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The puritan religion is one that is hardly understood in today’s world of
never-ending excuses and finger pointing. This is human nature at it’s finest.

Puritanism probably couldn’t make it today. In fact, it probably wouldn’t
have a chance. Today’s 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 God’s 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 wasn’t 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 God’s 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 god’s 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 Adam’s 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 it’s 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.”


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