Roger Williams was a religious bigot. He never met a church pure enough for his brand of Puritanism, and he never found a congregation worthy enough to have him as its pastor. After alienating every potential ally and provoking every critic, Williams was forced to flee to the wilds of Narragansett Bay in present-day Rhode Island. There, he preached to his remaining congregation- his family- and supported laws prohibiting men from wearing long hair.

In Timothy Hall's illuminating book, the reader is confronted with a flesh and blood Roger Williams who is rather different from the modern myth. Although Williams is often portrayed as the patron American saint of religious toleration and church-state separation, it turns out that Williams himself could not tolerate any Christian church of his day and preached schism wherever he went. The beauty of Hall's book is his explanation of how a man enthralled by such religious dogmatism could articulate such a robust theory of religious freedom. Hall's account is an eye-opener for anyone who presumes that religious intolerance necessarily flows from religious sectarianism.

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