The Religious Beliefs of the Puritans

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Monika Rajtmajerová
Bc. Joel C. Head
KAJ/6116 Composition II
20 December 2011
The Religious Beliefs of Puritans
Puritans and their religious beliefs are perceived and pictured in so many different ways and the differences in their perception by public and opinions about them are so wide apart so that it makes it an interesting topic for a study. Some of the literature pictures them as very strict and religious people who devoted their lives to an effort to develop a strong relationship with God. They were trying to achieve it with the help of Bible study and prayers. Their sermons lasted for hours and therefore for some people their beliefs and practices can be seen as extreme and restrictive. Their faith and conviction about their role was so strong that sometimes they were willing to go to extreme measures to profess and protect it. They are known for having little tolerance for other religions and any deviations from their way of life would meet with a disapproval. These might be some of the reasons why are they pictured as people opposed to having enjoyment in their life. There are dozens of articles about how they did not like music and dance, did not support and promote art and were strict when it came to drinking. At the same time, they are portrayed as very educated people, who supported education not only for the elite, but for everyone, including children. They were responsible for making the education available to the masses and were also the founders of first colleges in America. To conclude the picture their work ethic cannot be left out. Their lives were centred on the belief that hard work is an honour to God and would lead to a prosperous reward. The perception of the Puritans can be summarized into three major traits: a strict moral code, a focus on family, community and education, and very strong work ethic.

This paper intends to look at these different perceptions of the Puritans with the use of various works of literature written by today’s scholars and also a source from the end of the 19th century. For thanks to the diligence and emphasis on the importance of education of the fathers of New England there are numerous journals, diaries and narratives helping historians to capture the beginning and the growth of the colonies. I will observe the history of the Puritans, including their beginnings in England, their religious beliefs, and their merits in spreading knowledge. As family and community were very important I intend to look at the conception of marriage and duties of both parties. Puritanism originated in the late sixteenth century in England. It was an era of intense religious conflicts which followed King Henry VIII’s separation from the Church of Rome. The partition of Canterbury from Rome was largely economic and political. English monarchy and nobility wanted Church property and wished to be free from foreign authority. There was no fundamental religious issue; it only meant that the privilege was simply shifted. The early Puritans were Protestants reformers, who remained within the new Anglican Church, and only wished to reform the Church from within and not break away from it (Macy 742). They were aiming to purify it of its Catholic elements and to strengthen and increase the discipline and the piety of its members. They sought to reform it and make their lifestyle a pattern for the rest of the nation. Protestantism advanced during the reign of Edward VI, but under Queen Mary England return to Roman Catholicism and many Protestants were force to exile. Many of them found their home in Geneva where the John Calvin’s church provided a model of a disciplined church. This experience can be seen as an influence and a source for the creation of the two most popular books of Elizabethan England: the Geneva Bible and John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. They both provided justification to English Protestants to see England as “an elect nation chosen by God to complete...
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