The Puritan experiment carried out in New England was a failure. The reason for this was that the people simply lost faith. The contradictions in the religion and the general feeling of betrayal caused the people to reject the ideals that were once held as sacred and perfect. The puritan religion was based on several tenants that, for a most part, contradicted each other. Man’s fate was said to be pre determined and salvation was out of his control, but at the same time, man was expected to live a near perfect lifestyle for no truly justified reason. The Puritans also lived in a theocracy since man was fallible, yet, God’s will was interpreted by the Preacher who was a man and was as weak and vulnerable as any man. These contradictions along with others caused people to lose faith in the religion despite the good intentions of the Puritans.
Pre Destination was one of the most prominent beliefs in the Puritan faith. However, when combined with the pure lifestyle forced upon the puritans, it also became one of the many contradictions. The pure lifestyle was an obvious attempt to keep society in balance by making people conform to certain ideals and rules. The major fault, however, was that these regulations were portrayed as necessary for entrance into heaven.
“First, God elects individuals to be saved. Second, He designs
complete redemption only for those elect. Third, fallen man is
himself incapable True faith and repentance.” (Mumford) p.9
This pre destination, as seen here, is dependant only on God and lifestyle is not mentioned. Yet, the Puritans seemed to feel it necessary for one to live a pious life avoiding dancing, card playing, and anything in general that could be construed as daemonic. This unnecessary deprivation of gratitude based not on religion, but the will of a man itself shows the first major contradiction of the Puritan Faith. How could it be that a person’s entire fate is written before they are born? If a person is deemed to be destined for damnation will he not turn against the damning religion and find one more suitable and forgiving? Factors and thinking such as this played a large role in the failure of the religion. People would not accept that a merciful and venerable God would allow them to burn in hell after they had lived a pure, Christian lifestyle. This basic principle increased the allure of other religions that were more forgiving and offered a better chance at salvation.
The Puritans chose to live in a theocracy while in the new world, with the Reverend as the interpreter of God’s will. The reason for this was that the Puritans saw God as infallible. They, in turn, could find no better way of governing their society than by using a perfect being.
“…a Holy Commonwealth governed by God or God’s
Representatives. The clergy were the representatives. They were
Men of vigorous intellect, deeply learned in theology.” (P.3)
Here, however, is an example of mixing politics with religion, an age-old mixture that often ends in disaster. The problem with this system is God’s will, in any religion, is left open to personal interpretation. As long as the puritans remained in a theocracy, there would always be people that would attempt to take advantage of the people in the name of God. Greed, the natural flaw present in people, compels them to take advantage of situations such as these for personal profit. This weakness in the governing of the society caused a weakening in both the society and in the religion, as both were linked. The weakness of this system was seen in Salem village, when the reverend Paris uses this power to manipulate the town for his own gains. It was his will, not God’s, that he receive large sums of money, extra wood, and a house. He later used his power to extend the length of the witch trials and he refused to do anything to stop it as he was using it to rid the town of those that opposed him and his will. When the people lost faith in the system that governed them they essentially also lost faith in the strength of their religion. This dissatisfied feeling created by corruption and weakness caused the people to want a change. They could no longer view God as infallible since his holy delegates would often lead them astray. This attitude is what gave way for the transition into the age of reason and the movement from the focus being on God to the focus being on man and reason. Simply because man here felt betrayed by the one aspect of life, in which, he had total faith.
The Puritan faith began with what every successful religion needs, highly devout followers. The failure of the religion happened when these devout followers began to lose faith in the Puritan way of life. The decline in faith soon caused the decline in a membership, which, in the end, caused the failure of the religion. A religion without followers cannot prosper. It is a physical impossibility. With all of this devout worship and strict societal constraints what was it that the puritans were attempting to create? The puritans were trying to create a utopian society in the new and uncultivated world of America. They hoped to do this by starting with regulations and stability, but it soon fell apart as the puritans were unwilling to accept or conform to other ideals.
none needed… It is an opinionated paper