Second Great Awakening

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The Second Great Awakening was a religious revival that occurred in the United States beginning in the late eighteenth century and lasted until the middle of the nineteenth century. While it occurred in all parts of the United States, it was especially strong in the Northeast and the Midwest.

By the late 1700s, many Americans no longer regularly attended church services. This occurred for several reasons. Some people now believed that God did not play an important role in everyday life. God also supposedly was not concerned with a person's church attendance; rather, God would judge the person on how he or she had lived his or her life on Earth. Other people had become too consumed with earning a living to have time to worship God. As a result of declining religious convictions, many religious faiths sponsored religious revivals. These revivals emphasized human beings' dependence upon God.

Most of the religious revivals occurred as camp meetings. Adherents and interested parties would spend several days hearing the word of God from various religious leaders. While these services were very emotional, they did not become hysterical gatherings as many earlier revivals had become. They also served as social gatherings. Many Americans living on the frontier did not have regular contact with their neighbors. The revivals allowed these people an opportunity to hear God's word, but they also provided rural families an opportunity to talk and trade with other people.

Perhaps the most influential evangelist of the Second Great Awakening was Charles Finney. He began to spread his message in western New York during the early 1820s. In 1835, he became a professor of theology at Oberlin College in Ohio. He eventually served as Oberlin College's president. Numerous religious groups benefited from the Second Great Awakening. Baptists and Methodists found the largest number of converts, swelling their numbers across the United States including in Ohio. New religious groups also resulted from the revivals. These groups did not find true happiness with the already established faiths and created their own doctrine. One of these groups was the Mormons.

The revivals encouraged people to return to God. Americans should dedicate their lives to God and to living in a Godly manner. As a result, church attendance increased during the first half of the nineteenth century. A desire to reform America also arose among the people. Attempts to limit alcohol consumption and to abolish slavery came directly out of the Second Great Awakening and its message.

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