Religious History Sunday – “Heaven on Earth” – The History of American Utopian Experiments – Introduction

new harmonyToday I’d like to introduce a series of Sunday blog articles about the history of American Utopian Experiments, aka “Heaven on Earth”.

Originally, I had planned to do this first Religious History Sunday article on The Shakers.  That in itself is fascinating enough, and I will cover it extensively soon.  However, in the process of researching this religious sect, I found more history and documentation of other religious sects which arose mostly in the early to mid- 19th century.  Each sect was unique and had distinct beliefs.  Some lasted for awhile and many were abandoned after only a short time.

Some of these Utopian experiments were not based so much on religious belief as outright socialism, and from what little I’ve read so far of some of the religious sects, they all seemed to have at least a thread of socialist or progressive thought running through them.  So, I may delve into those that were a bit outside of what would be termed “religious history” – either in this Sunday series or on another day where I can squeeze it in.  I think any discussion of Utopianism and socialism certainly has relevance for today, given the trend we see of control and over-reach in so many aspects of our lives.

This series will probably extend over several Sundays and I hope my readers will learn something each week.  I hope you will not only read the articles, but join the conversation by commenting and engaging with others (some may have a different opinion than you, but that’s okay because we can all learn something from each other).  It’s easy to participate .. just read the article and go down to the bottom of the article, type a reply and then click the Post button.

Just to get the ball rolling, here’s a bit of history about the term “Utopia”.  It was first coined in Greek (in Greek it literally means “no place”) by Sir Thomas More in 1516 (his book titled, “Utopia”).  Utopia was a fictional island society located in the Atlantic Ocean.  The term is often used to describe an intentional community that is established to engender an ideal society.

Several of the Utopian religious societies which sprung up in the 19th century  were off-shoots of the Second Great Awakening.  Some had roots in the 18th century (in both America and Europe), but became more established in the 19th century as a result of the revival.

Here’s a teaser question – have any of you ever owned an Amana appliance (Amana is now a subsidiary of Whirlpool)?  Amana Refrigeration sprung out of a Utopian religious society which was founded in Iowa by German immigrants (the “Amana Colonies”).  That movement had started in Germany in the early 18th century.  Interesting bit of trivia, eh?

Discussion Topics:

  • Is there such a thing as “heaven on earth”?
  • Is it even possible to have such a thing as “heaven on earth” – if so, why so and if not, why not?
  • Does the Bible say anything about “heaven on earth”?

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!


  1. Big subject. Will look forward to next Sunday!

  2. I think “heaven on earth” is kinda like beauty, it’s in the eyes of the beholder.

    • In the eyes of the beholder, and in the mind too. I’ll get more into what these religious Utopias were all about and what they were seeking in coming weeks. Many of them were a little “out there”.

  3. I lived near Amana for a few years. DH & I drove through to see the Colonies on our way west.
    Utopia is often translated as perfect place, also. Some utopians past & present, no doubt, hope to build a perfect place.


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