amar_m saidWasnt it always a Christian theocracy in disguise?? I mean the pilgrims (bless them, our ancestors) were uber religious right??
Not especially for the era. Consider the Roman Catholics of the same period with their Inquisition.
Rather, they got caught in the religious conflicts between the different Christian sects. People were being hanged or burned for choosing the "wrong" interpretation of the Bible. Therefore many of the Pilgrims saw the American colonies as an opportunity to escape and create their own little world without interference, the "Shining City on a Hill." They came here because of their persecuted religious beliefs (and for others, too), but those were not much stronger than anyone else's.
But of course those who want religious freedom for themselves seldom want it for others. After all, believing your religion to be right & true means everyone else has to be wrong & false. Intolerance was common in the early settlements, as it always is when a strong sense of righteousness prevails, even to this day.
Fortunately the Colonies were a big place back then, and the different groups coming here managed to stay out of each other's way. The concept of true religious freedom began to take hold as a tacit agreement among them to not recreate the religious wars back in Europe.
Furthermore, the Colonies were just that: the property of powers back in Europe, meant to make profit. Internal conflicts hurt profit, and their land grants & charters could be withdrawn, leaving the Colonists essentially unemployed & homeless. And given that the Colonies only had small militias rather than great armies, that were kept busy dealing with the Native Indians, no such religious wars ever developed on this continent.
Today I'm not so sure. What's different now is the rise of Christian Fundamentalism, that senses an opportunity to take over the government, and install the single state religion that the Founders of the US feared. Those in the 18th-Century also knew well about religious wars, of one state religion against another, and they understood the potential for competing religious interests among the Colonies. Indeed, it had as much to do with getting all the Colonial delegates to agree to form a unified government that gave us a secular system, more than esoteric philosophical principles.
So they instituted separation of Church & State to avoid that possibility. And today the Christian fundamentalists want to tear that down, with the help of the Republican Party that made a Devil's Pact with them in exchange for political power. The Republicans spread the fundamentalist agenda in return for votes. Except I wonder if they'll be devoured by their own Frankenstein monster, when the fundamentalists conclude they no longer need the Republicans to attain their goals.