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Great Awakening: American Religious Revival Research Paper

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Updated: May 3rd, 2022

Great Awakening refers to an era of religious revival in American religious history (Carwardine, 2011). Moreover, it occurred from 18th to 20th century and was characterized by wide spread revivals lthe ed by protestant ministers, an increase of interest in religion, a jump in church membership and forthe mation of new religious movements (Fogel, 2010). The great awakening deemphasized the significance of the doctrines of the church while emphasis was on the spiritual practice of an individual (Heimert, 2010).

The Great Awakening started when people in Europe and America colonies were questioning the individual role in the society and in religion (Fogel, 2010). At the same time, there was enlightenment that emphasized logic reasoning and individual power to understand the universe based on the scientific law and as a result, people relied more on personal approach to deliverance rather than cathedral doctrines (Carwardine, 2011).

In 1688, there was glorious revolution in England that resulted to an end of the fight between religious and political groups (Heimert, 2010). The Church of England became the sovereignty church of the country and consequently, suppression of other religions like Judaism, Catholicism and Puritanism took place (Fogel, 2010).

Although this led to solidity, it created spiritual hunger because religion became something of the past in which people went through motions during religious services without deep conviction of the heart and soul (Heinkel, 2010). After a decade of this complacency in both England and America colonies, the spiritual revival of the great awakening came about (Heinkel, 2010).

The first great awakening began in 1720 and lasted to 1830 (Kelleter, 2010). 1730 – 1760 was the phase of religious revival characterized by weakening of predestination doctrine, recognition that many sinners may be predestined for salvation, introduction of revival meetings and a rise of the ethics of generosity (Heimert, 2010). Additionally, Church ministers supported the great awakening and the pastoral styles changed (Heinkel, 2010).

For instance, leaders like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield elicited emotional response from their audience through powerful preaching that gave the audience a sense of personal revelation of their need of salvation via Jesus Christ (Heimert, 2010). Consequently, Christianity became personal to people through fostering a sense of spiritual conviction by encouraging introspection and a commitment to morality (Fogel, 2010).

1760 – 1790 was the phase of rising political effect characterized by revolution of America, attack on the corruption of British, belief in equal opportunity and establishment of egalitarianism as an ethic that was national ( Heinkel, 2010). Furthermore, the evangelical movement of 1740 helped in the growth of democracy and Whitefield campaigned for freedom and liberty (Fogel, 2010). In the period of 1760 to 1830, the revolutionary coalition broke up (Kelleter, 2010).

The second great awakening began in 1800 to 1920 after the revitalization of Kane Ridge in Kentucky (Carwardine, 2011). Besides, 1800 – 1840 was the phase of religious revival characterized by a belief that any person could achieve grace by a struggle against sin (Heimert, 2010). Additionally, there was introduction of intensified levels of revivals, wide spread adoption of principle of benevolence and an expansion of millennialism (Heinkel, 2010).

In 1830 to 1840, the advent movement emerged and ministers like William Miller preached leading to a rise in several religious denominations (Kelleter, 2010). 1840 – 1871 was the phase of rising political effect characterized by a rise in reform movements each intending to make American fit for the second coming of Christ, sweeping agendas and civil war ( Kelleter, 2010).

The reform movements included the nativist movement and the temperance movement that outlawed the sale of alcohol while the abolition movement culminated the formation of Republican Party (Heimert, 2010). On the other hand, the sweeping reform agendas aimed at eliminating the barriers to equal opportunities, antislavery and attack on corruption of the south (Kelleter, 2010). In 1870 to 1930, replacement of prewar evangelical leaders occurred and additionally, Darwinian and Urban crisis arose (Heimert, 2010).

The third great awakening began in 1890 and it has not yet ended (Fogel, 2010). The religious revival phase was in 1890 to 1930 and there was an emphasis on social sin, and people believed that the society was responsible for poverty (Fogel, 2010). 1930 – 1970 was the phase of rising political effect characterized by labor reforms and women right movement (Kelleter, 2010).

Additionally, a belief in equality of condition was a principle that the government achieved through a transfer of income from rich to poor via income taxes and finance welfare programs (Heinkel, 2010). Besides, an attack on religious and racial barrier to equal opportunities led to attacks on assumption of behavior that is gender-based and discrimination based on sexual orientation (Kelleter, 2010).

The fourth and current great awakening began in 1960 ( Kelleter, 2010). The religious revival phase which was characterized by rapid growth of religion, the reassertion of the concept of personal sin, stress on individual responsibility and a dedication to the family began in the same year ( Kelleter, 2010). In 1990, the phase of rising political effect began, and there was an attack on the expansion of tax revolt, materialist corruption, and entitlement (Kelleter, 2010).

In conclusion, the great significance of awakening was that it prepared America for its war of independence (Carwardine, 2011). The colonialists realized that religious power resided in their own hands and not the England church and even though they did not share the same theological belief, they shared a common vision of freedom from British control (Heimert, 2010). Therefore, the great awakening brought an environment that facilitated the American Revolution (Fogel, 2010).


Carwardine, V. (2011). Great Aweakening in the Urban Centers: An Examination of Methodism and the New Measures. Journal of American History , 59 (972), 327-340.

Fogel, Q. (2010). The Phases of the Four Great Aweakenings: The Future of Egalitarianism. Journal of American History , 234 (67), 132-147.

Heimert, R. (2010). Analysis and Information of the Great Aweakening. Enrichment Journal , 54 (76), 12-23.

Heinkel, M. (2010). Great Awakening: The Essence of Contemporary American Religion. Enrichment Journal , 43(7), 80-90.

Kelleter, C. (2010). Early American Studies. An Interdisciplinary Journal , 9 (1), 142-166.

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