The Deists’ speculation of human nature notably opposed those of the Puritans; instead of a pessimistic outlook on humans, the Deists viewed human more optimistically through a concept of balance along with a plan of improvement in human morals through a series of virtues. For instance, in Benjamin Franklin’s Deist tract, he proposed the idea of the balance of pleasure and pain that contradicted the Puritans’ idea of Predestination and segregation. Franklin stated that “Sensation of Pleasure is equal, or in exact proportion to the Sensation of Pain . . . [therefore] upon Death . . . the soul, though incapable of Destruction itself, must then necessarily cease to think or act, having nothing left to think or act upon” (28). Since the pamphlet mentioned the soul was set to a blank, neutral state upon death, Deists indicated that they did not believe in the existence of Heaven or Hell, which was used to categorize good and evil humans. Without Heaven, there would be no use for the Predestination and segregation concepts of the Puritans, which further extend the fact that Deists thought all that all humans were equal in their nature since humans would die with a balance of pleasure and pain. Another Deist view of a hopeful human nature is the belief of moral perfection. Franklin wrote: “I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other” (32). Because Franklin desired to overcome common tendencies, he stated his reason why he created his list of virtues: to see if he could reach moral perfection. Franklin’s virtues had a huge impact on Deists and others, confirming the fact that the Deists thought human nature was improvable by striving for all the good aspects of human morality, such as sincerity, order, chastity, and humility. These qualities in human beings confuted the Puritan belief that human nature was always bad and could not be improved; it can only be merely controlled.
Furthermore, Puritans disputed Deists views by summarizing God into a judgmental, wrathful, and unforgiving deity through their descriptions of God in Puritan works and through God’s punishment that he dealt upon Puritans to instill them with lessons. An example of a Puritan description of a wrathful god came from America’s first best-selling work, a poem entitled The Day of Doom. The author of the poem, Michael Wigglesworth wrote: “The Mountains [smoke], the Hills are shook, the Earth is rent and torn . . . His winged Hosts [fly] through all Coasts, together gathering both good and bad, both quick and dead, and all to Judgment bring” (3). Through Wigglesworth’s description of the extent of destruction that God was capable to cause and the method that God used to gather all live and dead humans on earth using angels, he portrayed God’s ruinous nature and that God’s purpose was no other than to deliver relentless judgment upon all humans no matter who or where they were. Mary Rowlandson wrote a Puritan account that also supported the notion of a cruel god by her depiction of the extent of grotesque comeuppance that God could bestow in order to teach Puritan morals. In her narrative, she described her capture by Indians: “Some in our house were fighting for their lives, others wallowing in their blood, the house on fire over our heads” (14). She ended her narrative by convincing herself that her experience was an “Affliction [from god]” so that she can learn the moral of “[looking] beyond present and smaller troubles, and [being] quieted under them.” (20). Rowlandson’s vivid description of her disturbing experience and her connection to it as a necessary responsibility God used in order to instill her with a moral lesson obviously showed that the Puritans thought that God was so ruthless that he would even considered putting people through disturbing, life-destroying ordeals just for the purpose of Affliction. However, the Deists definitely did not think of God that way.