How did the role of Calvinism in early America affect the people?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Calvinism had a very strong impact on the Colonists who came over to the New World.  The premise of the individual's relationship with God occupied a dominant role in the minds of the Colonists.  The basic premise of the religion was that individual work is the key to one's state of being.  God alone will choose who shall receive salvation and that it is against the nature of human beings to attempt to serve God, a force that stands far outside the realm of human action.  The basic premise of individuals being able to pursue a life following their own self interest and hold the teachings of the Lord sacred because the plan for salvation has already been determined.  Weber has a very interesting read on this in suggesting that this philosophy inadvertently laid the groundwork for capitalism and the idea of pursuing one's own self interest.  This idea is certainly present in the lives of the colonists, who at some level operated in a "harmonious schizophrenia" in seeking religious freedom as well as economic profit in the new world.