What was the relationship between the Second Great Awakening and the reform movements? How were they similar, but also how were they different?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Second Great Awakening, which took place around 1800 in the United States, sought to return a sense of enthusiasm to religion and to bring believers to a direct relationship with God. Religions such as Baptism and Methodism, with their more fervent forms of worship, skyrocketed in popularity, as preachers spread new religions through camp meetings. Women and African-Americans were particularly drawn to these religions, and African-Americans with the leadership of Richard Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia in 1816. The movement swept aside the rationalism and deism of the Enlightenment era in favor of the Romantic embrace of inspiration and emotion.

The Second Great Awakening also emphasized the importance of good works and resulted in the formation of several reform movements, including abolitionism, temperance, and prison reform. These movements were similar to the Second Great Awakening in that women were active in them, and freed African-Americans were active in abolitionism. Therefore, the same groups were active in both movements. The reform movements also borrowed the kind of enthusiastic preaching of the Second Great Awakening to preach against slavery, for example. The reform movements were different than the Second Great Awakening because they targeted societal ills and were not only concentrated in the realm of religion (though they used religious arguments at times). In addition, unlike during the Second Great Awakening, there was a current of nativism, or anti-immigrant feeling, in some of the reform movements, as many people unfairly blamed Irish and German immigrants for social ills such as drinking. 

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Second Great Awakening had two components. On the one hand, it was a spiritual awakening as people believed in Christ for the salvation of their sins. In this sense, it was like the First Great Awakening. On the other hand, it was a social awakening as well. The outflow of the Second Great Awakening lead to great social reforms. Part of the reason for this was the theology of the Second Great Awakening was amenable towards this direction. Arminianism stated that people had free choice to do good. This was different from the more deterministic Calvinism of the First Great Awakening.

The Reform movements and the Second Great Awakening were similar in that they aimed to make society into a better place. They wanted to transform culture.

The movements were different in one important sense. The Second Great Awakening was chiefly a religious movement and the reforms that flowed from it were an outcome of religious convictions. The reform movements were not all Christian and were chiefly a societal.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were similarities and differences between the Second Great Awakening and the reform movements of the 1800s. The Second Great Awakening led to an increase in religious observance and religious practice. People were now guided by religious ideas and religious philosophy more than in the past. Preaching and camp meetings helped get people more involved in religious practice. Part of this religious revival focused on dealing with social activism. People worked to end or reduce drinking, free the slaves, get better treatment for people in prison, and help women get more freedoms.

One difference was that the reform movements were not focused on increasing religious observance and religious practice. While many of the people involved in the Second Great Awakening were also involved in the various reform movements, the goals of the reform movements did not include increasing religious practice. The reform movements tried to improve conditions in society in order to make it a better place.