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October 05, 2013
I find the way that religion is treated in the Crevecoeur reading pretty interesting. One of the characteristics Crevecoeur attributes to the New-American is “religious indifference”, describing in some detail how dispersal of the population tempers the zeal of religious people. The Catholic and the Lutheran can get along because neither is surrounded by an echo chamber of like-minded believers, reinforcing their points of difference. One’s spiritual character in the new America is “only guessed at, and is nobody’s business.” Quite apart from whether or not this actually happened in practice, what I find strange here is that Crevecoeur presents this an ideal paradigm for religious belief within a nation. He doesn’t bemoan or even consider the loss of culture and, more importantly, community that one would think might result. What Crevecoeur means here, I suspect, is more along the lines of “Don’t worry guys! America’s great! There isn’t any religious persecution here!” But I feel like if I were religious, the idea that a strong set of beliefs practiced in a social space would inevitably lead to intolerance and conflict would be a very unattractive one. Crevecoeur’s ideal is that religiosity exists solely in the private thoughts of an individual – but doesn’t that seem like missing the point?