The „American Dream‟ as aReligious Idea.Jenn Lodge, LaurenHaywood, Caitlyn Gray andJordan Creasey.
Manifest Destiny: The Originsof the American Dream?What is Manifest Destiny? From the Oxford English Dictionary:◦ “The doctrine or belief that the expansion of the United States throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable.”◦ It was believed that this expansion was the will of God; the United States had a “divine right” to expand.
John Ghast‟sAmerican Progress (1872) Americans heading west. Going towards Native Americans: ◦ Americans‟ divine right to take control of the Native American land. Angel-like figure facing the west, guiding the Americans‟ journey: ◦ Personification of “Progress” ◦ It is God‟s will that American expands and its citizens prosper. ◦ She carries a school book – intelligence, wisdom. Steam engines also facing west: expansion and urbanisation of the American landscape.
Manifest Destiny & Religion There are several different stories about the religious origins of the term “Manifest Destiny”: ◦ 1845: Democratic Review, “…the fulfilment of our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for the free development of our yearly multiplying millions.” ◦ “We are entered into a covenant with [God]…” ◦ “There is a right for a new chapter in the law of nations; or rather, in the special laws of our own country; for I suppose the right of a manifest destiny to spread will not be admitted to exist in any nation except the universal Yankee nation!”
Manifest Destiny & ReligionThe U.S.A.‟s Manifest Destiny promised Americansan early version of the American dream, a termthat had not yet been coined: Monetary success in life A chance to find happiness A chance to start anew in a new place Freedom Independence
Destiny and The Dream The American Dream: “The ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved.”◦ Manifest Destiny: “The doctrine or belief that the expansion of the United States throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable.” ◦ - From the Oxford English Dictionary
„American Dream‟ as an IdeaWhat is the „American Dream‟? The concept of the American Dream has been subject to a fair amount of criticism due to many individuals have their own interpretations of the American Dream based on their own values and upbringing.
Contrasting The AmericanDream and Manifest Destiny The American Dream Manifest DestinyArguably/implicitly religious Explicitly religious- Implication of the United States as a land - A right given by God of freedom and miracles, but success comes from the immigrant seeking the American DreamFirst use 1931 Originated in the 1840sDirected toward and believed in by Directed to and believed in by American citizensimmigrantsMovement to the United States as a nation Movement to the American WestPursuit of greater opportunities in the United States of Pursuit of greater opportunities in the United States ofAmerica America
The American Dream Fundamentally, the American Dream is about hope and the potential for change in some way. ◦ Living the dream. Many believe that the structure of American society contradicts the idealistic goal of the „American Dream‟, pointing to examples such as inequality rooted in class, race and ethnic origin which suggest the „American Dream‟ is not attainable for all.
Religion and the „AmericanDream‟ When the Pilgrim Fathers came to America they believed that God that kept America hidden until the day when it would provide mankind with an opportunity for regeneration. America was seen as a Promised Land full of opportunities away from the corruption and inequality of England. Pilgrim Fathers dreamt of a new utopian kind of world of hope and prosperity based on Christian principles in America.
Religion and the „AmericanDream‟ The original „American Dream‟ consisted of individuals improving their own situation and having of a faith-based nation where society had the freedom to love God and to worship God in their own way. Religion is a major aspect of America and has similar connotations to the aims of the „American Dream‟, so many people incorporated personal ideals of religious freedom into their version of the „American Dream‟.
Samir S. GupteDevelopment of the dream: Return to Eden Freedom Independence Opportunity 20th Century dream – achievementGupte looks at the origins of the AmericanDream as a religious idea, and says that ineach stage of the development of theAmerican Dream, there has beensignificant religious influence that shapesand redirects the Dream.
The 16th Century:Return to Eden“The religious connection to the dream commences with Christianity„s quest to Return to Eden, and desire to make amends for the fall of humanity.”“Because the religious community believed that God directed all human activity, the discovery of the Americas was perceived as a sign in itself that God had finally relented in his punishment of humanity. All that was needed to return to paradise…”
The 17th Century:Freedom“Where moral and theological ideologies were involved, there could be no compromise. In order to establish themselves [puritans] as the austere interpreters of the Bible free from existing social, cultural and political constraint, they had to physically remove themselves from the reaches of the Anglican Church so they could practice Christianity as they believed it was destined be.”
The 18th Century:Independence“The Great Awakening marked the end of European ideas of authority. This was to have enduring implications on American society through its rejection of the European notion of society. The spirit of American democracy was awakened. American independence was born of the new light imparted to the American mind by the Awakening and the evangelical clergy of colonial America.”
The 19th Century:Opportunity“The future was wide open for any and all Americans. ―The limitless geographical space offered inexhaustible social space. There was room for all comers at the top and middle of the social ladder and ample room at the bottom. The channels of economic mobility were wide open…”
The 20th Century:Achievement“The apocalyptic criticism of the American Dream did not come from religion but in twentieth century novels such as Death of a Salesmen, A Cool Million, and The Day of the Locust, American Tragedy, Babbitt, Reagan Dick and The Great Gatsby. 200 Authors of modern literature took up the cause and began to challenge the prevailing forces of the American economic machine.”
James Truslow Adams The Epic of America (1931) was a major influence on Samir Gupte‟s essay. “We have seen the rise of our own nation from a handful of starving Englishmen in Virginia to a people of 120,000,000 made up of all the races of the world” “In the eighteenth century we had an established civilisation, with stability of material and spiritual values. Then we began our scramble for the untold wealth which lay at the foot of the rainbow”
The Downside The „American Dream‟ as a religion is flawed as it‟s focus has shifted towards materialism than that of self-improvement and equal opportunities. ◦ “The barbarian carelessness of the motoring millions, the littered roadsides, the use of our most beautiful scenery for the advertising of products which should be boycotted for that very reason.”
The Downside Religious? The cost of losing the countries beauty and its raw charm in favour of the materialistic egotistical money-making ideology that religion usually seeks to thwart.
The ‘American Dream’ Equality is seen in access to opportunity but not once the „dream‟ is achieved. The rich become richer, the poor get poorer. Conventional religion seeks to help the collective, prosperity of the nation through social drive and understanding. The „American Dream‟ as a religion is about individual prosperity available to the collective. The dreams emphasis is on the incline, once you are „living the dream‟ you do not simply share the wealth but strive to better the dream
Religion: „American Dream‟ So does the „American Dream‟ act as a religion? We see the predisposed nature of American people to manifest their nation‟s identity. The belief that the expansion and development of their country is inevitable and justifiable. Freedom and independence is available on the same level as money and success. “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”