Pilgrims in Their Own Land: 500 Years of Religion in America

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Pilgrims in Their Own Land is Martin E. Marty's vivid chronological account of the people and events that carved the spiritual landscape of America. It is in one sense a study of migration, with each wave of immigrants bringing a set of religious beliefs to a new world. The narrative unfolds through sharply detailed biographical vignettes—stories of religious "pathfinders," including William Penn, Mary Baker Eddy, Henry David Thoreau, and many other leaders of movements, both marginal and mainstream. In addition, Marty considers the impact of religion on social issues such as racism, feminism, and utopianism.

And engrossing, highly readable, and comprehensive history, Pilgrims in Their Own Land is written with respect, appreciation, and insight into the multitude of religious groups that represent expressions of spirituality in America.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It would be a good thing for America if this book were widely read and discussed."
Los Angeles Times

"Marty weaves a fascinating tapestry of personal histories."
—The Washington Post

"Page for page, it is the most engaging one-volume history of American religion we now have."
—The New York Times Book Review

"An essential book for serious students of American society."
Chicago Sun-Times Book Week

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140082685
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/1985
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 705,470
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Marty, one of today’s most respected theologians, is professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, where the Martin Marty Center has been founded to promote public religion endeavors. His more than fifty books include Modern American Religion. He is a winner of the National Book Award and was the first religion scholar to receive the National Humanities Medal.

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Table of Contents

1. The First Migrants
2. A Crowned Cross
3. The Conqueror versus the Missionary
4. Holy Wars and Sacred Piracies
5. Establishing Colonies
6. Pilgrimages of Dissent
7. The End of the Catholic Missionary Road
8. A Matter of Choice
9. Three Revolutions
10. Into the West and the World
11. Beyond Existing Bounds
12. A Century of Exclusion
13. Adapting to America
14. Crises in the Protestant Empire
15. Healing the Restless
16. The Dream of One Kingdom
17. A Season of Conflicts
18. The American Ways of Life
19. Always a Horizon
20. New Paths for Old Pilgrimages
Suggested Reading

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  • Posted February 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The religion of most Americans is "... imported Judaism and Christianity, tempered by Enlightment ideals."

    Professor Martin Marty's 1984 PILGRIMS IN THEIR OWN LAND: 500 YEARS OF RELIGION IN AMERICA is a good read. It might be resubtitled 500 YEARS IN 500 PAGES. Focusing on "Great Men" (women, too) Marty shows that Americans have always used religion to make sense of their "brave new world" of dark forests, murderous natives and a continent waiting for them to take over. Columbus did it. Bartolome de las Casas did it, using religion to make a case for not enslaving Indians. Franklin, Jefferson, John Dewey and others boosted a non-sectarian public religion that sanctified while exalting the American nation. Ellen G. White (7th-day Adventists) and Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science) told Americans that God wanted everyone to be healthy. Billy Graham preached Christ crucified. John Courtney Murray, S. J., persuaded the Second Vatican Council that God wanted all men to enjoy liberty of conscience. They are all here in PILGRIMS IN THEIR OWN LAND. *****

    From time to time, Martin E. Marty pauses in his ceaseless parade of religious innovators and rebels to remind us that most Americans by far are not Moonies or New Agers or Wiccan. They belong to defined sectarian churches. They do not exemplify vague, unchurched "spirituality." They are not dissenters or marginal men and women. They are Orthodox Jews or Roman Catholics or Methodists. "They have, in the main, imported and lived with inherited Judaism and Christianity, tempered by Enlightenment ideals" (Ch 19, p. 430). *****

    On the same page Marty speaks approvingly of Rabbi Solomon Schechter who in 1903 "said that Americans were conservative in religion." He goes on by paraphrasing G. K. Chesterton (ORTHODOXY Ch. 7) to remind that the prominence in America of these adapted, only moderately changed major faiths is no accident. Staying the same ("semper idem") takes hard work. Chesterton had written: ". all conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change. If you leave a white post alone it will soon be a black post. If you particularly want it to be white you must be always painting it again; that is, you must be always having a revolution. Briefly, if you want the old white post you must have a new white post." The same for America's imported religions. *****

    Chesterton also described America as "a nation with the soul of a church." Marty does not disagree. But American religion of whatever form is a church of pilgrims, of restless people, of nomads, of demand-siders who gravitate toward faiths that will make them happy, that do good things for themselves. This is a convincingly argued text. Very well expressed, too.

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