In the 1730s, a religious revival swept through the British American colonies. Jonathan Edwards, the Yale minister who refused to convert to the Church of England, saw that New Englanders were becoming too concerned with worldly matters. He felt that people valued the pursuit of wealth over John Calvin’s religious principles. Some New Englanders questioned predestination and believed that good works might save a soul. Edwards spoke out from the pulpit against these ideas, and people rushed to listen, which started the Great Awakening in the American colonies.
George Whitefield was a minister from Britain who toured the American colonies. He preached with passion. Colonists flocked to hear him speak. He converted slaves and a few Native Americans.
Soon much of America became divided. Awakening, or New Light, preachers set up schools and churches throughout the colonies. The Old Light ministers refused to accept this new style of worship. Despite the conflict, there was greater religious toleration. With so many new denominations, it was clear that no one religion would dominate any region.
The Great Awakening was a reaction against the Enlightenment and a long-term cause of the Revolutionary War. Before, ministers had represented an upper class elite. The new faiths that emerged with the Awakening were much more democratic in their approach. Awakening ministers were not always ordained. The overall message was one of greater equality.
The Great Awakening was a national occurrence. It was the first major event that all the colonies could share, helping to break down differences between them.
Source: The Great Awakening
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