Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The American Religion

William Apess' uses religion as the backbone to his argument that Native Americans should have the same rights a white people in America. Beginning to read, I quickly thought back to Mary Rowlandson and how (frustratingly so) much she used religion in her tale of captivity. Religion served as the set of principles for the early American settlers which made me wonder what Americans use now as their guides. What set of morals, if any, could Apess use as the center of his argument if he were still fighting for Native American rights. Has the difference between the Republican and Democrat agenda's become our new set of morals and thus our new religion? Is there no set of morals to turn to in a country where religion is slowly beginning to deteriorate?


  1. I also sighed when I started reading Apess' argument. I certainly did not want to read another Native American narrative (that seems to be a common trend in about 3 of my classes) and I especially did not want to read one about religion. But after getting through Apess' examples and evidence, I was impressed. He chose to explain his argument through Christianity because his land was taken over by white Christians. Through his studies and life experience, Apess was familiar with the idea that race had absolutely no place in religion. He beat his enemy at their own game when he started throwing out evidence from their own bible and biblical history that put them in the wrong.

    Also, I agree that religion has become a weak argument in modern times. When someone "pulls the Jesus card" eyes tend to roll and the legitimacy to the argument seems to be lost. Since the separation of Church and State, the law has become our new guiding force. Our morals can be found in the Bill of Rights. Instead of hiding behind the bible, we now hide behind the Constitution.

  2. Your post made me think of how one of the ways people fight for Native American rights now is through art. Artists with this goal try to portray different Native American concerns and issues but not through a 2-d stereotype. This seems similar to the use of literature. The Native American art movement definitely has a political end, but I think that because its goal is to try to end marginalization, it wouldn't really fit into the two party arguement.

    About whether we have morals without religion, I definitely think that we do. I just don't think that personal morality is as easy to quantify as religion is because religion has a label - you are x or you aren't. Also, religion hasn't completely deteriorated - Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s was a reverend, right?

  3. You know, Caitlin, one way to redirect your sigh is to consider just how central our class is to your life, if not to the universe. It's a glass-half-full kind of stance.

    Your criticism is fine, though, because it gets at the larger questions of canon building that I just won't let die.

    Speaking of religion and politics, I was just thinking about how wonderful it is that we live in a country where church and state are separated and in which we absolutely do not approach the political process with a kind of fervor that resembles religion in any way shape or form.

    But that's just me, though. I don't know your thoughts. And I sincerely want to know them.

  4. Of course we approach the political process with a religious fervor! Our political landscape revolves around trust and choosing one unbelievably important leader to march us into the unknown. Whether or not it should be, church and state will always be linked, and as emotional human beings we cannot help but merge them.

    Although the role of religion in our lives has certainly changed and is still evolving, it's still prominent in many people's lives. Apess' main points are so straightforward and clear that I think they would still be powerful and influential today. Even if Americans don't revere Jesus Christ, they do have a moral code (we hope). Apess discusses basic human rights that should be given regardless of skin color. His arguments could be structured similarly and received well in today's society.

  5. Professor Fisher, that comment made me laugh because I thought the same thing during Obama's campaign! I don't want to get too much into my political views, but I felt like the majority of his campaign relied on presenting him as an idealistic figurehead who was a good speaker.

    Anyway, I agree that it is difficult to separate Church and State because of humanity's vulnerability to their emotions. And to answer your question Andrew, I think people can still have morals without being religious. Spirituality and religiosity, though intertwined, are still two different things. After all, Christianity in its purist sense advocates, above all, to treat others as you would like to be treated by doing good deeds. That was Jesus Christ's message to begin with. Even though fewer Americans adhere to the strict guidelines of organized religion, they can still follow the nationwide moral code of The Golden Rule. Therefore, Apess's argument that race does not matter in religion can also apply to The Golden Rule, which isn't necessarily, and doesn't have to be, a religious moral code.

  6. I'm always happy to keep people laughing, Sam.