Throughout American history, conformity has been used as a tool of deception to rob Americans of their individuality and freedom. From as early as European colonization in America to now, people have been forced to conform to the beliefs of mainstream society. It started with the Native Americans conforming to European culture, Puritans developing religion based societies, and the formation of antebellum America. Americans, now having complete freedom to do as we wish, are still pressured to pursue the American Dream, causing the American people to conform. The Europeans arrived in America in 1620 bringing along every religious belief and tradition they originally had. The Native Americans had no choice but to soon follow suit and face the destruction of life as they knew it. The Indians were forced to conform as seen in the age of Manifest Destiny that took place in the 1840’s, killing many Indians and making others to convert to Christianity. By the 20th century, Native Americans were suffering from the effect of forced assimilation, as shown in Tonto and The Lone Ranger.
The Puritan society used the Bible as their religious dogma. They conformed to Christianity and therefore tried to be perfect according to biblical standards, although by nature every individual sins. Eventually the religious views of the Puritans spread among Americans and were used as justification to form antebellum America between the 17th and 19th century. Americans started to believe that since we are all slaves to God, it was justified to have African slaves, which were in turn slaves to their masters. Throughout this time Christianity was imposed upon slaves because it was an inevitable factor of American culture. Although slaves could not read the bible, they were able to pray with their masters and expected to live as people of faith as seen in Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas, “He would read his hymn, and nod at me to commence,” (Douglass 104). Slaveholders incorporated their slaves into their daily worshiping, making it the norm for Slaves to worship God.
In America today we have every right to worship who we want, choose our political alliances, and disobey any commandment from the bible, often without any consequence. The transcendentalism movement has made it easier for us to be who we really want to be. Waldo Emerson says in his Self Reliance essay “It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards,” (Emerson).
Emerson uses God in a different way, saying that God created us so we could be different and do unique things. But the pressure to live as the perfect American still exist, meaning the expectation for you to be religious. Religion has been used since the founding of America to get people to conform to the beliefs of the majority of the people. It has been the justification for many heinous acts against mankind like slavery and war. Native Americans were forced to adopt the European culture including religion. Eventually there was an entire society based upon religion, soon justifying antebellum America.
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