The Puritans: Fanatic or not?
A religious fanatic is someone who takes his or her religion to
the extreme, letting it control everything in his or her day to day life.
The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay colony are a prime example of this
extremist view of religion. They had com plete religion based lives
including the laws that they wrote, the way they treated outspoken women,
and the way they treated people of other religions. The Puritans, for the
most part, were good people, they just went way too far when it came to
their r eligious beliefs.
In the late 16 hundreds, the Puritans wrote their laws according
to what the Bible states in the Old Testament, and to what they thought
should also be a sin against God. These laws made some very petty and
insignificant things illegal; such as worshipp ing a God other than the
Lord God, cursing the name of God, a child over 16 cursing his parents,
and being stubborn or rebellious against one's own parents. The
punishment for all of the afore mentioned laws and for many others was
death. Even interpr eting a preacher's sermon in a different way was
enough to get in trouble with the law. And for one woman it did.
The mix of being a woman and committing an act against the church
was even worse. Anne Hutchinson was a woman in the Puritan society with
her own religious views. Ones that she shared with a select group of
people in the community when she held small meetings at her home to
reevaluate and reinterpret what the preacher had said in his sermon. For
this she got arrested, put on trial in a severe cross-examination, and was
finally banished from the community. In this day and age, sharing of
religious vi ews, even from a woman, wouldn't even be thought of as bad,
much less a serious crime. But to the Puritans, having different views of
God's word was enough to have a person put to death. Even if they were
from a different community all-together.
The peace-loving Quakers lived in Massachusetts along side the
Puritans, but did not believe in the same things as them. The Puritan
community saw this as a demonic act and believed them to be "under the
strong delusion of Satan." Serious injustices we re done to them, and most
of the time it was to innocent people. People were kept days without
food, women were stripped stark naked, one lay neck and heels in irons for
sixteen hours, many were banished, and many more beaten to near death.
This mistrea tment of the Quakers went on for years before the King of
England finally made a decree to end all of the persecutions. All of
this, merely because they weren't the same religion.
The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay colony were good people, but
they went so far off the deep end with their religion that they sacrificed
their plain old human kindness and forgiveness. They just didn't
understand that there were other things in lif e than their religion. The
Puritans were the true definition of religious fanatics; they couldn't
control their religion so they let their religion control them.