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Colonial America

The organization of the Massachusetts Bay Colony revolved around the guiding principle and belief of its leaders that religious authority overrides civil authority. Men of faith like Cotton Mather refused to tolerate any beliefs or practices in civil society that conflicted with his idea of religion and its superior authority. According to Becker (1915), such a justification and validation stemmed from “the vain and pathetic effort of single-minded men to identify the temporal and spiritual commonwealth” (97). Such attitudes enabled leaders of Colonial America to rationalize and validate social controls that included the prosecution and persecution of those with different beliefs. Such attitudes also necessarily exclude others who do not adhere to the definition of the temporal or spiritual commonwealth defined by such single-minded men. Such attitudes still exist in contemporary America, as evidenced by the intolerance of religion demonstrated in the case brought against Justice Fob James of Alabama. However, the religious intolerance exhibited by leaders of Colonial America was different in tone and tenor than the religious intolerance exhibited by contemporary American leaders in the case against Justice Ray Moore. This is mainly because the former case is one based on fanaticism while the latter case is one based on constitutionality or the supremacy of civil law over religious law.

Colonial American leaders like Cotton Mather were fanatical and their brand of religious intolerance was harmful. It was primarily ethnocentric, exclusionary, and based on human interpretations of a specific religious ideology. Men like Mather believed he and the members of his community who believed as he did maintained a monopoly on virtue and goodness. Such thinking allowed for the justification of treating others uncharitably and unkindly who did not conform to the Puritan ideal of goodness. Mather and those like him felt their “...

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Colonial America. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 20:16, May 27, 2020, from