In The Crucible, the author, Miller, claims the theocracy of the Puritan was a double-edged sword: it helped, but harmed the community. I understand that it hurt the community because they used religious standings as ways to judge people, but I don't understand how it helped them.
Miller describes this as a paradox. "It is a paradox in whose grip we still live, and there is no prospect yet that we will discover its resolution." The people of Salem developed a theocracy (combining state authority with religion) in order to establish unity. If everyone in the community shares the same beliefs, they support one another. They sustain a sense of kinship and similarity with one another. Miller writes, "the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies." This is a common strategy used by religious communities, ideological groups, and even nations. Having a set of core values and beliefs is a way to unite a group: large or small. In Salem, the authorities established this unity by enforcing/governing via their religious worldview. They were united in sharing this worldview and way of life.
Unfortunately, such a strict adherence to a strict ideology means that those who do not follow the ideology will be excluded. "But all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space." Consequently, anyone who broke ranks with this unified cultural and religious way of life would be excluded or reprimanded. The theocracy helped the community unify but the strict rules of that unification meant that they would not tolerate individualism and/or anything that challenged that religious unity.