The Puritan faith was formed in the mid-16th century as many Anglican Church members grew fed up with the church and English society and government. As the number of Puritans and their influence grew, England became embroiled in a civil war. Following the civil war, Puritanism was viewed by many as too radical. Nevertheless, Puritans were dedicated to advocating greater purity. In England, Puritans began efforts to cleanse the society that they viewed as corrupt, while many Puritans began anew in America.
One core Puritan belief is the concept of predestination. This doctrine was established by John Calvin, and stated that humans were innately sinful, but God would spare a handful of choice individuals from eternal damnation. However, God had decided who would be spared at the beginning of history; if Puritans were predetermined to eternal damnation, they could not avoid their fate no matter how purely and justly they behaved on earth.
Males as Leaders of the Family
Puritans viewed familial relationships and home life as highly important. The family was expected to further teach and instil Puritan values, thus the family functioned not only as a family, but also as a smaller, more personalised version of a Puritan church, school and commonwealth. The husband and father in the family was not only seen as the head of the family, but also as the teacher, pastor and judge. He was the one responsible for teaching the family members the ways of the Lord. Puritans believed that the success of their society began with the family; if the husband failed to carry out his role successfully within the family, these troubles would trickle into the state and church as well.
Puritans believed that the devil was responsible for every evil deed that occurred and that he had a highly persuasive form of power. Great lengths were taken to avoid the devil's wrath, and ministers and parents painstakingly warned of the dangers the devil posed. Puritans believed that through reading the Bible they could further purify the church and their society and rid themselves of the devil. Further, diversions such as drama, erotic poetry and music were thought to promote the devil's work and were thus banned.
Puritans did not believe that belonging to a church was a right, or that all parish residents should be permitted to be full church members. Being a part of the church was viewed as a privilege, and churches began requiring community members to submit applications to be a part of the church. These applications needed to outline the individual's personal experience with God.
The Puritans believed that schooling played a vital role in furthering the purification of society. Thus, the Puritans were the first group in history to offer free schooling. Children ages 6 through 8 attended a dame school, where a teacher taught reading, so that children could read the Bible. Math and writing, on the other hand, were not high academic priorities.
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