indictment against Christianity (1 of 2)
Posts - History - 060903)
From a 1989
speech by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.:
a historian, I confess to a certain amusement when I hear the Judeo-Christian
tradition praised as the source of our present-day concern for human
rights; that is, for the valuable idea that all individuals everywhere
are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on this
fact, the great religious ages were notable for their indifference
to human rights in the contemporary sense. They were notorious not
only for acquiescence in poverty, inequality, exploitation, and
oppression, but also for enthusiastic justifications of slavery,
persecution, abandonment of small children, torture, and genocide.
most of the history of the West ... religion enshrined and vindicated
hierarchy, authority, and inequality, and had no compunction about
murdering heretics and blasphemers. Until the end of the 18th century,
torture was normal investigative procedure in the Catholic church
as well as in most European States ...
rights is not a religious idea. It is a secular idea, the product
of the last four centuries of Western history ... It was the age
of equality that brought about the disappearance of such religious
appurtenances as the auto-da-fe and burning at the stake, the abolition
of torture and of public executions, the emancipation of the slaves
basic human rights documents -- the American Declaration of Independence
and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man -- were written
by political, not by religious, leaders."
Richard Dawkins, esteemed scientist and atheist:
do think the Roman Catholic religion is a disease of the mind which
has a particular epidemiology similar to that of a virus... Religion
is a terrific meme. That's right. But that doesn't make it true
and I care about what's true. Smallpox virus is a terrific virus.
It does its job magnificently well. That doesn't mean that it's
a good thing. It doesn't mean that I don't want to see it stamped
James A. Haught (author of Holy Horrors):
in the medieval Catholic hierarchy was infamous.
John XII openly had love affairs, gave church treasure to a mistress,
castrated one opponent, blinded another, and donned armor to lead
an army. Benedict IX sold the papacy to a successor for 1,500 pounds
of gold. Urban VI tortured and murdered his cardinals.
VIII proudly acknowledged his illegitimate children and loaded them
with church riches. Pope Boniface VII, whose name is omitted from
official church listings, murdered two rival popes in the 10th century.
Sergius III likewise killed two rivals for the papal throne.
V dishonored a young girl and fled with the Vatican treasury. Clement
VI sported with mistresses on ermine bed-linens. Boniface VIII sent
troops to kill every resident of Palestrina and raze the city. Clement
VII, while a papal legate, similarly ordered the slaughter of Cesena's
8,000 people, including the children.
previous Pope John XXIII (not the reformer of the 1950s) was deposed
by a council in 1414--and Edward Gibbon dryly recorded in The Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire: 'The most serious charges were suppressed;
the Vicar of Christ was accused only of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy,
VI bought the papacy by bribing cardinals to elect him--then hosted
sex orgies attended by his illegitimate children, Cesare and Lucrezia
Carl Sagan, esteemed scientist (author of "The Demon-Haunted World")
Italy, the Inquisition was condemning people to death until the
end of the eighteenth century, and inquisitional torture was not
abolished in the Catholic Church until 1816. The last bastion of
support for the reality of witchcraft and the necessity of punishment
has been the Christian churches."
Helen Ellerbe (author of The Dark Side of Christian History):
prohibiting and burning any other writings, the Catholic Church
eventually gave the impression that this Bible and its four canonized
Gospels represented the only original Christian view. And yet, as
late as 450 C.E., Theodore of Cyrrhus said that there were at least
200 different gospels circulating in his own diocese.
There has been no more organized effort by a religion to control
people and contain their spirituality than the Christian Inquisition.
... Pope Innocent III declared "that anyone who attempted to construe
a personal view of God which conflicted with Church dogma must be
burned without pity."
far the cruelest aspect of the inquisitional system was the means
by which confessions were wrought: the torture chamber. Torture
remained a legal option for the Church from 1252 when it was sanctioned
by Pope Innocent IV until 1917 when the new Codex Juris Canonici
was put into effect.
Inquisition often targeted members of other religions as severely
as it did heretics. The Inquisition now lent its authority to the
long-standing Christian persecution of Jews. Particularly during
the Christian Holy Week of the Passion, Christians frequently rioted
against Jews or refused to sell them food in hopes of starving them.
At the beginning of the 13th century, Pope Innocent III required
Jews to wear distinctive clothing.
It was the 300 year period of witch-hunting from the fifteenth to
the eighteenth century, what R.H. Robbins called "the shocking nightmare,
the foulest crime and deepest shame of western civilization", that
ensured the European abandonment of the belief in magic.
As the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum noted, "A belief that
there are such things as witches is so essential a part of Catholic
faith that obstinately to maintain the opposite opinion savors heresy."
Passages in the Bible such as "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to
live" were cited to justify the persecution of witches."
Joseph McCabe (author of The Story of Religious Controversy):
Light on Witchcraft
Horrors of the Inquisition
Art and the Church
Moorish Civilization in Spain
Renaissance: A European Awakening
Reformation and Protestant Reaction
Truth About Galileo and Medieval Science
Burton L. Mack (author of Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making
of the Christian Myth):
event that triggered the creation of the Christian Bible was the
conversion of Constantine and the sudden reversal of imperial status
experienced by the Christian churches. Constantine's conversion
is often dated as 313 C.E. He became the sole emperor of the Roman
Empire in 324 C.E. and called the first council of Christian bishops
to meet in Nicaea in 325 C.E.
within a few short years under Constantine's prodding, baptistries
and basilicas dotted the landscape, the site of the empty tomb had
been "discovered" and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built upon
it, Christian iconography announced to the world its themes, bishops
gathered in councils to agree upon Christian doctrine, ritual was
regularized, the calendar of festival events was established, piety
took the form of pilgrimage, salvation took the form of eternal
life in the heavenly world, and Christendom was launched.
The main events along the way included a little assignment that
Constantine gave to Eusebius, bishop at Caesarea, sometime around
325-330 C.E. ... Constantine asked Eusebius to have fifty copies
of "the sacred scriptures" prepared by professional transcribers
for the new churches he planned to build.
At every turn in the formal transformation of the church into a
religion of empire, having the Bible in place was more than fortunate.
It was absolutely necessary. ... The Bible was created when Christianity
became the religion of the Roman Empire."
Twain (esteemed American author):
Bible is a mass of fables and traditions, mere mythology." [Mark
Twain, "Mark Twain and the Bible"]
there is a God, he is a malign thug." [Mark Twain]
is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless,
money-grabbing and predatory as it is - in our country particularly,
and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree
- it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the
Bible, with its prodigious crime - the invention of Hell.
by our Christianity of today, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is,
empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor His Son is a Christian,
nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible
religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort
in the innocent blood it has spilt." [Mark Twain, "Reflections on
was no place in the land where the seeker could not find some small
budding sign of pity for the slave. No place in all the land but
one -- the pulpit. It yielded last; it always does. It fought a
strong and stubborn fight, and then did what it always does, joined
the procession -- at the tail end. Slavery fell. The slavery texts
[in the Bible] remained; the practice changed; that was all." ["Mark
Twain and the Three R's, by Maxwell Geismar, p.109]
ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother
me, it is the parts that I do understand." [Mark Twain]
Christian Bible is a drug store. Its contents have remained the
same but the medical practice continues. For 1,800 years these changes
were slight--scarcely noticeable... The dull and ignorant physician
day and night, and all the days and all the nights, drenched his
patient with vast and hideous doses of the most repulsive drugs
to be found in the store's stock.. He kept him religion sick for
eighteen centuries, and allowed him not a well day during all that
time." ["Mark Twain and the Three R's, by Maxwell Geismar, p.107]
are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed.
Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone,
but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are
gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remains."
["Mark Twain and the Three R's, by Maxwell Geismar, p.110]
is a Religious Animal. Man is the only Religious Animal. He is the
only animal that has the True Religion -- several of them. He is
the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his
throat if his theology isn't straight." [_Letters from the Earth_,
many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded
that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after
doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years, gathered
up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy
work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine
centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes
and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with
their foul blood.
it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never
had been. One does not know to laugh or to cry." [Mark Twain, "Europe