Religion did much more than play a part in the way that many aspects of culture in North America developed. In reality, religion contributed to the basis on which the initial movement to and colonization of America transpired. Colonies were settled by those who were not willing to concede to the ruthless persecution that was evident in 17th century Europe, and acted on the hope of a new life in America. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland were all founded as what Sydney E. Ahlstrom explained to be “plantations of religion”, as well as Rhode Island’s foundation as a result of religious persecution (Olmstead). Though it is also acknowledged that many migrated to the New World for several other reasons like economic depression in Europe, a determining factor in the uprooting of most Europeans to travel to America was to live a life based on a religion that they believed to be correct. These grounds on which America was initially colonized held true, despite the ironic eventual religious persecution that would eventually materialize in America itself. Considering the potent influence that religion had on the country’s founding, the resonation of religion throughout many cultural aspects of the United States from it’s founding throughout it’s history was inevitable. Religion played an essential role in American culture from 1607 to present by acting as a basis on which colonies and states were founded, aiding in the establishment of political policies regarding both the separation of church and state and freedom of religious practice, and influencing social development as evident in religious discrimination and fervency observed throughout the country’s history.
The first way in which American culture and history was affected by religion was in its initial settling, as well as the influence that religion had on the country’s expansion. To many Europeans, America was seen as a religious refuge in the 17th century. Religion and government where very closely tied together, and the King of England was said to have been appointed by God.
The first main religious practice that initiated a move to America as response to religious intolerance in England was Puritanism. Puritans were English Protestants who wished to reform and purify the Church of England of what they considered to be unacceptable ideals of Roman Catholicism (Heyrman). In the 1620s, leaders of the English state and church grew increasingly upset by Puritan demands (Faragher et al 63). They insisted that the Puritans comply with the standard religious practices, and acted on their demands by removing Puritan ministers from office and threatening them if they did not observe religious methods that the leaders of the English state and church viewed as the “correct way” (Brewer et al). As Puritans made the first move to the New World to escape persecution, news of the success of their newly found religious freedom travelled back to England. Beginning in 1630, as many as 20,000 Puritans immigrated to America from England to gain the latitude to worship as they chose (Faragher et al 63). Despite the mass movement of Puritans to America, they were not the only religious group that sought America as a religious refuge. A group of twenty-three Jews fleeing persecution in Dutch Brazil arrived in what would eventually become New York City in 1654 (Spiro). By the next year, this small community had established a religious base in the city. By 1658, Jews had arrived in Rhode Island, also seeking a venue for freedom of religious practices (Spiro). Small numbers of Jews continued to come to the British North American colonies, settling mainly in the seaport towns (Spiro).
Once the New World was settled, religion continued to demonstrate its influence through its role in the expansion of the country’s settling, and the founding of Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Essentially kicked out of Massachusetts in 1636, former Puritan leader Roger Williams strongly appealed...
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