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The Enlightenment and the Great Awakening Essay Sample

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The Enlightenment and the Great Awakening Essay Sample

The Great Awakening and the Enlightenment were two historical events that shaped the thoughts of people and religion in America. The most important factor in both of these events is the common theme of reason behind the movements. The Great Awakening began about the 1930’s and reached its climax ten years later in 1740. What exactly was the Great Awakening? It was a wave of religion revivals sweeping through New England that increased conversions and church membership. The beginnings of the Great Awakening were in Pennsylvania and New Jersey among Presbyterians and then spread to the Puritans and Baptists of New England. They were encouraged to confess sins done freely to the church in order to receive forgiveness. This whole movement was to learn a new way to capture God’s truth through the own wits of man.

It was once believed that life was predestined by God and that the saved and the damned were already chosen. Those who believed in all that was happening in the Great Awakening did away with that idea. Supporters of the revival were called “New Lights”, and those who were believed in moderation, intellect, predestination, and justification through works were called the “Old Lights.” The Old Lights held the old way of thinking, while the New Lights abandoned the thought of predestination and such. The Old Lights, or also known as Old Sides downplayed emotion and emphasized on rationalism while the New

Lights emphasized on emotions and the justification by faith, itinerant evangelizing, enthusiasm, revival and radicalism.

One of the New Light Preachers was a man named George Whitefield. Thousands traveled far distances just to see him. Whitefield was also called “The Great Itinerant.” Whitefield traveled up and down from the eastern seaboard offering others with his “supposable” way on how to gain citizenship in Gods Kingdom. His choice of religion, being, Christianity, and his way of thinking was that even sinners had a chance if they loved God. Other religions not serving in the Christianity beliefs were talked upon and down played by Whitefield. Whitefield who also beset established ministers for dominating their religious flocks into hell by not trying an experience salvation of people.

Another important figure during the Great Awakening was Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was a Puritan who was famous for his evoked vivid, terrifying images of the corruption of human nature and the horrors that would be waiting for him when his arrival onto hell came. The reason people flocked to hear Edwards preach was that he was speaking about things that the people were vitally interesting in. He talked about what happened to the sinners and that certainly struck interest in the people. Edwards had had people deeply concerned about their impact and their state of morals. Edwards did not stay popular long, his downfall came when a group of young people got hold of an obstetrics book and they looked at the illustrations of the female anatomy. In result Edwards responded to this by preaching against it and condemning those involved in it. But it so happened the parents he alienated drove him from his position and he was exiled to Stockbridge to work with Indians where he eventually died.

The things that resulted in the Great Awakening was that most of the American population had a common understanding of Christian faith and life. So the North and the South shared a common evangelical view on life. Also religions such as the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians and all of the other non-established groups took root and grew. Even though denomination lines remained, all of the religions shared a common evangelical voice.

Not only did it effect religions; it also sprung a great emphasis to be placed on education. George Whitefield ended up founding schools that were firstly made up of Presbyterian ministers. The focus of education came about for the concern of souls mostly. Also greater sense of responsibility for Indians and Slaves emerged from the revival. Whitefield after all was one of the first preachers to preach to blacks. So with this most whites and blacks had an evangelical common point of view and it came to be looked upon as slavery being sinful and having a slave resulting in expulsion from the society.

People started to look at religion differently. Puritan theology focused on what God had done for the people. Now, people started to look at what man could do because of the gifts God had bestowed on us. The responsibility for salvation is not God’s but man’s himself.

Now Enlightenment had the concepts of reasons but they didn’t agree with having to confess and humble themselves before the Almighty like the people of the Great Awakening. People close to the Enlightenment celebrated the human race and it’s capacities, they had argued they were worshiping God more appropriately than anyone else. They believed that some humans were like God, created not only in his own imagine, but that humans also shared his same creative power and people such as painters, musicians, and scholars, by these people practicing their intellectual powers were fulfilling their divine purposes. So like the Great Awakening they did look more at what them as humans could do for themselves, but in a much larger degree.

Developments in England, such as the Glorious Revolution, the scientific methods and the rise of the parliamentary government made their way into the colonies, at this time. The Enlightenment began though, in Europe and then came to America around the early eighteenth century. The reason it mostly came over to America was in reaction to all that happened because of the Great Awakening. One main difference between the two events was that the Awakening had a greater more emphasis on faith than the Enlightenment. To understand the Enlightenment, it was more about examining the aspects of reason and less of the faith behind it. So this time was a very scientific era that was more about people’s sense of morals and even more into the belief, like the Great Awakening, of a not predestined life.

The famous Galileo Galilei was part of the Enlightenment. He made lots of observations to argue the Copernican notion that the earth rotates around on its axis beneath the unmoving sun. The Church objected this and said the Bible clearly states that the sun moved through the sky and denounced what Galileo was teaching. So in result he was forced to take back what he had written about the sun and this prevented him from teaching any further. So there was still a struggle between observation and the facts and

what the Bible had written in it. No matter if it was proved wrong.

During this time it was very common to see people tossing up one faith to another to wonder if any of the churches actually did deserve the authority they clamed. People of the Enlightenment of course was willing to test all assumptions, this like any good “scientist.” This wasn’t a very well taken idea at first, because to go against the word of God was not really heard of. But these people were willing to test all assumptions, and to challenge all of the traditional opinions and to try to get to the truth of things and see it for themselves, instead of just being told. If these scientific people could not prove the truth, which was claimed by people who were religious thinkers, it was all the better to prove their point. They didn’t however completely abandon religion. They gave everything a reasonable doubt and believed that everything had it’s limits and they knew that knowledge is something that is always growing and that every subject (even religion) was subject to change and nothing was every absolute. Because they knew that knowledge depended on evidence and also reason.

The Enlightenment brought on changes not only in the scientific world but also in the political and economic world. People started thinking that things not necessarily should go on as they had always had for centuries before. However, things should change. For instance, new charters could be written, new governments formed, new laws passed and new businesses to begin. People also began to be convinced that everything they were achieving and getting were result of individual hard work and determination and not just a sign of being among the “saved.” Religion still had survived all this, but it had weakened and it was transformed in ways to fit this new mindset of the people.

So, during this time a lot of the intellectual leaders of the American colonies were attracted to the Enlightenment. And during the time when they were approaching having to unite against English they all knew that it was much better to just agree to disagree against them. They knew that now one church could dominate this new state they were in. And the people like, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and Paine, were powerfully influenced by England, and by the French Enlightenment thought. So came about the talk of natural law, inherent freedoms, and of self-determination

So the Enlightenment was important to Americans as well as the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening started the opening of the eyes of the people, and the Enlightenment took it further as a response of all that was going on during the Great Awakening. They both formed and shaped the way many think today and brought lots of notions on human rights.

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