Influence of Religion on the Development of Colonial American Society

Several factors were behind the development of the Colonial United States of American society (Jack, 170) but of all these factors, the more outstanding one was religion. Religion, in general, was a key factor in the development of the colonial United States since religion and the state governance of that day were tied together and the leadership from American colonization had were known and believed to be inspired by God. The kings’ religion tended to dominate over the American soil during the colonial period in North America, and analysts believe that religion was behind the formation and development of most states of the United States (Coontz, 126). Although religion worked for hand in hand with other factors such as politics and many more other factors in making colonial North America be what it was at that time even up to today.

The legislative context of North America in the colonial time was dominated by religious assumptions (Jon and Harry, 45). Since many people during the colonial era in America stayed in the villages, they were driven by a powerful belief in religion and God, there was a strong sense of social order and the wrongdoers were appropriately punished whenever they went against the social norms which were principally derived from religious values. The aspects of subordination and hierarchy also had a powerful role in that society.

Although politics and the common laws of England played a vital role in shaping the lives of many colonial-era Americans, most of the leaders during this era had a powerful influence on the kind of justice system that existed during that time. Legal customs and law were one of the main factors that guided the leaders and judges in establishing what was good and right to be abided by by the populace of that time and for a very long time, these leaders and many elites of that time were mainly religious leaders. One of the examples of such religious leadership included Quakers in Pennsylvania and Puritans in Massachusetts. Quit outstanding legal cultures were hence formed in the colony and were very distinct in the northern part of America (Coontz, 124).

During the colonial time in America, many of the common people were unreligious but many of their leaders were strong religious people, in this era, many individuals come to the colony in search of opportunities in business and livelihood, and some distinctive aspects of these newcomers was that majority of them who even at one time become leaders, we’re looking for new ways of practicing their religious values and doctrines, some of these newcomers were aspired to creating godly paradise in America, and come up with a society which could be religious.

It is not quite a coincidence when religious leaders and politicians of our time today who occasionally pander to religious precision are claiming that they are focused on the same thing. The colonial American leaders who were looking towards establishing a God-fearing society were the mastermind architects of great America which come later after they were gone.

Religion was behind the shaping and growth of the colonial ways of life in the United States society. It was behind the development of economy in the American British colony, much finances were used to erect church buildings and I initiating church related businesses and programs (Jon and Harry, 66). Religion was behind the development of the unification of majority of the people towards following one belief and value of Christianity and practicing the Christian ways of life and abiding by the doctrines of the religion of Christianity. Hence religion-inspired almost every aspect of the colonial North American individual.

Since the king of England of that moment happened to be a strong Protestant Church attendant. The other religion of that era were forced to practice their worship in secrecy and were even demoralized by the Protestant fraternity (Morgan, 24). Quakers, Puritans, and many more other groups of religion were worried to find a way to unreservedly practice their faith. This populace soon started to move to North America where they then were able to find absolute freedom. As a result of this movement of individuals with their diversities in religious doctrines into North America, there was an accompanying effect on the social, political, and economical status of that time.

Religion subjectively affected the way the American economy grew during the colonial time. Since religion happened to be on the people’s hearts and affected and influenced the movement of immigrants into America. The way these individuals used their money reflected this factor. Much of the development money was used to erect church buildings throughout America. For example, Calvert George who was the founder of Terra colony, which is the current Maryland state, is the place where many Catholics settled, to get religious freedom. Since the whole of the American society had the majority of catholic followers, many catholic churches were established in various parts of America. Another example of how religion played a vital role in the economic growth of American society was through the colonies’ great development of the churches. The Great up rise of the Church aimed at unifying all the people to follow the religious ways of life. Priests, Ministers and religious promoters of all religions, produced books, erected more church buildings, and made programs which were aimed at bringing individuals back to the fellowship of the church. The many books produced and sold created economic growth for the driving of Church business, and enabled them to use more finance to build more churches. This illustrates how religion was so outstanding in America during the colonial era.

Religion played an important role in how the American colonial societies developed socially. For example, William Penn led the long-oppressed Puritans from Britain to Pennsylvania, where they created their new settlement (Morgan, 36). The colony was comprised exclusively of Puritans. This greatly influenced the way individuals lived and associated with each other. Since almost all the people belonged to the major religious groups of that time, religion was then a vital component in a person’s life. Traditions were then derived from the religious daily life activities of people. For instance, as it was then during that time, all the individuals who stayed in Plymouth were all Puritans and they submitted their lives to sharing the same beliefs and practices. This kind of closeness and similar associations did not only happen amongst the Puritans but were a similar scenario across America even among those individuals who practiced other doctrines such as the Quakers and so on. Religion was so vital in people’s coexistence and it played a major role in impacting on their social livelihood.

In the past colonial times in the United States of America, the most important aspect that religion influenced was politics, religion had a considerable effect on the way the colonial society developed politically. For example, Winthrop who was the leader of Puritans in Massachusetts Colony was both their political and religious leader, religion and politics were one in the same throughout the colony (Jack Greene, 98). Many religious ways of life and beliefs turned into enacted laws in the American society during the colonial times. For example, when Hutchinson and her colleagues, went against the Puritans’ expectations and traditions, she was immediately told to move out of the colony as a form of punishment. Hutchinson’s followers were then branded as the Antinomians; this simply means that “the people who went against the law.” Her violation of religious viewpoint was hence not honored by the government, since the state and the churches were the same (Jack Greene, 102).

The close relationship that occurred between the state and the church became a mounting problem, and in the long run, lead to Williams Roger’s resolving to the idea of separating the two into disconnected entities. Rhode Island, a colony that Williams took control of, was amongst the very first to aspire for the disconnection of the state’s affairs and the church. Williams’s conceptual ideas of breaking the state and the Church into separate entities made it possible for individuals to start practicing their values and way of life in any other colony, and eventually, this kind of resolution by Williams was later on used in the coming up with the Constitution of the USA. The affiliation of the state to the church elaborates how outstanding religion was in influencing the practice and development of politics in the colonial era American society.

The written law in the colonial American society was used as an enforcement arm of the already established religious accepted beliefs. For this reason, the law itself could not be sufficiently understood without understanding the doctrines of religion which was underlying the law. It was quit evident that the system of justice in the colonial era was specifically designed to realization of a more religious society and the law was almost completely paternalistic. In a protective society, the society is modeled after the ultimate goal of realization of good governance and justice and is supposed to be practiced from the household level. Community influential leaders served as uncompromising parents to the young, this was believed to be a responsibility of the elders from God to the parents to take care of the young. Members of the society were taught the doctrines of religion and were supposed to adhere to good religious practices as a result. This illustration of government and family is not different from what modern times’ church leaders are occasionally teaching.

And while the judges and the religious rulers formed the regulations, the heavy burden was felt among the common people for example the claves and the children. The American colonial society could have been less hierarchical and stratified unlike the English society, but it was evident that it had a very long way to go. Progression opportunities existed, but this was only limited to the white men.

When one violated the norms of the community it also meant that the individual had also refused to adhere to the virtues which were handed down by the almighty God. There was no clear distinction between “crimes” and “sin”. Godliness and religion was a major way of life of many religious leaders, and they in turn subjected the lives of the other colonists. Since religion was the basis of the society, particularly in some areas, it became the responsibility of the ruling to sustain, give confidence and certainly put into effect what was regarded as the, “one true belief and faith”.

The institutions of the government was highly considered as the representation of Gods administration on Earth and the laws were thought not to have been formulated by people but by the almighty God for the good of men on earth.

As the American colonial society concentrated on forming a God-fearing leadership system, the justice system was different from the modern-day experience. Justice in colonial American times especially in the Puritan colony was inquisitorial (Morgan, 48). The personnel who presided over the cases were not autonomous people, but instead, they were supposed to be religious and political leaders also, who were to have a stake in what went on in the society. Although these magistrates were supposed to exercise fairness they were also controlled by political and religious underlying doctrines in the execution of their work, one of their core roles was to ensure discipline and order. The kind of law they formulated and passed of course reflected the above-mentioned underlying values, and hence their decisions in the court followed suit.

The judges strongly had confidence that they had an upper hand over the other people as subjected to them from God to rule over the community and lead the people down the path of religious righteousness. In the courts and the community, they were supposed to be role models to the people which they ruled. The core purpose of the court business was not really to establish the innocent and the guilty, but it happened that the judge who was also a prosecutor always found people guilty of the offense in question.

Court trials in the colonial American society were of great social importance, since the kind of offense that the offender had performed was not merely a legal wrongdoing but sin against the almighty God and therefore the godly order was supposed to be established, hence it was believed that a guilty judgment was not simply a reason for punishment, but also an avenue for repentance. It was a sort of Godly authorized societal theater where the legal system of the community was community affirmed and the wrongdoer also regarded as a sinner was punished to return to the proper ways of the society.

It is quite evident that all this kind of governance and systems which dominated the colonial American society has all changed. There have been drastic reforms in the ways of governance, phenomena such as; urbanization, democracy, globalization, and industrialization have come into play in shaping modern American society. Religious leaders have lost much of their influence on governance and leadership (Gordon, 243). Social order has gradually become less dependent on the religious doctrines but instead on economic stability and what specific groups them as morally right.

Some questions can be asked up to this point, such as do Americans want crimes to be synonymous with sins?, do Americans want a justice system that maintains societal cohesion with a strong basis on religious principles? And also do Americans want the state governance system to be an instrument of the almighty God, which is modeled to ensure God’s will? These questions do not necessarily need to be answered, although they can reflect what colonial American society was like.

In conclusion, it can be seen that although politics played a vital role in the development of the colonial American society, but religion was the most important in establishing and sustaining the American colonial society’s systems (Gordon, pg 36). Considerably efforts were exhibited by many leaders during this era to bring people into the church and in leading godly lives. Socially, religious doctrines influenced the daily lives of American people, and how they related to each other. Religion had such an enormous cause on the intensification of political affairs through the American colonies to an extent where at one particular point the government and religion were the same (Gordon, pg 42). Later on, laws were formulated which changed this kind of attachment between religion and government to keep Americans free in their indulgence as far as religion and government were concerned.

Works Cited

Jon, Butler and Harry, Stout. Religion in Colonial America. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Jack, P. Greene. Pursuits to Happiness: The Social Growth of Early Contemporary British Colonies, North Carolina University Press, 1988.

Jack, Greene. The American History Analysis. USA: McGraw hill, 2000.

Morgan, Edmund. “The Puritan Family.” American Historical journal, 22 (1998): 24- 48.

Coontz, Stephanie. The Way We Never Were: The Comprehensive History of America. USA: Macmillan Publishers, 1992.

Gordon, Myron. Assimilation into American Way of Life: The Role of Religion, Race and Origin of Nationality. US: Oxford University Press, 1964.