Pursuit of Religious Freedom

Europe during the 17th century was a time of a lot of personal changes in religious beliefs. Many in England had rejected the Church of England, even when that church had turned its back on the Roman Catholic beliefs.

As more splinter groups of the Protestant religion began to spinoff, the general population viewed them as extremists. Those that were dedicated to their new religion fled Europe to find a place where they could have religious freedom.

The colonies of New England in the New World promised a location where they could establish their “plantations of religion,” and they were free to be “militant Protestants.”

One of the problems with many of the European countries of the time is that they believed in uniformity of the church. This meant that whatever religion the country had adopted should be adopted by all of the citizens.

In some places, Catholics were condemned, and in other places, Protestants were condemned. Religious persecution of all types was common in Europe during the 17th century.

The Mennonites were one of the new religions, and the Dutch persecuted the Mennonite members and prosecuted them as criminals.

Some were burned or hanged. Jesuits were part of the Catholic religion and were often sentenced to death by Protestants in Scotland and England. The Protestant group known as Lutherans, named after the religious leader Martin Luther, were thrown out of Austria.

As Protestants went after Catholics and the new group of Protestants and Catholics went after Protestants, it became painfully clear that there wouldn’t be any place in Europe where these groups could practice religious freedom.

The Puritans were a group that wanted to change the Church of England so that it resembled less of what was rejected by the Catholic Church. The England State became less tolerant of the Puritans, and it was then that the Puritans decided to move to the new colonies.

Some of the Puritans relocated to the West Indies, and more went to the area of New England in the New World.

The Puritans believed that the Church of England was a true church, and this differed from the Pilgrims who rejected the Church of England.

The Puritans believed that all of the New England Congregational churches were independent entities. This meant that they didn’t obey any ruler of any country.

Membership to their new religion typically involved someone that had gone through an experience of conversion and had proof for their fellow members. They thought that the success of their religious experiment would be good enough so that England would adopt it.

There were leaders in the new religious movement, including Richard Mather, a Massachusetts minister who wrote the Cambridge Platform that outlined their religious system and Cotton Mather, who wrote over 450 pamphlets and books and was a focal point of the theology and political-religious discussions of the time.

The new Protestant religions looked to the scriptures of the Bible as the authority for their lives, and because of this, those in the colonies in New England were called “Bible Commonwealths.”

The used the Bible to dictate and follow laws for criminal statutes.

With each religion comes their version of the Bible, and the English reformers that fled England for religious freedom created the Geneva Bible. This copy was used by both Puritans and Pilgrims in the New England area.

Scholars in England created the King James Bible, and it was referred to as the “Authorized Version.” Copies were eventually brought to the colonies, and it slowly replaced the Geneva Bible.

Q&A:

What were the two most popular religions in Europe that were always persecuting each other?
Protestant and Catholic

What was the first Bible version used in the New England colonies by the early Puritans and Pilgrims?
Geneva Bible

What did those in England call those areas of New England that had adopted the Puritan religious ideas?
Bible Commonwealths

What did the early Protestant groups call the New World in hopes of religious freedom?
plantations of religion

Name three of the Protestant groups that were persecuted in Europe?
Mennonites, Jesuits, Luterans

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What was the Bible that was eventually adopted by Protestants in England and the colonies?
King James version