Why did United States colonies need the First Great Awakening? 

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no objective, non-religious reason that the colonies needed the First Great Awakening. There is no way to prove that a country ever needs a religious revival.  In the United States today, many say that citizens need to honor God more.  There is no way the people making this argument can prove they are right.  There are also people who say the US needs less religion, but they can’t prove they’re right, either.  Therefore, we cannot really say that the colonies needed to have the Great Awakening.

Obviously, though, many individual colonists believed they needed more religion in their lives.  If they had not believed this, the Great Awakening would not have happened. Looking at things in this way, we can say the colonies (or individual colonists) needed the Great Awakening because they had moved away from an emotional connection to God and toward religious views influenced by the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment taught that people should use their rationality to answer questions and make decisions.  Proponents of the Enlightenment said people should rely on logic and scientific evidence when trying to decide what is true.  Religion, to Enlightenment thinkers, was supposed to be about logic and thought, not about feelings and emotions.

By the time of the Great Awakening, these ideas had taken hold among many colonists.  This kind of logical, rational religion was not emotionally satisfying for many of them, however.  They did not feel a close connection to God and therefore did not feel the emotional support that type of religion can provide.  Colonists needed the Great Awakening to bring them back to a more emotional religious experience. They needed to have a real connection with God, not just a set of beliefs based on logic.  Thus, we can say that the colonies needed the Great Awakening because many colonists did not receive the emotional and spiritual satisfaction they needed from the Enlightenment-influenced religion of the day.