A reminder of how different things are today from the times when religion came first:

Today, more than a century after Darwin and Nietzsche, 70% of Americans believe that Jesus was the Son of God. But… like every successful product, Jesus has been tailored to the demands of the market. Every denomination, every region, every class, every generation in American history has asked for a Jesus made in its own image. That appetite has been met by an army of priests, preachers, theologians, reformers, and even novelists.

If the omnipresence of Jesus in our ostensibly secular country is troubling, his malleability is reassuring: Americans seem less eager to do Jesus’s bidding than to have him do theirs….

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans found Biblical grounds for enlisting Jesus on both sides of every debate. The abolitionist Angelina Grimke used Matthew 23:4–where Jesus attacks the Pharisees who “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others”–to rebuke slave owners. Southern apologists, on the other hand, noted that Jesus never explicitly condemned the widespread Roman practice of slavery.

Half a century later, the socialist Eugene Debs proclaimed that “The revolutionary Savior always and everywhere stood with and for the poor,” while the advertising man Bruce Barton declared, in the bestselling “The Man Nobody Knows,” that Jesus “thought of his life as business.” Jefferson and Emerson, Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King, Jane Addams and Aimee Semple MacPherson: From the sublime to the ridiculous, they all laid claim to Jesus.

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