The Puritan movement came about as a result of disagreement between the Anglican Church of England and several other religious sects. The Puritans were inspired and influenced by the leadership of John Calvin. In the late 1600s, a group of Puritans migrated to North America to establish religious freedom based on their concept of man’s relationship to God. The Puritans believed in original sin, predestination and the Bible as the actual word of God. Puritans valued education and had strict rules regarding proper conduct.

Connection to Calvinism

In keeping with the teachings of John Calvin, the early Puritans believed that the Anglican Church of England was corrupted by the influence of ritual and hierarchy. The mission of the newly founded Puritan sect was to create a new religion to “purify” the church from the corruption of hierarchy. The Anglicans and other religious groups viewed the Puritans as peculiar and were unwilling to tolerate their ideology. For the sake of religious freedom and to escape persecution, a group of Puritans set out for the Netherlands in 1608. A few years later, in 1620, they migrated to North America.

Original Sin

Original sin is linked to the idea that every person is born a sinner. The source of original sin is the book of Genesis in which Adam, the original human, disobeyed God. Therefore, the Puritans believed that all people are basically sinners. The implications of original sin are harsh and suggest total depravity or the idea that no matter how many good works a person may perform in his lifetime, he will always be a sinner. Purtans believed that God’s grace could only be bestowed by God and was not earned as a result of good works.

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The Puritans believed that all events in the world, including the destiny of ordinary humans, have been decided by God long before they happen. For example, if God determined that someone would die on a given date, in a certain way, there was nothing anyone could do to change God’s plan. The Puritans believed that the universe was entirely pre-planned. They also believed in “unconditional election,” which means that God chose who would be saved and welcomed into heaven. However, if an individual did not follow the Puritan moral code of behavior, he or she would most certainly be damned. Hence there was no choice but to follow the strict Puritan ideals.


Puritans believed in self-discipline, individualism, responsibility and hard work. Education was valued as a means of better understanding God. According to the Puritan morality code, life should be lived in moderation. Although they drank alcoholic beverages, they condemned the practice of excess and believed that punishment would follow in the afterlife. On the Sabbath, Puritans could be found in church or at home learning and reading Scripture in quiet contemplation.

About the Author

Meg English has been an education professional for more than 25 years. She has taught elementary, middle and high school students in both inner-city and rural schools. She also publishes a weekly newspaper column titled "Education Matters." English holds a doctorate in educational administration from the University of South Dakota.