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Last Sunday featured a look at the Millerites, a group that grew rapidly through the 1830s based around predictions that the Second Coming would occur in 1843 or 1844. The most definitive prediction was that judgment would fall on 22 October 1844, a day on which many Millerites donned robes and gathered to wait for the end. Then came 23 October...

For a moment, they stood at the edge of eternity, hands outstretched to God and eyes fixed on heaven. Then the day was over.

Many Millerites were left aching with disappointment and unsure how they could return to the humdrum day to day concerns. Some were so downhearted that they took to bed for days. Creditors were unimpressed by farmers who had failed to bring in a crop, and those who had given up a lifetime's possessions found that the bitterness of the day was compounded by a realization of lasting poverty. Their return to the workaday world wasn't helped by widespread mocking of those who had been part of the movement. Millerites were chased through the streets, asked to produce their robes, made the subject of cartoons and jokes, and pelted with both insults and stones. In several towns, Millerites were brutalized and their worship places burned to the ground.

In the wake of what was soon known as the "Great Disappointment," many Millerites left the movement for good. Only a fraction held on and tried to make some sense of events. Some of these die-hards soon became convinced that Christ had returned – but in some way that could not be easily defined. Others searched the Bible for fresh interpretations and produced dates in 1848 or 1873. One group would become convinced that the event predicted for 22 October 1844 was actually a heavenly event, a cleansing of God's own temple. This group would go on to become the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which boasts 16 million members today. An offshoot of another group would produce the Jehovah's Witness, which has upwards of 7 million members. The Millerite movement would also be the source for a group called Shepherd's Rod, which would eventually change their name to the Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association. Out of this group would emerge a small splinter faction called the Branch Davidians.

The wonder isn't that some Millerites held on to their faith in spite of the Great Disappointment. The real question is: what made them take up Miller's idea in the first place? Why should Americans from diverse backgrounds suddenly reshape their lives around a biblical interpretation that seems anything but clear cut? Why would thousands gather in churches, in homes, on rooftops and hillsides in response to a speculation made by a farmer?

To see what happened, it's helpful to look at some ideas that originated half a century later and half a world away.  In 1897, an Indian-born British doctor named Ronald Ross fell ill from malaria.  At the time, the spread of malaria was something of a mystery. Others had suggested that mosquitoes might be distributing the disease, but tests of captured bugs had failed to find malarial parasites. Ross was able to determine that malaria was carried only by a specific species of mosquito. He proved that when these Anopheles mosquitoes fed first from an infected person, and then from a person who was not infected, they could pass along the disease.

Ross's work would eventually earn him a Nobel Prize. It would also become part of epidemiological research that allowed for mathematical modeling of disease vectors. There are many different models in use today, tailored to fit different situations, but basically it comes down to this – if an infectious agent has access to enough susceptible people that people are added to the infection pool faster than they are leaving, there is a chance that the number of people with the disease can grow. The more infectious the disease and the more access to susceptible people, the greater the chance of an epidemic.

The number of new infections kicked off by each infected case is called the basic reproduction number. When this number is less than 1, the infection will die out on its own. When this number is greater than 1, the infection will spread. As it turns out, ideas can act much like germs. An idea, no matter how good or bad, will not spread without access to people who are ready to accept it. For Miller's idea to spread into a national movement, it needed two things: susceptible people and a means of transmission. Luckily, or unluckily, both of these things were present in abundance. The basic reproductive number for Miller's end time predictions was well above 1.

The Revolutionary War had taken place in the Age of Enlightenment. This period wasn't marked by the dominance of any one particular philosopher or philosophy. Instead, it represented a growing willingness to look past the limits that had long been in place around traditional institutions. In particular, people turned to reason and science as a means of solving questions that only a few decades before would have fallen solidly inside the realm of religion. This movement had its beginnings in publications in the later half of the 17th century and by the time John Hancock was placing his over-sized signature, the worlds of mathematics, natural history, and philosophy were hugely transformed. In fact, natural history and the interpretation of the world through the lens of scientific rationality was a product of this age.

The effect on religion was extreme. Clerics lost their fixed place at the center of academic and social life, the Bible was no longer looked on as the only source of wisdom, and increasingly supernatural explanations of events were dismissed. Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, only one was employed as a minister (no matter what Mike Huckabee might say) though two others had at one time or the other acted as either chaplains or church leaders. Many enlightenment thinkers became deists or (especially in America) Unitarians. Some believed that God existed, had started the universe in motion, and had gifted man with reason. But they also believed that God took no interest in day to day affairs and that our gift of reason and self-determination meant that we were responsible for our own actions. Many Unitarians, such as Jefferson and Adams, did not necessarily believe in this distant "unmoved mover" God, but were unclear about how the creator acted in the world. Adams believed that God's influence was still present. Jefferson scoffed at miracles, believed that Christianity had been "usurped" by Paul, and famously created his own abbreviated version of the New Testament. Like many others of their day, their beliefs were unique. Personal. New.

For many involved in the bracing period of the Enlightenment, all this was heady, satisfying, and exciting. However, a large number of people also found it frustrating, difficult, and frightening. The structure of society and familiar answers were being overturned all around them and no tradition seemed safe. Especially in America, where the young country lacked for the fixed institutions and social hierarchy found elsewhere, many people felt adrift. Old boundaries had been peeled away, yes, but so had old foundations. For many, the god of the Enlightenment felt cold, analytical, and wholly unsatisfying. There was an outcry for what was called a "more primitive" view of religion.

By the time the 18th century ended, this desire for a more involving version of religion was propelling America into the Second Great Awakening. This was the period in which many of the religious denominations we know today either got their start (such as Mormons) or were transformed nearly beyond recognition (as happened with Shakers, Baptists, and Presbyterians). Religion became more personal, more focused on faith, and more mystical. As with later Christian fundamentalism, there was a great deal of discussion about returning to a form of religion that had been practiced in the past, but the actual theology introduced was at least as radically new as anything put forward by the deists. What we now view as evangelical Christianity was crafted in this period as ideas such as "baptism in the holy spirit" were introduced and the first "revival meetings" took place.

This period also marked a rebound for the influence of religion in the nation's political life. While the founders had operated out of an Enlightenment mindset that de-emphasized the role of religion in building institutions, Awakening politics promoted more emphasis on bringing religious considerations to the problems the nation faced. This may sound like a complete setback when you consider the political positions of today's "conservative Christians." However the questions that the pragmatic thinkers of the Enlightenment period had been willing to set aside in favor of political unity included slavery and the oppression of women.  Movements for both abolition and women's rights were directly connected to the new religious expression of the Great Awakening.

One aspect of the Second Great Awakening that did point back to the Puritan past was a focus on reading and interpreting the Bible by individuals. This led to rapidly changing and dynamic public debates over theology. Many of the ideas that shape churches today were formed in this period, but far more groups and ideas formed than survived. There was also a widespread emphasis on decoding "clues" in the Bible about upcoming events. This search for hidden meanings became a popular pastime, not just among Baptist farmers, but across a large swath of the public – sort of like a "Bible Sodoku" fad.

So when Miller introduced his ideas in 1832, he did it into an America that was religiously revved up. There was openness –eagerness – for new ideas in religion. The number of people susceptible to his ideas was high.

But if Miller's idea was contagious, it took another vector to act as the mosquito. The early 19th century press was a very different animal than the one we see today. In a lot of ways, the newspapers Miller and his followers were familiar with had more in common with the "underground press" of the 1960s than the New York Times. Few of these papers had anything we would recognize as a "reporter" (in fact even looking at the more professional papers of the day, you'll find that a great number of stories start with "we have been told" or "it has been reported to us," indicating that the stories were based on second hand knowledge rather than paid journalists), and many were at least as "partisan" in their discussions as any web site today. A single town might have a Baptist paper, a Millerite paper, and even an atheist paper – sometimes sharing the same press.

These newspapers were quick to set up, cheap to operate, and often unconcerned with making a profit. Most operated on donations. In addition individuals would often print "tracts," as Miller did, to distribute their ideas. Letters published in both papers and tracts became part of an ongoing public discussion. Just because they didn't have the Internet doesn't mean there was no means of rapid and widespread dissemination. Within weeks of his first publication, Miller was being flooded with letters asking for more details. Combined with the early revival meetings that brought people together from wide areas, the papers and tracts allowed Miller's idea to "infect" many thousands, and these individuals quickly spread the idea to more. In just over a decade, the Millerites became an influential denomination. While the movement itself would never again hold the prominence it obtained before the disappointment, their advent-focused theology and social focus would help to reshape the beliefs of most Americans over the next century.

However the embarrassing failure of the Millerite prophesy helped mark the end of the Second Great Awakening. Not only did the Millerites themselves become objects of ridicule, but the Great Disappointment seemed to be a signal to many that things had gone too far; that they had been too eager, too credulous.

As the Millerites packed away their soiled robes, the nation packed away the fervor of the Awakening. When Americans next looked for the end of the world, it would be with a different emphasis, one that also drew on biblical roots, but with a flavor that had been touched by the fire of war.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:00 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Enthusiasm / Acceptance / Rejection (66+ / 0-)

    I gave a talk on my evolution book yesterday morning at a Baptist mens' prayer breakfast. It went a lot better than you might think, with no hostility, lots of good questions, and a 94 year-old former pastor who told me that he had changed his mind about a lot of things in retirement and was very open to the discussion.

    The discussion eventually turned to something akin to the article above -- how whenever there is an unsettling change there are some people who will embrace it enthusiastically, a large number of people who will live with the consequences but have no emotional response, and another small number who will react sharply against the change.

    A lot of folks there mentioned how distressed they were by what was going on in venues like the Texas board of education, and how sorry they were that this small group of malcontents was driving the national conversation.

    •  It's always interesting to see how new ideas (8+ / 0-)

      can become discernable when there's no longer an incentive to resist considering them.

      "Fight the Stupids" - Maple Street Book Shops, New Orleans

      by Superskepticalman on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:31:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks! As a non-believer I am fascinated (4+ / 0-)

      by religion and the origin of beliefs. A point of confusion for me is the focus on "rules" vs an internalized philosophy of religious precepts, Love thy neighbor vs. the ten commandments.

      Thanks for the diary, guess I'm going to get the book.

      Keep cutting the budget until test scores improve. Schwarzenegger's philosophy

      by hideinplainsight on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:37:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  no real surprise (11+ / 0-)

      Many Baptists, away from their dogma, are actually thinking people. The Baptist Church was one of the churches involved in the civil rights movement (giving rise to the SB backlash)

      Speaking of Baptists and evolution, the TX School Board may have shot itself in the foot with their new standards:

    •  Actually when you think about it (5+ / 0-)

      the percentage of "true believers" in the fundamentalist tradition is probably a very small percentage overall -- when I was in my husband-hunting era in the late 1980s I met a significant number of people at the mega-churches I attended who were mainly there for social reasons (taking their kids to Sunday school, participating in activities) rather than actually buying into much of the doctrine. (I guess going to church helped -- I ended up marrying the guy who drove the public transit bus I took to church on Sundays, but that's another part of a longer story.)

      The problem is it's the "true believers" that have the biggest mouths. They've totally bought into the movement and are willing to drag everyone along kicking and screaming if necessary -- it's like an ex-smoker who quits and becomes militantly anti-tobacco, or someone who's lost a lot of weight on some miracle diet and tells everyone they meet how wonderful the program is and how they should try it...even if that person doesn't really need to lose weight.

      Maybe I've just been too much in the "mainline" Christianity mode, but I've never really gotten the point of "conversion" -- I know what works for me doesn't necessarily work for others. But if someone is living their faith, not just talking about it, that's going to attract me a lot more than all sorts of legalistic crap like the Religious Reich sticks in.

      Don't let the facts hit your narrative in the butt on the way out -- Rachel Maddow

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:15:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This series "The Midnight Cry" (7+ / 0-)

      is perhaps the most interesting and well-written piece I've ever read here on DKos -- and I've been here a very long time.

      Fascinating, thought-provoking, truly enlightening. Many, many thanks.

      "It's the Supreme Court, Stupid!"

      by Kestrel on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 09:14:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Plasmodium and teabags -- (10+ / 0-)
    Anything in common?

    The host is well-prepared, the blood and organs are loaded with nutrients, and we got lots of vectors in play. Has anyone called out a date for when the Rapture is due? Or have the PR types gotten more sophisticated since then?

    Maybe the Enlightenment's failure was in elevating the notion that Reason had a prayer of trumping the turnings of the limbic system...

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:19:45 AM PDT

    •  The biggest problem with the Enlightenment (12+ / 0-)

      was that few people had sufficient economic resources to get the education that was necessary to appreciate it.

      In this country, in the 18th century, a large part of the population was illiterate, and of those who could read, most never read anything but the Bible, newspapers, and signs.

      I have flow [sic] thru Detriot in recent months and the number of TSA women in hijab is alarming... the foxes are overseeing the chicken coop -- A RW blogger.

      by Kimball Cross on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:34:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  giving rise to the new system of (5+ / 0-)

        universal education which really is a system that by and large cheats those who lack the economic resources to go to the better schools or to pursue academic goals. In the old days, going to work at age 5 was seen as the way to keep the lower classes occupied while schools in some ways have replaced that system of child labor.

        It is still a shell game with Rushbo now advising parents whose summer furloughed children will no longer have school breakfasts and lunches to take them dumpster diving for their meals. In any civilized country such an opinion so openly expressed would evoke an immediate outcry

    •  I thought the repature was supposed to (0+ / 0-)

      coincide with the end of times: Dec. 21, 2012.  

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

      by marleycat on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:26:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow (15+ / 0-)

    Nothing new under the sun, is there?

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:21:32 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating - and Scary (23+ / 0-)

    The Millerites sound like a kind of memetic feedback loop in operation. It appears to have been semi-random in its start. Enough people disoriented by a world in flux and looking for answers they could believe came together around this belief system, like dropping a seed crystal into a saturated solution.

    So what happens today when the 'truths' we've been raised on seem to produce disaster after disaster, and people are again looking for something to believe in? We live in a world where behavioral sciences wed to marketing in a marriage from hell combine with a corrupt media to allow people with enough money and evil intent to create movements like the Millerites for their own ends.

    We do not need some divine intervention to end the world as we know it. All it takes is greed, ambition, a lust for power, and a lot of money. In this light, the concentration of wealth over the last few decades seems even more ominous.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:22:02 AM PDT

    •  Yeah, but . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hideinplainsight, Amber6541

      We live in a world where behavioral sciences wed to marketing in a marriage from hell combine with a corrupt media to allow people with enough money and evil intent to create movements like the Millerites for their own ends.

      Very true.  But just as with developing immunity to a disease, we (as a group) are developing resistance to these kinds of 'infections'.  Such has been true through the whole time of mass-advertising.

      Read or *listen to* my SF novel for free. (-7.13/-7.33)

      by Shadan7 on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:33:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There have been apocalyptic groups (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      around since the early Church -- there were folks who looked at the Caesars and thought they were so horrible that obviously that was a sign that Christ was coming back soon. The line quoted often by ultra-cons when justifying ending welfare ("He who will not work should not eat") from James actually was addressed to those who had quit their jobs because they expected Jesus' return, but still expected the early Church to take care of them and their families.

      And as for your last paragraph, there are liberal Biblical scholars who see the end of the world as merely the free will of humanity running amok in the wrong direction, that of greed rather than altruism.

      Don't let the facts hit your narrative in the butt on the way out -- Rachel Maddow

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:22:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bubble thinking, not just confined to commodities (6+ / 0-)

    ideas as well.

    "Fight the Stupids" - Maple Street Book Shops, New Orleans

    by Superskepticalman on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:29:53 AM PDT

  •  "atheist paper" (7+ / 0-)

    Wow.  Imagine having a large one today in a small town?

    Hard to imagine they were that common.

    "The only person sure of himself is the man who wishes to leave things as they are, and he dreams of an impossibility" -George M. Wrong.

    by statsone on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:30:20 AM PDT

    •  It's hard to know if it was even real in a sense (7+ / 0-)

      I haven't been able to find a single issue of the paper in question. I have only Snow's biography to go on (well, that and references in other papers that called it an "infidel" paper).

      It actually seems to have been something like a local version of the Skeptical Inquirer, dedicated to looking into claims, trying to limit religious pull in public life, etc.

      •  We can not always used today's (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        terminology to define or explain yesterdays event. When did it come into vogue to define atheist as we understand it today? I know at some point it did not mean the absence in a belief in the existence of God as much as a deviation from an accepted norm or what today would be called a heretic by certain sects.

        Healthcare is a human right, not a commodity.

        by nomorerepukes on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:00:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  which is something along the lines of a recent (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Naniboujou, 207wickedgood, freesia

          discussion with a D James Kennedy partisan who is convinced that atheism began with the Enlightenment (and Woodrow Wilson introduced Communism into the US government). It is his impression that an atheist denies the existence of the Christian deity and the lack of belief in other deities is not relevant. So therefore, the ancients who questioned the pagan cosmology were not atheists but were merely correct since everyone knows those pantheons were not real anyway.
          It is difficult to penetrate this sort of mindset  

  •  thank you (7+ / 0-)

    An e4xcellent 'revelation'! And typical.

    What happened to Miller himself? did he retire to Tahiti?

    Focus on the love! The Republicans can keep the disco.

    by Mr Horrible on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:33:16 AM PDT

    •  Miller went on... (12+ / 0-)

      anticipating that the Second Advent was coming soon, but that somewhere his calculations had been in error. The movement was never really under his direct control -- he was never the charismatic leader at the heart of the idea, as happens with many movement. His influence gradually waned and he become more or less a side note as the various groups moved on.

      •  Ellen White took up the baton. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Soy Lechithin, jayskew

        I grew up reading her books on prophecies and nutrition and health. She is considered the "lesser light" in the Seventh Day religion and I believe what she wrote concerning End Times was inspired by God.  She paints a beautiful portrait of Heaven and of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.  Not sophisticated, I know, but I believe.  

        What have you done today to make you feel proud? - Heather Small

        by Amor Y Risa on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 09:05:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The odd thing about this belief (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          is that everyone I know who thinks that Ellen White was inspired by God also do not believe anyone else can be. Which makes me wonder why they think Ellen White could have been.

          Why is it so important to believe that only a select few could have received divine input, and they're all in the past?

          •  I only know what I believe, Late Spring. (0+ / 0-)

            I believe her because what she had to say about a number of subjects have come to pass.  She spoke about the importance of taking care of one's health through a strictly vegetarian diet because of the illnesses to come via meat eating.  She said good health came from a lot of fresh air, sunshine and  exercise, abstaining from tobacco and temperance in all things.  I would suggest you read "The Great Controversy" which talks about End Times in case you'd like to know why I think she is on the money.  

            Thank you for your courteous response to what I posted.  :-)  

            What have you done today to make you feel proud? - Heather Small

            by Amor Y Risa on Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 09:40:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Harold Bloom's "The American Religion" (7+ / 0-)

    offers a valuable perspective on this topic.

    The American Religion: The Emergence of The Post-Christian Nation

    From one review:

    Every American, (Bloom) writes, assumes that God loves her or him in a personal, intimate way, and this trait is the bedrock of our national religion, a debased Gnosticism often tinged with selfishness. The core of this odd, ponderous book focuses on Pentecostals, Christian Scientists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists and especially Mormons and Southern Baptists--the two denominations Bloom believes will dominate future American religious life. He argues that mainline Protestants, Jews, Roman Catholics and secularists are also much more Gnostic than they realize.

    •  of course every of the mentioned religions (0+ / 0-)

      are more Gnostic than they realize. While the Gnostics were declared heretics and suppressed and their books destroyed (until some were found in modern times) Gnosticism had an influence on mainstream Christianity which many fundamentalists are loathe to admit.
      OTOH Christianity as practiced today is an amalgam of many various ME religions whose tenets and practices were adapted by Christians at various historical points.

      The rampant blindness to this by fundamentalists who insist the OT (yep not merely the Pentateuch) was written by Moses even though events described as history in the OT took place after Moses' supposed lifetime. Amazing  

    •  Dammit. You just made me spend $13. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I had to buy that book.

      Thanks so much.

      I'll send you the bill in the mail.

      What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

      by mistersite on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:19:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  religion/reason (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Abra Crabcakeya, Amber6541

    It's hard for me to believe a person of reason believes in a religious institution.  These were created by men (and women?)either for their own power--or their vision.  Most puzzling to me is the modern day Millerites--you know, the ones that are Catholic, saw how may of their spiritual leaders were abusive predators, and still give donations for the cover up. Do they believe that this is God's work?

    •  The rejection of religious institutions (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      marykk, milkbone, jayskew, BYw, Amber6541, marleycat

      is one of the sources for "The American Religion"

      The notion that each of us can interact with God without intercessors has taken far firmer root in America than anywhere else. Theologically, much of this is post-Christian perhaps in a parallel sense with Islam and Christianity being post-Judaic.

      •  but (0+ / 0-)

        Why are otherwise sane people donating money to the Vatican?  They coverup the rape of children--they are--if you want--the agents of the Devil.

        •  An unrelated species of evil (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jayskew, BYw

          Many of the people Devilstower is writing about explicitly agree that the Catholic Church is the agent of the devil.

          The Millerites would have seen the Catholics either as evil (or perhaps irrelevant) and vigorous rejection of the Catholic Church was a basic premise of the movements that comprise "The American Religion"

          •  yes (0+ / 0-)

            But I'm referring to modern day Catholics donating to the Devil.

          •  In the 1840's (0+ / 0-)

            In the 1840's there were relatively few Catholics in the US.  The great waves of Catholic Immigration had not yet occurred, The Irish were in the midst of the first years of the Potato Famine, the Eastern and Southern European migrations, some decades off.  Catholics were centered on Baltimore, mostly Anglo-Catholics, and Charleston and New Orleans, with a mix of French and Spanish earlier migrants. There were few Catholic influentials in the early and late Federalist Period, and it is not until the 1840's and 50's that one finds Catholic Institutions such as Colleges and Academies being founded, even in Baltimore or New Orleans by the missionary orders.  

            Of course many Americans of the post Revolutionary Periods had strong opinions about Catholicism, brought with them as a consequence of European wars and conflicts about Religion.  

        •  The Parable Is Not So Much ABout (5+ / 0-)

          the hypocricy (which is the easier "surface oil" that we all like to skim off), but about the deeper, more universal truth:  really well-intentioned people can often do as much, or even more harm, than the real King of fairy-dust - Satan.

          That is the truly "fascist" (and scariest) aspect of religion: these people are all motivated by a sincere desire to "save" - to rescue "the rest of us" from danger (damnation).  The latter half of the New Testament (with the exception of the orginal religious wacko manifesto - The Book of Revelation) is replete with arguments over the meaning of "good works."

          Anyone who has been to "Boom School" here has a clear illustration of this:  people with all sorts of good intentions and very well-meaning have piled up a bunch of boom that doesn't do shit, and, in fact, makes things worse.  Wading into the marshes to somehow clean up the oil, have done damage.  And yet to this very day, the relentless drum beats on "Do Something Do Something Do Something"

          In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

          by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:51:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Politics, not just religion. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Naziism and Communism can both be understood better as some kind of religion.  Atheistic in nature, but the same lack of independent thought, intolerance for other viewpoints, and overall good intentions in the majority of its followers characterize both.

            Both groups purportedly wanted to improve human societies and didn't mind breaking a few eggs to make the omelet.

            People are sheep.   We all love to play follow the leader and when we gather together in large groups, our individual morals and intelligence go right out the window.  

            ALL mass movements should be viewed with  a certain level of distrust, not necessarily for what it was founded to do or what it is at present, but for what it can VERY easily turn into.  

            They see me trollin'. They hatin' I find it hilarious that people think legality has anything to do with right and wrong.

            by obnoxiotheclown on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:25:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  democracy (0+ / 0-)

              Don't we try to proselytize democracy--aren't we intolerant of other forms of government?  Throw in the money driven religion of capitalism.  In none of these cases do I think the leaders to be well meaning.

              Not so sure socialism--or communism-- are evil.  Yes, communism has a bad record--but many of the world's worst leaders were democratically elected--think of Hitler and Pinochet.  Think of Bush--except not sure you could say he was elected the first time.

              Society needs rules--those rules need to be enforced--the system is a religion if you're part of it--unless you're an anarchist--which ends up with blind faith in humanity.  The book was called the LORD of the Flies.

    •  ultimately, both are so much fairy dust, (0+ / 0-)

      and it's impossible for either to substantiate the other.

      and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

      by le sequoit on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:28:14 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  it calls for compartamenalization (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or keeping your faith and reason in two completely separate places in your mind and making sure that they never come into contact. Otherwise you end up with intellectual messes such as the Discovery Institute and Creation Museum dish out on a regular basis

  •  Excellent diary- (16+ / 0-)

    a wonderful overview of religious life in Early America.  I live in Ky, between two remaining Shaker villages (now turned into museums) and close to where the first of the Great Revivals began.  Ive have researched and studied early settlements in Ky and Tn, and have read a great deal on their Religious life- this diary is a wonderful, well-written overview of that.  Thanks so much.

    "Real History is not for Sissies" Barry McCain

    by Hill Jill on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:39:29 AM PDT

  •  The insatiable appetite for novelty, power, and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, Abra Crabcakeya, Amber6541

    wealth by so many leaves an exponential number of humans barely clinging to the subsistence end of the spectrum.  The successes of the wealthy come at great cost to others because their wealth and power are not necessarily kept in play as a platform for bringing along their fellow humans; rather they are stored up, closeted, and set aside from the dynamics of commerce.  It is difficult to be anything but ambivalent about religious movements and their relationships to resources.

  •  The significance of the Enlightenment (11+ / 0-)

    The Enlightenment was a game-changer in human history.  It is impossible to understand "the intent of the founding fathers" without understanding the Enlightenment.  It was a movement that sought truth and largely rejected ideology.  Those that practiced Christianity engaged in something that conservative Christians would not recognize today.  

    I forget who it was that when the lightning rod was invented, science had triumphed over religion.  Up until then, an unpredictable and possibly mentally unbalanced God was quite fond of burning down churches (the tallest structures prior to the 19th century) in thunderstorms.  The lightning rod saved the churches.  Science attracted the rationalists, and religion was left with few true rationalists and a lot of people who would believe anything.  This split remains today, and is most apparent in the US in the split between atheists and liberal Christians on one side and conservative Christians on the other.

  •  wonderfully written essay (11+ / 0-)

    as usual.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:46:31 AM PDT

  •  Perhaps Emerson and Transcendentalism are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marykk, Imhotepsings

    more "secular" branches of the intellectual and enthusiastic development of America in the first half of the 19th century.

    But whither these "forces" in the 21st century?

    Sarah Palin (for example) fits well into these patterns of our history.

  •  Superb! Thanks for a great diary. n/t (5+ / 0-)

    Hey Mitch! How's that Randy Pauly thing workin out for ya?

    by polticoscott on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:47:08 AM PDT

  •  I have read hundreds of tracts (21+ / 0-)

    from the period, hunched over a microfilm reader and bursting out in laughter with some regularity.  Yes, this was a transformative period.  But from the point of view of religion, we must not underestimate the change from within.  This era was also the birth of the German school of 'higher criticism' of the bible, now known as the 'Historical-Critial' biblical analysis.  They proved that - gasp! - the bible was edited.  Not handed down by god on tablets or through a divine dictaphone, but showed evidence of extensive revision, contained numerous threads cobbled together, and should be studied just like any other old document.

    To say that lay persons were not prepared to accept their conclusions, no matter how well founded in fact, is an understatement.  The motivating factor for many tract-writers was not the enlightenment per se, or even the heretical field of 'Darwinism' later in the century, but rather what they considered 'apostasy' within their own church.  And this was one of the many reasons people were susceptible to the nonsense spewed by Miller and his ilk; they were already convinced their church was on the wrong path, that they had left god, and then Miller comes along and tells them why.

    This comment was brought to you by Goldman-Sachs: Our clients' interests always come first.

    by Kingsmeg on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:48:28 AM PDT

    •  do not be surprised (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kingsmeg, Naniboujou, lurks a lot, jayskew

      Discuss something as obvious as that the Gospels were clearly crib jobs with the later ones borrowing from the earlier, with new miraculous details added in as the narrative moved from oral history to written mythology and you will find much resistance from those who argue the Gospels were all written independently of each other

    •  I found some old (4+ / 0-)

      (mid-20th) religious tracts among the accumulated 'stuff' belonging to my Mother-in-Law's family after she died in April at the age of 87. Her father had saved them - he was a mover-shaker in the rural electrification of eastern OK. Some traveling tent revival preacher who went around preaching that nuclear bombs and nuclear power were gifts to America from God directly. The ministry was titled "Spirit Power." OK is a state which, btw, never allowed a single nuke to be built but which processed uranium and fabricated much of the fuel for other states' nukes.

      Made me wonder if maybe such religious outreach to the hard-scrabble riff-raff weren't a 1950s version of today's big media marketing campaigns, designed to sell WMD Armageddon and Atoms for Peace to voters who could never come close to understanding the technology. A replay of religion's involvement early in the last century in selling eugenics as some kind of "holy" intent of God. That worked extremely well until WW-II, when Hitler gave eugenics a bad name.

      Nowdays we've got FoxNews and the myriad TV evangelists (Pink-Haired Tammy Fae wannabe, et al.) to do the same selling job for whatever crap needs to be sold to low-info voters who spend more time at church than at home living their so-called "Family Values."

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 09:51:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mythos and logos were out of balance. (7+ / 0-)

    Too much logos and people long for mythos.  Too much mythos and people long for logos.

    •  Alternatively, IF You "Believe" That Intelligence (4+ / 0-)

      (which, I'll stipulate, is a bitch to measure), like height of humans, is distributed throughout a population in roughly a Bell curve, and you consider a population of 350 million people, who've had over 40 years now of sub-standard public shcool education (Texas State School Board, anyone?) I would maintain that approximately half the people are too fucking ignorant to know the difference between mythos and logos.  And I doubt they've read much Joseph Campbell, either.

      Clearly, there is plenty of "anecdotal" evidence these days to bolster THAT argument.

      In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

      by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:13:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  probably true but irrelevant: (0+ / 0-)

        people don't have to udnerstand the difference to want one more than the other.

        "Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all." --Hypatia of Alexandria, c.400

        by jayskew on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 04:27:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I read this, my heart swells with pride. (15+ / 0-)

    Dairies like this amount to "peacock's plumage" in a venue like this, in the sense that the Progressive movement (unlike the "other side," ahem) prides itself on the exercise of intellectual curiosity and rigor, as means of understanding the world.

    History shapes today's reality.

    Thanks for the wonderful read.

  •  The Underbelly of the Second Great Awakening (10+ / 0-)

    was moonshine.  Esepcially in the region of the upper half of eastern PA and well into New York State.  Although there were other parts of the newly-minted United States "cook' in the woods" (Virginians still to this day claim "best moonshine made" title - oh, yes, there's still stills in "them thar hills"), the interesting propinquity is that the same pious population that gave us "fascists for Jesus" (consider that Constitutional originalism and Biblical inerrancy are both cut from the same "mindfuck YOU" fabric) was also out behind the tent meeting taking a slug from the jug.

    And people wonder why a certain Jospeh Smith woke up in the middle of the night to find the Angel Macaroni digging in his backyard?  "Dude, you look pretty well hung-over!"

    (Yes, I have purposely butchered and ridiculed the founding of the Church of Latter Day Saints - hey, if they can make up shit out of whole-cloth and "sell" it to the masses, well, game on! I say.  I'm not one for "CT" witch-hunts, but I sure would like a head-count of how many Mormons work for the FBI, CIA, NSA, in Congress, the federal agencies.  You surely can't ignore that huge tabernacle topped by the gold angel Moroni looming over the Beltway- hell, it's "marker" for every rush-hour traffic report.)

    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

    by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 06:58:49 AM PDT

    •  All I know about Mormons comes from that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      207wickedgood, dendron gnostic

      South Park episode.  

      And I love the way it ended.   Sure, it was probably founded out of mental illness or because Joseph Smith wanted an excuse for three ways, but the program they came up with does a lot of good for a lot of people.  

      I tend to give belief systems that reliably encourage people to treat one another better a lot of slack.

      They see me trollin'. They hatin' I find it hilarious that people think legality has anything to do with right and wrong.

      by obnoxiotheclown on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:30:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Love The South Park Scientology Tutorial BUT (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        As to the "good works" the Mormons do, I would add Catholic Charities, The Red Crescent (Mulsims), and hell, even Hez'b'Allah does habitat for humanity.

        What are we to make of the fact that all these religions are simultaneously doing such nice things for some people while absolutely fucking over the others?

        In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

        by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:51:48 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Even more ridiculous is the Scientologists' (8+ / 0-)


      "Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion"  L. Ron Hubbard

      A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. -Greek proverb

      by marleycat on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:37:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, But They're SOO Wack-o As To Be Fairly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        harmless, and highly entertaining.

        In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

        by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:53:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Germans don't think they're harmless (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          esquimaux, jayskew

          They don't allow Scientology. Because of the expensive 'meter' readings and the above-cited profit motive of the founder the Germans regard it as a scheme to bilk people. Unlike the medical-based psychiatrists Scientologists profess to despise, the Scientologists can hide behind religion to escape regulation. It is true that Mormon tithing has made that church extremely rich but the Scientologists can take most of what  initiates have before they are deemed 'clear'.

    •  You can't spell Moroni (0+ / 0-)

      without "moron."

      The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas. The way to combat falsehoods is with truth. - William O. Douglas

      by PSzymeczek on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 12:23:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is great writing (8+ / 0-)

    Much appreciated; thank you!

  •  The end of the Second Great Awakening? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xaxnar, ER Doc, hopi13, Joieau

    Eh, those temples on Salt Lake City, the explosive growth of Pentecostal churches and the non-denominational "mega-churches" that dot our landscape are all progeny of the Second Great Awakening.

    The true end of the Second Great Awakening will be when 85% / 90% of Americans vigorously reject "creation science" -- at least IMHO.

  •  Jehovahs Witness And Famous Black People (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Egalitare, Joieau

    Prince, Michael Jackson, Serena Williams. Samantha Bee said Tiger Woods as part of his comeback should drop Buddhism and become a Jehovah's Witness.

    It's like Scientology for Black people

    •  That's Way Harsh (no snark), But That's "Sam" (0+ / 0-)

      In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

      by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:18:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not sure if the JayDubs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      were as anti-minority as, say, the early Latter Day Saints church -- it took a "revelation" for the Mormons to actually agree that blacks were not touched by "the sin of Ham" and could actually become leaders in their local ward/stakes.

      Don't let the facts hit your narrative in the butt on the way out -- Rachel Maddow

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:54:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I've never figured out why (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      anybody would want to be a JW. They believe only 144,000 people get to go to heaven. With millions of adherents, is there some kind of lottery?

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 10:00:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When you believe that YOUR ticket ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ...  and those of your congregation are guranteed acceptance, there is little care as to who will be sitting in the other cars of the Train

        "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." -- Frederick Douglass

        by Egalitare on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 11:23:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I live in the "burned over district" of NY. (6+ / 0-)
    This region between Albany and Buffalo was swept by so many waves of religious fervor, starting with the first "Great Awakening" in the mid 1700s, that it became known as the 'burned over district. The second wave of religious ferment in the early decades of the 1800s was a lot less conventionally Christian, and led to things like Mormonism as well as some truly bizarre utopian movements like John Humphrey Noyes' "Oneida community".

    I guess that's why today's religious fundies bother me so much. We have plenty of local history demonstrating how crazy religion can get.

    •  and don't forget (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      spiritualism, seances, Madame Blavatsky, and the influence on authors like L Frank Baum and Arthur Conan Doyle.

      Perhaps the best known of those who combined Swedenborg and Mesmer in a peculiarly North American synthesis was Andrew Jackson Davis, who called his system the Harmonial Philosophy. Davis was a practicing Mesmerist, faith healer and clairvoyant from Poughkeepsie, New York. His 1847 book, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and a Voice to Mankind,[8]  dictated to a friend while in a trance state, eventually became the nearest thing to a canonical work in a Spiritualist movement whose extreme individualism precluded the development of a single coherent worldview.

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:19:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  THAT is a subject well worth a diary. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jayskew, Ralphdog

        The writer shouldn't leave out the Crowley, Parsons, Hubbard connection.  

        Extremely influential movement in areas not necessarily considered religious.  

        They see me trollin'. They hatin' I find it hilarious that people think legality has anything to do with right and wrong.

        by obnoxiotheclown on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:33:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  One Quibble (0+ / 0-)

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but Jefferson was not a Unitarian, The first Unitarian parish was formed in ~1774 in England - an interesting story as it eventually brought Joseph Priestly over here.

    Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

    by xgy2 on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:15:09 AM PDT

    •  Wasn't raised as one - nor was John Adams (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayskew, xgy2, dendron gnostic

      But later in life Adams formally joined the Unitarian church. Whether Jefferson ever formally joined any church is open to doubt - he was way too much of an independent thinker.

      If it's
      Not your body
      Then it's
      Not your choice
      AND it's
      None of your damn business!

      by TheOtherMaven on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:23:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly. Jefferson was Jefferson. Like "Change (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You Can Believe In" Jefferson has become a political "template" that people can read into whatever THEY want (regardless of what the specific signification of the "symbol."   you could follow up with another shopworn illustration: "The Constitution").

        In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

        by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:30:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  listened to a televangelist today (0+ / 0-)

          try to fit Jefferson into the mold of a fundamentalist. His rewriting of the Bible was not an intellectual endeavor trying to discover the bedrock history in the documents but rather was a "joke', a goof on the other Founding Fathers.

      •  Adams (0+ / 0-)

        yes, but I think there is some controversy as to whether Jefferson ever subscribed to the "Arian Heresy".  It is true that English Deists had been flirting with it for a long time.  (Isaac Newton seems to have been one of them).

        Die energie der Welt ist constant; die Entropie der welt strebt einem Maximum zu. - Rudolf Clausius, 1865

        by xgy2 on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:36:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is what gets me about religions (5+ / 0-)

    Everyone who is fervent about their religion, accepts only theirs and considers all others to be false.
    The current crop of "Christians", of the Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson ilk, believe that everyone else is going to hell, except for them and their followers.
    But then, so do fundie Muslims.
    And just look at how many offshoots and branches there are because a onetime cohesive group has a falling out and goes off on their own.
    These religious sects, run by men, mostly, deem what is right for everyone else. I mean it's not like they're ever all going to get back together - the Catholic Church and the Anglicans split over 600 years ago and still can't find common ground. The Episcopalians are on the verge of a complete split over gay bishops.
    Not to know anyone's religion, but I kind of like the Unitarians, who don't try an change anyone, who admit that no one really has the answer, and is always searching for the meaning of God, whatever he/she/it is.
    Great diary. Very informative!

    Electing conservatives is like hiring a carpenter who thinks hammers are evil.

    by MA Liberal on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:24:01 AM PDT

    •  It's fundamentalism that's the problem, (4+ / 0-)

      not the faith itself. Most faiths can be boiled down to a few key insights; they get into trouble when they add on the extraneous fluff whether it's verboten to eat meat on Friday, having to face a certain direction to pray, whether it's okay to drive on the Sabbath, or if you have to have a penis to serve at the altar. (Big stink in the Anglican Communion, where someone in the Archbishop of Canterbury's office requested that the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, a woman, not wear her miter when she was preaching at a church in Great Britain, because there's still discussions as to whether women can be bishops in England.)

      If folks could recognize most of the Bible (and many other "holy" writings) as merely a book that reflects the spirit of the times it was written (or orally transmitted in many cases), and just pull out the key truths, they'd realize that much of the ephemera added by men (and a few women) over the years really doesn't matter in the long run.

      Don't let the facts hit your narrative in the butt on the way out -- Rachel Maddow

      by Cali Scribe on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:03:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even if divinely inspired, (0+ / 0-)

        how do you explain cosmology to a bunch of illiterate sheep herders?  How does the sheep herder you explain it to, even if you explained it successfully, then go on to explain it to another?

        Bronze age.  People thought and acted a certain way.  We live under a far different set of assumptions now.  

        They see me trollin'. They hatin' I find it hilarious that people think legality has anything to do with right and wrong.

        by obnoxiotheclown on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:37:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well, The Three Main Western Relgions, At Least, (0+ / 0-)

        all have the "exclusivity" clause baked right in:

        "I am the Way, The Truth and The Life.  No man cometh to the Father but by me."  Jesus (the Chrisitan one, in case you were wondering - well, there is the Gnostic one, and the prophet of Islam).

        "There is only one god, Allah, and Muhammed is His Prophet" (Ignore that Shi'a bullshit!) Islam.

        "I don't need to tell you my stinkin' name, and if you don't shape up, all'a ya, you'll find yourselves back in Egypt sweepin' up locust carcasses" you know The Rules.  Now, where's that fatted calf barbecue I orderd?"  Judaism.

        In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

        by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:39:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Then why do we need religion at all? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If we're just going to pull 1 key truth out of the Bible, what use at all is religion? Why not just dispense with all religions and take up philosophy instead.

        The entire point of religions are around the claims that their metaphysical claims are true. If Jesus was just a random person, why should I pay any particular attention to his teachings (much of which are immoral)?

        One or two truths can be pulled out of most large books. That doesn't mean that it's a useful endeavor to form a cult around Lord of the Rings and then give it a special place in the world.

        Faith itself is a problem. I was raised Jewish, and the Torah EXPLICITLY commands the death penalty for a whole host of minor offenses (working on the sabbath for instance.) I can choose to ignore it, but then what is the use of reading the Bible in the first place. Fundamentalism is simply reading a religion's holy books as they were written.

  •  Is today's fundamentalist fervor (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    the Third or Fourth Great Awakening?

    Healthcare is a human right, not a commodity.

    by nomorerepukes on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:24:54 AM PDT

  •  Thank you sir for the "nuts and bolts" and making (0+ / 0-)

    the Connections (never should have canceled that series).

    Very effective use of the vector analysis. When i can't sleep, i sample the swamp of late night TV here in the Bible belt, definitely no shortage of mosquitoes.

    One sentence really stuck a nerve, or fired synapses:

    The effect on religion was extreme. Clerics lost their fixed place at the center of academic and social life, the Bible was no longer looked on as the only source of wisdom, and increasingly supernatural explanations of events were dismissed.

    Power and wealth mongers find science and reasoning too difficult (impossible really) to make a big buck or gather a huge devoted throng. Abusing religion is their easier path.

    Welcome to the Corporate States of America ®, give us your money, then die quietly.

    by geez53 on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:25:57 AM PDT

  •  Great stuff, please continue the series (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, lurks a lot, geez53, kareylou

    "I agree with you now make me do it!" FDR

    by JC Dufresne on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 07:28:24 AM PDT

  •  fascinating--Millerite-production is alive (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, Amber6541

    and well in rightwing media. I'd say liberal media, too, but there is much more healthy disagreement and free-thinking on the left. (See this site's meta wars.)

    The right, though, has primed people for its messages (what's good for corporations is good for America, God is a conservative, the "elitist" Democrats are in cahoots with the enemies of the U.S.) after years of playing on class and race and religious resentments, and their efficient vectors are talk radio, Fox News, and the right blogosphere, all of which march in lockstep.

    But all that's an aside. Thanks for a read that's interesting all by itself. :)

    •  Well Now You've Wandered Into the Predestinarian (0+ / 0-)

      wing of the religiosity nut-house.  Take the notion from the Puritans that God's blessings of salvation were discernable in this world - well, if you could swoon over and flop around like a fish ("Aaargh ya ready, kids"  "Aye, Aye, Capt'n!"  "I CAN'T hear you!) as a manifestation that Jesus had truly taken over your heart, then it was no stretch to see that the pious wealthy man was surely on God's "A" list, as wealth is a true sign of God's favor.  Add a dash of Jean Calvin, the true theological godfather of the church as state (don't confuse us with Catholicism, which knew there was ONLY Church - "states" were no more than conglomorates of parishes - something, as we see, they are still having trouble figuring out).  Geneva under Calvin was THE Christian theocracy.

      Mix 'em all together in the American "crucible" and shazzzam, you've got the American version of Presbyterianism, the first true spawn of religious fascism in America, and spiritual home still to many pious Republicans.

      In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; in the land of the braindead, the intelligent person is cast as the village idiot."

      by dendron gnostic on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:25:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Correct me if I'm wrong, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but I thought the present day form of Christianity, Dominionism, began in England in the 19th centuty.

    •  Dominionism is only one subset... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...of Christianity, and even of American Christianity.

      But the main intellectual backing behind the Dominionists' chosen millennial views - premillennial dispensationalism - did indeed originate in the UK in the 19th century, with a fella named John Nelson Darby.

      What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

      by mistersite on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:22:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  today you have all sorts of branches of (0+ / 0-)

      fundamentalism coming together so you also have the Tribulationists and the Inerrancy people and others blending the Bible with Beck or with John Birch or any number of other political POVs, all coming together in a great incoherent, inchoate, contradictory mass of various beliefs which are largely nonbiblical. (Check out how Darby wove bits of sentences together to get his ideas substantiated by Gospel supposedly  

  •  Only the dates were off (0+ / 0-)

    William Miller was close but no cigar on his dates. An age is an astronomical fact based measured by alignment with a particular constellation.  An age is more or less 2150 years.  

    Miller's 2300 years had the date in the mid 1800s.  The head of Hierarchy, who to Christians would be known as the Christ, entered the everyday world in 1977. Or about 150 years after Miller's prediction.

    Instead of religious euphoria, the Christ has been greeted by at best resistance by traditional religious types.  That is why, despite signs everywhere, few know of or spend the time validating the information demonstrating the Christ's physical presence.

  •  the world is doomed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hopi13, 207wickedgood, Amber6541

    Jonah Goldberg now opines that oil is the ultimate green renewable resource.

    I guess that makes him either Sec of Energy or Sec of the Interior in the next GOP administration. OTOH if Jonah had been around 150 years ago, he would be touting whale oil as the ultimate green renewable fuel source

  •  Too bad no credits to sources, but nice essay! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Too bad no credits to sources, but nice essay!

    •  Sorry... (6+ / 0-)

      I really did intend to include these and simply forgot.

      James White, Life Incidents in Connection with the Great Advent Movement as Illustrated by the Three Angles of Revelation XIV, Volume One: Steam Press of the Seventh-Day Adventist Publishing Association, Battle Creek, MI, 1868, 158-163

      Francis D. Nichol, The Midnight Cry, a Defense of the Character and Conduct of William Miller and of the Millerites, Who Mistakenly Believed that the Second Coming of Christ Would Take Place, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1944. Washington, D. C

      Everett N. Dick, William Miller and the Advent Crisis, Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1994, 25.

      Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of the Churches of Christ, Abilene Christian University Press, 1988. 92-93. 

  •  Oh yeah (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    karmsy, hopi13

    In addition individuals would often print "tracts," as Miller did, to distribute their ideas


    One of my great-great-grandmothers wrote tracts like this. She would have been writing in the second half of the 19th century (she died in 1901). I've never actually seen any of them.

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:00:05 AM PDT

    •  To Bad (0+ / 0-)

      It would be fascinating to read those tracts.

      Disabled Viet Vet ret. My snark is worse than my bite

      by eddieb061345 on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 09:44:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Tract Writing (0+ / 0-)

      Some of the first Tract Writers were the early Quakers in England -- many of whom learned the printing trade, and eventually established  presses.  The earliest date from the 1640's, and the practice of writing personal spiritual journals, and scripture intrepretations came with the Quaker migrations in the 1680's and 90's to Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia.  In the 1640's as Founder George Fox moved around England, organizing Friend's Meetings, he carried the tracts from one town to another as part of his approach.  Later, Fox and William Penn would take American Quaker Tracts to Holland, Switzerland and Germany as part of his effort to convince other pacifist dissenting sects such as various kinds of Brethren, Amish, Dutch and German Mennonites, to join the Quakers in Penn.  

  •  completely hooked (5+ / 0-)

    thanks for the history lesson and the exceptional writing.

  •  Teabagger Messiah (0+ / 0-)

    Today's teabaggers are awaiting their revelation from Fox News as to whom to follow.

  •  Have you read Stephen O'Leary's book... (0+ / 0-)

    ...Arguing the Apocalypse?

    It's an analysis of the logic of millennarian movements... he specifically addresses the Millerites and Hal Lindsay's Late Great Planet Earth. It's a fascinating read, particularly for those who study religion and rhetoric.

    What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

    by mistersite on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 08:16:15 AM PDT

  •  Obama is half-hearted reform (0+ / 0-)

    It's pretty clear that Obama protects corporations better than he does the people.  In health care he delivered millions of people to insurance companies but we don't have competition.   He never put his weight behind the public option.  Financial reform is half-hearted as well:  the large banks will go on as always.

    I've done a lot of soul searching about my criticisms of Obama since I was a very active supporter during the campaign.  Like many I was so desperate for change I forgot that he's a politician first and, like every other politician, says whatever it takes to get elected.   He simply wasn't the person I perceived him to be.  And, I mistakenly believed that the passion I saw during the campaign was about the issues.  It was only about getting elected.  

    Expectations destroy more relationships than just about anything else so I'm working towards letting them go.   There simply isn't a better leader out there.  

    I do feel a lot of compassion for the man.   I believe he is doing the very best job possible, that he is honest and brilliant.  

    And, I think we're lucky to have him at the helm, despite my desire that he be more to the left.

  •  Great diary, thank you. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This was so well-written and researched, I was really impressed!

  •  or not far enough if it's Enlightenment thinking? (0+ / 0-)

    the Great Disappointment seemed to be a signal to many that things had gone too far

    "...calling for a 5" deck gun is not parody. Not by a long shot." (gnaborretni)

    by annieli on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 10:22:41 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating stuff. Thanks for writing this. n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  The reproductive number for really bad ideas (0+ / 0-)

    is way above 1.

    Susceptible Republican people, and a means of transmission.

    FOX "News."

    More and better? I'd settle for just better.

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 10:46:54 AM PDT

  •  The really hard thing to reconcile (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    euterpe, jayskew

    about this for me is that the day of disappointment was the day the Baha'i religion started in what was then Persia, in Shiraz.  

    That's why I've known this story for 45 years.  I stopped being a Baha'i a long time ago, but there are hundreds of threads like this that mesh together in its story, making it a lot harder to just dismiss the whole thing.  As I want to.  I was curious last week if this would get brought into the series, but maybe not.

    •  I wrote a comment about how much (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Baha'is love 1844 last week, but the thing to remember is that this is an American interpretation of the importance of this year, having to do with a love of "prophecy" and not authoritative within the Baha'i Writings.  I have not seen anywhere than any other Christian community, such as the Catholic Church or the Greek Orthodox were looking for something to happen in 1844.

      What is really interesting is the Shia Islam belief that the same year within the Islamic calendar (1260 is what I'm remembering and I should go look it up) had a whole host of Shi'a scholars saying to each other that something was up, a new Teacher is coming, and we have to go out and look for him.

      Very interesting world historical changes and transitions can be placed within the 1840's.

      OMG! I wrote a book! It will be published on August 23, and will be everywhere in Chicagoland.

      by Im nonpartisan on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 03:21:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm hooked - can't wait for Part 3 (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mojo workin, euterpe

    Amazing, fascinating, thought-provoking.  This is DK at its best.  

    Thanks Devilstower.

    "Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really." -- Agnes Sligh Turnball

    by EyeStreetMom on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 11:49:40 AM PDT

  •  Too bad this doesn't bring Nietzsche (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    into the equation. His diagnosis of what he called "European Nihilism" in the 19th century would fit in nicely with some of these concerns.

  •  WoW --- Great Post ! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Having been schooled by nuns & brothers it may come as no surprise that I've never specifically heard of the Great Disappointment.

    I'm just guessing here but I'll bet the Fall of Rome, isis, the Papacy, & many other Great Disappointments have dotted history.

    But there's a sucker born every minute.

    We are all Fish in the Gulf..and.. I back the "Corporations Ain't People Act"

    by olo on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 01:30:47 PM PDT

  •  Writing like this is why (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    this wingnut is addicted to dKos.  Thank you for posting.  Fascinating.

    "Differences in political opinion are as unavoidable as, to a certain point, they may perhaps be necessary." George Washington

    by civil wingnut on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 02:46:17 PM PDT

  •  Miller himself (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    euterpe, jayskew, 207wickedgood, freesia

    reportedly had a full woodshed & a barnload of hay when the projected last day arrived. Who the hell knows what a guy like that is thinking?

    Here in Vermont, at least one guy bought an ascension robe for his cow, so his kids could have milk to drink on the long walk to heaven.

  •  I always thought The Great Disappointment (0+ / 0-)

    was a generic term used by Republican women to describe their wedding night ...

    Free online (PDF) Dr. Robert Altemeyer's The Authoritarians, one of the most important books ever written.

    by kbman on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 04:41:58 PM PDT

  •  Fascinating stuff DT (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For a time I was enthralled with religious history and such. Having read things like "The Gospel of Q", "The Gospel of Thomas", and "History of religion", I am reminded by your article how fascinating it is.

    I should reinvigorate my exploration of all things religious. It is an odd sort of humanistic thing. Personally I am an atheist and a near psychologist. May be it explains my interest and fascination for humanities need for other worldly guidance.

    Conservatives are engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; i.e, search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. J.K. Galbraith

    by Kairos on Sun Jun 20, 2010 at 05:31:56 PM PDT

  •  Love this! (0+ / 0-)

    Between this essay and the comments, I'm about 75% more educated about this time in American history than I was 20 minutes ago, and I'm fascinated. Truly, this kind of writing and analysis is why I read Kos.

    Thanks so much!

  •  Author/Book suggestion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mark Sumner aka Devilstower

    Recommendation of two books by the same author...

    Diarmaid MacCulloch's "The Reformation" available in Penguin Paperback.  MacCulloch is an Oxford Religious Historian, apparently influential in but on the margins of the Church of England.  Reformation carries the story from the last century of "the old Church" (Pre-Counter-Reformation Catholicism), through many of the migrations to the Americas, and ends with a brush at how the Enlightenment ended the religious wars of the 16th and 17th Century.  

    Just two months ago, MacCulloch published "Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years" and again I highly recommend.  He has added particularly in the modern era, Asian and African Christianity -- the intent is less to focus on details but to provide a vast mural of what is happening in the same periods in vastly different cultures.  Again, Penguin -- but not paperback...and not particularly portable. (1100 pages).  

  •  Great writing and fascinating history (0+ / 0-)

    brought to light for a grateful reader.

    Thank you.

    The first principle is you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. Richard Feynman

    by trinityfly on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 04:09:07 PM PDT

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