An indictment against Christianity (1 of 2)
(Top Posts - History - 060903)

From a 1989 speech by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.:

"As 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 earth.

In 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.

During 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 ...

Human 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 ...

The 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."

From Richard Dawkins, esteemed scientist and atheist:

"I 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 out."

From James A. Haught (author of Holy Horrors):

"Corruption in the medieval Catholic hierarchy was infamous.

Pope 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.

Innocent 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.

Benedict 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.

A 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, and incest.'

Alexander VI bought the papacy by bribing cardinals to elect him--then hosted sex orgies attended by his illegitimate children, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia. ..."

From Carl Sagan, esteemed scientist (author of "The Demon-Haunted World")

"In 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."

From Helen Ellerbe (author of The Dark Side of Christian History):

"By 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."

By 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.

The 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."

From Joseph McCabe (author of The Story of Religious Controversy):

New Light on Witchcraft

The Horrors of the Inquisition

Medieval Art and the Church

The Moorish Civilization in Spain

The Renaissance: A European Awakening

The Reformation and Protestant Reaction

The Truth About Galileo and Medieval Science

From Burton L. Mack (author of Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth):

"The 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."

From Mark Twain (esteemed American author):

"The Bible is a mass of fables and traditions, mere mythology." [Mark Twain, "Mark Twain and the Bible"]

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"If there is a God, he is a malign thug." [Mark Twain]

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"There 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.

Measured 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 Religion"]

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"There 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]

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"It 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]

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"The 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]

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"There 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]

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"Man 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_, Mark Twain]

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"During 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.

Then 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 and Elsewhere"]