 AD, Roman Catholicism became the official religion of the Roman Empire. During the following 1000 years, Catholics were the only people recognized as Christians.

In 1054 AD, a formal split occurred between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. This division remains in effect today.

The next major division occurred in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation.

Those who remained faithful to Roman Catholicism believed that the central regulation of doctrine by church leaders was necessary to prevent confusion and division within the church and corruption of its beliefs.

Jainism, traditionally known as Jain Dharma, is an ancient Indian religion. Followers of Jainism religion are called “Jains”, a word derived from the Prakrit word Jina, meaning “victor”.

founded in India in the 6th century BC by the Jina Vardhamana Mahavira as a reaction against the teachings of orthodox Brahmanism, and still practiced there. The Jain religion teaches salvation by perfection through successive lives, and noninjury to living creatures, and is noted for its ascetics.

Jainism religion history:

In spite of its obscure origin, Jainism is the oldest religion in the world, or truly it is not a religion but more like a way of life.
It is founded in ancient India. Jains trace their history through twenty-four Tirthankara and revere Rishabhanatha as the first Tirthankara (in the present time-cycle).

Jainism is somewhat similar to Buddhism, of which it was an important rival in India. It was founded by Vardhamana Jnatiputra or Nataputta Mahavira (599-527 BC), in the Ganges basin of eastern India, called Jina (Spiritual Conqueror), a contemporary of Buddha.

Jainism religion beliefs:

Jainism is a religion of self-help. There are no gods or spiritual beings that will help human beings. The three guiding principles of Jainism, the ‘three jewels’, are the right belief, right knowledge, and right conduct. The supreme principle of Jain living is non-violence (ahimsa).

Both Arihants and Siddhas are considered Gods of Jain religion. Arihats are perfect human beings and preach the Jain religion to the people during their remaining life. After death they become Siddhas. All Siddhas have perfected souls, living forever in a blissful state in Moksha.

Jainism practices:

Two practices that help Jains purify themselves of karma are ahimsa, a path of strict non-violence, and asceticism, self-denial, and discipline. The non-violence of ahimsa dictates everything in Jain’s interaction with the world, including a very strict vegan diet.

The Jain cuisine is completely vegetarian and also excludes underground vegetables such as potato, garlic, onion, etc, to prevent injuring small insects and microorganisms and also to prevent the entire plant getting uprooted and killed. It is practiced by Jain ascetics and lay Jains.

Jainism religion facts:

Interesting Jainism Facts: In Jainism, all life has a soul, from bacteria to plants, to animals, and to humans. Because they all have souls they all have the ability to reach nirvana. Jains do not worship a god or saint, and instead, work to attain nirvana as they believe other liberated souls have attained.

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Jehovah's Witnesses grew out of the 19th-century American Adventist tradition.

  • Note: this article uses the term "Witnesses" for clarity throughout, even though the term was not widely used before 1931.

1880s: organised by Charles Taze Russell

It was organised by Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), who came from a Presbyterian family in Pittsburgh. He was fascinated by religion from his school days, and discovered Adventist beliefs when he was 17.

In 1875 Russell was introduced to the idea that Christ had returned invisibly to earth in 1874, and soon decided to devote his life to faith. He started Bible study groups and a religious publishing company.

Pastor Russell, as he was often called, launched the magazine Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence in 1879.

The group continued to preach, convert and publish its magazine and as the membership rose it expanded into neighbouring states.

By 1880 there were scores of congregations around the United States and the following year the Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society was formed.

In 1884 it was incorporated, with Russell as president, and the name was eventually changed to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

Followers of the movement called themselves Bible Students at that time.

1890: first hymn book

In 1890 the Witnesses published Poems and Hymns of the Millennial Dawn which included over 300 hymns and a number of poems.

1900s: growth

By 1909 the work had become international, and the society's headquarters were moved to its present location in Brooklyn, New York.

Printed sermons were syndicated in newspapers, and by 1913 these were being printed in four languages in 3,000 newspapers in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Russell predicted that the anointed would be called to heaven by 1914, although he later amended this date.

Joseph F Rutherford ©

1916: J F Rutherford takes over

After Russell's death in 1916 the movement was led by Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942).

Rutherford made big changes in the organisation's staff and certain changes to its doctrines. This led some followers to split from the movement and form their own groups.

1916: Witnesses persecuted for wartime pacifism

During the First World War, Witnesses in Britain, Canada and the USA suffered from government action against people who refused conscription into the military forces.

Rutherford and seven of his colleagues were sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to promote draft evasion during a time of war.

The convictions were overturned a year later, but the experience hardened Rutherford's heart against public institutions and he referred to politics, commerce, and religion as "the three chief instruments of the Devil".

Rutherford thought deeply about a key passage in Romans 13, and concluded that the proper interpretation of the passage no longer required Witnesses to cooperate with secular law unless those laws were in accordance with God's laws.

The relationship between the Witnesses and the civil authorities deteriorated further as a result.

1920s: organisational changes

Rutherford introduced what he called "Theocratic Government" to the organisation.

This downgraded democratic elections as a way of choosing local elders, and brought in a highly centralised structure, obedience to which was considered obedience to God.

Rutherford focussed the movement on missionary work, and soon every member who wanted to keep their status had to take part in visiting non-members to try and convert them.

1931: a new name

In 1931, to reflect its greater emphasis on the public witness of missionary work, the movement adopted the title "Jehovah's Witnesses".

1930s and 40s Germany: Persecution by the Nazis

Witnesses had been unpopular in Germany in World War I and this continued.

The Nazis were very hostile to the Witnesses, and punished them under conscription and other laws.

The Witnesses, who had initially tried to reach an accommodation with the German Government to keep the freedom to do their missionary work, were intransigent. They refused to give the Nazi salute, and refused to salute the swastika (regarding that as idolatry).

By the second half of World War II over 50% of German Witnesses had been sent to concentration camps. Overall, one in four German Witnesses died during the Nazi period.

1940s US and UK: Resistance to conscription

The Witnesses resisted conscription into the Allied forces in World War II. In America they refused at that time to accept any alternatives on the grounds that enforced civilian work was also conscription.

Witnesses suffered badly for taking this stand. Some were beaten up, others tarred and feathered, while yet others lost their jobs. Many went to jail: Witnesses made up 75% of those imprisoned as conscientious objectors in the USA.

Nathan Knorr ©

1942: Nathan Knorr takes over

Rutherford was followed as President of the Watch Tower Society by Nathan Homer Knorr (1905-1977).

Knorr was an organisation man, a natural backroom boy who worked hard to make the movement a more efficient missionary machine. The movement grew greatly in numbers during his leadership.

Knorr strengthened the educational work of the Witnesses by setting up the Theocratic Ministry School in each congregation and introducing a range of textbooks and educational products to help members carry out doorstep ministry more effectively.

Knorr advanced the movement's work outside the USA by opening the Watch Tower Bible School of Gilead, a training college for missionaries planning to work overseas.

1961: Bible translation

In 1961 the Witnesses published the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, their preferred edition of the Bible. A translation of the New Testament had appeared in 1950.

1962: Compromise with secular authority

In 1962 the Witnesses revised their attitude to secular authority and re-adopted an earlier interpretation of Romans 13 that allowed them to obey all civil laws that did not directly clash with God's laws. This had limited practical effect in comparison with the previous understanding, as most secular laws were already viewed as in accordance with God's laws.

1971: Governing Body takes on a more administrative role

In 1971, the Governing Body began meeting weekly to enable it to more effectively supervise the work of Jehovah's Witnesses. An annual rotation of the chairmanship of the Governing Body began. Previously, the president of the legal corporation served as the regular chairman.

1975: the world doesn't end

In 1966 the Witnesses advanced the date of 1975 as marked in Bible chronology and many extrapolated this as meaning that the end of the current system of things (or some other event that would change the course of history) would probably come in 1975.

When it didn't, the movement suffered a setback and membership declined for three years, but growth was soon resumed.

Shortly after this the religious views of those at the top levels of the movement were investigated, and a few senior members left.

Frederick W Franz ©

1977: Frederick W Franz

Knorr was succeeded as president of the Watch Tower Society by Frederick William Franz (1893-1992), who was a considerable Bible scholar, as well as an organisation man. Franz is thought by many to be one of the scholars behind the Witnesses' edition of the Bible, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, though the identity of the translators has remained anonymous.

1992: Milton Henschel

Milton George Henschel (1920-2003) became president of the Society in 1992, having been a worker for the movement since 1934 and a member of the Governing Body since 1971. He died on March 22 2003, aged 82.

2000: reorganisation of legal corporations

In October 2000 the movement restructured its legal corporations. The Governing Body was completely separated from the Watch Tower Society corporate presidency and board of directors.

Instead of being run by a single corporation, whose directors were members of the Governing Body and whose President was controller of the movement, the Witnesses separated religious and administrative functions. The Governing Body now concentrates on spiritual matters, and several not-for-profit corporations divide the various administrative tasks (and legal responsibilities) between them. The management and workers of these corporations are all volunteers and are all Jehovah's Witnesses.

Milton Henschel stood down as President of the Watch Tower Society but remained on the Governing Body until his death in March 2003. Since 1971, the Governing Body has not had a permanent head, but has a rotating chairman.

2004: Persecution in Russia

For some time Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia had found their freedom restricted. This was exacerbated in June 2004 when a Moscow court banned the activity of Jehovah's Witnesses in the city. This ban led to increased harassment of Witnesses in other parts of Russia as well. The decision of the Moscow court has been appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

Liberal Intolerance As An Established Religion


The concept of a leftism as a religion, on the right side of history, and historically inevitable and is a scientific way of thinking explains a lot.

Oh, and Marxism / socialism is described by its admirers the same way.

The demand for belief is explained by this concept, as seen here:
Why Do the Election’s Defenders Require My Agreement?

The purpose of voting today is to give a democratic veneer to an undemocratic regime—not to give the people a say in the direction of their government.
By Michael Anton

What would happen if there were to be broadcast via MSM a head of Biden superimposed on the powerful graphic that went viral shortly after Trump's inauguration of Kathy Griffin serving up Trump's head with all the drippings minus the platter?

Recently, Smith College, the elite women's college (as founded) in Northampton, Massachusetts, made headlines when a staff member resigned because of blatantly racist "anti-racist" programs the college has institutionalized and embedded within every academic program that made her job unbearable.

The transcript of the letter Jodi Shaw, Student Life Coordinator at Smith College, sent President Kathleen McCartney, a Catholic, can be found here:

In her Last Will and Testament, Sophia Smith, founder of Smith College, specifies under Article 3:

"Sensible of what the Christian Religion has done for my sex, and believing that all education should be for the glory of God, and the good of man, I direct that the Holy Scriptures be daily and systematically read and studied in said College, and without giving preference to any sect or denomination, all the education and all the discipline shall be pervaded by the Spirit of Evangelical Christian Religion. I direct, also, that higher culture in the English Language and Literature be given in said College also, in Ancient and Modern Languages, in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences, in the Useful and the Fine Arts, in Intellectual, Moral and Aesthetic Philosophy, in Natural Theology, in the Evidences of Christianity, in Gymnastics and Physical Culture, in the Sciences and Arts, which pertain to Education, Society, and Government, and in such other studies as coming times may develop or demand for the education of women and the progress of the race. I would have the education suited to the mental and physical wants of woman. It is not my design to render my sex any the less feminine, but to develop as fully as may be the powers of womanhood, and furnish women with the means of usefulness, happiness and honor, now withheld from them."

The real reason for what compels the likes of Joy Behar and her ilk to "consign" anyone who speaks the truth to the outer darkness is best explained by Archbishop Vigano who says it is "the innocence that overwhelms wickedness."

Marymount University, the first Catholic college to be established in Virginia, was founded in 1950. Through the years, it has grown from a two-year college for women into a comprehensive, coeducational Catholic university serving approximately 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

While much has changed since the early years as a result of greatly expanded programs and services, the university&rsquos core values and mission have held steady.

If all societies have religion, it must have a social purpose – Frans de Waal

There are two major perspectives on why this might be. One is called functionalism or adaptationism: the idea that religion brings positive evolutionary benefits, which are most often framed in terms of its contribution to group living. As de Waal puts it: “If all societies have [religion], it must have a social purpose.”

Others take the view that religion is a spandrel, or by-product of evolutionary processes. The word spandrel refers to an architectural shape that emerges as a by-product between arches and ceiling. Religion, on this interpretation, is akin to a vestigial organ. Perhaps it was adaptive in the environments it originally evolved in, but in this environment it’s maladaptive. Or perhaps religious beliefs are the result of psychological mechanisms that evolved to solve ecological problems unrelated to religion. Either way, evolution didn’t “aim” at religion religion just emerged as evolution “aimed” at other things.

While folks on both sides of this debate have their reasons, it seems unhelpful to frame the evolution of religion in such either/or terms. Something that was merely a by-product of a blind evolutionary process could well be taken up by human beings to perform a specific function or solve a specific problem. (Read about what the future of religion could be like.)

Muslim worshippers perform the evening (Isha) prayers at the Kaaba. Emotions such as awe, loyalty, and love are central to many religious celebrations (Credit: Getty)

This can be true for many behaviours – including music – but religion presents a particular puzzle, since it often involves extremely costly behaviours, such as altruism and, at times, even self-sacrifice.

For this reason, some theorists such as Dunbar argue that we should also look beyond the individual to the survival of the group.

This is known as multilevel selection, which “recognises that fitness benefits can sometimes accrue to individuals through group-level effects, rather than always being the direct product of the individual’s own actions”, as Dunbar defines it.

An example is cooperative hunting, which enables groups to catch bigger prey than any members could catch as individuals. Bigger prey means more for me, even if I have to share the meat (since the animal being shared is already larger than anything I could catch alone). Such group-level processes “require the individual to be sensitive to the needs of other members of the group”, says Dunbar.

There is no history of the religion of an individual creature. Our story is about us.

Feeling first

If we are to understand religion, then, we first need to look back into your deep history to understand how human ancestors evolved to live in groups in the first place.

We are, after all, descended from a long line of ancestral hominoids with “weak social ties and no permanent group structures”, says Jonathan Turner, author of The Emergence and Evolution of Religion. That leads Turner to what he considers the million-dollar question: “How did Darwinian selection work on the neuroanatomy of hominins to make them more social so they could generate cohesive social bonds to form primary groups?” he asked me on the phone. “That’s not a natural thing for apes.”

Our ape line evolved from our last common ancestor around 19 million years ago. Orangutans broke away about 13-16 million years ago, while the gorilla line branched away about 8-9 million years ago. The hominin line then branched into two about 5-7 million years ago, with one line leading to the chimpanzees and bonobos, and the other leading to us. We modern humans share 99% of our genes with living chimpanzees – which means we’re the two most closely related apes in the whole line.

Other Religions in Spain

Only about 2.3% of people in Spain identify with a religion other than Catholicism or irreligion. Of all other religions in Spain, Islam is the largest. Though the Iberian Peninsula was once almost entirely Muslim, the majority of Muslims in Spain are now immigrants or children of immigrants who arrived in the country during the 1990s.

Similarly, Buddhism arrived in Spain with a wave of immigration during the 1980s and 1990s. Very few Spaniards identify as Buddhist, but many of the teachings of Buddhism, including the doctrines of karma and reincarnation, are perpetuated in the sphere of popular or New Age religion, blended with elements of Christianity and agnosticism.

Other Christian groups, including Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelicals, and Latter Day Saints, are present in Spain, but their numbers are increasingly low. Like Italy, Spain is known as a graveyard for Protestant missionaries. Only the more urban communities have Protestant churches.

Watch the video: History of Religions