Religion In The New World. Essay

2221 words - 9 pages

Religion to some people is their identity, their heritage that is passed down from generation to generation in a way to discover themselves. For others it is a sense of balance and comfort, a place or an idea to follow and confide in. America's history has had it share of ideologies and religious sects since its first inhabitants all the way up until the present. Some of them helped America's development and some of them lead America to times of conflict and oppression. Religion will always be a dominant force in our history and as well as a debatable one. From the time of sun and war gods, to the first and second great awakenings, to moral reforms, and struggles with slavery and feminism religion have been there conforming, reforming, and oppressing Americans for centuries.In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries America was a New World full of unfamiliarity and new people and ideas that the Old World had never known. This brought on the exploration era of Christopher Columbus. When he discovered the native inhabitants it became clear to him that these people knew nothing of Christianity and he hoped to convert these peoples. They were not viewed as unintelligent but because they had no knowledge of God and heaven the Europeans brought it upon themselves to civilize these men and women.One particular example of how religion affected the Indians was the defeat of the Mexica civilization. When Hernan Cortez arrived, the Mexica thought he was their god and believed him to be immortal. Consequently when the Spaniards attacked the Mexica, they didn't think they could kill them. Even their priests advised them that their gods had abandoned them. Any sign of defeat or tribulations meant that their god was no longer looking after them. This is what allowed the Spaniards to defeat the Mexica, their religion ultimately destroyed them.The Spaniards conquest became to rule over the land and the people of the New World. They came up with the encomienda system, which was the Spaniards ruling over the Indians forcing them to partake in labor. In return for the Indians labor, the encomendors, as they were called, were supposed to encourage the Indians to convert to Christianity. However, the demanding labor and cruel treatment that came from the encomendors worried some missionaries that the Indians would never want to convert out of fear of the men that belonged to it. The Catholic missionaries worked very hard to convert as many Indians as they could, and at first they thought they were successful, by baptizing hundreds only to later discover that the Indians were still worshipping their gods as well as the Christian God. Unlike other friars who figured that the Indians were too incompetent to understand the Christian faith, the friar, Tray Bernardino of Sahagun figured that if they first were able to learn and understand the religion of the Indians then they would understand how to convert them. This was the beginning of the Columbian Exchange the Europeans...

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