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Research Paper Sample: The Effect of Religion During the Salem Witch Trials

6 pages
1480 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The life of a Christian should be considered to be one that brings thanks and praises to God. A Christian is expected to do everything that honors and praises God all to His glory. The Salem Witchcraft Trials were legal proceedings that took place in Salem Massachusetts in the year 1962. The witch trials had resulted in the killing of 20 people who were hanged for witchcraft and mostly the women when very little or no evidence existed. Those who followed Satan were considered to be witches. Witchcraft was one of the worst crimes that a Puritan person would commit and the crime was punishable by death. Several religious factors contributed towards the Salem witch trials. These factors included the influence of the Puritan lifestyle that was strict, a conspiracy theory involving the town ministers and the belief in the presence of the devil (Fradin and Fradin).

The Puritans who lived in Salem were very religious people with their main goal in religion being to purify the Church of England. The Puritans that had come to the New World aimed at having their church that would be considered as being purer than the Church of England. They were seeking for religious freedom. The Puritans believed in Calvinism, and this made their beliefs hard to abide by them. The religion of the Puritans was named after John Calvin who thought that the manner in which the Romans practiced Christianity was not right. According to Calvin God was the supreme being and hence there was no need of having a Pope, and everyone else was equal. After Calvinism was created Christianity divided into two. The Puritan lifestyle was greatly influenced by the Christian beliefs and the church. During the 17th century, the church was the main cornerstone of the society of the Puritans. The people were required to have a moral conduct that was acceptable and also was required to follow the moral code that was strict. They believed in the wrath of God, and they would do anything possible to avoid it. It was the main reason as to why the issue of the witchcraft was punished harshly and taken seriously (Mcgarvie).

The Puritans due to their strong beliefs started to carry out witch trials to identify people since God would not like nor love it if they went killing people and also killing everyone who looked like a witch was not of any help as well. The People of Salem believed in Spectral evidence which is discussed in the Bible. Spectral evidence refers to the situation whereby an individual feels the accused persons specter is hurting them, but only they could see the specter. It made the people very scared since they would get hanged if they confessed since they would be going against their religion and also they would be lying. Church members accused their fellow church members and because of mere dislike neighbors accused each other of witchcraft like black magic whereby most of these allegations were built on evidence that was spectral (Adams). The Salem community was subjected to fear and started to believe that there were demons that were working amongst themselves and they believed the solution to that problem was killing those people who had been possessed. The Puritans believed that Just like God was real, the devil was also real, and the weakest members of the society such as the women who were unable to uphold the morals and values of the Puritans would likely be selected to carry out his work. The first women who were accused of the withes were those who had moved away from the Puritan lifestyle and were being considered to be social outcasts. For example, Sara Osburn was a woman who was accused for not attending the church on a regular basis and also having premarital sexual relations. Another woman by the name Martha Corey was accused of having illegitimate children. These women were greatly convicted and accused since they were considered to be sinners. They were considered to be easy targets of witchcraft and the devil since they had failed to uphold the values of the community (Goss).

Two girls in Salem namely Abigail Parris and Abigal William were once declared by the doctor to have been fighting with the devil. They broke out into spastic fits. The people of Salem accused the minister of being a warlock or wizard after they had seen and heard about the afflicted girls. Anyone who was accused of it was made to go through a series of tries since being a Christian the Bible says that anyone who is a witch does not deserve to live.

There was a conspiracy theory which suggested that there was the ministers of the community could as well be in possession of the witch scare with the aim of driving people back to the church. The ministers were believed to have contributed towards encouraging the bad behavior so that they could have a greater influence over the people through showing that they were in a position to deliver those who were possessed by the evil spirits. The other reason that the ministers were believed to have possession of the witchcraft was so that they could use those powers as a check on behavior that was anti-social.

According to the Puritans any form of power that was supernatural and was not received from God it was from the devil. The puritans highly condemned the dark magic of the witches and also the beneficial magic of the cunning folk. The cunning folk was believed to have the ability to find the lost and stolen property, to heal the sick, casting of love spells and influencing of things and events through means that was magical. Due to their strong belief in Christianity an individual could be considered to be a traitor to God if he/she tried to make any pact with the devil. The cunning folk and the witches showed a connection with the devil, and hence they deserved to be punished. There was no doubt that the Puritans believed in the powers of witchcraft. At the end of the 17th century, the belief towards the reality of the existence of witchcraft had become virtually universal (Niezen and Burgess).

I believe that what was happening to those individuals that were being hanged and accused of being associated with witchcraft with no evidence was wrong and against the will of God. People should not be judged with no evidence regarding their wrongs. People should not be considered to be associated with witchcraft because they do not go to Church. According to the Bible, there are several places where God can be worshipped even in the house and hence it not a must for someone to go to church to be considered to be a believer. It was only just to prosecute a person for being sure that he/she was involved with witchcraft since the Bible as well advocates for that. According to the first mosaic law of dealing with witchcraft, the law states that the witch should not be let to live and hence by hanging those associated with witchcraft was right since the Puritans were acting as per the Mosaic Law. The ministers should build their faith on prayers and not involve themselves of evil acts related to witchcraft to bring people back to the church.

In conclusion, The Puritans believed the Devil was real, and the people were faced with the struggle of having to choose between the powers of being good and evil. Satan in most cases would choose the week in the society that is the children, women and insane to carry out his work. The Puritans believed that all sins irrespective of how small it was should be punished. They had the belief that God would always punish the behavior that was not pleasing him and therefore even when a neighbor is faced with any misfortune such as a failed crop or their child getting ill they would not help as they believed it was God punishing them and considered such situations to be the will of God. Religion was not a phase of social life or a department, but rather it was the aim of all life, and all institutions were subordinate to it.


Works Cited

Adams, G. A. The specter of Salem in American culture. 2001.

Fradin, J. B., and D. B. Fradin. The Salem witch trials. Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2009.

Goss, K. D. The Salem witch trials: A reference guide. Greenwood Press, 2008.

Goss, K. D., et al. Massachusetts officers and soldiers in the French and Indian Wars, 1755-1756. Society of Colonial Wars in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1985.

Mcgarvie, M. D. Law and religion in american history. Cambridge Univ Press, 2016.

Niezen, R., and K. Burgess. Spirit wars: Native North American religions in the age of nation building. University of California Press, 2000.


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