Stanford history professor Jack Rakove makes this provocative assertion in lecture 9 of his course Colonial and Revolutionary America (iTunes):
It doesn’t matter what your points of origin are religiously, whether you are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, in this society we are all Protestants.
I don’t mean that as a matter of doctrine, I don’t mean that as a matter of religious belief, but in the sense that our patterns of religious belief and affiliation… have always been Protestant in character. … in how we organize our religious lives and the emphasis on individual volition and communal membership, and conversely the relative weakness of the forms of church hierarchy.
For example, the idea of the Puritan religious conversion, in which a believer struggles to attain his or her individual religious truth, is alive today in the stress that American culture places on the autonomy of the individual.
This is an intriguing idea — that there is a link between the Puritan struggling to find his or her individual way to salvation, and today’s mass consumer culture that tells us to express our individuality by buying the right color iPod.