Hist Paper 4 - In 17th and 18th century America, vastly...

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In 17 th and 18 th century America, vastly different ideas and opinions existed about the nature of God and man and the interactions between God and man. Many of these ideas or opinions differed greatly from those of both the Catholic and Anglican Church, which may have been the attraction for the religious tolerance of the early American colonies. Two prevailing points of view concerning these interactions between God and man can be analyzed by comparing the beliefs and practices of Puritans and Deists. The differences and similarities between Puritans and Deists can be seen by analyzing the works of authors with these very different religious beliefs. John Winthrop, Michael Wigglesworth, and Mary Rowlandson were Puritans whose religious beliefs concerning strict adherence to biblical principles permeated their writings. Benjamin Franklin, whose writings were widely distributed, expressed views that suggested an individual’s ability to chart his/her own destiny and multiple ways in which God and man could potentially interact. Franklin was considered “enlightened” and a Deist, and these beliefs can be seen in his many writing and publications. These authors, although different in their secular and religious backgrounds, passionately and freely expressed their belief about the impact of God and the relationship between God and man on personal and social life events, political struggles, and changes envisioned to make the world a better place. In John Winthrop’s speech to the Massachusetts legislature, his Puritan beliefs became apparent when he stressed the difference between natural and civil liberty. He stated that natural liberty “makes men grow more evil and in time to be worse than brute beasts . . .” (Winthrop, 1). Winthrop believed that civil and federal liberties were “moral.” He based his opinion on the fact that civil liberties involved the presence of authority, while natural liberties did not. The source of this “authority” Winthrop spoke of came from God. This constant mention of the “authority of God” illustrated his strong belief that the world should be centered around God, and that people should submit to the will of God, “. . .we shall govern and judge you by the rules of God’s
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laws . . .” (Winthrop, 1). In natural liberty, the actions of the individual occurred without regard to the beliefs of others or the rule of law, whether civil or religious. Adherence to civil law would not ensure that natural liberties would confer behavior consistent with the religious beliefs of the communities. Winthrop wanted to maintain a level of authority in society that was “just”, while at the same time, being a part of a religious community escaping the authority of the Church of
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This note was uploaded on 07/19/2010 for the course HIST NOT SURE taught by Professor Drberry during the Spring '09 term at University of Georgia Athens.

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Hist Paper 4 - In 17th and 18th century America, vastly...

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