Religion Atlantic, a basic structure held for

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Religion in the New World exploded into the
land with the colonization of thousands of immigrants. It
played an important role in the development of thought in
the West. Religion was one of the first concepts to spark
the desires of people from other countries to emigrate to
the new lands. While many religions blossomed on the
American shores of the Atlantic, a basic structure held for
most of them, being predominantly derived from
Puritanism. Jamestown, the first permanent English
settlement, showed the link the new settlers had to God
when Sir Thomas Dale said the following in 1610: Be not
dismayed at all For scandall cannot doe us wrong, God will
not let us fall. Let England knowe our willingnesse, For that
our work is good; Wee hope to plant a nation Where none
before hath stood. (Morison, pg. 89) Originally, when
Christopher Columbus landed on the shores of America en
route to Asia, he was not interested in discovering new
lands. Most Europeans at the time were looking for a way
to get at the oldest part of the Old World, the East Indies.

An ocean route was sought to the countries that were
believed to contain riches beyond European
comprehension, thus avoiding having to pay hundreds of
miscellaneous middlemen involved with trade, also making
for a shorter journey. These motivations were accompanied
by the desire to convert the heathen to Christianity, which
had been declining since the rise of Islam. By uniting some
of the Western Asian countries with Christianity, Europeans
hoped to form a formidable team against the Turks and
recover the valuable Holy Land (Morison, p.55).

Columbus was sure that God had sent him to complete this
task and that he was destined to carry the good Christian
ways to heathen lands. A Spanish settlement was made in
1609 named Santa Fe in what is now New Mexico (Curti,
p.167). Hundreds of thousands of Pueblo Indians were
then converted to Christianity. At the same time, across the
country, England was establishing its first settlement at
Jamestown. Originally the English, who colonized alongside
the French, saw settlements in the New World as strictly
trading posts, but they soon realized the valuable
opportunities that lay in the virgin lands of America, such as
cotton, tobacco, and several other agricultural products
that could not be found anywhere else. Many of Englands
problems could be solved in America, and so colonization
began. When the earliest settlers came, England had the
responsibility to continue the Protestant Church, and
prevent the Catholic Church from converting the entire
Native American population of North America (Morison,
p.105) A potential Protestant refuge could be based there
in the threat of civil wars or a change of religion. The first to
settle in America were Separatists, or Puritans who had
seceded from the Church of England. After having been
exiled to the Netherlands and cast into slavery by the
overpowering and more economically sound Dutch, the
Separatists yearned for a place of their own to live where
they could worship as they chose, but at the same time find
some financial success. They intended to locate near the
mouth of the Hudson River to set up a trading post and
fishing settlement. In 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims who
brought Puritanism with them to the New World founded
the Plymouth Colony. Puritanism was responsible for the
colonization of New England, eventually influencing the
existence of the Congregational, Presbyterian, Methodist,
Baptist, Unitarian, Quaker, and other Protestant sects in
the United States. Since seventeenth-century English and
Scottish Puritanism is what mostly influenced these
churches, it is not surprising that Puritan ways of thinking
and doing have had a vast effect on the American mind and
character, precursors of what is referred to as the
Protestant Ethic. The Puritans who lived in the Plymouth
Colony shared some basic doctrines with the Catholic
Church. They agreed that man existed for the glory of God,
and that his first concern in life should be to do Gods will,
and by doing this he would be happy. They disagreed with
the Catholic Church, because they disagreed with the forms
and ceremonies adopted by the congregations. Confession,
Penance, Confirmation, Ordination, Marriage, Confession,
and Last Rites were all looked upon as invented by man.

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The Puritans therefore considered these ceremonies not
Holy. The Puritans (Johnson, p.1) also rejected the
Catholic and Anglican Churchs hierarchy and even their
worship of symbols such as the cross, statues, and
stained-glass windows. By 1630, Puritanism ruled New
England almost entirely. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and
New Hampshire were some of the colonies that relied on
Puritanism. As Samuel Eliot Morison states, New
Englanders, however they differed in property and
occupation, had a common belief in the Bible as the guide
to life, and a uniform method of land division and
settlement, (Morison, pg.167). Governments based on the
ideals of the religion represented in the town were emerging
all over the newly shaping country. The great majority of
emigrants to New England were middle-class farmers,
tradesmen and artisans. Since Puritanism did not condemn
manual labor as some religions did, and since every man no
matter how poor could vote if he joined the church,
independent yeoman farmers quickly became the backbone
of the community. In 1632, in the northern part of Virginia,
an Anglican colony, Charles I cut a slice of land for his
friend, Lord Baltimore. Charles I intended to give Lord
Baltimore a monopoly of the commerce and fisheries
between the latitude of Philadelphia and the south bank of
the Potomac. The area was named Maryland supposedly in
honor of Queen Henrietta Maria, but really in honor of the
Virgin Mary. Lord Baltimore intended to make this land a
refuge for English and Irish Roman Catholics, as New
England had become a refuge for Puritans. Although
Catholics had been much more severely discriminated
against in England than Puritans, far fewer Catholics were
willing to emigrate, thus Maryland never became a
predominantly Catholic colony (Morison, p.133). Other
religions that sprouted from Puritanism were also beginning
to take shape. Education linked with religion was quickly
becoming a parental responsibility. The religious sentiment
of the time was basic. The major motive in colonial
education was religious as well as humane (Morison,
p.114). A popular rhyme of 1647 by Ezekiel Cheever, a
beloved schoolmaster who taught for ninety-two years,
lightly states: The lads with Honour first and Reason rule;
Blowes are but for the refractory fool. But, Oh! first teach
them their great God to fear; That you, like me with joy
may meet them here. (Morison, pg. 233) Many American
settlers also feared that education would not be possible in
the New World since English universities had been closed
to Puritans. In 1636, Harvard College opened for the
benefit of the Puritan colonists. Virginia had several
religious practices in common with New England. The
earlier laws of Virginia forbade things like card-playing and
dice-throwing, owing to the Puritan notion that it wasted
precious time (Morison, p. 136). There was a fine of 50
pounds of tobacco for missing church on a Sunday. A
vestryman and two churchwardens, who served as the
moral policemen, governed each Virginia parish. These
churchwardens presided over all cases involving bastardy,
adultery, blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking, slander,
backbiting, and other scandalous offenses (Morison,
p.136). The Anglican Church in Virginia, however,
desperately needed ministers, due to the lack of any official
institution, like Harvard, with which to train them. By 1672,
four out of five Virginia parishes were vacant. Although
Virginia and New England had much in common, they also
varied a great deal. Almost all Englishmen in the
seventeenth century were interested in religion, and
everyone who read anything, read works on divinity. A
surprising number of books in private Virginian libraries
were devoted to Puritan theology. Through all this, a
fundamental difference between Puritanism in New England
and Puritanism in Virginia showed through. In the Northern
colonies, it was a positive and prevalent way of life, difficult
for anyone to escape. Puritanism in Virginia, however,
simply reflected the average Englishmans desire to support
honesty and morality, in the absence of the Anglican ways
of discipline and authority (Morison, p.138). Farther South,
in South Carolina, French Protestants were beginning to
settle near Charleston. After the Edict of Nantes was
repealed in 1685, religious toleration of the Huguenots
went with it. After thousands emigrated from Prussia and
England, the English colonies welcomed them. Carolina
settlers were eager for Protestant workers who knew how
to cultivate olives and vines, and they certainly received
ample fulfillment. These liberty-loving French were basically
responsible for securing policies concerning slavery in the
South, making it a practice that would become widely
accepted by 1681 (Curti, p.189). Newer, more liberal
religions were starting to take shape as well. The Quakers
were a left-wing Puritan sect founded by George Fox in
England around 1650. Fox differed from the Puritans, who
found authority in the Bible, in that he believed that the
direct word of God lay in the human soul (Curti, p.147).

His followers believed that all men were created equal.

They called themselves the Friends. During the first two
years of Charles IIs reign, some 3,000 Quakers were
imprisoned because of his opposition to their beliefs.

Severe laws opposing Quakers were passed in every
colony except Rhode Island. In New York they were
tortured and in Boston they were hanged. Finally, in 1670,
they received social recognition. Even though they had
finally gained a fair amount of toleration, the Quakers
aspired to get away from Englands corrupt society, as the
Puritans had done fifty years before. In 1682, William Penn
was left a small fortune by his father. He used this to obtain
an impressive proprietary province, which he named
Pennsylvania. Quakers went on to create Philadelphia,
complete with some of the best hospitals and charitable
institutions in the English colonies by 1689. By 1760,
Philadelphia had become the principal port of entry for
foreigners. The German immigrants belonged mainly to
sects which were discriminated against in Europe, such as
the Mennonites, Moravians, German Baptists, Puritanic
Lutherans, and others. Many of these immigrants settled in
the upper regions of Maryland, Virginia, and North
Carolina (Curti, p.178). By this time, the once-raging fire
for Puritanism had all but burned its last ember. Although
people still attended services, they had become more
meetings than church sermons. To combat this lax attitude
towards the one thing that used to cause such an uproar, in
1734 some New England Congregationalists and
Middle-colony and Southern Presbyterians began a revival
known as the Great Awakening. This was the first
important religious revival in English colonies; no other
religious movement had ever created such a stir. It
stimulated fresh interest in Christianity and caused hundreds
of new churches to be founded. Most importantly, the
Great Awakening brought with it the expansion of
Christianity to the American frontier, so that the newly
independent frontiersmen carried with them the same zeal
for religion as the old dependent colonists had. The newer
churches that were established erupted with religious
outbursts, extremely unlike the old highbrow Harvard
ministers way of preaching. These new churches were
called New Light churches, many of which later became
Baptist or Methodist. New England, in 1763, was racially
homogeneous, with few blacks, Irish, Scots, or Germans.

Nearly 90 percent of churches were Congregational. Social
life in the country revolved around each Congregational
church, and town governments now gave everyone a
chance to participate. This lack of variety throughout New
England provided unity and several new cities sprang up
and prospered along the Eastern Shore. Following the
American Revolution, the common side effects of war
plagued the country. Moral and religious standards were
declining. A general spirit of tolerance and religious liberty
was in the air. The Presbyterians gathered often from
1785-1788 to form an official faith named the Presbyterian
Church of America. In the Anglican Church, another major
change was taking place, when Methodists finally broke
free of their mother church in 1784. Until that point, the
Anglican Church had enjoyed the monopoly it received of
performing all marriages in southern colonies and in parts of
New York. Finally, the Protestant Episcopal Church was
organized at a series of conventions between 1784 and
1789. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson declared in the Virginia
Statute of Religious Liberty that, No man shall be
compelled to frequent or support any religious worship,
place or ministry whatsoever. Religion has been a large
part of American life, even from the beginning. Religion was
probably the most influential force in the founding of
America, creating a sense of unity and purpose among the
colonists and also providing a major reason for colonization
in the first place. Religious doctrines taught each person to
consider himself a significant if sinful unit to whom God had
given a particular place and duty, and that he must help his
fellow man. Religion, therefore is an American heritage to
be grateful for and not to be given indignity because it
required everyone to attend divine worship and maintain a
strict code of ethics.


Category: History

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