The American Future: A History With Simon Schama

Season 1 Episode 3

American Fervour

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Aired Friday 9:00 PM Oct 24, 2008 on BBC Two
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American Fervour
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Simon continues his trip across the United States. In this edition, he takes a look at how faith and religion have affected US politics, in particular the historic 2008 election.
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      • Simon: Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States, author of the Declaration of Independence and father of religious freedom. Jefferson believed in God, up to a point, as the author of the universe. He thought Jesus of Nazareth a great moral teacher, but as far as virgin births and walking on water was concerned, forget it. Jefferson was a man of the enlightenment, for whom the only god that mattered was reason. That's why, when he planned one of his pet creations, the University of Virgina, he made sure there was no school of divinity, and, a huge shock at the time, no chapel.

      • Simon: Faith is what created America. It's what gave Americans their freedom. To really understand this country, you have to look into it's history, and in America the great historical moments have always been acts of faith.

      • Simon: There's no escaping American fervour; you can feel its heat right through the country, burning into politics. For a long time now, it's been the Republicans that have claimed to speak for God. But in the election of 2008, nothing was the way it had been. Evangelical Christians suspected that the Republican nominee, John McCain, wasn't really their man, even though they loved his choice of running mate. This time it was the Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, who invoked faith as his inspiration. He talked about transforming America, and how religion drives him. That's an instinct with its roots deep in the American past.

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