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From Puritanism To Enlightenment


The world through the eyes of men is ever-changing. During the 17th century the strict Puritanical religious rule held over those in the colonies was absolute. Many consider the period of Enlightenment created in the 18th century a knee-jerk reaction to the stifling Puritan age.

As the Puritans understood the world, following the Bible and adhering to its rules as closely as possible gave them the best opportunity to make sense of why man and earth were created. Motivated by fear and an unwillingness to believe anything other than the way of the world according to them gave them a sense of purpose. Any ideas outside of what was taught were considered blasphemous and punishments were harsh.

Enlightenment came along in the 18th century with a way of thinking that challenged the moralism and prudish thought that had become part of Puritan life. There was no room for what had been considered “traditional” thought up until then. Enlightenment applied science and logic in an effort to understand the world. While puritans were more concerned about belief, freethinkers of the Enlightenment period sought proof and evidence in order to believe. While Puritans took a world view and believed in only one God, they also were not the individualists one could describe members of the Enlightenment as. A puritan would see those from the Age of Reason as selfish and destined for Hell because of their inquisitive minds and reckless questioning of how the world worked. The Puritans believed all there was to be discovered about man and creation had been given to them; to think otherwise would bring on impending doom.

Just as Puritans feared the unknown, people from the Enlightenment were skeptical of accepting tradition and the ways of the past; very uncomfortable with taking the assumptions that had built the beliefs like those held by the Puritans into a rigid one-dimensional world with no need or tolerance for other so-called “radical” ideas or points of view.

This period in time shows us many precursors to issues we encounter today as well, from secularism, the separation of church and state, and the dangers involving strict interpretations of religion and how those beliefs can be perverted into a cause that is entirely different. During this time we can also get our first look into the conflicting views on creation from a religious standpoint and a scientific standpoint.

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