Educated Americans held Christian beliefs in less favor in the beginning of the 19th century. This had, however, changed dramatically during the first half of that century. The Second Great Awakening, a tremendous Christian revival, hit the United States of America in the early 1800s. The Awakening was primarily confined to the North. The American middle class realized how corrupt their cities were and pledged to spread Christian morals throughout the country (Dornbush, 2009, p. 389). Such actions resulted to the formation of several reform movements throughout the country; such actions were intended to perfect the society. The emergence of the temperance movement and utopian communities are two examples of the extensive influence of the Second Great Awakening.
The temperance movement began earlier than the Second Great Awakening. Christians felt that they were responsible for warning the society. Some advocates, including physician Benjamin Rush, warned about the dangers of alcohol and used leaflets intended to frighten all potential drinkers. However, in the early 1800s, the production and consumption of alcohol increased sharply (DeLuzio, 2010, p. 68). Many advocates believed drinking was an irreligious, immoral practice that led to mental disability or poverty. Additionally, it was a male indulgence which consequences influenced women and children since they suffered abuse from drunkards. In addition, it was a threat to the working class since it affected their job performance negatively.
As a result, Christians founded the American Temperance Society in 1826, advocating for abstinence from alcohol. Membership of the group kept rising in the 1830s when an enormous number of workingmen joined. The workingmen were concerned by the harmful effects alcohol intake had on job performance. There were approximately 5,000 temperance societies associated with the American Temperance Society by 1835 (Conlin, 2012, p. 351). The association had a significant impact on the consumption of liquor; many states approved bans and restrictions on sale of alcohol, thus decreasing its consumption by the late 1830s and early 1840s. People thought that prohibition of alcohol would eliminate poverty, violence, crime and other ills. However, after the ban people continued drinking and other evils such as smuggling alcohol from Canada came up. Hijacking and murder became common in that business.
The Utopian communities’ movements are communes set up by groups of people in certain places where they felt the evils of the society could not reach them. This was, perhaps, the most extreme movement in the USA. The movement was founded in the first half of the 1800s (Olson, 2006, p. 179). The fundamental belief is that human beings can live perfectly in small, organized societies. They sought to pursue human perfection even though they followed separate religious practices. For instance, the Shakers had 6000 members between 1820 and 1860 (Norton, 2012, p. 313). Led by Mother Ann Lee, the group practiced celibacy and believed in universal salvation. The members practiced a simple lifestyle and rarely contacted the outside world as they awaited the 2nd coming of Christ. The second reason for the utopian movements was that people felt the need to preserve some of their moral and Christian values.
The utopian communities’ ideologies varied. Therefore, the followers formed or joined the group of people they shared similar beliefs with. The communities’ main objectives of forming the groups were to reform the marriage institution, perfect social relationships and balance occupational, religious and political influences (Morris & Kross, 2004, p. 235). Most of these communities had died out by the early 1850s. Only the Oneida community lasted from 1848 to 1881. Its leader believed that the second coming of Christ had already happened, stressing more on free love, where self-perfection and communalism formed the basic values of the community. The utopian communities led to the need for infrastructure for the immigrants to access the cities. This brought an increase to their already unbearable costs of living. Therefore, crime and violence increased among them. They turned to poor-quality, cheaper foods. Discrimination against them increased; both from the natives and the political leaders, who neglected their needs.
In conclusion, the Second Great Awakening was hugely beneficial to the Americans. The citizens’ lives improved since they reduced their intake of alcohol and led a healthier and moral way of life. It curbed excessive drinking and improved the economy of the North. According to the aforementioned facts, it is evident that the utopian movements and the utopian communities were significantly influenced by the response of the society to the Second Great Awakening and the different sense of Christianity it conveyed to the citizens.