Social And Religious Tensions In The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem witchcraft of 1692, which began in Salem Village1 and spread throughout Essex County, Massachusetts, is a bizarre and controversial historical event that revolves around social and religious tensions (Godbeer 1). As the main villagers were Puritans who believed in the existence of one God, the idea of having witches - “individuals…accused of having entered into a pact with the devil to obtain supernatural powers, which they used to harm others or to interfere with natural processes” - in town was destructive and intolerable - punishable by execution (Foner 109). Since Puritans strongly believed in causality2, they were convinced that witches were real; thus igniting the prevailing panic. Analyzing the primary documents which pertain …show more content…
As someone who believes in God, learning about the Salem witch hunt has made me question the incompetent trial process from both intellectual and religious viewpoints. Women, especially unmarried women, were the main targets of accusers because they were perceived to be vulnerable and powerful at the same time. The fact that females are associated with the original sin3 Eve committed, which involved challenging the authority of God, made outspoken and independent women threats to the hierarchy – supremacy of men - that existed in the Puritans society. Furthermore, Puritans’ obsession with causality, stimulated people’s superstitious behavior, which then …show more content…
And those who refused to comply were subjects of suspicion. The devil, master of witchcraft, being the fallen angel who never ceases to tempt and distraught people was thought reside in them, hence using them to torment more people. Due to the severity of the panic, even Christians were not immune from accusation, including George Burroughs, a former minister. The possibility of a minister being a witch appeared incredible even to the witnesses according to Ann Putnam Jr. against George Burroughs – “are ministers witches too?” Ann claimed that Burroughs urged her to sign his book, thus making a pact with the devil, and that he declared himself a conjuror - leader of the witches (Godbeer 139). Although Satan can potentially use religious people to further his propaganda, would Burroughs not know better than surrendering to Satan10 or did he think his religious background would be a disguise? Not only did Burroughs claim his innocence till the end, but he also recited a prayer right before he was hanged, which witches could never do. Was this his way of repenting, or was he actually innocent? Although this raised uncertainties, it did not hinder them from going through the hanging. As a former minister who knows God’s teachings and unlikely to be the devil’s accomplice, would he not feel betrayed by the measure taken on

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