Finding religion in America is no hard feat. Throughout the country's inception, religious movements have found a home, and more, throughout the United States. Founded on religious freedom, early settlers would venture to America to avoid persecution in their home countries. The sudden allowance of religious practices considered taboo elsewhere promoted a creative and innovative view of religion, and with Christianity being the primary religion of American immigrants, many denominations and factions were formed throughout the country's creation. 

Christian beliefs and scripture were often within a structure of a larger, more powerful entity like the Catholic Church. Some of the strict guidelines and power structures in place became somewhat oppressive for believers in Jesus Christ, and the newfound religious freedom in America gave way to forms of Christianity that centered around the individual and their community. Just like the spread of Lutheran teachings, Protestant Reformation revitalized belief in Jesus Christ across America and led to the inception of various chapters of Christianity that would become more popular in America than ever imagined. 

Baptism holds a special place in American religions as an incredibly successful movement that impacts culture in the United States to this day. Baptist Churches can be found across the country, and Baptist beliefs can be traced throughout various religious movements in American history. In today's United States, Baptists make up the third-largest religion in the country and Baptist tradition is practiced worldwide. 

Find Answers to Common Questions

  • What is Baptism?

    The Baptist religion is a major branch of Protestantism which has grown in enormous popularity since its inception in the United States. Subscribing to the doctrines of soul competency, Baptist churches and movements teach their congregations that each and every person is responsible and accountable before God. Salvation can be achieved through faith alone, and scripture is the sole dictator of how to practice (sola scriptura), worship, and execute acts of faith.

    Like many sects of Christianity—Catholicism, for example—the church is run through a congregationalist church government. Baptist beliefs also include the Communion or The Lord’s Super (like in Catholicism) as one of two ordinances. The other ordinance is to be baptized which is sprinkling water onto a person's forehead or of immersion in water, symbolizing purification or regeneration and admission to the Christian Church A large portion of Baptist thought can be attributed to missionary work, and the religion and its many denominations has spread far and wide to every continent. 

    A historical view of Baptism remains complex, as Baptists today differ heavily from their founders and the religion has many branches and subsects. For instance, the African American Baptist experience is altogether unique, and many Baptist movements align with Evangelical thought, perhaps more so than in the religion's early days. The largest grouping of today's Baptist churches come together under the Baptist World Alliance.

    Reformation movements have also altered Baptist denominations, and many reformist groups have branched out from the original Baptist churches to create unique views on the religion. The Southern Baptist Convention stands as the world's largest Baptist movement, and although taking note from its Protestant origins, has also created a unique ministry and view of the Holy Spirit and teachings of Jesus Christ. The one aspect of Baptism that is shared amongst Baptist congregations is a Christ-centered focus. 

  • How Did Baptism Begin?

    Baptism coincides directly with English settlers, Protestantism, Puritanism, and colonists. The earliest accounts of a Baptist Church can be traced back to an English Separatist known as John Smyth. Smyth was the pastor of a congregation that believed in the baptizing of adults only, a rejection of other Christian sects' practice of baptizing infants. On his deathbed, Smyth had applied to become Mennonite in order to ensure his baptism was valid. He died before becoming a member, but many of his followers followed the Mennonite religion following his death. 

    Smyth's teachings spread into two factions, with the General Baptists believing Christ's atonement to encompass everyone and the Particular Baptists believing only elect individuals. Particular Baptists' beliefs can be traced back to John Calvin and the creation of Calvinism, in that only certain individuals are actually worthy of heaven, and that the Bible dictated original sin was within all of us, and therefore most of us were not worthy.

    A man named Thomas Helwys, a prominent follower of John Smyth, took off where Smyth left off with the remaining followers after Smyth's death. Helwys, like many Christians in England, took offense to the Church's refusal to update what many saw as a lack of care from the Church of England in fixing what were considered to be corrupt practices. Helwys would eventually die in prison due to this religious conflict. The concept of separation of church and state was heavily pushed by these movements—and resulted in massive pushback within England—and is notable in the inception of the Constitution of the United States of America. 

    In 1638, Baptism spread to North America under Roger Williams. Although there were prominent communities within the religion around the country, it wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries where the religion began to spread en masse

    While the Puritans and their closely-related cousins, English Separatists, can be attributed with popularizing the foundation of Baptists beliefs, The Great Awakening was the conduit for ultimate growth and reception of the religion. A notable point, Baptism was welcomed by African Americans under slavery with open arms. Baptist churches became during this period somewhat of a refuge for African Americans, who found the Gospel and teachings of Jesus to act as a communal place of gathering and worship. To this day, Black Baptist churches are rich in both prayer and history.

  • What Differentiates Baptism from Other Christian Sects?

    One of the key differentiators of Baptists beliefs versus other Christian sects is the literal act of baptizing. While many Protestant sects will baptize anyone seeking it and typically pour or sprinkle the water, Baptists reserve baptism only for those who profess the Christian faith. Additionally, the Baptist religion believes in full immersion, which means entirely submerging a person under the water in order to seek salvation. 

    Although following the teachings of the New Testament, Baptism varies in how these practices are carried out. From Latin America to Asia, Baptist tradition can be found across the globe. Baptism has also reached many corners of culture in American society, including health care. Baptist Health remains a strong and largely successful faith-based hospital system within the United States.