July 31, 2007

Christian Legacy: The Inquisition

The Inquisition is one of the darkest and least understood chapters in history, and yet, one cannot understand Christianity and the threat of Christian theocracy without delving into this horrifying part of the Christian legacy. In recently watching Secret Files of the Inquisition, I was surprised to discover just how much I did not know about this period. I had bought into many of the intentionally false claims made by Christian apologists without even knowing I was doing so.

Here are some examples of some of what I learned from watching this documentary:
  • The Inquisition was not simply some brief case of Christian extremism run amok. The Spanish Inquisition alone lasted over 300 years.
  • The Inquisition was not some ancient mistake with little impact on the modern world. The Roman Inquisition was thriving into the mid-1800's, and the Christian program of systematically confining Jews to ghettos, depriving them of rights, and making them wear identifying symbols likely influenced Hitler.
  • Having different beliefs from the official Christian orthodoxy was a criminal offense. The mantra of the Inquisition was "convert or die," and they meant it.
  • The extreme cruelty of Christians during this period is difficult to comprehend. They kidnapped children, burned people at the stake, boiled them in oil, utilized virtually every imaginable form of torture, and desecrated graves. Far from being rare instances, 15% of those accused by the Christian Church of heresy between the 1500s and the 1800s were burned at the stake, usually in front of crowds of cheering Christians.
  • The end of the Inquisition (1870) was directly linked to the Pope's loss of police power. That is, the Inquisition did not end until he lost the power to enforce his Christian extremism.
What needs to be emphasized is that the intolerance, hatred, cruelty, and violence of the Inquisition was perpetrated by real Christians using the Christian bible to justify their atrocities. Modern Christians do not want to acknowledge this and would prefer that you do not hear about this important part of the Christian legacy. They want to pretend that it had little to do with Christianity or that modern Christianity is nothing like that. They read their bibles selectively, picking the parts they like and discarding the rest.
"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
-- George Santayana
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