Difference Between Enlightenment and Great Awakening: Enlightenment vs Great Awakening Discussed

Enlightenment vs Great Awakening

Enlightenment and Great Awakening are two movements, rather time periods in the history of the western world that have great significance in terms of changing the lives of the people. Great awakening took place after Enlightenment and some think of it as a reaction to Enlightenment. While both movements affected the western world, there were both similarities as well as differences between Enlightenment and great awakening that will be highlighted in this article.


Enlightenment is a period between late 17th century and the entire 18th century that is characterized by reasoning and scientific spirit in Europe. This was a movement that was intellectual in nature as it rejected superstition and blind observation of rituals and laid emphasis on observation and experimentation. Scientific spirit and reasoning dominated the mindset leading to scientists arriving at natural laws. The period is characterized by a belief in human thinking and reasoning and getting away from a God centered life.

Scientists and humanists such as Galileo, Locke, Copernicus, Newton, and Franklin believed that science could lead to a new awakening in the society. These and many more influential people made people believe that they were basically good, and it was their environment that affected their behavior and thinking. Suddenly people began to believe in the power of science, and that science could provide them with answers to the mysteries of nature. Enlightenment affected all spheres of life, and religion was not untouched by this mass movement. People started to question the authority of the church and believed they could themselves find their path to God. This movement is credited with the development of Deism that said that God created the universes but then stopped interfering in daily affairs of the world and the people. King was rejected as a divine ruler, and he could be thrown out if he did not govern properly.

The Great Awakening

The Great Awakening is a mass movement in the history of the western world that took place around the middle of the 18th century. This movement centered on religion and individual faith of people belonging to all socioeconomic classes. There are many who feel that it was a reaction to the thinking that developed as a result of Enlightenment and an attempt to turn people’s attention back to church and god. Important religious leaders such as Jonathan Edwards, Wesley brothers, and George Whitefield had a feeling that people were going away from religion as it was dry and appeared distant from the people. These influential leaders tried to emphasize upon individual religious experience while at the same time denouncing the doctrines and dogmas of the church. This caused a mass movement that made people believe that they could attain salvation through good deeds rather than having to depend upon dogmas and doctrines of the church.

The direct outcomes of Great Awakening were the ideas of equality, liberty, charity, and the belief that the authority could be challenged.

What is the difference between Enlightenment and Great Awakening?