CLIO FINAL - page 26

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During the English interregnum from 1649
to 1660, (the period of parliamentary and military
rule that began with the execution of King Charles
I), many different non-conformist Christian groups
and sects emerged from the small window of free-
dom given to them by the rapid changes in pow-
er and authority at that time. Three of the most
prominent and interesting groups that broke off
from the societal norms were the Ranters, the Fifth
Monarchy Men and the Quakers, some of whom
differentiated themselves so drastically, that they
horrified the population.
One of the more controversial groups that
grew during the English commonwealth was the
Ranters whose central belief was Pantheism. This
meant that they believed God was within every
creature. Another closely followed belief was that
of antinomianism which meant that there was no
need to follow Mosaic Law (the Law of Moses),
after one’s salvation. This outright rejection of any
sense of obedience and no feeling of responsibility
to uphold the common ‘Christian’ values was what
made them such a threat to the new government
at the time. Other values that caused a great deal
of trouble were the belief that the private owner-
ship of property was wrong and the ideas about
the way the country was run with both Ranters and
Levellers pushing for ‘One man, one vote’, annual
elections, the abolition of the monarchy and an
end to taxation for people earning
less than £30 a year; all of which
were incredibly controversial and
have an eerie similarity to radical
socialism. One of the most remem-
bered Ranters was Laurence Clark-
son (sometimes referred to as Clax-
ton) who among other things was
an accused heretic. Claxton was
the most outspoken of the group
of radical Protestants and was also
widely known for his sexual promis-
cuity, only agreeing with one of the
commandments ‘Thou shalt not kill’
and openly confessing to breaking
all the others including acts of adul-
tery. One of Claxton’s most important
beliefs was that sin is ‘invented by the ruling
classes to keep the poor in order’ which draws
very strong parallels to Marxist beliefs (however
Marx’s beliefs were more strongly centred around
the whole concept of religion and it being made
to control the poor rather than just the concept
of sin). This further strengthening the similarities
drawn between communism and the beliefs of the
Ranters with the exception of freedom of religion.
The second major group of the Fifth Monar-
chists or Fifth Monarchy Men challenged the more
mainstream protestant beliefs and said that in the
The World Turned
(“"The World Turned Upside Down" is an English Ballad which
was first published in the middle of the 1640s as a protest
against the policies of Parliament relating to the celebration of
Christmas)
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