America’s Divine Experiment

Written By; Gary Wonning

In the early days, most settlers came to America for religious freedom. They wanted to worship as they pleased without a government or dictatorial ruler telling them what they should believe.

William Penn was arrested in England and imprisoned  for sharing his religious opinions which were not in agreement with the government’s agenda. He was even imprisoned in the Tower of London for eight months.

While in London’s notorious Newgate Prison, he wrote 1670: “By Liberty of Conscience, we understand not only a mere Liberty of the Mind … but the exercise of ourselves in a visible way of worship, upon our believing it to be indispensably required at our hands, that if we neglect it for fear or favor of any mortal man, we sin, and incur divine wrath.”

Learn more of America’s history

Later, he started a colony and invited persecuted Christians to join him on land given to him by King Charles 11 as repayment of a debt owed to his father.  It was to be a Holy Experiment of religious freedom.

It drew people from all religious faiths. Quakers, Amish, Mennonites, Lutherans,Presbyterians, and every religious faith imaginable.

a lutheran church against a sunny blue sky.

What is meant by the separation of church and state?

As a consequence, William Penn named his capital city Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.Soon churches of all faiths prospered. A Luthern missionary translated the first book into the Indian language. The first Quacker meeting House was soon constructed.

Philadelphia’s Christ Church followed. It was called the Nation’s Church,  as George Washington, Betsy Ross, Benjamin and Deborah Franklin and their daughter Sarah worshiped there, along with several signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In the years to follow the Episcopalians, Catholics, German Baptist, Jewish, and others followed suit, Philadelphia became the birthplace of religion in the new America.

The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, the oldest black Episcopal congregation in the United States was started here. In 1794, Richard Allen started the African Methodist Episcopal Church, building “Mother Bethel,” the first A.M.E. Church in America.

In 1796, Rev. “Black Harry” Hosier helped start the African Zoar Church.

Philadelphia’s first synagogue, Mikveh Israel, was built in 1782 by Sephardic Jews from Spain, Portugal and the West Indies, many of whom fled from New York in 1776, when the British captured the city. The building fund was greatly enhanced by the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris-Signer of the Declaration, and Haym Solomon, Polish Jew financier of the American Revolution.

In 1845, Rabbi Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel synagogue produced the first Jewish translation of the Bible into English to be published in the United States.

The Mikveh Israel synagogue burned in 1872, donations poured in from many churches, including Philadelphia’s Christ Church.

Pennsylvania’s Charter, granted March 4, 1681, stated: “Whereas our trusty and well beloved subject, William Penn, esquire, son and heir of Sir William Penn, deceased, out of a commendable desire to enlarge our English Empire … and also to reduce the savage natives by gentle and just manners to the love of civil society and Christian religion, hath humbly besought leave of us to transport an ample colony unto … parts of America not yet cultivated and planted.”

William Penn wrote in his Charter of Privileges for Pennsylvanians 1701: “… because no people can be truly happy though under the greatest enjoyments of civil liberties if abridged of the freedom of their consciences as to their religious profession and worship.”

Without question, this activity ultimately lead to Philadelphia gaining the reputation of being the city of brotherly love, the birthplace of the Declaration ofIndependence and the U.S. Constitution.

Americ’s foundation is steeped in religion and the unbridled practice of it. Our country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

The author has been a writer/photographer for over thirty years. Specializing in nature and landscape photography, as well as studying native cultures.

His travels have taken him to most of the United States, as well as Australia, Belize, Egypt and the Canary Islands.

He has studied the Mayan culture of Central America as well as the aborigines of Australia. Photography has given him the opportunity to observe life in various parts of the world.

He has published several books about his adventures.

For more information, please consult his website,

Your comments are welcome



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.