The Enlightenment was the product of some of the great scientific and intellectual discoveries in Europe in the seventeenth century—discoveries that revealed the “natural laws” that regulated the workings of nature. The new scientific knowledge encouraged many thinkers to begin celebrating the power of human reason and to argue that rational thought, not just religious faith, could create progress and advance knowledge in the world. In celebrating reason, the Enlightenment encouraged men and women to look to themselves and their own intellect—not just to God—for guidance as to how to live their lives and shape their societies. It helped produce a growing interest in education and a heightened concern with politics and government.
During the late seventeenth and early eighteen centuries, colonial America saw major changes. American cities became important seaports and Southern part of America ended becoming the major contributor to colonial America’s economy. In addition, population increased exponentially with immigrants coming in large numbers and due to the growth of plantations.
It was during this period of economic boom that colonial America experienced two major revivals that had lasting effects on the country with regard to religion, government and human nature. The Enlightenment focused on challenging the role of religion and divine right, and the Great Awakening was responsible in unifying colonies and bringing about the acceptance of religious tolerance.
The Enlightenment in Colonial America
The Enlightenment actually began in Europe and it reached colonial America more than a century later. In Europe, the Enlightenment was responsible for inspiring revived interests in education, science and literature. The advocates of this movement stressed the power of humans to reason so as to promote progress. Some clergy also ended up adopting liberal theology that is known as Rational Christianity. Here the belief was that God gave salvation to everyone and not just a chosen group. The followers of this credence believed that God’s greatest gift to mankind was reason which allowed people to