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Religion: One of the most common misunderstandings about the motivation of settlers is that they all came for religious reasons. Although the Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay were founded for religious purposes, most other settlers came to the New World to get land to improve their economic and social standing. The impact of religion in the English colonies depended upon which groups of Englishmen settled the region. The first Pilgrims and Puritans migrated for religious freedom for themselves but not for religious freedom for other religious groups. There was very little religious tolerance in New England. This is a common confusion for students. The Puritans were trying to create a city on the hill, a community that England could look to as a model of godliness. They did not want their model community defiled by people with other religious beliefs, so they exiled dissenters such as Roger Williams to Rhode Island and persecuted Quakers. Religion played a large role in the cultural development of New England. There was more religious diversity and tolerance in the Mid-Atlantic colonies; however, it was also limited. Pennsylvania was founded by Quaker William Penn. Quakers believed that everyone had an inner light and this belief fostered tolerance. The Act of Toleration in Maryland is often cited as evidence of religious tolerance but is also evidence of the intolerance practiced by the Puritans in Maryland. Lord Baltimore promoted the Act in order to protect the rights of the Catholics in the colony. Southern colonies were founded for economic reasons and religion did not play as large a role in their cultural development until the Great Awakening. The Church of England (Anglican) was the established church in the South, but religious toleration was the norm. Religious intolerance in the colonial period was a prime factor in the establishment of the principle of separation of church and state after the American Revolution.

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