American Religious Groups

The Northern colonies were predominantly settled by groups of religious dissenters, whether the Pilgrims and Puritans in New England or the Quakers and Moravians in the Mid-Atlantic colonies. Dutch colonists in New York shared similar Protestant beliefs. While families traveled as complete units, they also saw themselves as being part of the larger, religiously defined assembly. Unlike the Southern colonists, the expensive Atlantic passage to the Northern colonies was usually shared among the entire group. The few indentured servants were less likely to be members of the religious gathering and usually had indentured themselves in the hope of financial improvement. In the event of the group’s being unable to pay for the full passage, settlers able to finance their own way were also invited. A breakdown of the passengers on board the Mayflower demonstrates colonists falling into all three categories. Once having arrived in North America, if one or both parents did not survive the first few difficult winters, there were aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents to serve in their place. In many ways, the united family group was able to continue much as it had in England or Europe. Once established, the balance between family, household, and group had somewhat different results in the North than in the South. Both the Puritans and the Quakers maintained the right to survey the activities of their members. Actions that placed the group in jeopardy, whether physical, social, or religious, were usually punished by banishment from the group. No similar parallels can be found in the Southern colonies, where individual families played a larger role. Despite this emphasis on community, writings by many of the Puritan leaders indicate an interest in family life. Like other European social groups, the husband was the head of the family and the household and had the final say in all matters. He was responsible for ensuring the religious and financial well-being of his household. At the same time, the Puritans placed great emphasis on creating the perfect family. As a means of achieving this goal, courtship prior to marriage was an important ritual, determining whether or not the man and woman were truly suited to each other. After marriage, husbands and wives were encouraged to be affectionate to each other and to their children. Furthering the Puritans’ interest in family life, single members of the community were encouraged or required to live within established households. Despite this emphasis on family life, the reasoning behind it still led back to the greater good of the community. Only by creating the perfect family could the Puritans realize their goal of creating the perfect society. Like the Puritans, the Quakers looked to the larger religious community rather than to the individual family. Few distinctions were drawn between family members by blood or family members by religion. A fellow Quaker was referred to as brother or sister. Common terms used to describe the community were brethren of one family and a family of God. When a couple decided to marry, it was as much a community decision as a personal one. Despite this emphasis on community, individual families functioned very much as their European counterparts did. The family was headed by the husband, and children were expected to obey and honor their parents. The differences lay in the belief that all members of the family and community were equal before God. Unlike the Puritan, Anglican, and Catholic faiths, women were also allowed to speak in meetings. A part of the Quaker belief also was an emphasis on love between husbands and wives, parents and children, family and community. Religion in the United States – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – Live From Hell’s Kitchen Mapq810 facts about religion in America Pew Research Center Mapq8

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