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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Great Awakening was a religious revival during the eighteenth century which was an emotional response to the rationalism of the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers had emphasized human reason which directly contradicted old Calvinist ideas of a God who was beyond human understanding. Churches in America seemed to suffer from this; in fact Jonathan Edwards described the state of affairs at Northhampton Church as follows:

It seemed to be a time of extraordinary dullness in religion; licentiousness for some years greatly prevailed among the youth of the town; they were many of them very much addicted to night walking, and frequenting the tavern, and lewd practices wherein some by their example exceedingly corrupted others. It was their manner very frequently to get together in conventions of both sexes, for mirth and jollity, which they called frolicks; and they would often spend the greater part of the night in them, without any regard to order in the families they belonged to; and indeed family government did not much prevail in the town. It was become very customary with many of our young people to be indecent in their carriage at meeting.

The end result was a new style of preaching which emphasized justification by faith in God, that salvation was a choice, but hell was also real. Edwards most famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," provoked an emotional response from those fearing hell. Edward's counterpart, George Whitefield, often writhed on stage indicating the agonies of souls in hell.

The Great Awakening and the preaching of Edwards and Whitefield completely destroyed old Puritan ideas of predestination and the "elect." The Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian denominations were founded primarily on Great Awakening ideals.


lalithareddy | Student

TheGreat Awakening was a series of religious revivals in the North American British colonies during the 17th and 18th Centuries. During these "awakenings," a great many colonists found new meaning (and new comfort) in the religions of the day. Also, a handful of preachers made names for themselves.

The First Great Awakening is the most famous of the movements and is usually referred to as simply "the Great Awakening."

As with many movements in those days, the Great Awakening began mostly in New England. It was the time of the Scientific Revolution, when people such as Isaac Newton were becoming famous for towering works of science and Europeans were focusing on matters of logic and experience. A common focus for many people was on what could be proved by physical observation (empiricism). 

Obviously, a religion would be a difficult thing to reconcile with empiricism, since so much of religion depends on faith and belief in a higher power. The Catholic Church had quite a following in the North American colonies; so did the Protestant religions. However, in the 17th and 18th Centuries, people began to find the need for getting back in touch with religion. This happened in a big way in the first half of the 18th Century.

gladeslibrarian | Student

Hi vocabulary, is a good website to use when you're looking to define a word or term.  The link below will direct you to the definition of "great awakening" (see link below).

It is always good to choose reliable sources when you're looking for information via the internet.  One reliable source for information on The First Great Awakening is the National Humanities Center under the section "Religion in American History".  The link below will direct you to the page with information specific to the First Great Awakening. (see link below) provides an analysis and information on the first Great Awakening.

I hope this information has been helpful to you and that you will enjoy learning more about the Great Awakening.


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