The Impact of Religion on the Development of Colonial America

Compare the ways in which religion shaped the development of colonial society (to 1740) in TWO of the following regions: New England Chesapeake Middle Atlantic The Impact of Religion on the Development of Colonial America During the seventeenth century, colonial America was welcoming many newcomers, several from England. Quantities of these newcomers were seeking land for economic purposes as others were longing for religious toleration. Many of the English colonists settled in the New England region for religious freedoms, to escape the English king, and leave adversaries of other religions behind.

Settlers who resided in the Middle Atlantic region were affected differently. Although the Middle Atlantic was more religiously tolerant, religion was not the key motive to settle in this area. During the development of Colonial America, the New England region was affected socially, politically, and economically, however religion in the Middle Atlantic was not as much of a necessity therefore had less of an overall effect on society. The New England region settlers were escaping England’s unification of religion and government.

King James I of England forced all of his people to attend the Church of England, a Protestant Church, to reconcile the Puritan clergy. Led by Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation produced Puritanism. Unhappy Englishmen, known as separatist who broke away from the Church of England, came to America for religious freedom, meaning they could practice what religion they believed in, uncontrolled by the government. Pilgrims, separatists from Holland, also were longing for a place to live happily as purified Protestants.

These separatists, from both England and Holland, traveled together in families, generally to Massachusetts, to practice Puritanism. During the mid 1600’s approximately 20,000 colonists settled in the New England region. This religious driven movement was called, the Great Migration. The development of colonial society in the New England region was impacted economically, socially, and politically, all because of religion. Economically, a large amount of money was spent on building new churches and financial aid was given to ministers.

Massachusetts was the first colony to tax residents to support the Congressionalist Church. Also, during the Great Awakening, churches were making attempts to return those individuals who roamed away from the church. The Great Awakening was a revival caused by Jonathon Edwards during the enlightenment time period. The purpose of this revival was to inspire communities to become more religiously involved as pastors were feeling distant from god because of the lack of interest in religion at the time. The Great Awakening undermined the Old Clergy and increased both the number and competiveness of churches.

Thousands of books were published and sold to bring the churches profit and therefore allowed more money to aid in the churches construction. Socially, religion brought people together. People of the same religion often worked better together which resulted in a stronger and closer community. Schools were developed for children to learn to read the bible and to teach young men leadership. In the New England region, dominance was shown with an impressive number of graduates, greatly excelling the southern colonies.

Religion was so vital to these early colonists that it greatly affected social development, schooling, and even various basic rights we take for granted today. In Colonial America, one must have been a member of the church in order to have the right to vote. This affected the social structure and the political means of society. During the beginning of Colonial America, politics and religion were still inseparable. Many key religious figures were also governors or political leaders. In the early years, the closeness of religion and politics show just how influential religion was.

It is obvious that religion had a prominent role in the development of colonial society in the New England region socially, economically, and politically. Greatly differing from the New England region, the Middle Atlantic’s development was not as influenced by religion. Compared to New England, the Middle Atlantic was a lot more religiously tolerant. The Middle Atlantic region presented an assortment of religions, allowing its inhabitants to practice or not practice the religion of his or her choice.

Most people who settled in the Middle Atlantic were attracted for the economic gain. The New England region was well equipped and based on trade, as the Middle region relied heavily on mixed farming, slaves or indentured servants, and trade. Pennsylvania and New Netherlands (later New York) were two of the most diverse colonies during the colonization of America. Leader of Pennsylvania, William Penn, who also led the Quakers, allowed religious freedom in the colony’s constitution. Penn’s “Holy Experiment” was an attempt of the Quakers to form their own community in Pennsylvania.

Penn and the Quakers were fair to the Native Americans and were showing the world that they could manage on their own without any unnecessary fighting. Maryland, south of Pennsylvania, was founded by Lord Baltimore. Maryland had a different meaning of religious toleration, allowing all Christians to practice as they wished yet killed those who denied divinity of Jesus. Maryland’s unusual freedom of worship was known as the “Act of Toleration. ” Religion shaped Maryland and Pennsylvania as religiously tolerant colonies, however the remainder of the Middle Atlantic colonies were not as affected by religion.

The Middle Atlantic society was more lenient on religious toleration, however religion did not have the effect it had on the New England region. In both the Middle Atlantic and New England regions, religion brought people together. In the Middle Atlantic region, religion was not an everyday occurrence as it was in the New England region, however those of the same religion often remained together and joined in alliance with outsiders who had the same religious outlooks. Religion shaped each region of Colonial America differently however was significant in all of them.

The New England and Middle Atlantic regions were each impacted differently from religion. New England was impacted significantly in almost every way including social togetherness, politics, and economics. The Middle Atlantic region was not impacted so much as a whole, however a few Middle colonies became more religious tolerant and socially diverse. All in all, religion had its impact on shaping the development of the colonial society, making its mark differently in each region.