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“Perhaps the most striking fact about the organized religious life of the colonials in the eighteenth century is the large number of people who were left out of it. Whether they had lost their faith before migrating or had been torn loose from church life in the business of moving, or whether they resented the authority of the dutiful ministers or the loose ways of the less dutiful, or were lost through the inability of the churches to establish viable church-community life in the open spaces and diffused settlements of America, surprisingly large numbers in the English continental colonies enjoyed little or none of the amenities and comforts of a religious community, and many seemed not to be trying very hard to get them. America has always liked to dwell upon those who came to win religious liberty or to realize some other religious ideal. But the extraordinary number who were content to live either without organized religion or with only a weak or a token relation to it suggests the majority of white colonials may have come for very mundane reasons—not to reach the glories of the other world but to relieve the hardships of this.” – Richard Hofstadter, America at 1750: A Social Portrait

Published inThe American Constitution

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