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The Puritans were a religious group that developed in England. They were Calvinists who disagreed with some of the more Catholic elements retained in the Church of England, and they desired a more "pure" church (hence the name Puritan). The British government frequently persecuted them because of this. They were more successful during the English Republic, when many of them had high government positions, including Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector.

Many of the Puritans emigrated from England to the British colonies in the New England area of what today is the United States, in the 16th and 17th century. They left England in order to be able to practice their religion without interference from their persecutors. For the first few centuries of these colonies' existence, their population was primarily Puritan, and Puritanism was the state religion. After that, however, Puritanism declined, especially with the separation of church from state around the time in this region, and later with the rise of Unitarianism and the Transcendentalist movement.

To refer to a group as "Puritan" in modern times is an anachronism, and in its modern sense the term is usually used as an insult with connotations of prudishness and bigotry. However, conservative Presbyterians and Congregationalists, Reformed Baptists, and low church Anglicans lay legitimate claim to a direct Puritan heritage.

Puritans believed:

  • Salvation was from God alone. They also emphasized the conversion experience more than the reformers of Continental Europe.
  • The Bible was authoritative, and Christians should only do what was explicitly directed by the Bible.
  • God controlled society as a whole and therefore church and state were inseparable.
  • God worked through covenants with individuals, communities , churches and even nations.

Puritans disagreed on the form of church polity; some held to a presbyterian form of church governance, while others, especially Americans, were congregationalists.

Some historic Puritan persons include:


"...the great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom respectable. No virtuous man--that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense--has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading..." -H.L. Mencken

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