20 Mar 2022


American Religion and the World Wars

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Religion is the collective practice of reverencing and honoring one Supreme Being that is considered to be divine and holy. This is based on the beliefs that the Supreme Being, all rather the God or the gods being worshiped have supernatural powers that can handle all the situations and problems faced by the people who believe and have faith in these supreme beings.

America as a State does not have a particular official State religion that is practiced across borders but instead a variety of religious practices ranging from Christianity with its denominations, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism are some of the major religious practices exercised in America. The existence of this faith was influenced during the colonial eras where most European migrants sought a place they could freely worship because they experienced prejudice in their native homes. The native homes included the German and English settlers. The existence of multi-culture and the freedom of worship has been viewed as the core reason for the widespread of a variety of faith and religious practices. According to Jenkins, during the World War I, well referred to as the ‘Great War’ because of the magnitude of deaths and distraction that took place, the causes of the eruption of the war were not only political but religion had a role to play in the war. Consequently, some participants considered the WWI, a ‘Holy War’. This was depicted in the recorded utterances of some of the influential participants in the war. For instance, some participants demonized their enemies and considered them-selves more righteous or holier. Participants such as the Germans compared the British as to the ‘whore of Babylon’ as stated in the book of Revelation in the Bible. Kaiser Wilhelm of German was denoted as an Antichrist by the Russians after he mobilized his troops and raged war over Russia even after negotiations on what to do about the Austria – Serbia war. On the other hand, clergymen from England alerted their countrymen and declared that they – the clergymen, were God’s instruments to liberating and delivering the Christian civilization of Europe ( Mckenzie, 2014). All these differences in belief in all these other nations directly affected America since it was associated with some of the European Nations in the World Wars. 

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The Interplay between Religion and Social-Historical, Economic and Political Context

Religion during the times of wars had a very big impact on the social way of living amongst people, which also affected the economy and the politics of the country of America. Socially: During the19th century, Christianity had a lot of dominance across America and hence it was the most practiced religion. Therefore, most immigrants who came in were easily drawn into Christianity in case they never practiced any religion. For instance, the African – Americans formulated social groups that came together to worship and find solace from the Christian Faith. These groups of worship were slowly turned into political movements especially for the need to fight for their freedom from slavery. They became vibrant and highly vocal and powerful claims of equality summed up their teachings and preaching. Despite the fact that the early clergymen insisted inequality, it was ironical because they did not accept the challenge from women preachers because they would give them the chance to pray and preach, but were never ordained to work serve as the head pastors of the churches. With the happenings during the Civil War, many African Americans who were freed formed a number of churches that rapidly expanded and they included the Baptist Churches. The congregations in these churches would later revolutionize into political rallies. The increase in a number of people and cultures during the Great Migration created more and new grounds of religious practices away from the normal Protestant Christianity (Weisenfeld, 2015). For instance Marcus Garvey, a political activist of Jamaican origin founded the establishment of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which was meant to empower ‘global black unity and self-determination in Africa.’ The Motto in Garvey’s movement had a very powerful impact on the social life and cultural impacts of the black people, it stated, “One God! One Aim! One Destiny!,” It was viewed that Garvey incorporated prayers, hymns and exercised some religious rituals during activities having an influence on the black community and some Caribbean immigrants. 

Economically: During the early years that formulated the United States, the British Colonies was greatly influenced by the Christian Religious groups. Very strict religious conditions were enforced by both local towns’ rules and both colony government. For instance, the laws enacted forced everyone to worship and to regularly attend the services in their respective places of worship ( Facing History and Ourselves, 2016).   They were expected to pay revenues that were used to raise and fund the ministers. 

Political: According to ‘Impact of Wars on Religion,’ by Salo W. Baron, the Second World War contributed to a widespread of religious practices which also closely related to the political state of most countries then. It is during these times that even the Soviet Union reduced its policies on antireligious. In America, the religious practices and belief had toned down considering the destructions, deaths, and damages that had taken place. Most presidential candidates made sure they did not in any way interfere with any religious practice since they were affiliated to some political grounds. For instance, Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln was a leader whose faith and beliefs were never clear to the public but in most of his speeches, he was cautious not to mention anything that would cause ripples in the political environment. In addition, most political activists were religious leaders who formed civil rights movements to enlighten mostly the colored race on their rights and freedom. Such were the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. His teachings were based on the Biblical view and he was in the frontline to foresee freedom and justice enforced to all equally. Unlike other political activists, Luther King’s principles and values were that of no violence and it was his way of not withdrawing from politics but mixing politics with morals and ethics. Freedom, empowerment, personal responsibility, public good and democracy were his major subjects. His voice still echoes in today’s world, and political arena ( Jezer, 2003). 

Correlation of American Religion in World Wars and Its Experiences

The American Religious practices had different forms and ways as to how the people of America experienced it. For example, it was observed that the religious practices of the military forces and the civilians were much on the same level because while most civilian sought refuge in churches and in other places of worship, militants would practice their religious doctrines while at war. They would pray, sing hymns and read and quote the Bible. It was the same with the civilian, who would worship and hide in worship places. It is stated that they indirectly engaged in the war on the basis of religion by supplying needs to the militants and participant of the war while on church premises. As for the Militants, they rarely attended their Chaplains despite privately seeking their God (Pellegrino, 2016).

During the World War II, the main reason of religion incorporated in the military was because of the Military Chaplaincy. Which was widely accepted, and a number of close to ten thousand men served in the military as chaplains. In most cases, the military chaplains, were the bridge between the religion, the military and definitely the politics in the Nation all round. Other members of the clergy in the civilians took the initiative of visiting militants in their camps and evangelizing the Gospel, which was more focused on encouraging them to stay in the fight till victory, is earned. Another major reason was to win more followers and believers of the word. 

The religious practices in America were influenced by the existence of people of different races from different corners of the world. Most of these immigrants who landed in American land were seeking an environment where they would freely worship and apparently America offered just that. Many European immigrants were Christian believers and the influenced the practices of the American natives into Christianity. With time, a revolution in a radical practice in Christianity was observed in the coming together of the African Americans forming their own churches where they would learn and teach on the Christian doctrines. It was in these churches that the arising of political civil rights revolution was initiated and politics became a central issue in the matters of democracy and freedom. America has had a variety of experiences on the religious grounds which did impact it both positively and negatively. Today the policy of freedom of worship has seen millions of people exercise this right in the best way they know how. Other religions came in and the percentage of Christian Protestants has slowly decreased with the increase of years and population. Some of the major religions in America today include Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, and Atheists.


Mckenzie, R. (2014). The great and holy war: The Forgotten side of the First World War. Retrieved 16 September 2016, from http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/june/wwi-philip-jenkins-great-and-holy-war-review.html

Pellegrino, N. (2016). Embattled Belief: The Religious Experiences of America Military Combatants during the World War 11 and Today. Encompass.eku.edu. Retrieved 16 September 2016, from http://encompass.eku.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1188&context=jme

Facing History and Ourselves,. (2016). Religion in Colonial America: Trends, Regulations, and Beliefs. Retrieved 16 September 2016, fromhttps://www.facinghistory.org/nobigotry/religion-colonial-america-trends-regulations-and-beliefs

Jezer, M. (2003).The Spiritual Politics of Martin Luther King: Alternet King taught the concept of a "beloved community," an inclusive vision of humankind striving together for peace and justice. Retrieved 16 September 2016, from http://www.alternet.org/story/14960/the_spiritual_politics_of_martin_luther_king

Weisenfeld, J. (2015). Religion in African American History Americanhistory.oxfordre.com Retrieved 16 September 2016, from http://americanhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-24

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