Lead: Religion was important in nineteenth-century America. Its influence was in no way better demonstrated than in the prominence of the Beecher family.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Religion has played a vital role in the shaping of the American experience. While the Founders created a secular state, it was in many ways the only choice they had. So prevalent was religion in its various forms that only a government that was neutral could possibly deal fairly with all the churches and sects that had established themselves in America even by the 1780s. The Founders were determined that no state church would encumber the tender consciences or drain the pocketbooks of those of the unwilling. The Founders were also painfully aware of the scars that remained on the European landscape after three centuries of religious warfare and intolerance. However, this official secular bias or lack of bias did not mean Americans were irreligious. In fact, the history of the United States is replete with examples of the powerful influence of religion over political, social, and economic life. Even in the late twentieth century church attendance and participation in America outstripped that of any other developed country.

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