The Role of Religion in Early American Literature
American literature has been deeply rooted on the Presbyterian and puritan religions of the early centuries. The role of religion is especially paramount among the religions which lacked any belief in the existence of God. This was the basis of the early American romantic writers who infused the spiritual aspect of religion with the literal elements hence making the entire religion part of literature. Religion as a belief that has in place certain doctrines which are followed or adhered to by the followers had to include literary works as a way of making the puritan ethics known between various generations. Among the puritans the Bible was a source of reference such that the early American writers had to clarify the content in their work through the puritan books. Hence religion played a significant role in the early American literature.
The puritans are depicted as the pure and sacred people who lived in the early centuries and they are representatives of religion in this research. The puritans lived by adhering to the ethics and morals that were written down in their holy book of the bible. Such that puritans who failed to read the bible were thought to be devil worshippers as they lacked the direction of the doctrines in the bible. Similarly, the bible played a great role in determining the nature of events which the puritans would engage in as much as bible studies which were held very often. Therefore, the puritans were quite in touch with the literary side of the doctrines as well as living as per the requirements (Trent and Doreen, 2006).
Similarly, among the American puritans who lived between 1800 and 1865 had borrowed intensively from the European puritans. During the same era, the most significant religion was made up of protestant evangelicalism which is depicted as having diverse religious revivals which attempted to explain the relationship between God’s divine nature and that of human beings. The civil war in America was a critical moment in religion as the early American writers tried as much as possible to delude any existence of God as he would have helped end the war to reduce loss of lives and human suffering. However, religious movements were defensive and were it not for this defence, present day literature on God could have been nipped off as belief in God would have ceased with the writers decision that there was no God (Tripod, 2009).
At some point in the early 19th century the puritans had a diversified perception of the problem of veil, human nature and inability to attain salvation through personal efforts. These views elicited numerous criticism form writers who responded to the observations through human self-reliance which was portrayed in the explanation of the darkness in human souls where salvation was not eminent. The morals and values which were present in the holy book were against the American culture which was portrayed as not adhering to the doctrines in the Bible although the rival beliefs led to emergence of certain cults and sects like free-masonry, as well as, occult (Gabler-Hover and Sattelmeyer, 2006).
The other contribution of religion on the early American literature is exhibited by the fact that as the writers tried to unravel the mystery which was the role of God and Jesus Christ in religion, the Bible had to be used as a reference material. Similarly, the early American writers had to contend that the two supernatural beings were not only judges but also role models to the puritans who were expected to live as per the given doctrines.
The demystifying process was responsible for the introduction of religious liberalization which was brought to lecture halls as philosophical aspects of religion. Up to the present day, the early American literature especially in philosophy borrowed deeply from religion practiced by the puritans (Puritans, 2010).
The puritans of the 18th century had developed an influence that they were intelligent and more knowledgeable than any other denominations in the word at that time such that all the other religious were found to be lacking in various perspectives. For instance all churches had rotten behaviors due to subsequent contact with the roman pagan civilization such that a restructuring of the bible supremacy over the puritans was eminent. Consequently, the puritans enforced an objection of all rituals and ornaments which were common in the churches of the 19th century with other religions being forced to abandon their liturgical order for the puritan one. The moves by the puritans were ignored by mainstream churches and the term puritan was coined as a mockery for the obsessive sanctification activities (Trent, 2006).
The puritans played a great role towards shaping the culture of religion in the early American literature with the introduction of attributes that are unique to various cultures. For instance the cultural values and morals which are used to define the norms have been distinct in the early American literature courtesy of the puritans. Other cultural values brought forward by the puritans include racism with the African American puritans being regarded lowly as compared to their white counterparts (Helium.com, 2000).
The gender roles as they are portrayed in early American literature have borrowed heavily on the puritan religion for instance the wife’s roles in the kitchen and that of the husband in providing for the family. The other gender role that has been used widely by American writers is the aspect of wives encouraging their husbands to render their services to God through preaching and other missionary work. The role of family in the society was established by the puritans who categorized marriage as a holy institution and child bearing as the ultimate result of any marriage (Gabler-Hover, 2006).
The centrality of religion in major early American literature is yet another vital role played by religion as the writers had been given a distinct objective of looking at religion as the core of every activity. Religion touches on almost all dimensions of life such that it would be difficult to refer to any human activity without having to mention God, faith or religious morals (Tripod, 2009).
In conclusion religion has played a key role in the development of early American literature as the writers have borrowed heavily from the puritans. The Bible as the very first literary article among the religious and literary groups has been a source of teachings, as well as, material for their written work.
Gabler-Hover, Janet and Sattelmeyer, Robert. "Religion." American History Through Literature. Gale Cengage. Retrieved on December 8, 2010 from: http://www.enotes.com/american-history-literature-cc/ religion. 2006
Helium.com. Puritan ethics as depicted in early American literature, retrieved on December 8, 2010 from: http://www.helium.com/items/1050451-literary- analysis-puritan-ethics-as-depicted-in-early-american-literature?page=2 2000
Puritans." Members of a religious and social movement. 2010. 28 Nov, 2010.
Trent, W.P. and Doreen, C.V. “Puritan Religion on Early American Literature”. W. Insomnia Cures Reviews. Retrieved on December 8, 2010 from:
http://www.insomniacuresreviews.com/puritan-religion-on-early-american- literature.html. 2006
Tripod "Puritan Life and Religion." Retrieved on December 8, 2010 from: http://fervis.tripod.com/ 2009.