Author: Peter Gottschalk
Title: American heretics : Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and the history of religious intolerance by
Publication Info: New York: Palgrave McMillan (2013)
I received a free early reviewers copy of this book via the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.
As Americans, we proudly proclaim our religious tolerance and maintain that our country was built on religious freedom. While many forms of religious expression have flourished in the United States, Gottschalk reminds of the many instances of religious intolerance in our country from earliest settlement to the present day. The book is divided into seven chapters focusing on:
- Puritan persecution of Quakers in colonial Massachusetts
- The struggles of Irish Catholic immigrants in Protestant-dominated cities in the 19th century
- The Ghost Dance and the extermination of the Sioux
- 20th prejudice against Jews by the Ku Klux Klan, Henry Ford, and immigration restrictions
- The Latter Day Saints struggle against violent opposition in the 19th century and how the political careers of George and Mitt Romney show a growing acceptance.
- The Branch Davidians and the vilifying of outsider groups as cults
- Islamophobia in the wake of the September 11th attacks
The book is short for all the topics it covers and Gottschalk really only touches upon these various topics. The author can get oddly deep into some parts of the topics while being very broad at other times. I also found it troubling how much he defends the Branch Davidians as a persecuted minority rather than recognizing that child rape and their vast military arsenal were a threat to the community at large.
It’s an interesting overview, and if you have a familiarity with American history there shouldn’t be too many surprises. But if you think that religious groups have always been welcomed in the United States, you’ll want to read this book.
Recommended books: Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman and The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong