Puritanism as a religious movement soon evolved into an all-permeating doctrine, affecting not only the spiritual lives of its believers but also their social and political opinions. During the colonial period, when immigrants from Europe were actively settling on the American continent, numerous Puritans from different countries chose to travel to new territories in search of (religiously) ideal lands. This active settlement by Puritans influenced the developing history of the United States of America, with the aftereffects of the Puritan history of the country being felt even nowadays.
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Characterization of Puritanism in the Colonial Period
The doctrine of Puritanism called for the identification of its believers as the chosen ones, a belief that steadily blended into everyday life. Together with the concept of preparations (the belief that good deeds make individuals suitable to carry God’s grace), this created a profoundly religious, hardworking, and studious community. However, only the study of the Bible and hard work for the benefit of society gained an ultimate positive appraisal, as these acts were seen as honest and godly.
Modern-day Puritan Legacy
The effects of the deep saturation of religious thinking into social and everyday life had its impact on the future of the Puritan communities and those with whom they contacted. The most mundane idea affecting every-day life, surviving in some societies today, is the idea of Sunday as the Lord’s day and, hence, devoid of labor and bringing about the societal shunning of outliers. While serving as an example not supported by-laws or legal punishments, this instance shows a rallying community point that underlines the distinction between worshipers and non-believers.
From sex and obstetrics to education and literature, we can sense the Puritan background of certain trends in modern laws. The most obvious example of Puritan legislation may be seen in the teaching of sexual education in middle and high schools, with a strong inclination towards abstinence-only instruction. It may be argued that abstinence before marriage is a wholly Christian ideal, but the educative approach and a strong negative response to alternatives both stem from Puritan ideas of virtue and societal control.
The use of the Bible in certain secular instances, for example, during the presidential oath, could also be linked to Puritan ideals. While a tradition installed by George Washington, who was not of the Puritan denomination, it seems influenced by the principles of the Bible being a guiding book, leading to the Promised Land. The superior standing of the Bible above other religious Christian texts and the use of it to advocate for change within secular laws again link to religious influence.
The aftereffects of the Puritan religious thought can still be felt today, even taking into consideration the decreased popularity of the confession today. Contemporary laws, customs, and community guidelines, which stem from Puritan doctrine, are becoming questioned by society, in a secularization attempt. Despite the amount of time that has passed since its heightened following during the colonial period, the current prevalence of the trends mentioned above signifies an important effect on American society.