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Gods in AmericaReligious Pluralism in the United States$
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Charles L. Cohen and Ronald L. Numbers

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199931903

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199931903.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Gods in America

Charles L. Cohen

Ronald L. Numbers

Oxford University Press

This introduction sets the historical context for examining religious pluralism in America. The “first diversity” consisted primarily of various Protestants gathered in regional denominational configurations, with a few localities essaying radical experiments allowing different degrees of religious freedom. The American Revolutionary Settlement of Religion set up a constitutional framework that affirmed the value of religious liberty, facilitating the multiplication of different churches, but this development coincided with the flourishing of a Protestant nationalism that cast the United States as a “Christian” state whose liberties depended on minimizing the presence of non-Protestant faiths. The twentieth century's dramatic rise in the proportion of Americans adhering to non-Christian faiths (or none at all) played out amid this ongoing tension between the value placed on freedom of worship, which encouraged religious diversity, and ideologically driven concerns about maintaining the nation's historic Protestant identity.

Keywords:   Religious pluralism, United States---religion---history, freedom of religion---United States, Revolutionary Settlement of Religion, Religious adherence---United States, Religious affiliation---United States, patterns of church membership, Judeo-Christian tradition

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