History Questions and Answers

Start Your Free Trial

Compare and contrast religions in colonial times with religions today?  Compare and contrast religions in colonial times with religions today? Did the threat of hellfire promote better morals during this colonial era?  Reconcile the wrathful Old Testament God of Jonathan Edwards with the New Testament concept of “God is love.” Thanks!

Expert Answers info

litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2008

write15,967 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Some of the religions still exist. I would say the main difference is that in colonial times settlements were founded in order to practice certain religions, and the people living in those settlements had to follow strict religious and social rules, whereas now they get a choice.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

larrygates eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2010

write1,856 answers

starTop subjects are History, Law and Politics, and Social Sciences

There was no "one" religion during colonial times. The predominant church in the southern colonies was the Anglican church; although people in the south were not overtly religious. Ministers were paid by local plantation owners, and tended not to be outspoken on social issues, as their position might be jeopardized. Only one colony, South Carolina, allowed Jews to emigrate, as the proprietors of the colony were anxious to establish a growing population base. This contrasts interestingly with today's South where Protestantism and fundamentalist religious groups are quite prominent.

The Northern colonies were originally settled by Puritans and Separatists (often called "Pilgrims") from England. They were staunch Calvinists and demanded conformity in all things religious. No dissent from religious teaching was tolerated; those who did disagree, such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, were often banished. There was a substantial change by the time of the Great Awakening with the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield which emphasized that salvation was available to all; yet hell was a threat to all. The Great Awakening led to the formation of the Baptist and Methodist denominations in America. Catholics could normally only be found in Maryland, a colony founded as a refuge for English Catholics. Because of the large influx of immigrants during the 19th century, many of whom were from Catholic countries, Roman Catholicism is now the predominant religion in the Northern states, although there are prominent Jewish, Orthodox and islamic congregations.

Pennsylania stood alone among the colonies as allowing all religions; its Quaker founders were exceptionally tolerant, even more so than Maryland. Again, because of the large influx of immigrants during the 19th century, the mid-Atlantic states have a mix of Protestant and Catholic congregations, although Catholicism probably is more prevalent.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

Inuk Lee eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write4,794 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

This is a very interesting question with many parts. So, I will go in order. First, the dominant religion by far during colonial America was Protestant Christianity. Jonathan Edwards is an example of this type of Christianity. When we compare this situation with today, we can say that Protestantism is no longer as dominant. For one thing, Catholicism is American is much larger. Moreover, since the world is in America, there are many different religions.

Second, the fire and brimstone preaching, in my opinion, did create for better morals. There was a belief in colonial times the importance of objective truth. Moreover, morality mattered intensely.

Third, to be fair to Jonathan Edwards, he would not distinguish the God of the Old Testament to the God of the New Testament. He would state that there was only one God. From this perspective, there is nothing to reconcile. To put it another way, there is as much love and wrath in both the Testaments, because there is only one God.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial