European colonialism in North America had a profound effect on religious freedom among English settlers. England’s King Henry VIII had recently separated from the Catholic Church centered in the Vatican and founded the Church of England, which better fit his desires. In turn, the British people were forced to practice this form of Christianity or suffer dire consequences for heresy. Because of this, sects of Christianity that were disparate from the Church of England had very little room to grow in reach. Mainly due to the fact that these religious practices had to be performed in secret, if at all.
The British government had obvious political and economic reasons to create colonies in the Americas; to compete with other European powers starting colonies and to reap the benefits the goods of the New World produced, such as capitalizing on tobacco crop. It was for these reasons the government sponsored these settlements, but the settlers had other, more personal, objectives. Many people saw the major sects of Christianity set up by England’s king and the Pope as corrupt. These people believed these religions were propagating an individual’s lifestyle or had turned into money-making schemes, failing to spread, what they believed to be, the true message of the Bible. Such ideologies, along with an unbridled freedom of religious practice, gave birth to protestant forms of Christianity like the Quakers and countless other sub-sets of the Christian faith because these people no longer feared punishment from their government. Each group had become highly distinctive in practice and typically locally centered. These local/regional religions completely overthrew the ideas of a state-dictated religion such as the Church of England and aided in the “American” ideals of freedom of religious practice, and more broadly, freedom to think as an individual.
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