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  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Mid-19th Century Religion

    At member request, let's open up a polite, coherent, research-based discussion on historic religion in the context of the mid-19th century. If you have questions about how a particular sect might have handled something, or how a person of religious persuasion might be regarded in society, or fit into the larger social context, this would be a good place to ask.

    Religion *can* be a touchy subject, but it doesn't need to be. Let's keep to these discussion ground rules, which are consistent with the AC Forum rules:

    1: Keep it Historic. Religious dogma, tenets, and culture do change over time, and we're not interested in anything past 1866.

    2: Keep it Neutral. We're discussing the past. Nothing that anyone did or didn't do in the mid-19th century has any bearing on your own personal faith today. It is entirely possible to have calm discussion of controversial historic religious aspects.

    3: No Witnessing. This is not the thread for urging people toward your particular faith, or sharing faith/conversion stories. That would be "MODERN" religion... see Rule 1.

    4: No Bashing. Yes, we may touch on unsavory aspects of mid-19th century religious observance (or lack thereof.) But since we're discussing history, not personal faith, this won't be a problem, right?

    So, folks, keep it clean and civil and back up your thoughts with historic documentation. "I think they would have" won't work. If your comments cross the line from the rules, they will be edited or removed, to keep the focus of the discussion intact.

    What shall we discuss first?
    Regards,
    Elizabeth Clark
    Citizen Moderator

  2. #2
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    Dec 2003
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    35

    Re: Mid-19th Century Religion

    I'd like to know to what extent 19th century Americans were aware of Eastern religions. If anyone can point me to some sources I'd appreciate it very much.

    Thanks,

    Kim Caudell

  3. #3
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    Re: Mid-19th Century Religion

    Kim, any particular philosophy you want to look at? Godeys and Petersons did publish some good stories/articles/travelogues that incorporated "exotic" locales such as India and China, and those often include some cultural and religious characters in the narrative. Adding in foreign mission work undertaken by many US Christian religions, and the potential for at least a passing knowledge of the Far East expands.

    However, I'm not hitting good keywords on Google Books today... which is frustrating. Lunch first, then Google.
    Regards,
    Elizabeth Clark
    Citizen Moderator

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    112

    Idiom

    My 2 cents: Want to improve your impression? If you're portraying someone of a Protestant ilk memorize as much of the King James Version of the Bible as you can. Knowing and being able to quote the words will on its own bring you leaps and bounds above most portrayals out there.

    The KJV was the most influential bit of literature in America in the 1860s. Religious beliefs aside, it was about as close to universally known as anything. While Catholics and such didn't read the thing, there were enough sayings and phrases in common usage taken from the KJV that they would have been familiar with passages from it.

    Just my humble opinion, mind you.
    -steve tyler-

  5. #5
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    Re: Idiom

    Mr Tyler, would the "and such" after Catholics be referring to a specific set of non-Protestant sects? I can think of a few folks in the period who'd be familiar with the King James version, as either a holy text or historic text, but not be Protestant or Catholic: Mormons, Islamists, non-religious scholars or philosophers... Those are off the top of my head, but did you have others in mind that I've missed?
    Regards,
    Elizabeth Clark
    Citizen Moderator

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Essex
    Posts
    79

    Re: Mid-19th Century Religion

    Quote Originally Posted by Fiddlebum View Post
    I'd like to know to what extent 19th century Americans were aware of Eastern religions. If anyone can point me to some sources I'd appreciate it very much.

    Thanks,

    Kim Caudell
    The Chinese workers who built America's railways were Buddhists and Taoists.
    A couple of years back they found the grave of one of these immigrants in a program on Discovery.
    Nick Buczak
    19th Ind

    http://www.allempires.com

  7. #7
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    Re: Mid-19th Century Religion

    Nick, did the program happen to mention any percentages of Christianized Asians working the railways? Mission efforts with native populations and emigrant Asians in California, particularly, seem to have been pretty extensive in the middle of the century, based on summarizing a lot of reading on Gold Rush & westward migration topics.
    Regards,
    Elizabeth Clark
    Citizen Moderator

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Essex
    Posts
    79

    Re: Mid-19th Century Religion

    No, it was just about this one discovery. The worker was buried with his pigtail (something to do with traditional Chinese religious beliefs), some charms and in a traditional jacket worn with denim trousers.
    I can't remember the name of the program, it might have been something like "mummy autopsy"
    Nick Buczak
    19th Ind

    http://www.allempires.com

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
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    112

    Re: Mid-19th Century Religion

    Actually, I was thinking of Jews. It may be arguable (in a period manner) concerning whether Unitarians, Universalists, Shakers, and Quakers were "Protestants." But certainly they, as well as Latter Day Saints (Mormons; much less accepted as Protestants in the 1860s than the previously mentioned groups, but, then, where did converts to that church come from?), would all know from use the KJV Bible (in addition to the Book of Mormon in the Saints' case).

    I would like to make a clarification to my first post. Not everyone alive in America in the early 1860s was a scholar. Not everyone could read the Bible or had the Bible read to them. Not everyone went to church - some because of lack of opportunity, but many by choice. But nearly everyone heard or used some phrase or saying that came from the Bible, essentially the King James Version. As an example, in another forum I pointed out that the phrase "separating the wheat from the chaff" isn't just an old agricultural saying, it's also a biblically-based metaphor (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17, probably mixed with the sheep and goats from Matthew 25:31-33).
    Last edited by styler; 10-27-2007 at 10:03 AM. Reason: things look different the next day
    -steve tyler-

  10. #10
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    Dec 2003
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    Idaho Falls, ID
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    Re: Mid-19th Century Religion

    Good point on the Biblical metaphors; those, and many classical literature references do tend to pepper mid-century vocabulary, and even if a person was not well-versed in the originating texts themselves, they would be familiar with the "pop culture" phrase itself.

    On Mormons (LDS, Saints, Mormonites... lots of appropriate period terms), I've not found much from mid-century from the Mormons themselves to point toward them considering themselves Protestant. Rather, they believed their church to be a full restoration of the Early Church, not a protestant reformation of any kind. The line of the church also cannot be traced to Reformation sources... it starts with Joseph Smith, rather than any of the great Reformationists. So, from period information, I'd have to opine that the Mormons were not, in fact, Protestants, nor were they looking to be called or accepted as Protestants. Christian, yes. Protestant/Catholic, no.

    Eastern Religions: I grew up in a gold town, where the main strike was discovered in 1862, and by 1863, the tiny valley had a population of nearly 10,000, with a thriving Chinese population. There were small shrine niches included in the main, fortified social building down in "China Town", which remained in place even during the long closure of the building once the boom was over. While the Chinese were heavily persecuted in this particular area, local whites respected some of the permanent residents who operated one of the few medical services (Chinese herbs and alcohol, mostly).
    Regards,
    Elizabeth Clark
    Citizen Moderator

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