Whether the Ranters comprised a cohered organization of religious heretics is still under historical scrutiny, though there’s a great deal of evidence that their practices and beliefs made up among the most radical in the first decades of 17th Century British heretical movements. They cursed incessantly, they fucked whoever whenever*, wore hats in-doors and threw ‘Thou’ and their clothes to the wind whenever they damn well pleased. Principled in their antinomianism, the belief that man was not bound by the Laws or Writs of religious institutions, they anticipated a much less violent Raskolnikov by a few hundred years. It was the duty of the Ranter to sin in order to prove his liberation from such shackles, an expression of extreme and democratic individualism born of the more moderate Calvinist elect ideology. The Vice Squad par excellence; impassioned advocates of vulgar anti-statism, perhaps, but a model of early Modern social protest to be admired today. Click here for an excerpt of Abiezer Coppe’s A Fiery Flying Roll, one of the best surviving examples of Ranter thought. The document cost Coppe a long unjustified imprisonment.
*well… Maybe. Their “lascivious” character was often leveled as a slander by their moderate Parliamentary and pro-Monarchy opponents, but whatever. Only the prudish were turned off.