What are the similarities and differences between Emerson's philosophy and the religious thought of the Second Great Awakening?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Emerson's philosophy and the Second Great Awakening were highly moralistic movements .Both were faith-based But the basic beliefs of each movement differ greatly. Emerson believed in the ideals of self-reliance. This means that whatever your personal intuition and feeling told you was true, that itself made it true for you. It didn't matter if others believed differently, you were the ultimate determiner of truth. Thus truth becomes relative to each individual. The self becomes its own god. In addition, there was no need to be consistent in own beliefs. As Emerson said, "Consistency is the hobgobiln of little minds." So, if you belief one truth one day and another truth on another day, that was fine. The beliefs of the Second Great Awakening, although based on faith, are almost entirely opposite of Emerson's philosophy. The believers of the Second Great Awakening believed in one ultimate truth that did not originate from one's self but from God. Knowing God and knowing the Bible were keys to knowing truth. And the truth is universal, not subject to individual interpretation. They were also consistent, because, they reasoned, God does not change. Emerson believed a person was born with God inside of him. The believers in the Second Great Awakening believed one had to repent and ask God to come inside of them. Then, by following God's spirit, not their own thoughts, they would come to know ultimate truth.