Evangelism vs. Rationalism

The nature of religion in New England was extremely harsh since the settling of the Puritans. It was only a matter of time before the people adopted changes in their idea of the nature of God to give themselves some peace of mind. New England was described as “conspicuously devout and religiously homogeneous” (Taylor 340) and their rigid societal expectations regarding religion could have made it seem from the outside that people were compliant and content, but there was certainly a great deal of fear and upset within individuals who craved a more loving relationship with their God. However, as Anburton mentions, leaders of the churches wanted to perpetuate this fear because they “could easily take advantage of this fear in their sermon. They could use it to not only add members to their church, but to strengthen the congregation’s devotion.” ( Anburton http://sites.davidson.edu/his141/shocking-similarities-and-awakening/).

How long could they go about believing that their God is something to be feared rather than loved?  It was an unsustainable model. It’s no surprise that the decline of full membership of evangelical establishments was attributed to the growth of rationalism in other sects(Taylor 343-344). Rationalists looked to a more natural explanation of the universe, thus making God seem “less terrifying (Taylor 344). I appreciate how Taylor makes the appeal of rationalism quite understandable, which makes it easy to account for such a shift in thought.

The surge of rationalism created an entirely different perspective regarding how tragedy occur without having to attribute it to either a harsh and unforgiving Calvinist God or, in earlier times, witchcraft. It makes perfect sense that eventually the focus shifted from believing actions were controlled by the devil or arbitrarily decided by a punishing God to a more laissez-faire type mindset that the natural world was created by God, and that mishaps were not “direct interventions of divine anger” (Taylor 344).