To what extent was The American Civil War a war of religious ideas?I have a paper to write. The titel is, To what extent was The American Civil War a war of religious ideas? Any thoughts? All...

To what extent was The American Civil War a war of religious ideas?

I have a paper to write. The titel is,

To what extent was The American Civil War a war of religious ideas?

Any thoughts? All ideas would be really great. Thanks.

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some scholars have argued that the North and South had very different attitudes towards religion even on issues other than slavery.  They portray a situation not unlike the differences between religious conservatives and liberals today.  They argue that the South believed in a more literalist religion that was based on obedience to God.  Meanwhile, they say, the North's religion, coming out of the Second Great Awakening, was focused more on improving society than on personal behavior.

This is not to say that this caused the war.  However, you could say that it helped to make the two regions more different from one another.  Since a major cause of the war was that the two regions felt so different and disconnected from one another, this could be an important factor.  Here's a link to help you...

bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 19th Century's Protestant Second Great Awakening had an impact on the Civil War. 

The northerners interpreted God's will in this era to be all about Christian perfection for individuals and, through them, to society in that, through personal faith and right-living, the problems in society could be righted.

But southerners reacted to the revivals by taking the Scriptures as a literal interpretation of how to live a holy life, NOT a book on how to make society as a whole better.  

This might be the basis of thought that led northerners to want to abolish slavery, because it was the "right" thing to do in a moral society. Whereas, the south wanted to secede from the union because they wanted to be able to focus on themselves and how they personally saw morality in their own lives.


larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it is a misnomer to cite religion as an element in the war itself. Those on both sides of the conflict were overtly religious, and members of the same religious denominations. The real issue in which religion became a factor was the slavery debate; in fact the religious debate over slavery predated the war. Those on either side of the issue often quoted scripture to support their position as being Biblically sanctioned. Ministers on either side advocated for or against slavery in Sermons. The Methodist Church divided North and South over the issue, as did the Baptist Church; in fact the Southern Baptist Church remains an independent denomination.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What I would suggest is examining the idea that anything can be made into a clash over religious beliefs. Every day one can see infringements on religious theologies and the stand people are taking against them.

That being said, based upon the fact that the Civil War errupted over the issue of slavery, one could look at Biblical quotes which spoke about the keeping of slaves. One great site to examine on alternative thoughts regarding this issue is:


Good luck!!

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One could argue this, although I would have to say it was a conflict indirectly based on religious ideas.  Of course, both sides claimed to have the moral high ground in the war and that God was indeed on their respective sides.  Southern arguments, particularly when it came to slavery, were more based on Old Testament scriptures, whereas abolitionists in the North based their religious justifications for the war on the liberation teachings of Jesus and his Disciples.  All of this being said, in my mind, theology took a back seat to economics and regional pride as far as causing this war.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Southerners truly believed that their drive for independence was a holy cause. Many Southerners considered the Northern states a heathen band of people trying to force their beliefs on them through force. General Robert E. Lee believed that God was on the side of South, and General "Stonewall" Jackson had little doubt that God would provide him with victory. Both men prayed for victory before battle, and the pious Jackson was often seen riding his horse with his hand lifted upward--a sign that his men interpreted as divine guidance.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Presbyterian Church also divided into two separate denominations at the beginning of the Civil War.

By taking selected verses of scripture out of context, one can make an argument for or against almost any imaginable human endeavor, including sustaining or abolishing slavery. I think religion did not play a direct role in causing the Civil War, but both sides used and abused the Bible in their efforts to justify their particular side of the conflict.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wars have often been fought for religious reasons, or at least supposedly so.  The abolitionists certainly felt that slavery was against the laws of God; the exodus of the slaves from bondage has often been compared to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Slavery was purported as a religious belief.  There is slavery in the Bible, and that was used as justification.  It was God's plan that Africans be subjugated, and they were heathens that needed to be taught like children.