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Colonial New England And Religious Tolerance

1053 words - 4 pages

Colonial New England and Religious Tolerance


Throughout the seventeen hundreds, thousands of immigrants came to the New England
region, seeking refuge from European persecution. These early colonist yearned for a domicile
were they could indulge in religious freedom, a heavy contrast to the strict religious persecution
they experienced in their native countries. Aspirations such as these hold the initial sentence in
the statement: “The New England colonies were founded upon the promise of religious freedom,”
to be valid. On the contrary, there are several cases from the New England colonies that make
the second sentence of the statement, “Those who wish to practice their religioun freely were able
to do so,” to be invalid due to their characterization of exclusive religious tolerance. A rare
example of complete religious tolerance in the New England region sprang from Rhode Island’s
liberal religious freedom, which extended to all their citizens; this factor would hold the statement
to be true.
Martin Luther, a German friar, nailed ninety-five theses, protesting Catholic doctrines, to
the door of the Wittenberg’s Cathedral in 1517. By denouncing the authority of priest and popes,
Luther ignited the fire of religious reforms. The Protestant Reformation divided peoples, toppled
sovereigns, and most importantly, kindled the spiritual fever of men and women that helped find
America.
John Calvin, of Geneva, elaborated on Luther’s ideas. His basic doctrines in “Institutes of
Christian Religion” state that God was all-powerful, all good, and all knowing. Humans were
weak and wicked (due to the original sin), and were governed spiritually by the idea of
predestination. A principle theory in Calvinism, predestination was the idea that those who were
to achieve salvation were already chosen by God.
Adding to the the Protestant Reformation, King Henry VIII of England broke away from
the Roman Catholic Church in the 1530s. This in turn would give birth to the Church of England,
or the Anglican Church, which was headed by the king of England. Henry’s actions stimulated
English religious reformers to undertake a total purification of English Christianity. Calvinism fed
the social unrest and provided spiritual comfort to the economically disadvantages of English
Puritans. The mixture of “visible saints” and the King’s subjects in their congregation appalled
extreme Puritans, or Separatists. This led King James I, who reigned from 1603-1625, to believe
that if his subjects defied him as their spiritual leader, than they would not hesitate to defy him as
their political leader. This, henceforth, led to the harassment of Separatist off their land and
looking for a refuge to live free from religious intolerance. Continuing turmoil in England
sprouted the Great Migration of the 1630s. Seventy thousand refugees left England seeking a
better life.
Due to their continues persecution from the English...

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