History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview
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15 Conflicts in Religious Thought and Practice

WHILE AMERICANS WERE ABLE TO COOPERATE IN A SCORE OF INTERDENOMINA- tional spiritual enterprises during the opening decades of the nineteenth century, the heterogeneity of their religious institutions and life became more apparent as the century progressed. This was true both in the eastern cities and on the western frontier. One of the forces which promoted this trend was a strong sectarian spirit, encouraged by diverse interpretations of the Bible. Another powerful force was the individualistic character of the age which nurtured an attitude of nonconformity and self-reliance and often manifested itself in liberal theologies which stood adamantly against churchly or Biblical authoritarianism. By the 1830's and 1840's a series of social and political tensions had combined with the above-mentioned religious forces to create irreconcilable differences between various factions in the churches. In some cases permanent parties with opposing emphases emerged within a denomination; in others the way led to open schism.

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