Several weeks ago I began watching a whole series of videos on the Roman Catholic Inquisition; one of the most evil manifestations of religious control ever seen on this planet (and yet not the only one). The Inquisition lasted well over 600 years and (by many scholar’s estimates) brought about the torture and murder of nearly 50 million people overall (perhaps as many as 75 million or more); many of whom were Jesus-following, Bible-believing Christians whose only crime was they did not accept the supreme authority of the Pope and the notion that salvation can only be had through the religious organization known as the Roman Catholic Church. This is a staggering number to consider… and yet a number that many religious folks refuse to accept as true.
When I heard this number (50 million), I remembered that, recently, I had also listened to some debates between a prominent atheist and a Christian professor concerning the subject of the many atrocities committed in the name of religion over the centuries (a subject that atheists often love to bring up to show how terrible religion is). In defense of the positive effects of religion in society, the Christian professor argued that the number of millions (allegedly killed during the Inquisition period) is severely exaggerated and entirely false and that, in reality, recent studies have shown that the total number of people killed by the Inquisition (both of the Spanish and Medieval) was less than 7,000! I also have close friends that have commented to me on this subject and argued against the multi-million estimation. They agree that the Inquisition was a terrible thing, but that the number and span of atrocities have been exaggerated greatly by secularist individuals seeking to bolster support for their animosity against any recognizable Christian influence in the world.
Not being a fan of hype myself, my own examination has led me (thus far) to the opinion that the Christian professor (in the debate I made reference to) is entirely (though unfortunately) wrong in his estimation of events. Or at least he is not widely considering all the evidence. Perhaps this reflects his own personal bias and attempt to marginalize any negative connotation about religion. While such a motive would be understandable, that doesn’t make it right and the sad fact is, I believe he is seriously wrong. As if 7,000 people were not enough to give example of the evil that religion can sometimes deviate to, there is also plenty to warrant the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is clearly an ungodly and even demonic institution – whose leadership for centuries authorized the most brutal of torture and death all in the name of Jesus Christ. It leaves me wondering how anyone could regard the absolute horror of the Inquisition (in addition to all the disgusting violence done in the name of Jesus over the centuries by religious groups) and still submit themselves to it and think these institutions as being godly and righteous.
My intent in highlighting this information is not simply to demonize the Roman Catholic Institution (and certainly not the many well-intentioned people who ascribe to this religious system in ignorance of Gospel revelation). As a matter of fact, I would rather highlight the detail that what were are really talking about here is the defective result of too much religion! This is sadly what happens when men (whatever their religious affiliation) take advantage of people’s faith in God and make virtual kingdoms of their own by which they intend to set themselves up as authorities, rulers, experts, professionals and elitists – thus also inserting themselves between God and men as mediators and, ultimately, anti-Christs! This deception is widespread; encompassing far more than the Roman Catholic organization. But, for the moment, my thoughts are focused on the great horrors of the Inquisition.
First of all, I discovered that the “new findings” that have come out with the lower numbers are actually released by the very organization that committed the atrocities of the Inquisition! That’s right! Several years ago the Vatican allowed limited access to the secret files of the Inquisition… Note, I say, LIMITED ACCESS! And note I say “SECRET” files. Why limited and why secret? What do they continue to hide? Furthermore, the first statements suggesting that not as many as previously thought were killed during the Inquisition was released by Catholic authorities. Other non-Catholic groups have since examined the history and come to similar conclusions, but this remains a hotly debated subject.
When I look at the issue, I think there is a whole lot more than simply the technical “Inquisition” itself to consider. The horrors committed upon people by organized religion (through such entities as the Roman Catholic Church) reach far beyond just the Inquisition itself. One thing to consider is the fact that the Catholic authorities most regularly turned people over to civil authorities to be put to death, thus these (they could claim) were not “technically” murdered by the Church… to which I say, “Yeah right!” Even if not every person was murdered, countless numbers were brutally tortured at the command of Popes, Bishops, Pastors and Priests! One thing I found interesting is that, during many of the torture sessions, the authorities of the Church would place a veil over the crucifix of Jesus, so as to prohibit the eyes of Christ from witnessing the actions done in His name! Unbelievable stupidity (not to mention the use of Christ himself as an idol)!
The torture and slaughter of people by religious authorities dates back as far as 315, which is when Christianity first was “legalized”. That’s an interesting thought all on its own. Legalism indeed kills! When you read about so-called Christian priests in the fourth and fifth centuries who were known as heroes for murdering “infidels and pagans” and even children… or how about the events that took place on command of pope Innocent III (greatest single pre-nazi mass murderer in history) in 1209? Bezirs (today France) 7/22/1209 destroyed, ALL the inhabitants were slaughtered. Victims (including Catholics refusing to turn over their heretic neighbors and friends) estimated between 20,000-70,000 people… In Carcassonne, 8/15/1209, thousands were slain at the order of the Pope. Other cities followed. Over the next 20 years, nearly all the Cathars (probably half the population of the Languedoc, today southern France) were exterminated (about a million people)… or how about the “Christian” mobs who, under the leadership of a Christian minister, tor a woman to pieces with glass fragments… or the peasants of Steding (Germany) who were unwilling to pay suffocating church taxes: between 5,000 and 11,000 men, women and children were slain as a result! How about 15th century Poland, where 1019 churches and 17,987 villages were plundered by Knights of the Order? The Crusades alone claimed nearly 20 million victims! In the era of witch hunting (1484-1750) according to modern scholars several hundred thousand (about 80% of them female) were burned at the stake or hanged. There are many documents stating that the number of people killed for witchcraft accusations numbers in the millions, though actual numbers are virtually impossible to calculate since many records have been lost, destroyed or kept secret by the Catholic Church. The same Christian professor I mentioned earlier argued that these numbers are also severely exaggerated. He mentioned the Salem Witch Trials actually burned no one at the stake. Nineteen were hung and as many as thirteen people may have died in prison. He pointed out what a small number this was, compared to what many people have the false impression of. Fine… However, this information completely ignores the thousands (perhaps literal millions) that were tortured, imprisoned unto death and brutally killed worldwide for the same accusation. Highlighting the most popular occasion does not dismiss the huge atrocity in actual overall committance.
As a follower of Jesus, it is sad to have to acknowledge the facts that many “secular folks” point to considering the horrible things done in Christ’s name over the years. I wish it were not the case. It is understandable to me why so many are angered because of the testimony and example they have observed by those who claim to be part of the “Jesus camp”. What I can at least say in response though is that those who have committed and even defended these acts DO NOT represent actual Christianity at all! They are frauds, liars, deceived and damned. What is ironic is that I think even most people who claim to want nothing to do with church-world or God, very often still speak favorably of Jesus! They know He was kind and good… that He preached and demonstrated God’s love… and they even know that He was less than fond of the religious crowd; turning moneychangers tables on end! They know He forgave sinners, healed the sick, and then gave His own life for the sake of others (even though they treated Him as a criminal). How strange that they would not look at the evidence they already appear to have grasp of and make the conclusion that Jesus is worthy of following and that modern Christianity (where it so frequently fails to follow Christ) is not worthy of following (and I know plenty of church folks that would get offended at me saying that). I hope that many more people will begin to examine the differences between so-called Christianity and Christ himself and come to see that being a Jesus follower really has nothing at all to do with attending a church or joining the “Christian religion”. Isn’t it simple really? I wish more people could see that it is.
When I look at the number of horrific events actuated in the name of Jesus over the centuries, it makes me mad and makes me want to herald the love and truth of Christ all the more. These numbers of “Christian crimes” go on (and I have only scratched the surface)… All of these at the hand of “Holy Mother Church” and “grandma religion”. And don’t even get me started talking about Hitler and his warped religious ideals and even ties to Rome and the slaughter of the Jews. Rome has had its fingers in the torture and murder of both saints and sinners alike for centuries and, I believe, they still do – although it had become far more disguised in recent years.
I’ve listened to how Catholic (and even Protestants defending Catholic) leaders try to wiggle out of the blame on these things (like the Inquisition). They say things like, “Oh it was a very different time and justice was perceived much differently than today.” Or they say, “Considering the context of the time, these punishments were not considered extreme back then.” Oh really? Tell that to the guy who was hung on a wall and had his skin ripped off down to his waste in the attempt to force a confession. Or those that had their tongues ripped out by the roots… Or their limbs tore out of their sockets. Tell that to those who were boiled alive in oil, or burned at the stake, or had their heads crushed in a vice, or their genitals punctured by various devices, or their eyes gouged out, or their intestines ripped out while conscious. Give me a break! Anyone who cannot see the clear evil that has been actuated by organized religion in the person of the Roman Catholic Church is so severely blind and deceived I have no words to describe.
Several years back, the Pope “apologized” for the Inquisition… However, the blame was not placed directly on the Popes but applied generically to the darkness and ignorance of the time period. What is most important to understand is that, for the Catholic, the Pope is the Vicar of Jesus Christ (the substitute on earth). He is the very voice and glory of God on earth. His very title is “The Holy Father”. He takes upon himself the name of God and the authority of Christ and assumes rulership over all of Christendom. He is not seen as a mere man! This is incredibly important because for a Catholic to admit that Pope after Pope sinned and did not actuate the true commands of God, means a breakdown of their entire faith system. So the Pope’s apology is no apology at all.
What’s even more interesting and curious is that the current Pope, Benedict XVI, was the head of the Inquisition before he became Pope! What, you say? How can that be? The Inquisition ended many long years ago… NO! It did not. It was merely re-named and re-commissioned! This is absolute verifiable fact. Please, look it up! Here is a direct quote from Wikipedia:
“In 1908 the name of the Congregation became “The Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office”, which in 1965 further changed to “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith”, as retained to the present day. The Pope appoints a cardinal to preside over the Congregation, which usually includes ten other cardinals, as well as a prelate and two assistants, all chosen from the Dominican Order. The “Holy Office” also has an international group of consultants, experienced scholars in theology and canon law, who advise it on specific questions.”
“On 25 November 1981, Pope John Paul II named Ratzinger as the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the “Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office”, the historical Inquisition.”
Isn’t that interesting? Well, as I said previously, I’m really not even scratching the surface with all of this, but the reason I’m sharing this today is that watching all of this got me thinking… Though there are many who proudly identify themselves as “Protestants” today and reject the Catholic doctrines, still many of the leaders in these Protestant organizations have a view of the Church of Jesus Christ that is not organic to the Scripture, but birthed in Rome and in gross deception! These believe that the Church is an organization governed (nay, ruled) by men; that it can be identified by specially designated buildings and dogmas. They revel in legalism and liturgy. They see the Church as an Institution of Religion rather than simply the family of God. They hold that a person must submit to religious authority in order to be “spiritually covered” by God and recognized as a “Christian”. While many of them would still say that the Church is not just a building but the family of God, yet their actions prove they believe that Christianity does not properly exist without their control (and I dare argue that they really believe it does not even need the Holy Spirit at all to be maintained). Anyone who does not regularly attend their services, or worship at their altars, or sing their songs, or pay tithes, or submit to their authority are essentially outcast as dissenters, rebels, backsliders, sinners, and lost. They are often ostracized, ridiculed, and rejected completely. They are sometimes even treated as demon possessed, cursed, or those who have been turned over to Satan. I have heard these terms and tags used myself. I have seen how condescending and arrogant these so-called Christian leaders behave concerning those who choose not to associate by their directives. The only difference between the Inquisition of Rome and so many of these modern day man-made churches is that these folks are not physically tortured or killed for their faith… yet, make no mistake, they are tortured emotionally in many ways; slandered, misrepresented, disrespected, and not treated with the Love of Christ.
All of this to say, I would be careful to not simply place judgment on the Roman Catholic Church for their crimes against humanity and especially God’s people throughout history… There are many others, separate from affiliation with Rome, that are equally void of truth and possess no love of Christ and no understanding of what the Lord’s Church truly is. As I watched these videos several weeks ago, and talked with my wife afterwards about it all, I sat there in disbelief that so many people would yet choose to identify themselves by some religious organization than to be a free child of Jesus. The Gospel is so lovely and simple. Just believe and follow Christ. God extends His amazing grace and love, and still people embrace a harlot church system, full of lies and sin. Can you tell that my dander is up just a little bit today?
I was impressed by the stories in one of the major videos I watched (that was not produced by a Christian organization), which told of many Christian people who dared believe that salvation was possible without organized religion; without Popes and Priests, without a bunch of legalistic rituals and tithing taxes… They sought to follow Jesus simply day by day and they loved their neighbors and lived happily and full of joy. It was religion that took this away from them and tried to control them. Yet for all of the force exerted by this sinister religious monster upon the whole world, the Gospel still continued to shine brightly and these followers of Jesus were not swayed (even though some of the most horrific tortures were executed upon them). It was as though God gave them a special grace and supernatural strength to endure the harshest of suffering and even to find joy in the midst of the most horrific suffering! Truly they believed what Jesus had told them:
Luke 12:4 – And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
What joy it is to know we are free indeed because of Christ Jesus! What joy to know that no church, or false authority figure, or legalistic religious system can extinguish the fire of relationship with Jesus we hold fast to! We are truly blessed to not have to suffer in this day as many before us have had to; yet, we should count our blessings and remember to pray for those who do not know the joy and freedom we have. There are, even today, many Christians in other parts of the world, that are imprisoned and killed for their faith still. They need our prayers, and we ought to remember that there, but for God’s grace, go us as well… and may yet as these days grower darker still.
Let us continue to walk in this freedom and while we walk with wisdom, knowing the truth from lies – our eyes being awake from deception, let us not ever be arrogant but continue to walk in humility and love toward all others and pray that God’s grace and truth would ignite the flame of faith, leading them to repentance and set them free.