Essay on Punishment of the Puritans

Essay on Punishment of the Puritans

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Humanity is complex, to say the least. We are capable of committing acts that can either be benevolent and selfless, or sickeningly heinous. One of the most renowned shows of cruelty at the hands of people are the various punishments dealt out by the Puritans. Arriving in the Northeast, their “purer” form of Catholicism significantly shaped the lives of Americans in the 17th and 18th centuries. To control their communities they used unjust and unnecessary means, all justified by their deluded religion.
      To this day, the word “puritan” connotes both rigidity and a generally narrow view on life. The dictionary definition of Puritan (the capital refers to the actual religious group) includes, "...demanding the simplification of doctrine and worship, and greater strictness in religious discipline” (Source A). Simplification of their religion would be an understatement of what the Puritans did. Basically, acts were separated into good or evil, approved by God or frowned upon. In this robotic fashion, with no gray area, cruel ignominy was shockingly popular, and used in unworthy situations. An example lies in Source B, a still from the movie adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s magnum opus, The Scarlet Letter. (Although classified as a fictional work the novel is known for it’s factual representations of the Puritans’ behavior.) For committing adultery, Hester Prynne is assigned a lone standing position on the town scaffold, essentially to be put on display and judged while nervously clutching her new baby. To add ridicule, she is enclosed by guards carrying swords and other various weapons. It makes one wonder just how much destruction a woman and her baby are capable of.
The message becomes clear: the Puritans were simply ri...


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...t law for it? Truly there is, both in the Scripture and the statute-book” (Source D). For adultery, death is the solution? Any moral human would deduce that the situation should be reversed: the Puritans are guilty, and should atone for their cruel and intolerant behavior.
In the 1600s, a group of British sought to escape the religious persecution they were facing at home, and established settlements in the New England region of the United States. Believing themselves to be pure they adopted the name “Puritan”, and fashioned their own form of Calvinism to fit their needs. This enabled them to, by citing God’s word, make examples out of any and all guilty citizens. Inappropriate and outrageous, the punishments carried out during this era makes one wonder. Is the true purpose of religion to enlighten and serve as a moral code, or to frighten and control the masses?

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