THE BLOG

The Myth of American Religious Tolerance

09/24/2010 12:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We've been hearing a lot about America's tradition of religious freedom and tolerance lately. But for centuries, religion has been used as a weapon to discriminate and cudgel "non-believers" and "heathens," many of whom came to America in search of religious freedom they never found. The battle over faith in the public square started long before the "Ground Zero mosque."

Isn't it time to tell it like it is?

In the October 2010 issue of Smithsonian magazine, I delve into the real history of America's attitudes about religion, and it is a far different picture from the tidy tableau and storybook version of tolerance that we tell our children. The Smithsonian magazine article, "God and Country," traces the long and often murderous history of religious battles fought on American soil, going back to 1565, before the Pilgrims even arrived, when Spanish Catholics massacred French Protestants in Florida -- a story not told in most of our textbooks.