Religious Persecution In Colonial America

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In 1620, a large group of Puritans arrived in America abroad the Mayflower to escape religious persecution in Europe. However, although they came to America to escape persecution, their objective wasn’t to create a safe haven for people of all religious backgrounds. Their goal was to create a place meant specifically for orthodox Puritan beliefs to flourish. The Puritans were heavily persecuted back in England, but they were also intolerant of other religions and ways of life. Much of the religious persecution in the New World was caused by the Puritans’ need for religious uniformity, their fears of political threats, and their ethnocentrism. One of the reasons why the Puritan settlers persecuted people who disagreed with their interpretations…show more content…
Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were both famous dissenters who challenged the orthodox Puritan ideals that governed the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which one historian characterizes as “a theocracy that brooked no dissent, religious or political” (Davis). Roger Williams was a minister whose interpretations of the Puritan faith stirred up great controversy within his community. His belief in religious tolerance denied the authority of the government to regulate religious behavior. His insistence on a full break from the Anglican Church and a fair compensation in exchange for Indian land were also factors that distanced him from the Puritan authorities. Though he was eventually banished from the colony due to his radical opinions, he ended up founding a settlement in Rhode Island and lived for years after his banishment. Anne Hutchinson, however, was not as fortunate. A historian describes her as a religious woman who had challenged the leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by insisting that ordinary people could interpret the Bible for themselves (Zinn 108). For the Puritans, this idea was unsettling: given that the Bible was considered the ultimate authority, her claims took power away from the ministers authorized to interpret it, therefore undermining the established power structure. Even more troubling were her…show more content…
For the monotheistic and Abrahamic Puritans, the Native Americans must have seemed like an entirely different species. The Europeans’ sense of cultural superiority and lack of understanding led them to regard the Natives as being savages whose beliefs were infinitely inferior to their own and, consequently, needed to be suppressed. Conversion was one of the ways the Puritans suppressed Indian religions. Though the Puritans weren’t as zealous as the conquistadores, some of them still felt the need to encourage or force Native Americans to convert to Christianity. In the minds of the Puritans, they were saving the heathens from eternal damnation. However, because of their ethnocentrism, they neglected the fact that the Indians had their own beliefs about religion and life after death. Ethnocentrism was also the cause for cultural misunderstandings that became deadly due to fear of the unknown. Religious practices were mistaken for violent confrontations, and a lack of understanding on both sides led to several conflicts. John Rhodes provides an example of this issue in one of his

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