It's not often that one can say that a book written by an atheist about 17th century Puritans was spiritually inspirational, but I'm saying it about this book.
Vowell focuses her trademark deadpan humor on the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony in this offering, mainly centering on the Bay's founder and governor, John Winthrop (writer of "A Model of Christian Charity"). She also discusses Roger Williams (who was too religious for even the Puritans, which is pretty impressive, in my opinion), the deplorable Pequot War, and Anne Hutchinson (one of the first true religious feminists). It all completely fascinated me.
And the spiritual inspiration? I realized just how much I have to be thankful for. I know I take my religious freedom for granted. The fact that I can even blog about questions, fears, and disagreements is a beautiful thing. Anne Hutchinson tried to voice some of her opinions and ended up banished from her town and was eventually murdered by rampaging Indians for her trouble.
I was also struck by how much the Puritans got right - their work ethic, their support of each other (if you agreed with the prevailing opinion, that is), their love for Christ - as much I was horrified by what they got wrong - misreading important Bible truths, their stunning racism (horrendous treatment of Native Americans), and the scary authority the church wielded over its congregation. It made me grateful for those people who didn't let fear of the church shut them up when they knew in their hearts that the church's behavior was wrong.
More than anything, this book made me breathe a sigh of relief that I'm an American in 2011 rather than 1636.