Before examining how a religion brought by immigrants can be ‘Americanized,’ we must first understand what a religion is. Anthropologist Clifford Geertz has defined religion as a system of symbols that acts to establish powerful, pervasive and long-lasting moods and motivations in people by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and presenting those conceptions with an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic. With this definition, religion as a cultural system can be seen as it is traditionally seen, as well as the less common civil religion, in which religion goes beyond spirituality and rituals into more general and secular society.
While director D.W. Griffith‘s Birth of a Nation(1915) utilized revolutionary film techniques and influenced audiences nationwide, it is widely frowned upon today (and rightly so) for its grotesque racism. Lasting over three hours, the silent epic covers many personal, local, and national issues.
Griffith wanted the film to viewed as not only historically accurate, but morally true as well. Not simply a reflection of the culture, he hoped the film would help shape American culture (and it did, unfortunately).