Beware the church militant redux! 28

A writer by the name of Enza Ferreri has written an article against Reason. She probably doesn’t see that that is what she’s done. But that is what she’s done. She writes:

It’s all very simple. We can’t fight Islam in the West without fighting the enablers of Islam in the West, namely the Leftists.

So far, so good.

And, since the Left has many different and separate aspects, we have to fight against each one of them. Secularism, environmentalism, global warming alarmism, homosexualism, militant feminism, sexual relativism, multiculturalism, anti-Christianity, Islamophilia, post-nationalism, internationalism are just as important targets to attack as Marxist economics, the expropriation of the capitalist class (or, in its modern reincarnation, redistribution of wealth), and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The words we have put in bold mark the issues we dispute with Enza Ferreri.

We don’t know what “homosexualism” is, or “sexual relativism”.

We consider sexual choices to be private matters (unless they involve children). They are certainly not dangerous threats to the survival of the West.

But while we agree with the author on her other “targets”, we emphatically disagree with her when it comes to secularism and anti-Christianity.

First, secularism:

Secularism is not the same as Leftism. Between the founding of the United States of America and the dawning in the 1960s of this Leftist age, there was a very long stretch of secularism, liberty, and prosperity.

But in those times and those countries where a church (in the widest sense) has been the ruling power, there has always been tyranny. What greater tyranny can there be than the imposition of an orthodoxy on every mind?

Communism and Nazism also impose orthodoxy, and punish dissent as cruelly as a theocracy. That is one of the reasons why we class these ideologies as religions. Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Maoist China were not secular states; they were orthodoxies, as tyrannous as the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, or the newly declared Islamic State now.  

The secular state, and only the secular state, is a free state.  Secularism is freedom. Freedom is only possible in the secular state. 

Next, anti-Christianity:

In a free, secular society, people are free to be Christians. But people are equally free to criticize Christianity.

Neglecting any of these fronts is like fighting a war leaving a battleground to the enemy, like fighting on the Western front and leaving totally undefended the Eastern one.

Secularism and atheism are certainly the first lines of important wars.

So she contends that the prime enemy in her war is freedom. That being so, she has no case to make against Islam or Marxism.

For all that she seems to be speaking for tolerance (being against Islamophilia) and reason (being against environmentalism, global warming alarmism, “militant feminism”); and against Islam (aka multiculturalism) and Marxism (redistribution etc.), she is actually speaking for her own choice of intolerant, irrational, orthodox tyranny.

A secularist West will always lose to Islam, because it will have enough compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence that are the remnants of its Christian heritage, but it will have lost the ideals, the passion and certainty of fighting for a just cause that were once part of Christianity and have disappeared with its erosion.

Her assumptions are arrogant to an extreme. Compassion, tolerance and self-restraint from violence are not the legacies of “a Christian heritage” but of enlightened reason.

It is pointless to try and fight one irrational belief, such as Islam or Marxism, by setting up another irrational belief, such as Christianity, in opposition to it. There is no better reason to believe in the Trinity than in Allah or the inevitability of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Two quotes here serve as epigrams. Robert Spencer wrote in his great work Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t: “People who are ashamed of their own culture will not defend it.” And Dennis Prager said during one of his radio broadcasts, “Only good religion can counter bad religion.”

We admire much that Robert Spencer and Denis Prager write. And we think Spencer makes a point here worth thinking about. But to Prager’s assertion we say, nonsense!

Some people claim that there won’t be a religious revival in Europe because we are past believing in God. That this is not true can be seen by the high – and increasing – number of Westerners who convert to Islam. Many of them give as a reason for their conversion the need for absolutes, boundaries and well-defined status. A journalist writing for The Spectator on this subject explained why she is Catholic:

But above all, I like the moral certainties. I don’t mind the dogma one bit. I would rather dogma and impossible ideals than confusion and compromise. In that sense, I do identify with those who choose Islam over the way of no faith, or a seemingly uncertain faith, like the woolly old C of E.

Confusion and compromise is inescapable. How can dogma – which is to say being incurably wrong –  and “impossible ideals” be better than admitting the truth of scio nescio: I know that I do not know? It is as if the culture on which such persons as the quoted Catholic and the author of the article have been raised was never affected by Socratean doubt, the Enlightenment, the assumption of ignorance upon which all true science proceeds.

William Kilpatrick, in Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West – a book I thoroughly recommend reading -, writes: Brian Young’s friends said he was troubled by the decadence of Western society. David Courtrailler’s lawyer said, “For David, Islam ordered his life.” These are the sorts of reasons ordinary converts to Islam give. A common refrain from converts is that Islam provides a complete plan for life in contrast to the ruleless and clueless life offered by secular society. As Mary Fallot, a young French convert, explains, “Islam demands a closeness to God. Islam is simpler, more rigorous, and it’s easier because it is explicit. I was looking for a framework; man needs rules and behavior to follow. Christianity did not give me the same reference points.” If you look at the convert testimonials on Muslim websites, they echo this refrain: Islam brings “peace”, “order”, “discipline”, and a way of life that Christianity and other religions fail to offer.

Islam brings peace!  He – and she – can say that with a straight face? While IS (ISIS, ISIL) is rampaging through Syria and Iraq mass-slaughtering, impaling, crucifying, decapitating, raping, enslaving; while Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into Israel; while civil war rages in Syria; while Yezidis, Kurds, Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, other Muslims are being daily killed and constantly persecuted by Muslims?

Astonishing that some women crave the “order” and “discipline” of subjugation; when the “discipline” is exerted by enslavement, beatings, whippings, stonings, legal discrimination.

Human beings will never be past the need for believing in something bigger than themselves, because that need is part of the human mind.

Where are there human beings who do not know that natural forces are “bigger than themselves”? Who among us does not know that we are mortal?

She continues in the same vein. We’ll not irritate our readers with all of it. She is a true believer. And what she believes is that Christianity is good and true.

We will skip to what she quotes as wisdom from a Catholic primate:

A clear direction was given by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy. As early as 30 September 2000, before 9/11, when very few in the West even thought of worrying about Islam, he delivered a very forward-looking speech, which included this premonition:

… Either Europe will become Christian again or it will become Muslim. What I see without future is the “culture of nothing”, of freedom without limits and without content, of skepticism boasted as intellectual achievement, which seems to be the attitude largely dominant among European peoples, all more or less rich of means and poor of truths. This “culture of nothingness” (sustained by hedonism and libertarian insatiability) will not be able to withstand the ideological onslaught of Islam, which will not be missing: only the rediscovery of the Christian event as the only salvation for man – and therefore only a strong resurrection of the ancient soul of Europe – will offer a different outcome to this inevitable confrontation.

The culture of reason is not a “culture of nothing”. It is a culture of rational humility; of admitting ignorance and trying to find the truth, even if one can never be certain one has found it. Skepticism is the only engine of discovery.

“Freedom without limits”? Freedom of action always has a limit. In a free society, everyone’s freedom is limited by everyone else’s under the rule of law. But indeed the freedom of the mind has no limits, nor should it have any.

Notice the snide swipe at riches and “hedonism”. Do you think that he, as a cardinal, pigs it in some hovel?

By “truths” he means the  patent absurdities of Christian theological belief.

“Libertarian insatiability”. What the heck does that mean?

If the Western culture of reason, secularism, liberty, skepticism, science, cannot withstand the onslaught of Islam, it will be because that culture has been abandoned by people like Enza Ferreri.

She goes on to blame shrinking birthrates on secularism.  Then she ends with this:

Militant atheists à la Richard Dawkins have not really given enough thought to the long-term consequences of their ideas, which we are beginning to see.

And of which we are reminded whenever, for example, we read in the news of doctors and missionaries who die of Ebola while assisting affected patients for Christian charities. Not many atheist charities are involved in that work.

How many cures for diseases have been found by scientists among whom atheists are in a huge majority? The medical researchers who eliminated smallpox; those who found how to detect the beginnings of cancer and treat it before it becomes lethal, and how to restore wholeness to lepers and replace a faulty heart or kidney …. the list could run on for hours … cure more people than all the martyrdom-seeking self-righteous preachy Christians out to save their imaginary souls by “assisting affected patients” have ever done or could do in a thousand years.

As a reminder to readers who have a strong stomach of what happened when the Christian Churches provided “order” and “discipline” to Europe and wherever else they could reach, we recommend The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual by Jonathan Kirsch, and our own post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity by Jillian Becker, April 25, 2010. (Put the title in our search slot.)

Nothing IS (ISIS, ISIL) is doing now in the name of Islam is worse in type or degree than what those Christians did in the name of Christianity.

The world needs saving from religion.

Torturing for Christ 3

We often speak of persecutions and cruelties carried out in the name of Christianity. Multitudes of examples are to be found in the history of the medieval Papal Inquisition. Volumes have been written about that terrifying institution, and the chronicles hold an immense fund of horrors. A good case could be made that the Catholic Church is the most terrible institution ever established in human history, in that its intensely cruel and terrifying power of oppression continued for hundred of years. Nazism and Communism, no less cruel and terrifying, were comparatively short-lived in the 20th century. But Communism is still with us, and there is the possibility that it might persist  in parts of the world, or even be spread over all of it, for an unpredictable length of time. And of course Islam, an ideology of oppression and mass murder, has lasted longer than all the active Catholic inquisitions, is still with us, and is spreading at an ever accelerating pace.

But we will concentrate at present on the Roman Catholic Church’s arm of persecution.

On May 1, 2011, we posted The heretics of Languedoc, an outline of the story of the Cathars who were destroyed by the Catholic Church. As a sequel, we have selected these quotations from an essay to be found here.

The Inquisition set up in the Languedoc was not the first Inquisition set up by the Roman Church.. The Inquisition which is the subject of this page was the Medieval Inquisition, established informally by Pope Innocent III in the early thirteenth century and formalised by later popes. …

The express purpose of this original medieval Inquisition was to discover and eliminate vestiges of Cathar belief left after the Cathar Crusades. …

By the end of the fourteenth century Catharism had been virtually extirpated. Before the Crusade the Languedoc, under the Counts of Toulouse, had been the most civilised land in Europe. People here had preferred simple asceticism to venality and corruption. Learning had been highly valued. Literacy had been widespread, and popular literature had developed earlier than anywhere else in Europe. Religious tolerance had been widely practised. Jews enjoyed ordinary civil rights. The Languedoc had been the home of courtly love, poetry, romance, chivalry and the troubadours. All this was swept away by the Albigensian Crusade and Inquisition.

Procedures were developed over time, evolving from fairly amateur attempts to establish guilt to a sophisticated mechanism that would guarantee guilt. …

From contemporary documents we can trace the development of the torture techniques developed by Dominican Inquisitors. Here for example is an extract from an open letter written around 1285 by the Consuls of Carcassonne to Jean Galand, an Inquisitor at Carcassonne.

Contrary the the practice and custom of your predecessors, you have created a prison called “The Wall”, which would be better called “Hell”. In it you have constructed small cells to inflict pain and to mistreat people using various types of torture. Some cells are so dark and airless that those imprisoned there cannot tell whether it is night or day. They permanently lack air and light. In other cells the miserable prisoners remain in fetters – of either wood or metal – and are unable to move. They excrete and urinate where they are, and cannot lie down except on their backs on the cold earth … In other places in the prison they lack air and light and also food, exept the “bread of adversity, and the water of affliction” which are provided only rarely. Some are placed on the chevelet [an instrument of torture]; many of them have lost the use of their limbs because of the severity of the torture and are rendered entirely powerless … Life for them is an agony, and death a relief. Under these constraints they affirm as true what is false, prefering to die once than to be thus tortured multiple times … they accuse not only themselves but also others who are innocent, in order to escape their suffering in any way … those who so confess reveal afterwards that what they have said to the Brother Inquisitors [Dominicans] is not true, but false, and that they have confessed out of fear of the peril of the moment. To some of those [witnesses] that you cite you promise immunity so that they will more freely denounce others without fear.

From other sources we know that the bread was stale and the water fetid – a diet that often resulted in death within weeks or months. …

The procedure was that Inquisitors would announce their arrival in a town in advance. Everyone was invited to attend and confess their errors. When the Inquisitors arrived “volunteers” were interviewed. If they confessed to relatively minor misdeeds, were prepared to swear fidelity to the Catholic Church, and were willing to provide useful information about others then they were given a small penance and the matter was closed. Some of the consequences of this practice were:

It provided an opportunity for obliging Catholics to betray friends and family, and a virtual obligation for everyone to do so – failure to provide useful information was taken as lack of genuine zeal and commitment to the One True Church.

It provided a formal record of a first offence. This had a salutary effect since a second offence carried the death penalty.

It efficiently filtered out Cathar parfaits [“perfects”] and other “heretics” who were not willing to swear any oath, let alone one of fidelity to the Catholic Church. Anyone who had not volunteered was immediately suspected, and their failure to confess voluntarily was itself evidence against them.

Repentant first offenders who admitted to having been Cathar heretics, when released on licence by the Inquisition were required to:

“… carry from now on and forever two yellow crosses on all their clothes, except their shirts, and one arm shall be two palms long while the other transversal arm shall be a palm and a half long and each shall be three digits wide with one to be worn in front on the chest and the other between the shoulders.”

Victims were required to renew the crosses if they became torn or destroyed by age. These yellow crosses, like the yellow badges of a different shape that the Catholic Church required Jews to wear, were badges of infamy – warning to good Catholics to shun the wearers. These crosses were known in Occitan as “las debanadoras” – reels or winding machines. The idea seems to be that offenders could be “reeled in” by the Inquisition at any time. This was a serious concern since a second accusation meant a second conviction, and a second conviction meant death.

From its begining, the Papal Inquisition worked by ignoring all rules of natural justice. Guilt was assumed from the start. The accused had no right to see the evidence against them, or their accusers. They were not always told what the charges were against them. They had no right to legal counsel, and if exceptionally they were allowed a legal representative then the representative risked being arrested for heresy as well.

People were charged on the say-so of hostile neighbours, known enemies and professional informers who were paid on commission. False accusations, if exposed, were excused if they were the result of “zeal for the Faith”. Guilty verdicts were assured – especially since, in addition to their punishment, half of a guilty person’s property was seized by the Church. The Dominicans soon hit on the idea of digging up and trying dead people, so that they could seize property from their heirs. …

Torture became a favourite method of extracting confessions for offences both real and fabricated. Its use was explicitly sanctioned by Pope Innocent IV in 1252 in his bull ad extirpanda though it had been practiced from the earliest days. Inquisitors and their assistants were permitted to absolve one another for applying torture. Instruments of torture, like crusaders’ weapons, were routinely blessed with holy water.

Torture was applied to obtain whatever confessions were required, and sometimes just to punish people that the Church authorities did not like – people could be and were tortured even after they had confessed. …

These techniques were responsible for the first police state in Europe, where the only thoughts and actions permitted were those approved of by the Roman Church, where no-one could be trusted, and where duty to the totalitarian authority took precedence over all other duties

It is difficult to find any technique of modern totalitarianism that was not pioneered by the Medieval Inquisition

Inquisitors even charged people for the equipment used to execute members of their families

Tortures varied from time to time and place to place, but the following represent the more popular options.

Victims were stripped and bound. The cords were tied around the body and limbs in such a way that they could be tightened, by a windlass if necessary, until they acted like multiple tourniquets. By attaching the cords to a pulley the victim could be hoisted off the ground for hours, then dropped. Whether the victim was pulled up short before the weight touched the floor, or allowed to fall to the floor, the pain was acute. This was the torture of the pulley, also known as squassation and the strappado. John Howard, the prison reformer, found this still in use in Rome in the second half of the eighteenth century.

The rack was a favourite for dislocating limbs. …

The victim could be flogged, bathed in scalding water with lime, and have their eyes removed with purpose designed eye-gougers.

Fingernails were pulled out. Grésillons (thumbscrews) were applied to thumbs and big toes until the bones were crushed.

The victim was forced to sit on a spiked iron chair that could be heated by a fire underneath until it glowed red-hot.

Branding irons and red-hot pincers were also used.

The victim’s feet could be placed in a wooden frame called a boot. Wedges were then hammered in until the bones shattered, and the ‘blood and marrow spouted forth in great abundance’. Alternatively the feet could be held over an open fire, and literally roasted until the bones fell out; or they could be placed in huge leather boots into which boiling water was poured, or in metal boots into which molten lead was poured.

Since the holy proceedings were conducted for the greater glory of God the instruments of torture were sprinkled with holy water.

Whole families were accused. …

Hearings … were held in secret, generally conducted by men whose identities were concealed. In the Papal States and elsewhere, Dominicans acted as both judges and prosecutors. By papal command they were forbidden to show mercy. There was no appeal. …

No genuine defence could be sustained. For example, if a husband provided an alibi, saying that his wife had been asleep in his arms when she was alleged to have been attending a witches’ sabbat, it would be explained to him that a demon had adopted the form of his wife while she was away….

Spies were employed with the incentive of payment by results. Perjury was pardoned if it was the outcome of ‘zeal for the faith’ – i.e. supporting the prosecution. …

Those who helped the inquisitors were granted the same indulgences as pilgrims to the Holy Land. Any advocates acting for and any witnesses giving evidence on behalf of a suspect laid themselves open to charges of abetting heresy. No one was ever acquitted, a released person always being liable to re-arrest and a condemned person liable to a revised sentence with no retrial, at the discretion of the Inquisitor. … Confessions were virtually guaranteed unless the victim died under torture. Then came the sentence, and execution of the sentence.

The method of execution was most often burning at the stake.

The Church claims that it never killed its victims; it handed them over to the lay authorities to be punished. This was called “relaxing” the condemned heretic. He or she was “handed to the magistrates with a recommendation to mercy and instruction that no blood be shed. The supreme hypocrisy of this was that if the magistrate did not burn the victims on the following day, he was himself liable to be charged with abetting heresy.”

People were executed for failing to fast during Lent, for homosexuality, fornication, explaining scientific discoveries, and even for professional acting. …

The victims were forced to pay for their torture and execution:

The estates of those found guilty were forfeit, after the deduction of expenses. Expenses included the costs of the investigation, torture, trial, imprisonment and execution. The accused bore it all, including wine for the guards, meals for the judges, and travel expenses for the torturer. Victims were even charged for the ropes to bind them and them and the tar and wood to burn them. Generally, after paying these expenses, half of the balance of the estate went to the Inquisitors and half to the Pope, or a temporal lord.

Torture and murder were highly profitable to a church that preaches poverty as a virtue. Why, we ask – expecting no answer – doesn’t universal disgust, if nothing else, deprive it of all its adherents?


This picture illustrates a burning to death of “heretics” by the Spanish Inquisition

Victims of the Inquisition Led to Their Act of Faith


Footnote: It should not be imagined that Protestantism was any more merciful than Catholicism. See our post Calvin: a chapter in the terrible history of Christianity, April 25, 2010.