The Second Great Awakening

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What caused the Second Great Awakening?

The causes of the Second Great Awakening included the social disruptions of the Market Revolution, the democratization of American culture, and a sincere belief among many religious leaders that American Christians were lapsing in their zeal for the faith.

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One way of understanding the Second Great Awakening is in the context of sweeping social changes of the era. The United States was rapidly expanding, both territorially and economically. The Market Revolution changed the way many Americans lived, worked, and consumed things. It led to frequent economic busts and booms, and even posed a challenge to the structures of families. In the midst of rapid social change, people turned to religion. For many Americans, especially middle-class Northerners, this meant a shift to the individualism and the "perfectionism" of preachers like Charles Grandison Finney. For other anxious people, it simply meant that the fervor, more than the message, of tent revivalist preachers (who were mostly Baptists and Methodists) resonated with them. Still others, like the followers of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, turned to a faith that emphasized what they perceived as traditional values of patriarchalism and order. More than a few Americans embraced...

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