Religion Through History

Churches and the people who led and attended them. See more...


My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. ~ Dalai Lama XIV

Originally a colony of Great Britain and under the rule of King George III, the Founding Fathers of the United Sates were opposed to a state religion (King George III was the head of the Church of England as is Queen Elizabeth today). In fact, they even wrote it into the Constitution:

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

And yet, many today say that the U.S. is "a Christian nation". Indeed, Christianity is the most populous religion - followed by Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. Worldwide, Christianity is also the most followed (2.4 billion), closely followed by Islam (1.8 billion). Then comes Agnostic/Atheistic (1.2 billion), Hinduism (1.15 billion) and Buddhism (521 million). Fifteen other religions (for instance, Judaism - 14 million and Chinese traditional religions - 394 million) round out the rest of us. So religion is a way of life for billions of the people around the world.

Some facts about religion in the United States:
  • Hindus have the highest rates of education among religious communities - 48% of all Hindus have a post-graduate degree.
  • The number of Mormons in the U.S. today are equal to the number of Anglicans/Episcopalians - 1.7% .
  • Six of the Supreme Court justices are Catholic and three are Jewish - about half of the population identifies as Protestant.
  • Only 10 U.S. states have weekly church attendance above 50% - they’re all in the South. 11 states have weekly church attendance below 33% - and no, one of them is not California or New York!
  • The Southern Baptist Convention has twice as many churches as the Catholic Church, despite having 1/4th the membership.
  • The first Muslims in the U.S. were African slaves - about 10% of slaves were Muslim.
  • 40% of the U.S.’s 1.2 million Buddhists live in Southern California.
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the fifth largest religious organization - the Catholic Church (66 million), the Southern Baptism Convention (16.5 million), the United Methodist Church (8.4 million), and the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc. (8.2 million) are larger.

These are the photos of people practicing their religion in the past - the buildings, leaders, and congregants of the past two centuries. From weddings to baptisms to confirmations to funerals, most people have participated in at least one religious activity in their lives.

A photo of Blanche Laravie posing for her Solemn First Communion at St. Peter's Church
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Jun 2, 1907 - Feb 20, 1988 1907 - 1988
Added May 27, 2015 by: Susan Pombrio
Susan Pombrio
85 favorites
A photo of Valdimar Eylands
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Mar 3, 1901 - Apr 12, 1983 1901 - 1983
Added Apr 14, 2015 by: Ragnar Ægisson
Ragnar Ægisson
4 favorites
A photo of Priscilla Allen Scroggins and family. The lady to the right is Priscilla Allen Scroggins. The oldest Methodist in the world. She was born on March 9, 1777 in South Carolina to William Allen.This photo was taken in 1893 when she was 116 years old. The newspaper article attests to this fact. Effectively making her (at the time) the oldest Methodist in the world! Born before the methodist church was officially established. She has been a Methodist since age 14 in 1791. Her father William Allen died in Ga at age 112. He was born in 1726 and died in 1838.
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Mar 9, 1777 - Nov 17, 1893 1777 - 1893
A photo of a portrait of Really A. Rabbi Jacobs. This is one of our ancient ancestors who practiced Judaism with fervor, enthusiasm, delight, tenderness, and the urge to fry up some latkes for the entire family.
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Added Mar 18, 2015 by: Itcha Madeevie
Itcha Madeevie
4 favorites
A photo of Martha J Smigielski at Holy Communion
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Nov 11, 1912 - Feb 20, 2009 1912 - 2009
Added Feb 13, 2015 by: A.l. Smigielski
A.l. Smigielski
38 favorites
A photo of Hilary Andrew Leister at his Confirmation
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Jun 16, 1913 - Aug 16, 1994 1913 - 1994
Added Feb 10, 2015 by: Dev Fosbrink
Dev Fosbrink
54 favorites
A photo of Kate (Cunningham) Pilcher
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1876 - June 1948 1876 - 1948
Added Jan 24, 2015 by: Cathie Allen
Cathie Allen
108 favorites
Rev. John Walker's Church 2nd Creek Baptist, Hazard, Ky
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1867 - 1940 1867 - 1940
Added Jan 20, 2015 by: Cynthia Long
Cynthia Long
275 favorites
A photo of Maurilio Ponce and Lucia Reyes baptizing a baby.
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Sep 13, 1895 - March 1978 1895 - 1978
Added Jan 2, 2015 by: Lorenzo Mata
Lorenzo Mata
11 favorites
A photo of Joseph H Myers Sr
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
A photo of my fourth great grand-father, rabbi Dow Ber Meisels, born in 1798. He was Chief Rabbi in Krakow, Poland. He supported Polish Independence for which he was persecuted by the Russian government.
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1798 - Unknown 1798 - ?
A photo of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France circa 1901 Believed to be built on the site of a Temple to Jupiter and then an early Christian basilica, building began on the cathedral in 1160 and took a century to (mostly) complete. Many of the materials from the previous churches were used in the construction of the new cathedral. Over the centuries, there were additions and modifications in the building but the basic structure has remained mainly the same. The most famous stained glass windows date from the 1200s. - A cathedral school opened in Notre Dame in 1170, decades later becoming the University of Paris. - A Third Crusade was announced from the cathedral. - Henry VI of England was crowned King of France in Notre Dame. - James V of Scotland was married there, as were Mary Queen of Scots and Henry IV of France. - Victor Hugo set his novel "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" in the cathedral. - Napoleon had his coronation in Notre Dame, presided over by Pope Pius VII. The cathedral has been the home of innumerable pieces of valuable art and religious artifacts and a center of Paris for over 850 years.
A photo, done in the early 1900's, of a woman dressed as a Puritan, holding a book. Is there a difference between Pilgrims and Puritans? Yes - many. The Pilgrims - who first came to North America on the Mayflower in 1620, after having spent some time in the Netherlands - had separated from the Church of England and were called "Separatists" because of it. They were establishing their own "pure" religion, following the tenets of John Calvin. The Puritans remained within the Church of England but were trying to rid the Church of any Roman Catholic remnants within it. They were Calvinists, as were the Pilgrims, but after conceding that changes weren't possible, many left England in 1630 and migrated to the Massachusetts area - many others followed and a decade later there were almost 20,000 Puritans in the area. The original Pilgrims were more tolerant of others - including Native Americans - but the overwhelming numbers of Puritans held sway. They "believed in their God-given superiority". So when we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are celebrating the Pilgrims, not the Puritans.
A photo of Leszek Maśliński (1962 - 2010) of Poland
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1962 - 2010 1962 - 2010
Added Jan 12, 2012 by: Karol Maslinski
Karol Maslinski
113 favorites
Memere Lavallee, Anastasia Schneider Lavallee with her daughter, Nellie. She was from the order of The Presentation of Mary sisters. Her religious name was Soeur Marie Magdelaine du Calvert.
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Feb 19, 1867 - January 1957 1867 - 1957
When Upton was about 17, he was told by his father to go to town and sell a certain wagon of corn. However, on his way, he encountered an Indian family at Fort Necessity, and fell in love with "Little Moonbeam." He bargained with her father and got to take her home for that wagon load of corn. Imagine his father's shock! Upton's family did not allow the couple to marry until they were of age, so she was taken in by John F. and Julia A. Inks until they were allowed to marry. The marriage took place 22 July 1860 in Fayette Springs, Fayette County, PA. Upton & Louisa had 11 children, of whom Mary Belle Savage was the eldest, and whose pictures and story follow. Upton and Louisa died ca 1923 or 1924 and are buried at the Samson Methodist chapel Cemetery in Farmington, PA.
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July 1841 - Unknown 1841 - ?
William Draper,Jr. was b. 1807 and d. in 1886 in Freedom, Utah. He was my gggrandfather. He was a Mormon polygamist. I believe he had 8 wives.
Striking photo of a group of 2,000 people holding a service to celebrate Easter Sunday on Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside California. Date of this photo is believed to be between 1909 and 1925.
Added Apr 6, 2012 by: Daniel Pinna
Daniel Pinna
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Plains Cheif - they didn't use metal until early 1900's. guessing date. found in old family bible. with only writing of great great grandfather. not to be seen again until 45 years later in same old bible.
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Added Feb 21, 2009 by: Adkison Larva
Adkison Larva
20 favorites
Sebastian Frantz (my 5th great-grandfather)was born 1732 in Wurtemburg, Germany. When he immigrated to the USA in 1752 he brought with him his German Bible. This was the first Bible in the Schoharie area, and he read it to the congregation until they could get a permanent minister. The family donated the Bible to the Old Stone Fort Museum, and it is in a glass display case there.
Confirmation of Thomas Tiletsky, circa 1940s This is my grandfather as a boy at his Confirmation, one of the Catholic Sacraments. My grandfather Thomas was raised in the Slavic neighborhoods of Fells Point and Patternson Park in Baltimore, MD. He was ethnically Polish and Lithuanian. His younger sister told me that he was quite the jokester as a child, and teachers couldn't get him out of their classrooms fast enough. The teachers would often give him money to go to the moviehouse instead.
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Oct 15, 1932 - May 17, 1996 1932 - 1996
Added Feb 25, 2020 by: Sarah Ashley
Sarah Ashley
11 favorites
A 1966 photo of the Reverend Billy Graham. An evangelical Christian and Southern Baptist minister, he spent over 6 decades on television preaching and counseled every U.S. President from Harry Truman through Barack Obama.
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Nov 7, 1918 - Feb 21, 2018 1918 - 2018
Added Jan 9, 2012 by: Ancient Faces
Ancient Faces
450 favorites
James Marion Cotton was the son of Samuel Bird Cotton and Arminta "Alimente" Moore, born 24May1844 in Cove Twp., Searcy County, Arkansas. He is a veteran of the Civil War, Co. E, 2nd Arkansas Cavalry. He married Elizabeth Jane Treadwell on 16Mar1866 in Searcy County, Arkansas. He is my Great-grandfather. He died 14Feb1929 at Nogo, Pope County, Arkansas and is buried at the Zion Hill Cemetery, Pope County, Arkansas.
Added Nov 9, 2003 by: Sylvia Watts
Sylvia Watts
5 favorites
Daniel Thomas O'Quinn, born 1854-1948; Martha Louisa Dowie O'Quinn, born 1860-1941. He was the son of Erastus O'Quinn and Harriet Thompson O'Quinn. Daniel was a Baptist Minister.
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1854 - Unknown 1854 - ?
Taken in the backyard of the Kroetch home in San Jose, CA. Margaret Kroetch was the sister of John Baptist Henry Kroetch.
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January 1951 - Unknown 1951 - ?
This is a photo of J. Arthur Patenaude, Mildred M Roberts Patenaude, Virginia L Patnaude Jensen, Children Theresa Patenaude Smith , Robert A Patenaude, and Mary Patnaude Urban (Virginia's confirmation May 1936), added by Brigette Meeker on June 18, 2020.
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Apr 5, 1898 - Oct 10, 1964 1898 - 1964
Added Jun 18, 2020 by: Brigette Meeker
Brigette Meeker
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Fr. Jerry Wade (tennis coach?!) found in the 1985 Bellarmine College Preparatory yearbook. Fr. Wade has been President of the San Jose, California high school numerous times.
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Dec 12, 1937 - Unknown 1937 - ?
Added Dec 28, 2019 by: Daniel Pinna
Daniel Pinna
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This photo is of sister Marie Estelle (Barbara Kosick)
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May 28, 1898 - Dec 26, 1992 1898 - 1992
Added Nov 9, 2019 by: Colton LaLonde
Colton LaLonde
110 favorites
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