Religion in Philadelphia - An Essay Sample

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Middlebury College
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The religious studies involve the study of the various beliefs and rituals practiced by people from a particular geographical area or culture. The process involves divulging as much information as possible on the primary ideals and schools of thoughts in a debate mostly resulting in various conclusions that justify human behavior. Notably, the religious scene in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania remains characterized by the resurgence of evangelical Christianity. The region displays a 49.46% religious affiliation with 29% practicing Catholicism, 1.11% are Jewish, 4.3 % Protestants, and 2.6 % are Muslims ("City DATA"). Although it is evident that almost half of the total population are religious, it is imperative to state that in Pennsylvania, especially Philadelphia, the religious scene remains highly proliferated (Shover). Therefore, the scope of this paper lies in divulging the early religion in the city, rituals, and ceremonies of the Lenape and mystical traditions of the colonial America.

Religion in Early Philadelphia

The American society in the 19th century regarded the clergy with utmost respect and reverence. This treatment resulted from the revolutionary nature of the time, a situation that led to high numbers of deaths. These killings promoted the society to seek the better understanding of the afterlife. Nonetheless, it remains imperative to note that most religions such as Christianity, in general, have often indulged the idea of an afterlife with pomp. This outlook on a matter of life and death has always resulted in communities and societies' ability to tolerate and entertain the idea of mortality. However, the need for morality to construct a stable society is another reason why the clergymen were given a chance to attend to community and national government mandates. This marked the stretch and control of religion at the time (Primiano 43).

The time is also characterized by a sense of intolerance between religions. Most America citizens being formerly from Europe introduced the issue of conflicts between Christians and Islam affiliates. This rivalry can be attached to the crusader's mission to fight in the holy war. With a state of war being mandated by both religions, the animosity seemed to have carried on into the new age. Nonetheless, with subsequent alterations and manipulations of the constitution in the state and at the national level, guidelines concerning freedom of worship and expression were set to protect worshipers from harsh and unruly treatment.

Rituals and Ceremonies of the Lenape

The Lenape also referred to as the Delaware Indians is an Algonquin-speaking tribe that occupied the eastern Pennsylvania. Even though their rich history characterized migratory triumphs, much of the scholarly research remains based on their religious practices. These ceremonies include the Big Delaware House, in which the community engaged in practices in a bid to pay homage to the deceased, spirits, and gods. Nonetheless, it is imperative to note that the event was revived after the Second World War to promote the heritage of the Native Americans. The resemblance of the ritual to modern age religions approximates the beliefs of this society to certain principles in Christianity. This idea shared include the continual blessings, altruism, the value of the different member's community, communal worship, a provocation against violence, as well as righteousness of mind and body during worship (Makarius 49).

The activities and festivities during the ceremony required the participation of the three Delaware clans: Wolf, Tortoise, and Turkey. This step was the first application of symbolic association as an animal representing each of the phratries. The celibacy of the partakers was also a matter of concern as impure individuals were barred from participation. The delegation of duties was evident as men tended the fires as their counterparts prepared ceremonial foods. The first night of the fair was characterized by dancing women who recited their visions to the people. Men would consequentially paint the poles in red to implicate the False Being, the evil deity. The last and final act in the ceremony involved the closing of cosmos and extinguishing the fires.

Mystical Traditions in Early Colonial American History

Since the start of days, the American society served as the center for spirituality revolutions that finally made an impact across the globe. With immigrants and natives each having a diverse and broad perspective to religion and deities, the great religious proliferations characterized the American society. Furthermore, with alteration in the constitution favoring the expression of faith, the trend carried on exponentially into the coming ages.

Although most of the early American communities comprised Puritan Europeans, the rise of Anglicanism and Congregationalism from the 1680s to 1760 has serious religious implications. These two denominations would give birth to the new age movements such as Quakers, Unitarians, and Methodists. Primarily, the basis of the split is about the use of symbolism in church and worship. Additionally, it remains imperative to note that the Puritans were believers in the Church of England, a British breakaway from Roman Catholic. More specifically, the rise and fall of the various Christian movements has always been influenced by politics and arts (Ahlstrom 200).


Work Cited

Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A religious history of the American people. Yale University Press, 2004.

City DATA. "Religions in Philadelphia County, PA." - Stats About All US Cities - Real Estate, Relocation Info, Crime, House Prices, Cost of Living, Races, Home Value Estimator, Recent Sales, Income, Photos, Schools, Maps, Weather, Neighborhoods, and More, 2017,

Makarius, Laura. "Ritual clowns and symbolical behaviour." Diogenes 18.69 (1970): 44-73.

Primiano, Leonard Norman. "Vernacular religion and the search for method in religious folklife." Western Folklore 54.1 (1995): 37-56.

Shover, John L. "Ethnicity and Religion in Philadelphia Politics, 1924-40." American Quarterly 25.5 (1973): 499-515.


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