Download Melton's Encyclopedia of American Religions by J. Gordon Melton, James Bevereley, Constance Jones, Pamela PDF

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By J. Gordon Melton, James Bevereley, Constance Jones, Pamela S. Nadell, Rodney Stark

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Sample text

Third, the majority of the population had left behind a situation in which church membership and citizenship were Melton’s Encyclopedia of American Religions Essay 1 largely synonymous, and in their new free situation they chose to support no religion, profess no religious affiliation, and join no church. Churches could begin massive efforts to bring the population into the religious life they offered. Most churches engaged in evangelism, some limited to one language or ethnic group. In the success of their evangelistic endeavors lies the other half of the story of the next phase in American religion.

In one sense, the Congregationalists were least affected by the war. A number of ministers were identified with the Patriots’ cause, and in spite of the church’s identification with the state prior to the Revolution, its conflicts with the British government (such as its resistance to the planting of a Church of England congregation in Boston) left it in good standing when peace returned. Congregationalism did not, however, remain unscathed. First, it suffered an immediate loss of membership and a membership drain through the remainder of the century as British Loyalists left New England to resettle in Canada.

However, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam were introduced into American life and looked for converts among a public only 35 percent of whom had joined a church. During the twentieth century, the role of proselytizing activity was spectacular. As the nation’s population multiplied three and a half times (from 75 million to 250 million), Melton’s Encyclopedia of American Religions Christian church membership multiplied seven times, and the percentage of church members doubled from slightly more than 30 percent to more than 65 percent.

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