How did the Great Awakening contribute to the independent spirit of American colonists?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Great Awakening contributed to the development of an “independent spirit” among American colonists because it reduced the power of hierarchical religious sects.  It contributed, instead, to a situation in which people thought more for themselves about issues of religion.

Prior to the Great Awakening, Americans typically belonged to hierarchical churches.  They were told what to believe by their church leaders.  They were not really encouraged to think for themselves.  We can argue that this would cause them to lack an “independent spirit.” 

The Great Awakening reduced the power of such churches.  It encouraged people to break away from the belief that worshipping God consisted of obeying certain rules.  Instead, it encouraged them to seek personal relationships with God and to seek their own personal understanding of God’s word.  This would be likely to cause people to have more of an independent spirit in all aspects of their lives.  If they were good enough to be able to think for themselves on something as important as the health of their souls, they would be good enough to think for themselves on issues of government and other such things.

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