History of Religion in the USA
Religion has played a very important role in American history. Europeans first began settling in America with the goal of finding religious freedom, hoping to escape oppression from the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England.
The first Anglican church in America was founded in 1607, and the first Protestant Episcopal parish was established shortly after. Pilgrims began emigrating to America in 1620, settling in Plymouth. Many Congregational churches were founded in Plymouth during this time.
A few years after the first Pilgrims arrived, the Puritans began traveling to America. Their goal was to reform or purify the Church of England. They settled in Massachusetts and saw huge growth in their numbers throughout the 17th century. However, they had rigid religious laws and often carried out civil punishments for religious crimes. This was one of the major causes of the witch hunts that began in 1688 and the witch trials that began in 1692.
America also saw a growing Lutheran population during this time. Lutherans came from Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway, and they mainly settled on the East Coast and in the Midwest. They worshipped in their native languages, but the churches eventually began to merge and dissolve the language barriers. In 1988, three of the largest Lutheran bodies formed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Quakers started arriving in Massachusetts in 1656 but were arrested by the Puritan authorities. In 1681, William Penn, a Quaker, became the sole proprietor of the territory of Pennsylvania. He established the colony for Quakers the next year.
The First Great Awakening in America occurred throughout the 1730s and 1740s. It brought a wave of religious enthusiasm that affected Protestants in America. During this time, individuals’ relationships with God became much more personal, and there was more focus on guilt, forgiveness, and redemption.
During the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800s, many people became more focused on converting those who didn’t belong to a church. Evangelicalism became an important aspect of religion in America during this time, and the Methodist and Baptist churches grew quickly.
The Third Great Awakening, which occurred in the late 1800s and early 1900s, brought more enthusiasm for social activism. Many religious enthusiasts believed that the Second Coming of Christ would occur after they reformed the whole world.
Many other denominations formed in America throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, including Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Church of Christ, Scientist. Today, there are hundreds of religions and denominations in the United States.