Colonial America Religions Essay

Religious differences in colonial America were apparent and inevitable toward
creating a diverse society. Differences in religion, and way of life, and the
lasting effects of these helped to shape The United States. Branches of the
Puritan and Quaker faiths were the trailblazers for American diversity. Most of
the first religions to begin the colonization of the America’s were not just
common Protestants. They had not only broken ties with the Catholic Church, but
now were severed from the Anglican Church of England. Faiths such as Puritan
(which also had many branches) and Quaker were the front runners for American
colonization. (2) Quakers espoused that the Church of England violated the
spirit of Christianity as much as the Catholic Church. They were fueled to
reform because of the new European Renaissance feeling, which called for the
literal translation of the bible, and not having a sole person lead the church,
such as a king, or a pope. They said that people could worship god directly,
without having to go through a clergy member. They believed in frugality, and in
dressing and living extremely plainly. The tithes paid by the members of the
Anglican and Catholic churches, to them seemed to be excessive, and unnecessary
for worshipping god. They refused to attend regular services for church, and
were persecuted with fines and confiscation of property by English authorities.

This forced them to leave England for a more tolerant society. The Puritans,
also former Anglicans, wished to purify the Church. They were more devout than
the Quakers, in that they believed in clergy, and in formality, but they
didn’t like some of the ceremony that was adopted by the Church of England,
that was similar to that of the Catholic Church. They were more for the literal
interpretation of the scripture than a clergy member interpreting it for them.

We will write a custom essay sample on
Colonial America Religions Essay
or any similar topic only for you
Order now

These people weren’t nobility, but simply the working men and women of
England, many of which came from Cambridge University. They came to be regarded
as gloomy fanatics because they didn’t believe in societies simple pleasures,
such as gaming and card playing. These acts were frowned upon by them. It was
said that they objected to bear baiting, which was a game that required the
slaughtering of a bear, not because of the humanity issue, but because of the
pleasure the spectators got from watching it. Puritans included several
religions that branched from them, such as Presbyterians, Separatists and
Congregationalists. Another, more radical group of Puritans was the Anabaptists
who believed that true religion was solely for adults, and that baptism included
the entire immersion of the body in holy water. They also believed in the strict
accordance of church and state. (5) When the first religious pilgrims came to
the new world in 1620, to Plymouth, Massachusetts on the Mayflower, it began a
wave of such trips. America still had a forming tolerance level, and government,
therefore it still had plenty of time to be shaped by these initial settlers.

They brought along their new ideas on religion and government. England, because
they controlled these colonies, began to realize that toleration was needed.

They then passed the Toleration Act in 1689, which said that religious diversity
was allowed. This, however did not help the feeling of prejudice in England,
forcing even more people out. One group that was still persecuted was the
Quakers. Lead by William Penn (the Pennsylvania namesake) they journeyed to
America. When they set up their colony here, even Native Americans, and
Catholics were welcome, and friends with the Quakers. Their formal name was
actually the Religious Society of Friends. This helped to instill this feeling
of friendship into American societal beliefs. Puritans, and Separatists had been
leaving England for years, and were not as tolerable as their Quaker
counterparts. The Puritans, who were based mainly in Massachusetts, believed
that their religious convictions were the only right way. They were not tolerant
of other ways of thinking. Church and state were one, and clergy members lead
the colonies. People were very conformed, and did not associate with the other
colonies, religious or otherwise. They rarely met for any reason other than
church, and were not known for having leisure time. This strong diversity
between the colonies, surprisingly did not create too much controversy but
rather made America more tolerant in the long run. There was even a colonial
toleration act, called the Maryland Toleration Act passed in 1649, that was
ahead of the British one, because of the need for it in the colonies more than
in England. (3) The governments of the new colonies in America were quite
differing. The Quakers, lead by William Penn, set up a democratic form of
government in which everyone had rights that were protected. Good relations were
made with the Native Americans. This included many peace treaties. The most
famous of which was signed on June 23, 1683, on the banks of the Delaware River,
and stated that the colonists and Indians would “live in love as long as
the sun gave light.” This was a revolutionary idea of this time of
aristocracy and sovereignty. Quakers were well known for being very tolerable,
and respectful of most lifestyles. The only exception to this was them not being
very empathetic to Catholics, however they did allow them to live in their
colonies. Banking, Insurance, and book keeping were emphasized, more than
anything else, besides religion. However, religion was brought into state
affairs. Monthly meetings that were to attend to colonial business, were
actually prayer services. This meant that there was not a strict separation of
church and state, and in modern democracy. The Puritan government was one that
was entirely based on the church. Everything was under constant supervision.

They were easily manipulated because of conformity, and punishment was severe
for “sinners,” as is demonstrated when the Puritans have the Salem
witch scare which resulted in many hangings. Education was the highest stressed
issue for the Puritans, and banking was thought of as unimportant. Relations
with the natives weren’t particularly good. Puritans tried to avoid contact
with these strange new people, as much as possible. A Puritan government was not
particularly tolerant, and was more like a hierarchy because of extensive clergy
involvement in everyday life. (1) Though governmentally, the Quakers appeared to
be in the right, Puritans were much more advanced, educationally. Quakers did
not stress education, at all. They believed that all you needed to know could be
taught through the church, and scripture. They believed that the scripture could
be read by a select few, to the public. They did not see the point in educating
the people, when all that was needed to know was in the bible, and in sermons.

They solely relied on inspiration and spontaneity for guidance. This idea did
not carry through for long. Eventually the Quakers determined that in order to
be an effective society, people had to be educated. This lead to the creation of
schools and Universities under the Quaker faith. The first of which was simply a
primary and secondary school called the Friends’ School. Eventually,
Universities were created in and around Philadelphia. Puritans had been
educating since they came to the new world. They believed that education was
very important, so that children could grow up reading and understanding the
bible. There had always been schools in Puritan colonies, and in rural areas
they had tutors for their children. Puritans also began to open their own
Universities, such as Harvard, and Yale. Education remained strictly religious
until after the American Revolution. This educational importance that was
espoused by the Puritans began to shape the education of the entire country. In
1647, and 1650, Massachusetts, and Connecticut passed laws mandating the
education of children. They said that if a parent did not enroll their child in
school then a business man could automatically take the child into their
apprenticeship. Free education was being offered in many places in order to
promote learning about the bible, and going into the ministry. By 1700, 70% of
men, and 45% of women could read and write in America, which was an incredible
statistic. This also increased the number of missionaries, in America, because
of the increase in educated people. (1, 35) The only real conflict that occurred
in the new world was with Native Americans, and the occasional squabble within a
colony. The Native American’s weren’t even a very large threat, yet, because
expansion had not reached it peak. Because of the tolerable feeling of the
Quaker colonies, and the hermetic feeling of the Puritan colonies, America
remained a very peaceful place to live, being fairly non-confrontational.

America has picked up many of these original colonial ideas. The Puritans
especially helped to form our modern day theories, and standards for education.

They began the first educational establishments in this country, and introduced
the strict discipline needed to succeed in learning. Many of their schools, such
as Harvard, are still in use, and are very respectable. The Quakers, too had a
direct impact on current American society. Their tolerant ideas helped to spread
the ideals of America. This country was built on tolerance, and democracy. Our
Constitution was drawn up with these ideas, and the reason so many people came
to the new world was because of the political situation here, and it’s
benefits. Because of their respect for other religions, and races, America was
built on good values. (4) By coming to the new world because of injustice, the
original American colonists helped to create a new country that was religiously,
and socially diverse, and generally, and politically accepting. The injustice
that they withstood helped to insure that America would not be like that. The
original settlers to America helped to shape the way we are, today, and the way
we are going to be in the future. The ideals they stressed, and fought for
freedom of, have been kept with us all, and formed The United States in a
democratic, and tolerable way.

1. *Kaminkow, Jack and Marion. Emigration From England to America
(1718-1759). Magna Carta Book Company, 1981, Baltimore, Maryland. 2. Keller,
Allan. Colonial America: A Compact History. Hawthorn Books, Inc, 1971, New York,
New York. 3. *Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. Major Problems in American Colonial
History: Documents and Essays. D.C. Health and Company, 1993, Lexington,
Massachusetts. 4. McFarlane, Anthony. The British in the America’s
(1480-1815). Longman Group Limited, 1994, New York, New York. 5. Middleton,
Richard. Colonial America Second Edition (A History, 1585-1776). Blackwell
Publishers, 1996, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 6. Semonche, John E. Religion and
Constitutional Government in the United States. Signal Books, 1985, Carrboro,
North Carolina.


Hi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one? Check it out