Here’s a thought I had:
I often see the effects of Puritanical thinking. More specifically, what I see are the effects of what I call a Post-Christian Puritanism. When I use the term “Post-Christian” it means that it appears after the belief in Christianity fell in the 1700’s. As a result, there is no real belief in Christianity but, despite this, many attitudes and ways of Christianity persist and continue on. In this way, Christian ideals continue to exist but in a non-acknowledged and hidden way.
According to my observation, Post-Christian Puritanism tends to have a very negative quality with negative effects. Oftentimes, it creates a very horrible view of the world and humanity. Many people seem to struggle with it but, yet, never let it go. As a result, they basically maintain a viewpoint that is eating them up. This shows one of the unique natures of Post-Christian Puritanism. Basically, it goes something like this:
- There develops a horrible view of the world and humanity which originates from the Christian idea that we are all sinners and must be punished.
- Since there is no real belief of Jesus as a savior there is nothing to “save us” from this horrible view.
- As a result, this horrible view gets even more horrible . . . the world and humanity gets darker.
- This point of view is maintained, and continued, because it is based in Christian belief which has an attitude of self-righteous God-ordained truth. This makes it so that the belief continues to persist even though there is no real belief in Jesus or Christianity.
- The result: they have a dark view of life but will not let it go even if it gives them problems.
In this way, Post-Christian Puritanism tends to create something like a “self-righteous dark view of everything”. One could even go so far as to say that it creates a “self-righteous misery”, in some people, that can even become a “self-righteous self destructiveness”. Some of the ways it can appear include:
- A “beating of ones self”
- A “sulking about life”
- A “hatred of ones self”
- A “hatred of others”
- A “contempt of everything”
- A pessimism and negative view
- A “seeing misery in everything”
This point of view has caused many problems that people struggle with, or so it seems to me. I think this is far more prevalent than it seems. It seems very prevalent in England and the U.S.
I sometimes think that I was in a position to see it more clearly. I was brought up in the Western part of the U.S. (the “old west”), and am descended from pioneers. Naturally, the pioneers brought their Puritanical beliefs with them. Because of the conditions of the “old west”, and pioneer life, there was a lot of stress. I often speak of this as “pioneer stress”. This caused them to need this Puritanical belief more than most people. As a result, it became more pronounced. I noticed this mentality in the older generation who often had mentalities such as:
- A weird grim view of the world
- A weird worship and obsession over work
- A weird tendency to make everything an ordeal or difficult
- A contempt of self
- A contempt of others
- A problem with alcohol
I do not consider Post-Christian Puritanism as a form of Christianity but, rather, an “after effect” of it after belief has been lost. Its like a remnant of Christian belief. As a result, it displays some pieces, here and there, of Christianity. Puritanism, because of its more strict and severe nature, has caused more marked negative effects. This has a lot to do with its history and development . . .
Puritanism is a form of Christianity that appeared after the Protestant Reformation in England. Its really a reaction to the formation of the C of E (Church of England) by King Henry VIII. Basically, many people did not feel that the C of E was effective enough for reasons such as:
- They disagreed with the reforms of the C of E
- The reforms of the C of E do not go far enough
- In the C of E the King was the head of the church and many felt that this just created a new form of Pope
As a result, it put great emphasis on things such as:
- Being more strict to Christian ideas – of course, there were variations in what ideas were most important
- Having no leader or “Pope” – this caused a tendency to be more “democratic”
- An over emphasis on the individual person – this is a result of the Renaissance which placed great emphasis on the individual
The struggles and conflicts that followed the Protestant Reformation tended to cause a tendency for English Christianity and Puritanism to be overly strict, severe, and controlling. This could get to the point of being abusive.
Many of the harsh conditions and behavior of people described by Charles Dickens, for example, is a result of strict Puritanical thinking and its abusive manner in English society. But, interestingly, many of what saves people, in the stories, are based on Christian themes. I always found it interesting that many themes seen in Charles Dickens, and other British writers, describe the strict abuse qualities of Puritanism . . . a Christianity . . . which cause all these problems and that the solution to this abuse is Christianity but in a more kind hearted way. In short, the solution to the problems of Christianity is Christianity! This idea of solving the bad aspects of Puritanical Christianity with soft-hearted Christianity is a prevalent one in this mentality. Its like Christianity is conflicting and fighting with itself.
QUALITIES OF POST-CHRISTIAN PURITANISM
With Post-Christian Puritanism there tends to be little or no belief in Christianity or in Jesus. In fact, there is no mention of them at all. I began to notice these things not by any references to religion but, rather, by similarities in attitude and points of views. After a while, it became clear that they originated from it.
Some of the qualities of Post-Christian Puritanism include:
- There is a great burden that is on the individual person
- Humanity, and we, are viewed as being bad
- The idea that we must be punished in some way
- An emphasis on “seeing the light” or seeing the truth
- The idea that we must reform or change
- An emphasis on work, almost to the point of worshiping it
- The idea that we must all conform
It tends to create a point of view that portrays things in ways such as these:
- The world is viewed in a particularly gloomy and dark way
- It portrays humanity as bad and evil
- It portrays us, as individuals, as bad
- It portrays a continual need to always change in some way
- It tends to emphasis a need to have difficulty and a hard time
- It tends to emphasize that we are at fault for everything we do
There are various forms of how this appears. Some people, for example, emphasize one point in particular, or a couple of points, and some people mix a number of them. This causes a number of varieties and forms.
Overall, this mentality tends to cause things such as:
- A dark view of the world
- A dark view of life
- A dark view of humanity
- A pessimism
- Various negative attitudes
- A tendency to paranoia
- A tendency to masochism (we need to punish ourselves)
- A tendency to sadism (we need to punish others)
- A tendency to be controlling
- A lack of self-respect (we are sinners)
- A lack of respect for people (people are all sinners)
- The idea that overcoming difficulty is a great achievement (the glorification of being “saved”)
- A tendency to “kill themselves” doing the ideals of this mentality
- A tendency to be conformist
Many of these originate from Christian ideas of things like:
- We are all sinners
- We must be punished
- We must “convert” to the truth
This mentality seems to cause a predisposition to being neurotic. It seems to strangle the person. It seems, to me, that Post-Christian Puritanism tends to cause things such as:
- A splitting of the self: one part of the self conforms to Puritanism, another part of the self maintains ones true self. Typically, the true self is as if repressed, or “tucked away”, deep within. As a result, this true self is always trying to come out. This causes many strange symptoms and manifestations as a result.
- A tendency for things to “eat” at them. Certain conflicts or issues, that never get resolved, continue to bother them for long periods of time. These can practically destroy a person over time.
- A tendency to brood over things. They become overly preoccupied with certain themes and emotions and keep them on their mind.
In addition to the darker views and conflicts described above, this mentality can cause other qualities such as:
- The idea that we must “save the world” (from the Christian idea that Jesus will save the world)
- The idea that we must do “good things” and “love one another” (the Christian idea of love)
- A tendency to have a “goody, goody” attitude
- A self-righteousness attitude
These originate from the idea that “Jesus Christ is the savior of the world” and will be the “beacon of light in the world”. This often makes people alternate from a dark view of the world to a “goody” attitude. In this way, they often become contradictory-like.
This mentality tends to effect the male in ways such as:
- It creates a contempt and dark view of things that “eats” at some males
- It often makes some males masochistic, desiring of suffering, pain, and conflict
- It often makes some males sadistic to the point of being abusive to other people
- There often develops a great overemphasis on the person causing a great weight that rests on his shoulders
- There is a great overemphasis on overcoming difficulties which originates from “seeing the light” and “converting to the truth” of Christianity
- A tendency to “kill himself” trying to do the ideals
The male, overall, seems burdened by this mentality, as if it were a great weight on him. This can cause great stress in his life and great pain and agony. Sometimes, its such a burden that it is projected onto other people causing misery for others.
I tend to feel that Post-Christian Puritanism, in the male, is a common cause for things like:
- Contempt of society and people
- Hatred and dislike of society and people
This mentality tends to effect the female in ways such as:
- It makes them feel that they, as individuals, are bad
- It makes them feel that the female is bad
- It tends to cause low self-esteem
- It causes a “slavish” mentality as they try to fulfill the Puritanical ideals
- A feeling of being helpless and controlled
Overall, the female seems to be undermined by this mentality. It seems to be a big contributor in the destruction of the female, her identity, and worth.
It seems, to me, that British utilitarianism is a result of Puritanical attitudes which have been applied to economy and society. Much of its philosophy seems to reflect conditions caused by Puritanism, such as:
- It tends to emphasize “happiness” and that whatever causes the most “happiness” in the most people is the best. I’ve always thought that this “unhappiness” refers to the Puritanical Christian idea of penance and punishment. In this way, “happiness” means the absence of these Puritanical ideas. This means, in a way, that utilitarianism is an “escape” from Puritanism!
- It tends to emphasize a great controlling of society in order to achieve this “happiness”. This, it seems to me, originates from the Puritanical of a controlled society.
- They tend to emphasize intellectualization before everything else. One of the founders of utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill, was treated by an intellectual machine by his father. A theme in Charles Dickens book “Hard Times” is knowing “facts” at the expense of imagination. The emphasis on intellectualism seems to originate from Puritanical ideal of “learning the doctrine”.
Copyright by Mike Michelsen