Religion As A Social Force Essay, Research Paper
Religion as a Social Force
The Amerindians of the region had their own religious practices and ceremonies before the intervention of any Europeans. For the most part they were polytheistic-worshiping many gods. Much of their rites involved sacrifices, often times humans, as well as dancing singing and smoking. All of that was interrupted with the arrival of the Europeans who insisted that the Amerindians were heathens thus making them inferior. Then and there attempts were made to Christianise them as a please Queen Isabella. The trick behind that through was force these people to work and so not many of the Spaniards cared much about their religious lives. Several missionaries came to the West Indies to work among the Amerindians. Most of the missionaries came by Roman Catholic orders and were Domonicans. Among the missionaries were Montesions and Las Casa, both tried to convert the Amerindias to Christianity.
In 1685 or there about, the Roman Catholic Church sanctioned Slavery as it claimed that the negros were ?foreign subjects? and thus could be enslaved. They even stated the slavery was helpful to the slaves, as they became Christians. The Spanish even set up slave code called the Las Partidas stating that slaves should be baptized, allow to go church, get religious instructions and marry, among other things. However, the practice often differs from the law. It would appear to me that religious practices were to teach the slaves the equality of all men. The colonist in Spanish, Brithish and French territories saw it too and taught that it was dangerous to teach slaves those Christian principles. Catholicism was imposed on the Amerindians with little or no regards for the bloody committed against them. This produced a faith, which hardly mre than skin-deep for the vast majority of enslaved converts.
Another group of Christians in the West Indies were the Anglicans. They too were upholders of the slave system in its peak and so did little to improve the plight of the slaves. In fact they weren?t even committed to Christianity, as the Chatholics were several clergymen among them who lived secular lives. Peter Ashdown in his book Caribbean Revision History puts it like this ?The Anglicans were only namesakes of Christianity so how could they wxpect to christianise others?. Their sole role it seems was to subdue and assimilate the Amerindians. Originally there was little interest in christianising the slaves. Their reason for sanctioning slaves was that God punished the Negros by making them slaves and conversion will make them free. Not from control of masters, but simply from their wicked habits and thoughts and all that make them dissatisfied with their lot. This led to an ironic situation in which the those who became Christians often prayed for their white opperssors? in Jamaica this was what the slaves would: ?Father forgive them, for they know not what they do?Burka left him God England, and the devil in Jamiaca Stir him up to do all these wickedness. Poor thing! Him eye blind, and him heart hard.?
The Baptist, Methodist and Moravians played a more positive role; they formed an alliance with the freed salves to help them become independent from the planter. In Jamaica, where a majority of the ex\slaves left the plantatins and moved, the non-conformist churches (they were called non-conformists beause they refused to conform with the rules and practices of England) provided thousands of acres of lkand bought with church money. As a result these demoninations were initially knows as ?liberators.? In reference to David Watts book The West Indies ?The Methodist church in Jamaica doubled its membership between 1831 and 1841, while the Baptists? tripled from 10,000 to 34,000 during the same period.
Even among these churches, however, the white leadership made it clear that its task was not to arbitrate between master and former slave. The church was forbidden to meddle in ?social and political questions,? its task being to specify the rebel spirit in the blacks through education and Christian teaching. The Quakers were also interested in the religious training of the slaves. They got increased attention by their rejection of slavery and their vocal role in rejecting both slavery and the slave trade. One famous member among them was Granville Sharpe. There were several other prominent abolitionists such as Wilberforce and Buxton who were ?God-sent? Humanitarians. They were also called the members of the Clapham Sect or the Saints and their contribution to fight against slavery was invaluable. By the 1800s the West Indian Islands had Moravians, Wesleyans, Methodists and Baptists operating among the slave population. At first the slaves were very suspicious of the missionaries who were white. The planters also had their qualms about the Missionaries; they felt that they (the Missionaries) were undermining their society by preaching and teaching to the slaves. Some assemblies even passed regulations stating that Missionaries must have a licence from the parish magistrate to preach-to make it even worst those fees were very high. In addition the planters grab at every opportunity to blame the Missionaries for any slave infractions. In fact there were incidences of Missionaries losing their lives if they were thought of being involved in helping or influencing slave revolts. In spite of all the prosecution though, the Missionaries were very instrumental to emancipation of slaves and their freedom.
Despite the influences of all those religious groups, African religions persisted in the Caribbean. The Planters refused to ensure that the Slaves
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