Essay, Research Paper: Scarlet Letter And Religion

Literature: Scarlet Letter

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Throughout time, religion in society has played a major role in the lives of the
people. Religion has shaped people’s own morals as well as the laws for which
the government has established society’s fundamentals of living. Hawthorne
links religion and law in his book The Scarlet Letter, and shows his readers
that society has shaped their rules by their religion and beliefs. He tells how
important the church is to the people, how the view of predestination enters the
lives of the people, as well as showing society’s religious views on punishing
for the breaking of laws. During the puritan time period, a big part of the
lives of most people was the church. They believed that by going to church and
by creating a society that revolved around God that they would have a fulfilling
life. Most societies held many of community events and functions that were
sponsored by the church. The church played a very big role in setting the goal
of a town to revolve around the church. This holds true in Hawthorn’s novel.
He set a society around a minister that was looked up to by the people and was
supported by the government in his decision and his actions. Most of the people
in the town attend church on a regular basis except for the ones that the people
of the town considered to be odd or weird. The people of the town set them as
outcast and consider them to be the main sinners and not sorry for their sins.
What they do not know is that their minister, Dimmsdale, carries around a secret
throughout the book that tears at his soul. He himself is too a sinner and
because of his position in the community he can not confess his sin publicly
that he is the one that had the affair with Hester. If he took responsibility
for his actions, his life would have been ruined. His title as minister would
have been taken from him an he would have been condemned and judge for his
behavior. This is wrong cause the bible says that no one shall judge except for
the lord, but in those times, people did not care what the bible said unless it
had to support their needs. People went around judging people for the way that
one behaved in order to have themselves feel better about who they were. They
figured that it made them seem like a more moral and religious person than the
next individual standing next to them. Many of people during this time period
believed in the process of predestination; the belief of people being
pre-destined from birth and that their souls were already decided on descending
to hell or the ascending to heaven. They believed that no matter what happened
that they were already decided if they would be good moral Christians or if
their lives were destine to hell because of their sins. If this were true then
all of the good that Dimmsdale did for the community and for his own life would
have meant nothing for his one major sin that he committed. The bible states
that he who is sinless let him cast the first stone. The people in the society
would say that their lives are perfect and sin free so therefore we can condemn
everyone who commits a sin, but only as they see fit to what was a bigger sin
than another. In other words, people were predestined to be sinners and because
of their sins society would see them as unjust and make them pay for their sins
by always making them remember that they had messed up, even if they had made
amends with God themselves. This is why Hester had to wear the “A” on her
chest for the rest of her life. She never was sorry for what she had done
because to her the best thing came out of it. Her daughter Pearl meant the world
to her and because of this, she was pleased. The punishments that the government
placed on Hester was truly religiously based. The people during the time period
believed that if one confessed their sins that then they would have to deal with
god themselves on repenting and being forgiven. This especially took place
during the witch trials. They believed that if one confessed to being a witch
then they could not be killed because they would have to make amends with God
themselves. Hester was in a similar boat considering the fact that she confessed
to her sin. She claimed publicly that she had the affair and that she new it was
wrong to have had it. She never felt sorry for what she had done but new that it
was not the best of ways to approach things. Society then placed the “A” on
her as her punishment. They new that there was nothing more that they could do
and that she would have to make her ties with God in order for her to have her
eternal life in heaven. The religion came into play in the government because
the government’s punishment was nothing more than making her wear the “A”
on her chest. They did nothing more because it would have been over stepping the
boundaries of their religious beliefs. Religion in society still exist today,
but not as heavily. You are not looked down upon if you do not attend church.
Back in the early settlements of the country you were considered to be weird or
possible devil like if you did not attend church. Through out the book,
Hawthorn’s condemning of the sinners of the community until they confessed
publicly, was the way that most of the societies in that time period would have
behaved. Religion played such a big role to the people that they did not create
a system where people can be forgiven for what they had done. They had to go
around carrying their same sin even though they had come to amends with God
themselves. It should not have been anyone else’s concern. Granted today’s
jail system is somewhat operated the same way, but those are for bigger crimes
and set up to protect society from many wrong doings. They are there for
structure. Even today religion plays a role in government. You have to swear
under oath and on a bible that the facts that are stated in a court of law are
true. This is societies way of getting the truth out of criminals in today’s
world. Even the President of The United States has to swear to God to do his job
in the most prestigious way and not to break any laws while in office. All in
all religion in law has always and always will be a part of the government and
the way that the society views the governmental approach to things.
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