John Winthrop, founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony serves as a historical example of one of the earliest rulers of America (governor in this case) whose tolerance of other religions was extremely limited. As it would be expected, John Winthrop was European, an Englishman. The Puritans that settled down in the New World, affected by a long history of religious persecution which, inexorably, would repeat itself, eventually, would apply similarly oppressive methods to the ones they had been victims of in the “Old European Continent” and subjugate anyone who would engage in religious practices that did not agree with their Calvinist precepts.
These first settlers of New England, fleeing from a life of persecution in England, sought to establish a society to practice freedom of religion, but, once they succeeded in doing so, they did not let anyone else have that freedom of religion they had attained and longed for. Extremely conservative Puritans who came to America in 1630, to build their “City upon a Hill”, banished, harassed, persecuted and even executed those who did not conform to their customary rituals or celebrations of religion.
Even Paganism practiced by African slaves was feared and people were burned at the stake for allegedly engaging in sorcery and witchcraft in one of the earliest settlements in Massachusetts. This is only the origin of a long history of religious and ethnic intolerance in America, which would continue for centuries and would constitute a stigma so deep-rooted in the American collective mind that, still today, causes racial and religious conflicts. Similarly, in the narrative of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, we can find passages that show how, even today, society still finds its way to oppress dissenters and people different in their customs, vanquishing them to mental institutions or to a universe of social alienation