This chapter examines religious encounters in America during the colonial period. One of the most salient features of the religious encounters in the colonial period is the seemingly incessant friction between and within specific religious groups. These disagreements—often originating in social, cultural, and theological circumstances—resulted in ongoing cycles of schism and the creation of new subgroups and denominations. Although the question of just how religious colonists were (and how that religiosity should be measured) continues as a point of contention among historians, scholars have often noted the striking contrast between the rise in church affiliation from the eighteenth into the nineteenth century in the colonies and the decline in membership experienced by European churches at precisely the same time. This chapter also considers the various strategies that historians of religion in early America have often utilized for understanding the various kinds of religious encounters.
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