Monday, June 13, 2011

In Defense of Faith - day 4

Next, Brog confronts the "Myths about Judeo-Christian Atrocities," specifically the only two named, the Inquisition, and the Crusades. He begins by showing the shallowness of the debate: critics have to reach back hundreds of years to prove the harm in Christianity. They then  make the leap to "therefore all religion is poisonous and should be rejected." Discussing each, he shows "the wide gap between rhetoric and reality."

As far as the Crusades, the atrocities attributed to the Crusaders, and by extension to all Christians, can be traced almost exclusively to one man, Count Emicho of Flonheim. He and his followers attacked Jewish towns in the Rhine Valley, going directly against statements from the Pope and town Bishops not to hurt the Jews. It was these town Bishops that put their own lives on the line to protect the Jews from the murderous mob headed by Emicho. Far from killing tens of thousands or millions as its infamy seems to suggest, only three to four thousand Jewish lives were lost in the Crusades - a tragedy, to be sure, especially given such a small population, but hardly in the same category as a Hitler (6 million), Stalin, (100 million) or a Mao (70 million). Yet the "Crusades" is thrown around as a reason to hate Christians and to disregard Christianity. These murderous thugs never had the church sanction or theological support. They were anti-Semites, pure and simple and used an ongoing war for territory between the west, "Christian" nations and the eastern, Muslim nations as an excuse to slaughter innocents.

As for the Inquisition, it too was similarly limited in scope and much of its abuses were not sanctioned by the official church. Again, the Inquisition's horrors are the story of anti-Semitism run amok. Jews had been forced by earlier prosecutions to convert to Christianity. This conversion had it's upside as many doors were now opened to this community. They succeeded in their new-found positions so well, and were protected by their Christian faith, that the anti-Semites had to find a new way to prosecute them. So was born the Inquisition and it's attempt to prove the converts guilty of heresy and of continuing to practice their Judaism. All together it is believed that 2000 people were put to death on the charge of heresy. Again, this is a tragedy for those at the time, but a very small number in the scale of global tragedies. The church again played the role of trying to curb the abuses, but once again the passions and interests of the people triumphed. The church can only do so much with decrees and threats of excommunication to the perpetrators, yet history slaps the church with the one word indictment, "Inquisition" and all rational discussion is silenced. It is unfortunate for the church and the faithful that they live in a world governed by human failings. The church and Christianity gets the blame for what it did not start and was powerless to prevent, despite her best efforts, time and again.

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