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The Salem Witch Trials were a perfect spiral of fear. That is to say, each accusation forced individuals to accuse others in order to save themselves, which led to more accusations and so on. The effect of this on a community as small as Salem in 1692 would be devastating. Consider how suspicious people would become of even lifelong friends and neighbors. It divided the people of Salem against each other in ways not easily repaired.
Government authority and the Church were one and the same in Massachusetts, and their credibility suffered greatly once it became apparent that many if not all of the executed were in fact innocent. While not the only reason for the social decline of the Puritan Church, many consider this event the beginning of the end.
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