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The Theory and Practice of Religion

One of the things I note often when talking to Christians and examining Christian behavior is how different the theory and practice of Christianity really is. One issue is the contradictory teachings of the Bible (especially between the two testaments) and how the Bible is interpreted (and how it has been translated over the years) but it goes away beyond that. Many people who call themselves Christians simply don't follow the philosophy of the new testament - in fact I would say in many ways I follow it better, and I'm an atheist!

Today many Christians criticise the behaviour of Muslim extremists, and rightly so. But they should look at the parallels between the past behaviour of Christians and the current behaviour of some Muslims. One difference I have noticed is that in the past the disgusting behaviour of Christians has been encouraged, and in fact initiated, by the church hierarchy. Today, Muslim extremists aren't supported by the mainstream church. I admit that Christians are relatively well behaved today, but their past should be a constant reminder of what mindlessly following a belief system can lead to, and there is no doubt to me that fundamentalist Christians really are like mindless zombies who can be fed any nonsense by their leaders which might easily lead to extreme anti-social behavior.

Excuses

Christians offer various excuses for the behavior of their fellow believers. The two most common excuses are: they weren't real Christians, only members of (add your particular sect here) are Christians, or everyone does bad things, not just Christians, so we can't be blamed for that. The first excuse can be used by everyone. Every sect thinks theirs is the one true branch of Christianity - and they all have common basic beliefs, so to me they are all Christians and excuse number one doesn't apply. There is more sense in excuse number two. Its probably true that there is good and bad in every group of humans, but at best this means Christians are just like every one else - I would have thought that given the preaching of Christ they should be better.

A History of Christian Atrocities

The following is just a fraction of the repulsive behavior the Christians have been involved with over the centuries. Have a look on other Internet sites for the details of how they tortured their victims during the inquisition or a description of a witch burning (or just leave it to your imagination)...

The early years: As soon as Christianity became legal in the Roman Empire pagan priests were killed. Between 315 and 6th century thousands of pagan believers were slain and their temples destroyed. Participation in pagan services were punishable by death in 356 (and this included children).

Murdering intellectuals: Hypatia, a famous female philosopher was torn to pieces by a hysterical Christian mob using glass fragments in a church in 415. In 1538 a university professor, B. Hubmaier, was burned at the stake in Vienna.

The Crusades: During the First (1096) and Second (1147) Crusade thousands of Jews were slaughtered. During the Third Crusade (1189-1190) English Jewish communities were sacked. In 1099, Jerusalem was conquered at the cost of more than 60,000 men, women, and children. In the words of one witness: "there was such a carnage that our people were wading ankle-deep in the blood of our foes", and after that "happily and crying for joy our people marched to our Saviour's tomb, to honour it and to pay off our debt of gratitude." The total number of victims of the Crusades is likely to be around 20 million. During the Crusades against Hussites in the 15th century, thousands were slain.

Exterminating Jews: In the 4th and 5th centuries synagogues were burned and Jews killed by Christians. In 1348 about 20,000 Jews in Basel were burned by Christians, the next year all the Jews in hundreds of towns were killed (mostly burned). In Poland in 1648, during the Chmielnitzki massacres, 200,000 Jews were slain. Not only did the Nazis (lead by a Christian) exterminate millions of Jews but other Christians set up death camps, independently of the Nazis, and murdered about half a million victims of various backgrounds. They were even efficient enough to have a camp specifically for children.

The slaughter of Jews by Christians is particularly repulsive. I thought they both believed in the same god. One good thing about Christians is they don't have favourites - they'll torture and murder anyone or any group if it will help them gain or maintain power.

The Spanish Inquisition: In 1568 the Spanish Inquisition Tribunal ordered extermination of 3 million rebels in the Netherlands. Spanish Inquisitor Torquemada, a former Dominican friar, was responsible for over 10,000.

Witch Hunting: In the era of witch hunting (1484-1750) according to modern scholars several hundred thousand witches (about 80% female) were burned at the stake or hanged. During the 16th century accusations of witchcraft were widespread: English Catholics were murdered by Protestants (30,000 were burned at the stake), in Germany 100,000 witches were killed. Similar behavior occurred in other Christian countries.

Christian Wars: In the 17th century, Catholics sacked the city of Magdeburg killing about 30,000 Protestants. In one single church fifty women were found beheaded, and infants were still sucking the breasts of their lifeless mothers. During the 30 Years' War, involving Catholics and Protestants at least 40% of population was decimated.

And its still happening: A court in Rwanda has sentenced two Roman Catholic priests to death for their role in the genocide of 1994, in which up to a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Pope John Paul said the priests must be made to account for their actions. Different sections of the Rwandan church have been widely accused of playing an active role in the genocide of 1994.

Discussion

Comment by Jim on 2006-08-17 at 14:47:05: The fact is that many so-called Christians have done bad things but they weren't following Jesus' teaching so they weren't real Christians. Also, non-Christains have been responsible for far more atrocities so if everyone was a Christian we would be a lot better off. Do some research and you will see this is true.

Comment by OJB on 2006-08-17 at 19:27:58: OK, you are creating a bit of a circular argument here. Christians are always good because if they are not then they aren't really Christian. I wonder if anybody is really a Christian then. The fact is that these people specifically did these terrible things because of their beliefs, and they specifically classified these beliefs as Christian. I agree that some atheists have also done "evil" things, but not because they were atheists. For example, the atrocities of communist Russia were polit...

Comment by Anonymous on 2007-04-01 at 21:58:44: Strictly speaking no-one is truly Christian. Most people can only approach the Christian ideal - that is adherence to Christ teachings which as we well know are, simply put, love. No one can fault that and therefore if everyone was Christian, we wouldn't have a problem in the world. But of course Christians are people, and so are flawed. Some 'Christians' of the past did some decidedly bad things. To put it in context but not excuse the behavior, the crusades were a punctuation mark in the ...

Comment by OJB on 2007-04-02 at 10:26:59: Strictly speaking no one is truly anything. For example, I doubt whether any scientist has ever fully lived up to the ideal standards of objectivity we want from science. What we have to do is base our assessments on what people actually are, not what they could be. As far as the relative number of atrocities perpetrated by different groups are concerned. The evil behaviour of atheist regimes isn't because they are atheist. Most of the problems in Russia were politically motivated, and nothin...

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