Religion: Protestant Reformation and Native Americans Essay

Submitted By Srosen53
Words: 1167
Pages: 5

After Constantine I’s conversion to Christianity, religion and empire became an inseparable pair. Since its inception as a religious institution, Christianity was used by various groups to propel their agendas. The word of god and all things holy was used to influence exploration, enslavement, reform, economics, war, independence, politics, and science. From Columbus’s voyages to the New World, to wars in the Old World, leaders of different causes have used religious language to convince people to adopt different views, and to take on new roles, all for the benefit of the charlatan. Early explorers have incorporated religion and god’s name into their method of managing newly found lands. Letters between explorers and their patrons have proven to be a dependable insight into that place and time. In 1492, after Christopher Columbus found what he claimed as Hispaniola, he wrote a letter to the King and Queen of Spain containing what he believed to be important policies that should be maintained in the new territory. While most of the points, seven of the thirteen, regarded only the search and collection of gold, two dealt with religion. The fourth point on the list was the necessity of a church and friars. Beside the need of such institutions so that the explorers and settlers could practice their current faith, a high priority of Spain was the conversion of the Native Americans to Christianity. The Spanish needed to have the natives trust them, if they were ever to find the vats of gold that they believed the land contained. To make themselves more affable, the explorers introduced the Native Americans to monotheism. They needed the Native Americans to give up some of the land that could possibly contain the valuable resource, so they traded property for the bible. They told the natives that the monotheistic god was superior to any of their polytheistic deities, and that as god fearing Christians, the explorers knew what was best. The Native Americans were naïve, and in a sense traded gold in exchange for the “true faith”. To maintain the hold of religion, according to the eighth point, one percent of all collected gold would go to the church.
Like Columbus, Hernan Cortes wrote to his patron, King Charles I. After exploring Tenochtitlan, an impressive city in Mexico, Cortes relays what he sees in a letter. After describing the layout of the city, and the large size of the many temples, he discusses the idols and practices within them. The Aztecs had been so enamored by Cortes, that they were willing to take him into the heart of the city, making themselves very vulnerable to an attack. Cortes proclaims that when he and his men found the largest and most important of the idols, they rolled them down the massive staircase, destroying them. When confronted by the local inhabitants, Cortes and his men explained that while their idols were magnificent, they were made by man. Idol worship, as they called the native’s practice, could never be equal to devotion to the omnipotent god of the Christians. The Aztecs were fooled, and the Conquistadors used their misguided trust to take over the city, along with most of modern-day Mexico. Southern plantation owners also used religious rhetoric to ensure that their cheap labor force, and way of life remained protected. Supporters of slavery have used the bible as a way to continue the currently abolished practice. Much information about slavery, and the justifications made by its proponents, has come from the writings of freed slaves. These accounts show many of the inhumanities of slavery, making it difficult to understand how it was defended. In an “18th Century Slave Narrative,” the narrator talks of the long painful journey from his native African country to the West Indies, and then to Virginia. Due to the low health standards of the areas where the future slaves were held, many of the under-deck dwellers became horribly sick. When they refused to eat what was offered, they were