Fear, Hatred, and Divine Right: A Recipe for Disaster

Fear, Hatred, and Divine Right: A Recipe for Disaster

A Story by literarygirl37

An essay I wrote for school on the Salem Witch Trials and inequality among humans. *Note. I'm saying it's for everyone. I would assume if you are on here, you are old enough to understand the trials.


                How could the fear of the devil lead normal everyday people to become so afraid they would kill innocent members of their community in the name of God? How can, and does, organized religion fill its followers with enough panic that they do something most people would never dream of? In 1692, the fortune telling games played by children to pass time turned into a religious witch-hunt led by the local minister. The mystery of how this deadly event known as the Salem Witch Trials began, its unanticipated victims, and the connection between Puritanism and modern day extremism is one that historians still debate today.


      “This game has turned deadly now!” (Lasky, 92). It is after Rebecca Nurse is accused of witchcraft that the fictional character Gilly spoke these words. Most likely, when the girls of Salem began playing witch games, they did not foresee the terror they would cause to their little village. After all, it was only a game. A little group consisting of Elizabeth Parris, Mercy Lewis, Ann Putnam Jr., Mary Walcott, and Mary Warren, among others, formed with Tituba in the lead. Tituba was Samuel Parris’s slave from Barbados, who brought with her mystical stories of witches and demons. She introduced the girls to a game that involved dropping an egg white in water and trying to make out an image. One common theory about why the game escalated is that the girls became frightened of what they thought they saw. Ann Putnam Jr., for example, was reported saying that she saw a coffin. Perhaps after being involved in these games, the girls truly believed were cursed. Whatever the reason, in January 1692, the girls began to fall ill. They would thrash around, have convulsions, and go through periods where they appeared to be unable to see anything. When worried parents had the local physician, William Griggs, look over the girls, he couldn’t find any physical problems. Therefore, he declared that the girls had been bewitched. However, if this had happened somewhere else, there might not have been a full blown witch-hunt. Salem was a very strict Puritan town. The Puritans had an extremely strong belief in witches and the devil. Witchcraft was considered a sin, one that must be punished, even by death. They believed that God was punishing them for an unknown reason and in order to end the punishment, they must find and kill every witch. (Discovery.) Perhaps the clearest indicator of this is the accused women.


The real victims of the witch trial weren’t the “afflicted”, but the men, women, and children who were accused of witchcraft. Once the town was in mass hysteria, Mary Warren admitted that they had made everything up and it was only a game. The pattern of those accused certainly follows this idea. The first three women blamed were Tituba�"a foreign slave who knew magic, Sarah Good�"a homeless beggar, and Sarah Osborne�"an elderly lady who married her servant and rarely went to church. All three were outcasts, not only in the town, but more importantly, in the church. Soon, however, there was a change. Rebecca Nurse�"a 71 year old, sweet, church-going, well-respected woman�"was charged with being a witch. It very quickly became clear that no one was safe. Even Sarah Good’s four-year-old daughter, Dorcas, was put in jail. As the town became more and more fearful, it is noticeable that an interesting pattern begins: the people who are now being accused are the same ones who had protested the trials in the first place. (Aronson, 125-130.) This stereotyping and deep hated of disagreement is a trait that shows up in nearly every “religious war”.


         The connection between Puritanism and modern day extremism is apparent when looked at closely. First and foremost, one will see that religious radicalism revolves around killing in the name of God. Looking throughout history, there have always been examples of this. The Christian who killed a doctor performing abortions, Hitler’s attempt to wipe out Jews, even the discrimination of American Muslims today,  illustrate society’s use of religion to justify violent actions. At the end of the day, Puritanism could be synonymous with religious extremism. Also, although Puritans believed in a very simple way of life, complete with sparse churches, their personal relations were often severe. (Aronson, 26.) Everything was a judgment of their actions. If a woman miscarried, no one rushed to help. Not only had it been God’s will for the baby to die, but it might even be punishment for the family. The harsh codes of Puritanism are a clear indicator of massive extremism. “I ask them [people] if they believe in God. And if they say they do�"I know they don’t believe in life… And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life.” (Rand, 117.) One could argue that a religious extremist has not only given up on himself, but on society as a whole. Through harsh actions, he is ignoring the good in people, and he stops thinking rationally. Or, perhaps, he is really over rationalizing his actions. He believes that he is doing the work of God and, therefore, it will better life. However, he is really turning a blind eye to the people he hurts in the process. This holds true whether one is examining the Witch Trials or terrorist attacks. “…they were like those fundamentalists of all religions today who can justify extreme measures against others…on the grounds that they have the divine right.” (Aronson, 28.) The only remaining question is how America can still, centuries later, learn from the tragedy that was the Salem Witch Trials.


           Looking back, one can see some of the reasons the trials began, who the victims were, and how this relates to extremism in modern day America. Even so, there isn’t a good way to describe what happened in Salem in 1692. Historians will attempt to find reasons and justifications to satisfy curiosity, but there isn’t a good, definite reason. The only explanation is that when fear and hatred, paired with so-called “divine right”, take root in a small town, strange things can occur. That being said, walking away from the Salem Witch Trials with answers is hard. It is likely that one might leave with more questions than he started with. The fact of the matter is, society has, and still does, use religion to justify actions. Most importantly, unless people take initiative, there could be another modern day witch hunt.





© 2010 literarygirl37

Author's Note

I did get an A+ on this in school, I am extremely interested in what other people think though. Also, I do have the biblio if you would like to see it.

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We're learning about this stuff, too, in school, but they never actually mentioned the names and ages of the actual victims. I can't believe they tried a four year old!! That's so sad!!!:(

Posted 12 Years Ago

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Added on July 24, 2010
Last Updated on July 24, 2010



Ellettsville , IN

Hi, I'm Megan. I'm 14 years old and writing is my life. I got my start writing fanfiction, but now I mostly work on my own stuff. (Although I still enjoy visiting fanfiction.net from time to time!) I .. more..

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A Story by literarygirl37