The Lively Experiment: Roger Williams, Rhode Island, and Religious Liberty



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In 1636, Roger Williams established the colony of Providence. He did so with the goal of creating a safe-haven for those who were persecuted due to their relgious beliefs. It was his desire to construct a functioning society in which people were free to live out their spiritual ideas with no governmental oversight or interference. In order to accomplish this goal, Williams called for the strict and total separation of church and state. Religion and the English government had always been closely entwined and reliant on one another other as a source of power, prestige, and authority. It was the accepted way of English life that church and government be connected. Therefore, what Williams was attempting to build in Providence was shockingly radical and met with much resistance and disdain. Through analyzing Williams’ journey in establishing what would become Rhode Island, a deeper appreciation and understanding is formed as to the crucial nature of Williams in cementing the relgious autonomy that is so precious to the American character. When studied, his personal words and actions illustrate how his progressive philosophies and notions of soul-based liberty profoundly shaped the American concept of relgious freedom. His choice to boldly create Rhode Island, even in the face of great adversity and personal sacrifice, would serve as an example to the world that a civil society could thrive outside of the bounds of compelled uniformed religion.



Roger Williams, Rhode Island, Religious freedom, Colonial America