Puritanism

Puritanism The puritan religion is one that is hardly understood in todays world of never-ending excuses and finger pointing. This is human nature at its finest. Puritanism probably couldnt make it today. In fact, it probably wouldnt have a chance. Todays society would not be willing to make the sacrifices of chosen hardships to make the cut. One of the most demanding religions, puritan belief forced its followers to change their life in accordance to Gods holy word, only to guess that he could possibly be one of the elect. The puritan religion was based on five basic principles; supremacy of the divine will, the depravity of man, election, free grace, and predestination.

Each having a distinct and overpowering effect on all who followed and basically scaring the living *censored* out of people who did not. To live in the puritan society, a person had to play by the puritan rules, or face banishment or even death. The first major belief, and subject of great controversy, was the belief of the supremacy of the divine will. Simply stated, everything that happened in the world was because God wanted it that way. If God was pleased, good times came.

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If he wasnt hardship and famine followed. Another possible explanation to hardships, though, was that since god was good, unexplainable negatively impacting phenomenon that seemed to be unheralded must be the work of something outside of Gods realm. This is where not only did the religion get tricky, but actually entered a sort of slippery slope. The Salem witch trials are a prime example of this. Although the Bible states, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, the puritans apparently did not believe this pertained to them, and if it did, they felt they were justified in trying to preserve the “city on the hill”. Although in theory this ideal is harmless, it relied on the entire congregation buying it in good faith, taking it home and swallowing it whole.

What tends to happen, alternatively, is that undereducated people when given a philosophical doctrine such as this seem to misinterpret minute things, such as bum luck, as them being cursed, or out of gods favor. Since it would be harder to accept their own shortcomings, it would be much easier to find a scapegoat. As Cotton Mather exemplified in his book The Wonders of the Invisible World, trivial matters such as the death of cattle, personal disease, and infection were attributed to witchcraft and sorcery. One such “witch” Martha Carrier, due to her passive following of the religion, was prosecuted and sentenced to death over evidence that was neither seen nor proven. All this was accepted in the faith that she was the cause of everything wrong with the afflicted. (423) The next most powerful ideal was that of predestination. This belief stated that from the beginnings of time, God wrote the script, and man was to carry it out without any ad-libs.

Although this too can be seen as a scapegoat mechanism, this belief still shines through in some religions today. The difference between most religions and the puritan religion, though, is that while other religions believed man is predestined to hell and through the grace of god may escape to heaven, the puritans believed that no matter how hard a person tried, or how well and holy they lived their lives, they could do nothing to change where God wanted them to end up. Almost all Christian religions believed that man was destined to hell because of his original sin. The depravity of man dates back to the Bibles story in Genesis of Adams fall from grace due to his disobedience of God. Because of this, all men were sentenced to eternal damnation. God though, sent Christ to Earth as a means of consummating a new covenant with man. This ensured that at least some of mankind would be saved.

This number, though, according to the Puritans, was a very limited amount. This was called the process of election. This transcended to several important aspects of the puritan society, including the notion of free grace. Free Grace was the belief that there was nothing a man could do influence what God had in plan, being their final destination of heaven or hell. Grace was given freely to his elect.

Most people believed themselves to be part of the elect, and lived their life as an example to others. This then created a society of self-righteous people who believed themselves to be part of the elect and most everyone else to be destined for hell. This created animosity with people of alternate faiths and led to an extreme intolerance. The puritan religion as a whole seemed to produce a God fearing society that produced healthy Christians. Unfortunately, as bibles became more and more common, church became less and less necessary. As the church lost some of its power, there was an influx of immigrants, which helped dismantle the entire city.

The religious intolerance of the Puritans helped limit its growth to none at all and eventually the religion died out. Much like the walls of Babylon were torn down, so too were the walls of the “city on the hill.”.