Core Beliefs of the Puritans
Have you ever rebelled against the house rules dictated by your parents? In the 1600’s, a group of religious citizens discontent with the Anglican Church of England, did exactly that- rebelled. The Puritans contended that King James had created a religion of political struggles and doctrines. Puritans, such as John Calvin and John Winthrop, wrote about the concept of escaping persecution from the Anglican Church and reforming religion, morals, and society. The Puritans fled to start anew and created colonies in North America, including Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay.
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The driving forces of reform were numerous pieces of literature. The Puritan beliefs consisted mainly of five principles: Total Depravity, the Devil and sins, Predestination, God’s true law, and moral development, resulting in a government and religious-based way of life that has impacted present day America.
Inevitably, religion being intertwined with society raises fears. Pertaining to the Puritans, fear led to the ultimate dissipation of the colonies. On of the main fears that the Puritan’s believed in was that the devil was behind every evil deed in the world. The puritans also believed that the devil and Satan surrounded Native Americans and nature.
Steering away from the acts of the devil led to extreme measures. Scriptures, read as sermons by Puritan ministers, warned citizens about the dangers of life. The sermons were repeatedly given and fear was strategically woven in. The constant warnings were due to the belief that every person is born sinful, also known as Total Depravity. The notion of Total Depravity led to the belief of creating yourself benevolent.
Spurred by the desire to rectify Total Deprivation, the Puritans created their core beliefs of religion. The Puritans believed in the study of God’s True Law, the Bible. According to the Puritans, the Bible and God paved a plan for living. In this God-centered system, church was the place where all problems and issues were raised and resolved. While citizens with property could speak at the meetings, restriction for only church authorities to vote was allowed. Total Depravity produced the ideology of Predestination.
Predestination was the notion that God saves those that he wants. Puritans believed that God had control over who would be in heaven or hell and the Puritans had no control of knowing. Thus, Puritans thought that holy behavior led to salvation. The English Literatures of America reiterated, “Sanctification is evidence of salvation, but does not cause it” (434), meaning that belief in Jesus does not secure you from Gods predestination for you. The Puritans began making rules to follow to go to heaven.
In order to ensure salvation, the Puritans believed that every citizen needed to follow strict rules that were religiously motivated. Moral development was a Puritan belief that started in childhood. To repel the devil, children were to be taught of the dangers of the world, and education was vital to purify society. Drama, erotic poetry, and religious music were banned in Puritan culture. Drama and erotic poetry generated mortality and music distracted Puritans from listening to the words of God. Other moral regulations included the requirement of going to church, reading the bible, and adhering to the covenant of unity and order that create a spiritual community.
The strict following of God in society and government eventually led to the ultimate downfall of the Puritans. Although there were approximately 100,000 Puritans in 1700, Puritan efforts to create an exclusive religion caused the growth of other colonies created by challengers that banned from Puritanism. These new groups teamed the Puritans beliefs of Total Depravity, the devil and sins, God’s True Laws, and moral development “crazy” and it changed America’s though about the relationship between religion and government.
The First Amendment states, “Federal government cannot establish an official religion or interfere with a persons right to practice a religion”. Otherwise known as separation of religion and government.
However, Puritans did affect the present day beneficially by maintaining a stable economy, education, and moral characteristics, The desire to be considered “good”, believed by the Puritans, shaped the value of many citizens in the U.S. today.