The Role of Religion in Shaping American Wars and Imperialism

TLDR Religion has played a significant role in shaping American wars and imperialism throughout history, with conflicts often fueled by religious tensions and the desire to spread civilization. From the violent holy wars of the Puritans to the moral crusade of ending slavery in the American Civil War, religion has influenced the motivations and rhetoric behind these conflicts.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 In 1637, the Pilgrim Fathers and their native American allies launched a devastating attack on the Pequot tribe, reflecting the ambivalence and tension in American history towards war and relations with other peoples.
04:37 The United States has been unusual among great powers in the consistency in which religion has shaped their wars, diplomacy, and behavior in the world, but there is also tension between the desire for expansion and aggression and the pacifistic ideas influenced by religion.
08:52 The Puritans and other English settlers in the 17th century initially wanted to settle and be left alone, but conflicts with Native American tribes quickly turned into violent holy wars, fueled by religious tensions and the settlers' values from their religious faith and the Bible. The Quakers, on the other hand, introduced a reformist ethos and impulse that shaped how Americans viewed others and the wider world, serving as a conscience check for expansion and aggression.
12:50 The American project, whether it be Western expansion or overseas, is shaped by a strong reformist pacifistic impulse, with the idea that if they are going to expand, it must be done for the right reasons and in the right ways.
17:02 The American Revolution was seen as a defense of universal rights and a universal understanding of humanity, rooted in both Christianity and the idea of Americanism, with the desire to spread civilization and the blessings of civilization being at the heart of what it means to be American.
21:07 The American Civil War became America's first war of humanitarian intervention, with the moral crusade of ending slavery becoming fused with the goal of preserving the union, and the language used by Abraham Lincoln and others during the war was highly moralistic and religious.
25:26 Religion and religious rhetoric played a significant role in Abraham Lincoln's speeches during the Civil War, reflecting the deep-rooted Christian assumptions and values that saturated American society at the time.
29:29 Religion played a significant role in shaping how the wars were fought and the motivations behind them, with Protestant ideas driving the reasons for the wars, as seen in the example of the Philippines and President McKinley's decision to take the country and "Christianize" the Filipinos.
33:22 The inclusion of religion in the story of American imperialism is important because it helps to uncover the motives behind the actions taken, such as the annexation of the Philippines, and reveals how those actions would have been different without the religious element.
37:19 The United States' imperialist actions reflect Christian assumptions and values, but Americans eventually forget about their empire and define their foreign policy as being against empires, fighting against Nazi, Japanese, and Soviet empires in particular.
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