History Buzz December 9, 2011: George C. Rable: On Civil War’s 150th anniversary, historian reflects on religion’s role

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HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

HISTORY BOOK NEWS — Sesquicentennial Update: Civil War at 150

George C. Rable: On Civil War’s 150th anniversary, historian reflects on religion’s role

Source: Catholic News Agency, 12-9-11

Religion had a “pervasive” role in American life at the time of the United States’ Civil War, one historian says, explaining his “fascinating” discoveries about the roles Catholics played.

“One of the things that surprised me was that there were certain dominant ideas, regardless of particular religious affiliation. Ideas about providence, ideas about sin, ideas about judgment. Those were common themes that crossed religious traditions,” George C. Rable, a history professor at the University of Alabama, told CNA on Dec. 7.

“Religion was absolutely pervasive when Americans tried to explain the causes, and the course, and the consequences of the Civil War.”

The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, which lasted from 1861 to 1865.

The conflict remains a central event in American history. It preserved the union of the states and emancipated the slaves, both actions which Christians saw at the time as providential.

Differences about slavery and whether it was a divinely inspired institution helped divide the Protestant churches before and during the war. Some contemporary Catholic observers saw these divisions as a religious fault.

Prof. Rable, author of the 2010 book “God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War” (Univ. of North Carolina Press, $35), read many northern Catholic newspapers from the period for his research.

“One argument that they make is that essentially Protestantism caused the war. You might say that that is a peculiar idea, but their point was that Protestants are inherently divisive and schismatic. Had the nation been entirely Catholic, they said, the nation would never have divided.”…READ MORE

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