The Puritans: Human Motivation For Good Deeds

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Human Motivation for Good Deeds The human moral compass is a faulty and deceptive device prone to mistakes and unreliable bouts of avarice. The Puritans were a religious sect of 17th century New England who agreed with this philosophy of human corruptness. The cornerstone of Puritan ideology was predestination: the belief in a predetermined fate from God which inspired faith out of fear of Hell. On the contrary, an opposing school of thought was born from the 18th century intellectuals’ Age of Reason. These intellectuals believed in a philosophy called humanism in which humanity was believed to be an industrious and moral race. Human motivation for good deeds is a complex issue that cannot be assigned to wither side of the spectrum; however, …show more content…
Humanity innately contains a dark side which suppresses acts of kindness done without chance of reward. For example, the concept of a God-fearing, selfish people is illustrated in the famous Puritan sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, when the sinners were informed that “if God should let [them] go” they would immediately plummet to hell despite their best efforts at “care, prudence…and righteousness” (Edwards 47). The Puritans were constantly berated with similar sermons focusing on fire and brimstone that instilled a deep-seated fear of Hell. The effect of this fear was a morally-conscious society which reacted violently to small sins while counteracting their severity with acts of charity and tithing in an ironic effort to become pure or elect as they called it. Similarly, in the Victorian novel Emma, the title character desires a better reputation, so she proceeds to make friends with a simple peasant girl and transforms her into a woman of society while making her extremely unhappy. Emma displays the paradox of acting selflessly out of kindness for others but having the ulterior motive of selfish gain. Egotism has replaced fear of Hell, yet humanity remains unchanging in its contradictory

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