I had some idea about the history of Christianity before joining A N. I had heard of the crusades, inquisitions and the witch hunt but I had no idea that these things were driving people to atheism and that the atheists strongly hated bible, Jesus and Christianity. Although I am an atheist, I did not and do not feel any hate for religion and god. I always read that Jesus was peace loving and that was my impression of him. After joining AN, I noticed the strong dislikes of the atheists and that set me thinking.
The Crusades were religiously sanctioned military campaigns, about 1000 years after Christ. The First Crusade was launched with the approval of Pope Urban II to help the Byzantine emperor, with the latent purpose of restoring Christian control of the Holy Land of Jerusalem from Muslim rule. Thirty five years before this, Pope Alexander II had given his blessing to Christians to start wars against the Muslims by granting a papal standard and an indulgence to those who were killed in the war. A crusader received a cross from the hands of the pope or his delegate, and was considered a "soldier of the Church". The crusaders were assured of remission of sin and were told that by retaking Jerusalem they would go straight to heaven after death.
Muslims were the other part of these wars and were no less brutal than the Christians. Both religions were interested in Jerusalem and in prosylytisation and the target for prosylytisation for each of them were the Jews. This created a serious conflict of interests. In reality, both the Christians and the Muslims were two mobs of savages, who were further intoxicated by religion. They would have anyway fought each other for historical or political reasons even if there was no mention of any violence in the Bible. The religious establishments of both the religions also played a great part by instigating their respective followers. If Islam had not come into existence, there would not have been any conflict of interests and no crusades. The same thing can be said of Christianity also.
The Muslims held Jerusalem at the start and even after the crusades ended 200 years after and their sentiments were almost a mirror image of those of the Christians.
The Inquisitions started in early 13th century and continued till the last half of 19th century. Pope John XXII had authorized the Inquisition to prosecute sorcerers in 1320.
Belief in witch-craft existed since ancient times and it was always hated by ordinary people. It is said that in Rome, in the year 331 BC, 170 women were executed as witches. In 184 BC, about 2,000 people were executed for witchcraft and in 182-180 BC another 3,000 were executed for witchcraft. Biblical thoughts about witches were only the result of this age old belief.
So, these atrocious incidents started about 1100 years after Jesus and continued for about 800 years after that. Now the question that comes to my mind is ‘who should be blamed for these barbaric incidents? God, Bible, Jesus or the savages of the time?’ To get an answer, I ask myself: ‘why do we despise that kind of human behavior today? Has god advised us better? Has a new prophet arrived? The answer to these all question is “NO!” Time and experience has helped us to mature our thoughts. The barbarians of that time did not have this advantage. They have given it to us at their cost! I therefore look up on these stories as a part of cultural evolution of human beings, and nothing else. I can not blame god for this, the poor chap never existed and was a human invention, I do not blame the bible because it is also created by humans, who apparently were also savages. So, whom do you blame for cultural evolution? Whom do we blame because apes were our ancestors?
Jesus never took to the sword. He accepted a barbaric death peacefully. Eleven of his disciples also accepted death in his name and in peace and even St. Peter’s wife was executed. This tells me that it was not only Christians and the Muslims that were savages, but others that were there before them too were so.
Thinking further, I realize that the Christian mob started repenting and reforming and not the other mob. The Christians realized that combining religious and political power together was the worst ill. So eventually they discovered the idea of secularism. Yes, they were Christians even then. It is they, who, against all bigoted opposition developed modern science. It is they that evolved the modern liberal thought and gave it to the world (including India). Had science and technology not evolved, a far larger proportion of the population of the world would be dying hungry. All these thoughts had created such strong respect for Christianity in my mind, that I used to frequently say that since I do not believe in religion, I stay as I am, or else I would have become a Christian.
Now, the question I would like my atheist friends, “Is it necessary to hate or denigrate something to acquire a new thought or a new vision?” I do not feel good when one atheist sees Christ in a very ugly place and when another says that Christianity is f****d! MIND YOU, I AM STILL AN ATHEIST!
Please correct if and where I may be wrong. I have placed my views in a very rational way and expect you to do the same.
I would strongly suggest, sir, that you read the Bible from cover to cover before you make up your mind with regard to the message of the Christian god. In addition I would suggest that you read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. If you still see Christianity in the same light, it is likely that you are a Christian, whether you know it or not.
> read the Bible from cover to cover before you make up your mind with regard to the message of the Christian god
I think fairly few Christians have done that. A critical reading of Scripture might help you build confidence in your Atheism, but I do not think it would help you understand the motivations and conflicts of typical Christians. Same goes for Mr. Dawkins' writing.
I think MADHUKAR may be saying that Christian culture, as opposed to Christian religion or Christian politics, deserves respect as a force for good in history. I can see that. As bad as the Catholic Church has been throughout history, it was the only civilizing force in Europe for a thousand years.
I would say, though, that almost all the good stuff comes from "Western Civilization" as opposed to Christianity per se, point out how established religion has held back progress (Tower of Babel), and show that the best progress in history has come from secularists like the Deist founding fathers of America.
Andrew, you wrote, "Catholic Church ... was the only civilizing force in Europe for a thousand years."
Are you referring to the "Scientific Advancement" graph showing the Dark Ages? see attached:
No,I do not believe that the Catholic Church has ever advanced knowledge in any form.
I meant that, in the absence of universities and other social institutions, while armed bands ruled Europe for a thousand years, only the Catholic Church preserved learning, books, and what technology existed. I do not claim for a second that they advanced anything. But they did have a hand in preservation.
As a single social institution, however dysfunctional, that spanned the Continent, they also had some role in what little diplomacy took place.
I'm not a historian,so I'm just saying what I think based on things I've read and put together. I think my take on the matter has enough nuance that it is likely to be true.
If I'm wrong, no problem, just show me some contrary evidence.
It is possible that I may be using the wordS 'Christianity' in place of the words 'western culture', but I have to remember that the savages who committed inhuman atrocities were also westerners. I can not credit good to one and bad to the other. However, only in today's context. it may be more correct to use the words 'western culture'.
That's a great essay, Madhukar. Obviously, I can't speak for everyone, but I have a few things to share that may apply to more people than just me.
1. I think the word "Christian" has been unfairly co-opted by fundamentalists in this country, and a lot of hostility against "Christians" is really directed at that extreme group. That's true for me, and I think it applies widely.
2. A lot of atheist and agnostic people, myself included, have very active consciences and resent that religious people think they have a lock on morality when they do so many things that we see as bad.
3. Some people have taken vigorous proselytizing bordering on verbal abuse from the religious group they grew up in. Some have taken physical abuse. In many cases, those folks grow up hostile to the whole idea of religion.
4. To your historical points, the ascent of man through science and social contracts has proceeded inversely to the involvement of the established Church. Look what John Calvin himself did to Miguel Servetus.
While Jesus may be "just alright," I think we can all do without the Church. He never said to go forth and found social clubs in His name, nor to start wars to bring him back.
I keep waiting for the world to go to hell in a handbasket. I guess the basket clogs the drain.
May I just point out that you are referring to Jesus as though he existed. From an atheists point of view, or just mine perhaps, from what I have read and historical documentations it is most unlikely that a person like this existed. As far as I can see Jesus was invented as it is far easier to worship a mortal than an immortal.
History clearly presents evidence of violence and barbaric and intolerable actions on the part of human beings, religious or pagan. The value of remembering our history reveals we know of what human beings are capable. We also benefit by remembering the accomplishments of our religious and heathen ancestors.
My problem with religion revolves around the violence and barbaric and intolerant actions taking place today which are only fueled by ignorance. Racism and sexism and bigotry continues to plague USA populations. The worst threat is the indoctrination of young minds to follow charismatic leaders who would lead them to think the Earth is 6,000 years old, that humans and dinosaurs walked together on the Earth, that obedience is a higher goal than critical thinking. A class-society grows even as we stop lynching black men or exploiting and limiting women of all colors. Yes, some blacks and some women have been able to rise above the race and gender discrimination cesspool. Others do not seem to be able to find a ladder, often because of unhealthy and out-of-date traditions and values.
With so many young people learning from their cribs that being dependent on some external power is of high value they do not learn survival skills needed for today's world; They need modern real problem solving skills, conflict resolution skills, understanding and training that many do not receive. We, I as a teacher, let their generation down, but we also let future generations down by not raising up sciences and technology that they will need to compete against the rising tide of educated people coming out of India and China. No one benefits by education that does not prepare them for future challenges. Creationism and Intelligent Design fail to prepare them for complexities of life.
> Creationism and Intelligent Design fail to prepare them for complexities of life.
I agree, but I can also imagine somebody like Dick Cheney asking, "Who cares if somebody believes cavemen rode dinosaurs? Can they DO the JOB?"
Is it possible that we are prejudiced, and believe unreasonably that only people who think like us can do smart stuff?
Andrew, you wrote, "I can also imagine somebody like Dick Cheney asking, "Who cares if somebody believes cavemen rode dinosaurs? Can they DO the JOB?"
There are others asking, "Is the job worth doing?" or "What are the long range consequences of doing this job?"
So our value-add is to be nabobs of negativity? :)
Sorry for my last comment. A more thoughtful thing to say is this:
If a country can effectively do business, maintain infrastructure, and defend itself, why does it matter what its people believe? How does a belief in creationism keep someone from making money, building roads, or designing a really great weapon?
Just look at Texas.