It was surprising to learn that Spiritualism was a type of Christianity in the 1800’s. But of course, it was seen as a bad thing, just like other religious and non-religious movements in the same time period. It was said on page 139 that “‘religious excitement’ [was listed] as the prime cause of insanity.” And of course, as always, who gets blamed for everything? The poor women! What else could we expect.
I know, Spiritualism received the same hate as many other religions in American history. So what makes Spiritualism different from the religions we’ve learned about so far? Well, I think that could be summed up in two main points.
First, I would say the power people were able to have over their personal and intimate lives. Many Spiritualists believed in free love, which McGarry defines as “spiritual affinities.” People were bind together only if they were attracted to one another. A group that was based on attraction was the Oneida Community but it was completely sexual rather than an attraction in every sense towards a person. But no other religion has shown us that gender is not a barrier for the religion and sex.
I think the second point would be the power of science and evidence. At the beginning, science was committed to bringing Spiritualism down. There were so many excuses as to why there were weird noises and what was happening to the Fox sisters, such as the cracking of the joints or women’s vaginas tilting somehow. Yet, soon enough Spiritualism gained its acceptance by scientists themselves. We’ve learned about science justifying Christian societal norms but not much else. This was a time when technology was actually beginning to change people’s lives. Technology gave science the ability to prove what was in doubt. Science came together with Spiritualism.
To me this is really interesting because things are beginning to shift for everyone, at least faster than what it was before. This shift is challenging the American Protestant society’s thoughts.