Land of the Brave

Religion in the Colonies

Colonial America - Land of the Brave

Religion in the Colonies
Religion in the Colonies was extremely diverse and many of the religious groups, such as the Puritans and the Quakers established the first of the 13 colonies on the basis of their religious beliefs. The long, hazardous, 3000 mile trip from Europe to North America was undertaken by many in a search for religious freedom.

Religion in the Colonies - The Mayflower Pilgrims
The Puritans who undertook the voyage to the New World on the Mayflower were led by William Bradford. These Puritans were called Separatists who believed in a pure Christian church, with no vestige of the Catholic religion.

They established the Plymouth Settlement in New England who later came to be known as the "Pilgrim Fathers" or simply as the Pilgrims.

Religious Persecution in the Colonies - the Puritans and John Winthrop
It must be said that religious groups, such as the Puritans, looking to escape from religious persecution in their home country arrived in the colonies and promptly established their own form of religious persecution. There was no religious freedom in the areas inhabited by the Puritans as they did not tolerate any other form of religion. Their idea of religious freedom was restricted only to the Puritan religion. John Winthrop, a powerful Puritan leader was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. His Puritan religious group believed that they would establish a pure church in New England  that would offer a model for all churches. The Congregational Church eventually grew out of the Puritan Church and was formally established in the Colonial New England colonies, except for Rhode Island who favored religious tolerance. 

Religious Persecution in the Colonies - Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams
Any who did not conform to the Puritan beliefs were called Nonconformists or Dissenters and were severely punished. The punishments imposed on the Nonconformists and Dissenters included being fined, whipped and imprisoned. In some circumstances those who refused to adhere to the Puritan religion were banished from the colony. Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were famous as early colonists from the Massachusetts Colony who was banished for their religious beliefs and fled to the Rhode Island.

Religion in the Colonies - The Salem Witchcraft Trials
The Salem Witchcraft Trials occurred in 1692 and were another example of religious fervor in the Puritan colony of Massachusetts.  The Salem Witchcraft Trials lasted for three months  in which accusations of witchcraft were made against both men and women. The Salem Witchcraft Trials resulted in 100-200 arrests, 19 people were sentenced to death by hanging, one old man was pressed to death under heavy stones, one man was stoned to death and two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches (familiars).

Religion in the Colonies - Religious Tolerance and Diversity
Eventually this type of religious persecution ended and other religions began to appear in the Puritan based colonies. Other colonies were established where religious tolerance was exercised. The colonists from different countries in Europe adhered to various religions including Roman Catholic, Jewish, Lutheran, Protestant, Anglican, Quakers and Presbyterians. Religious diversity had become a dominant part of religion in the colonies and colonial life.

Religion in the Colonies - William Penn and the Quakers
William Penn (1644-1718) was famous as a follower of the Quaker religion and the leader of the Pennsylvania Colony. William Penn promoted the ideals of religious tolerance. He was extreme in his religious fervor and whilst in England he strongly criticised the Church of England (Anglicans).

Religion in the Colonies - The Catholic Religion and the Glorious Revolution
Under the rule of King James II of England (reigned 1685 11 December 1688) the American colonists were under the direct control of the monarch. As a staunch Catholic, James II was attempting to replace Protestant institutions with Roman Catholic ones. The vast majority of Colonists were Protestants - Only 1.6% of the population were Roman Catholics. The Protestants detested the Catholics and feared the bloody persecutions they had left behind in Europe. King James II believed in 'the Divine Right of Kings' and tried to create religious liberty for English Roman Catholics and Protestant nonconformists against the wishes of the English Parliament which led to the Glorious Revolution in which James was replaced by King William III and Queen Mary II. The Glorious Revolution and the subsequent revolts in the colonies were precursors to the American Revolution.

Religion in the Colonies - The American Revolution
The American Revolutionary War ended the rule of the British and the religion in the colonies based on the practises of the Church of England.  A separation from the Church of England was forced because the Church of England clergy were required to swear allegiance to the British monarch. Different denominations were therefore organized shortly after the American Revolution. The different denominations consisted of various unified religious congregations and churches.  The Religion in the Colonies adhered to the religious practises of many denominations.

ⓒ 2017 Siteseen Limited

First Published

Cookies Policy


Updated 2018-01-01

Publisher Siteseen Limited

Privacy Statement