Can the West's Christians learn from our sordid past?
Perez Zagorin says first steps already have been made.

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The long shadow of our religious history
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"Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been
possible without the almost two thousand years' pre-history of 'Christian' anti-Judaism..." Hans Küng


Persecution of religious minorities
(As the Nazi genocide of Europe's Jews)

How do we live down the dark history of religion?

Some observations by scholar (historian)

Perez Zagorin

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[Zagorin writes]
Of all the great world religions past or present, Christianity has been by far the most intolerant. This statement may come as a shock, but it is nevertheless true. In spite of the fact that Jesus Christ, the Jewish founder of the Christian religion, is shown in the New Testament as a prophet and savior who preached mutual love and nonviolence to his followers, the Christian church was for a great part of its history an extremely intolerant institution. From its inception it was intolerant of other, non-Christian religions, first Greco-Roman polytheism, then Judaism, from which it had to separate itself, and later on Islam. Early in its history, from the time of the apostles, it also became increasingly intolerant of heresy and heretics, those persons who, although worshippers of Christ, dissented from orthodox doctrine by maintaining and disseminating beliefs -- about the nature of Christ, the Trinity, the priesthood, the church, and other matters -- that ecclesiastical authority condemned as false, and incurring the penalty of damnation.
[page 1]

When we look at the character and message of the gentle Jesus "meek and mild" we cannot help but be perplexed at the behavior of the "Christian" regimes throughout world history, as Voltaire was.

Voltaire deplored the intolerance of Christians. "Of all religions, the Christian is undoubtedly that which should instill the greatest toleration, although so far the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men."
quoted in Zagorin, p295]



A few years ago the British philosopher A.J. Ayer observed in the essay titled "Sources of Intolerance" that religious intolerance has probably done greater harm than all other forms of intolerance and was also exceptionally hard to explain.

[Ayers declares]
"I do consider it extraordinary that persons who have somehow managed to convince themselves that the course of nature is dependent on the volition of one or more supernatural beings should consequently be impelled not merely to despise and traduce but to torture and murder those who do not share their view. Not only that but those who affirm their faith in the existence of what is nominally the same supernatural being have been as viciously divided among themselves. If anything, they have displayed even more enthusiasm in reviling, oppressing, torturing, and murdering those who held a different opinion concerning the properties of this being or the details of the ritual which was appropriate for its worship."


Hans Küng declares that the holocaust which wiped out some six million (approximately) Jews would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years' pre-history of "Christian" anti-Judaism. [On Being A Christian. p169]

[For their own good -- Zagorin says there was a conviction among leaders of Christendom that the persecution was positive and salutary, whether to cleanse the Church, or to purify the non-conformist, or to rescue the heathen]

persecution with a good conscience

What chiefly rendered persecution commendable was a set of doctrines and underlying rationale that explained and justified it. There was, in short, a Christian theory of persecution that long antedated any concept or philosophy of religious toleration and freedom, and without which the Catholic Church, and later Protestant state churches, Christian governments, and religious persons could not have undertaken or approved of the repression of Christian heretics and dissenters. Because this theory was embraced by men of high moral character, it is possible to describe the religious persecution of earlier centuries as persecution with a good conscience. W.H. Lecky, author of the nineteenth-century classic History of Rationalism in Europe (1865) had this fact in mind when he observed that the peculiar evil of persecution was that it took its seat in the realms of duty and conscience and was defended by sentiments of the deepest piety. A similar comment was made by Henry C. Lea. the greatest historian of the medieval and Spanish inquisitions, who pointed out that

[Henry Lea:]
men of the kindliest tempers, the profoundest intelligence, the noblest aspirations, the purest zeal for righteousness, professing a religion founded on love and charity, were ruthless when heresy was concerned and were ready to trample it out at the cost of any suffering.
[Back to Zagorin:]
Among these men, as he noted, were such persons as Saints Dominic, Francis of Assisi, and Bonaventura, Pope Innocent III, and Saint Louis king of France. With all of them it was not desire of gain or lust of blood or pride of opinion or wanton exercise of power, but "sense of duty" that made them unsparing of the heretic; and in this, said Lea, they "represented what was universal public opinion from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century."
Gerhard Venzmer makes a similar point about the great Thomas Aquinas, that the great spiritual leader, both doctor communis as well as doctor angelicus, is said to have uttered the words which can probably only be understood in the context of those times: "Heretics deserve not only to be excommunicated from the congregation of the Church, but to be separated from the world by death." [p119. Five thousand years of medicine.]

The Hideous Union (of Church - State) in Absolutist Old Europe

The American 'infidel' Robert Green Ingersoll said: "For many centuries the sword and cross were allies. Together they
attacked the rights of man. They defended each other. The throne and altar were twins - two vultures from the same egg.
Nevertheless


The modern concepts of religious toleration and freedom are Western in origin and the offspring of European civilization. They are almost entirely due (the main exception is the Jewish philosopher Spinoza) to the work of Christian thinkers, mostly unorthodox Protestants, of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, all of whom were powerfully motivated by their religious beliefs to fight against the intolerance of both the Catholic and Protestant state churches.

Thank the "Heretics" (so called)
In the battles over religious toleration that were so bitterly and widely waged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the idea of toleration was itself very largely inspired by religious values and was fundamentally religious in character. The proponents of toleration, whether Anabaptists, Sebastian Franck, and other sectarians, or Castellio, Socinians, Dutch Arminians, Roger Williams, Milton, and others of similar mind, might have been seen by their Catholic and orthodox Protestants adversaries as either dangerous heretics or doctrinally deviant, but there could be no question that they were nevertheless profoundly Christian in their thought and ideals. . . . They acted from the primary conviction that persecution was contrary to the mind of Christ and a terrible evil which did great harm to Christianity. When they maintained that princes and civil magistrates had neither a right nor a duty to punish heresy, nor any responsibility for the care of religion, they were striving to put an end to coercion in enforcing religious belief or church affiliation, but they certainly did not intend to banish religion from the polity or common life. Such a thought could hardly have occurred to them, nor could they ever have imagined as a proper setting for religious freedom a completely secular society in which the Christian religion had ceased to be a dominant public presence and a pervasive force in morals and conduct and was largely relegated to the realm of personal and private belief.
[Zagorin p289]


Self-righteousness is always wickedness. It is critical. It is bigoted. It is unChristlike. It is cruel. And surely it has no place in the highest realms of thought. To feel self-righteous one has to feel superior to his fellow men. he has to mentally place himself as a judge over them, and view with condemning attitude their weakness. This accusing business is very dangerous. [From spiritual writer Annalee Skarin]


Historic and Christian Anti-Semitism - the incongruity of using "Jesus" as an excuse to massacre Jews.
Eugen Kogon - witness to genocide - one of earliest chroniclers to document the holocaust
Roots of Christian Anti-Semitism - (contradicting the Jewish loyalty of Jesus himself).
The lustre of our country - religious freedom, America's sublime contribution to the world.
The American Moses - Martin Luther King and the dream of a nation's promise
The poor are rich in faith - frontier populism and the recurring "group insanity" of gospel religion
Faith-based role to play - twelve-step can work, if given a chance (one view)
Religious Freedom Watch - minority faiths can shed the light of conscience
Links to Multifaith and Religious Cooperation Websites - first we have to talk and just LISTEN
The Longest Hatred - mankind's vendetta against its oldest benefactors
Barbra Streisand - (you-tube) "Somewhere" - A Holocaust Memorial
Falasha - The Black Jews of Ethiopia - the lost "Beta Israel" not forgotten after all
A community of hate - bigotry still exists (religion gone bad)
Christian Intolerance - dangers of a muscular Christianity
Voltaire's anti-Semitism - his hatred of Judaism (and Islam too
Religious Bullies (my beef with Christianity) - corruption, fanaticism, pride
Desiderius Erasmus - History should have listened (but didn't)
Love is a many slendoured thing - building bridges (with love)
Roots of American Separation of Church and State - academic study of history & theory
Sebastian Castellio - an early champion of rational tolerance and freedom of conscience
Columbus' suspicious past - indications of his family's Jewish heritage (tantalizing clues)
Noah Feldman helps build a bridge - Secularism and Faith-values oddly need each other!!

U Y Z \   Pluralism   s   Tolerance   s   Coexist   Y U Y \ Y   Pluralism   s   Tolerance   s   Coexist   \ U Y Z


Underdog and Outcast Religions deserve ovation for bringing religious liberty
Historian Perez Zagorin has examined the supposed role played by the Enlightenment in the development of the ideals of religious liberty. He found little evidence of a direct influence. Instead he looked to the era of the Kent conventiclers and Thomas Helwys and concluded, "The intellectual changes . . . ., since they occurred only gradually, cannot possibly account for the theories and defenses of toleration that appeared in the second half of the sixteenth century. The latter were the work of profoundly Christian, if also unorthodox thinkers, not of minds inclined to religious indifference or unbelief; and the same is also true of nearly all the major theories of toleration in the seventeenth century." [Perez Zagorin p9, quoted by Michael Farris]

Review of "How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West"
: Religious intolerance, so terrible and deadly in its recent manifestations, is nothing new. In fact, until after the eighteenth century, Christianity was perhaps the most intolerant of all the great world religions. How Christian Europe and the West went from this extreme to their present universal belief in religious toleration is the momentous story fully told for the first time in this timely and important book by a leading historian of early modern Europe.

Perez Zagorin takes readers to a time when both the Catholic Church and the main new Protestant denominations embraced a policy of endorsing religious persecution, coercing unity, and, with the state's help, mercilessly crushing dissent and heresy. This position had its roots in certain intellectual and religious traditions, which Zagorin traces before showing how out of the same traditions came the beginnings of pluralism in the West. Here we see how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century thinkers--writing from religious, theological, and philosophical perspectives--contributed far more than did political expediency or the growth of religious skepticism to advance the cause of toleration. Reading these thinkers--from Erasmus and Sir Thomas More to John Milton and John Locke, among others--Zagorin brings to light a common, if unexpected, thread: concern for the spiritual welfare of religion itself weighed more in the defense of toleration than did any secular or pragmatic arguments. His book--which ranges from England through the Netherlands, the post-1685 Huguenot Diaspora, and the American Colonies--also exposes a close connection between toleration and religious freedom.

His book, How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West (2003. is one of the Los Angeles Times Book Review's Twenty Best Books of 2003

The Enlightenment (secularizers) had a Role
In the course of the Enlightenment, many of Europe's foremost intellectuals, those in the vanguard of the thought of their time, arrayed themselves against the Christian theory of persecution and endorsed the idea of toleration in one form or another. Under the influence of Enlightenment ideas, a number of rulers of the later eighteenth century -- such as Frederick the Great, king of Prussia, and the emperor Joseph II of Austria -- promoted the growth of toleration in their kingdoms.

The ultimate importance of the Enlightenment lay in its long-run contribution to the gradual secularization and liberalization of Western society. Secularization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries meant chiefly the decline of the dominance of the Christian religion and churches over individual minds and in political and social life. It also meant the displacement of Christian otherworldliness by the values of earthly happiness, pleasure, and utility. The thinkers of the Enlightenment were on the whole more critical and destructive than constructive. Many were deists, devotees of natural religion, and freethinkers who could not accept the Christian faith; some were philosophical materialists and atheists. Of all the forces they combated, what they most detested was supernatural religion, ecclesiastical authority and dogmas, persecution priestcraft, fanaticism and superstition, clerical tyranny and obscurantism, religious censorship -- in a word, everything in the Christian religion and established churches seemed unjust and antithetical to reason.

In France, the center of the Enlightenment, the philosophes made the Catholic Church a prime object of their criticism for its promotion of superstition and its history of persecution. Although they believed in enlightened government and the rule of law, they were not democrats. [In fact, many of these philosophes were intensely leery of the lower classes.] Their dedication to enlightenment and the sovereignty of reason pointed nevertheless in the direction of a humane and liberal society based on freedom of thought, the dissolution of orthodox religion as a coercive power, the rule of law, and political and religious liberty.
[Zagorin p291]



Robert Shepherd
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Rodney Stark comments on the great disadvantage which religious monopoly has to the very ones who work so hard to achieve it. Stark quotes Adam Smith (1776):
when fully supported by the state establishment, the clergy, reposing themselves upon their benefices, give themselves up to indolence and neglect to keep up the fervor of faith and devotion in the great body of people.
Applying this principle to the empire created by the Spanish Inquisition, Stark shows (in detail) the disastrous effects of religious monopoly not only in Spain but in Latin America.

Rodney Stark. The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success

James Carroll [p 388] credits Jewish influence with the earliest seeds that eventually grew into tolerance in the West. "Tikkun olam is one of the most precious ideas ever to strike a human mind." (Tikkun olam is a Jewish concept embracing the idea of earthly and human redemption and restoration and total healing.)

And [p 396] "Kabbalah, with its ideology of God's emanation in the souls of all people, planted seeds of tolerance in the Western mind, whether condescending Christians knew it or not. Leibniz and Locke, perhaps through Spinoza, were beneficiaries of the spacious hopefulness of tikkun olam, and now science would flow from the currents of the Jewish mystical tradition."


James Carroll. Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews - a history
For more on the ground breaking views of the "God-intoxicated" Spinoza

Yaakov Leschzinsky writes (in "The Jewish Dispersion", pg. 9)
"When we scan the diaspora of Jewry over the entire globe and throughout the entire civilized world, we are surprised to see that this Nation, which is almost the most ancient in the world, is in truth the youngest in terms of the land under its feet and the sky above its head. As a result of the relentless persecutions and forced expulsions, most Jews are but recent new-comers to their respective lands of residence. Ninety percent of the Jewish people have lived in their new homes for no more than 50 or 60 years! (The Jewish People) are dispersed throughout over 100 lands on all five continents."

Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum writes:
In 1492, the same year Columbus set sail for America, the Spanish Edict of Expulsion was issued ordering all Jews to leave the country. With this act Spain blundered. When she expelled her Jews [and Moors, too] she expelled her scholars, doctors, and bankers. The Spanish economy thus began to crumble and collapse. Finally, the Spanish Armada sailed against England and was destroyed, not so much by the English navy as by a storm at sea.

Had not God promised Abraham:

'I will bless those that bless thee, and curse those that curse thee.'

Was Columbus a covert Jew?

Robert Shepherd
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