07/18/05 - the great satan, england

In today's excerpt  - while other countries have often called America the Great Satan, in our revolutionary war Americans called England the Great Satan with equal fervor:

"In rather the same way as Iranians would later call America 'the Great Satan' during their Islamic Revolution, British officials were portrayed as being in league with the devil during the revolutionary crisis. After the passing of the notorious Stamp Act (1765), patriotic poems and songs presented its perpetrators, Lords Bute, Grenville, and North, as the minions of Satan, who were conspiring to lure the Americans into the devil's eternal Kingdom. The Stamp was described as the 'mark of the Beast' that, according to the Book of Revelation, would be inscribed on the damned in the Last Days. Effigies depicting the British ministers were carried alongside portraits of Satan in political processions and hung from 'liberty trees' throughout the colonies. In 1774, King George III became associated with the Antichrist when he granted religious freedom to the French Catholics in the Canadian territory conquered by England during the Seven Years War. His picture now adorned the liberty trees alongside pictures of the Papal Antichrist and the Devil. Even the more educated colonists fell prey to this fear of hidden cosmic conspiracy. The presidents of Harvard and Yale both believed that the colonists were fighting a war against satanic forces, and looked forward to the imminent defeat of property, 'a religion most favourable to arbitrary power.' The War of Independence had become part of God's providential design for the destruction of the Papal Antichrist, which would surely herald the arrival of God's millennial Kingdom in America. This paranoid vision of widespread conspiracy and the tendency to see an ordinary political conflict as a cosmic war between the forces of good and evil seems, unfortunately, to occur frequently when a people is engaged in a revolutionary struggle as it enters the new world. This satanic mythology helped the colonists to separate themselves definitively from the old world, for which they still felt a strong residual affection. The demonizing of England transformed it into the antithetical 'other,' the polar opposite of America, and thus enabled the colonists to shape a distinct identity for themselves and to articulate the new order they were fighting to bring into being."


Karen Armstrong


The Battle For God: A History of Fundamentalism


A Ballantine Book by The Random House Publishing Group


Copyright 2000 by Karen Armstrong


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