Leadership, family, theology and world events
Here are some popular statements: “Religion causes war” -Richard Dawkins.“Most wars are fought over religion”, “Christianity is a militant religion because the history of Crusades, Inquisition, New World (dealing with natives) and Holocaust.”How accurate are these statements?
The most important question is: Have Christians done bad things because of Jesus’ teachings, or because of the lack of knowledge on what Jesus has taught, and because of their worldly motives? In other words, do Jesus’s teachings motivate people to do evil or do people act contrary to His teachings, and then dare to use His name? People who have done evil in the name of Jesus either never really knew Him, or did it because of their greed, pride, arrogance and self-indulgence; the very things that Jesus rebuked. These things were done in the name of Jesus, but without Jesus and against Jesus’ will and commandments. In this case not religion has to be on trial, but the human nature. So, the next arguments are not to whitening the evil done, but to set facts straight about what was the real extension and motives
Have Christians made wars less cruel or more brutal?
War was not a Christian invention. Most of wars were fought to get more: power, land, material possession, etc. So, the attempt to blame religion for it is at least shortsighted and bias.
Most of the kings, emperors and tribe leaders who were forced or chose to become Christians in the 3rd-7th centuries, chose for different reasons and weren’t really Jesus followers. After reading about their acts and motives you can’t call people like Constantine or Vladimir the Great saints, it would be at the very least laughable. When many of pagans were forced to or chose to be called Christians for economical or political reasons without really being one, pagan traditions and its mindset influenced that. As one historian said “the barbarians militarized Christianity”
Just war by Augustine wasn’t a promotion of warfare, but the attempt to limit atrocities during the war. Even though the church failed to stop war altogether, it worked to reduce the cruelty in their newly “converted” barbarian kings. Also, there is an overwhelming amount of historical evidence stating that even when the church’s leaders conditionally accepted warfare, there was a lingering pacifistic mood among many monks and clergy throughout the first 1000 years.
Things were different for the next several centuries. There is no getting around the fact that popes had called for the Crusades. Usually, Crusades are represented as a religious zeal, and it was true for many people. Still, the reasons like expansion of the trade for Italian cities, bitterness over centuries of Islamic domination, and greed had nothing to do with Christianity or other religions. However, this has been downplayed in historical studies.
It is another dark chapter. Yet, two facts are usually twisted: reasons and expanse. Fist of all, inquisition wasn’t done only by the church, but often by civic courts. Often inquisition had more to do with, let’s say, a king grabbing more power than religious zeal. One of the responses to Spanish inquisition by Pope Sixtus IV was: “Inquisition has for some time been moved not by zeal for the faith and salvation of souls, but by lust for wealth, and that many true and faithful Christians, on the testimony of enemies, rivals….tortured and condemned as relapsed heretics.” Unfortunately, the Pope had to back off after a strongly negative reaction from Ferdinand king of Spain.
Most historians agree that less than 2% of those who were tried were executed. This gives us around 6,000 executions over a period of 500 years, however it is just an estimation, not a precise number. But we can say for sure that it was thousands, not millions as some believe. Those numbers do not excuse the Catholic Church, but provide with historical facts instead of the Hollywood base impression.
If the first two accusations have some ground, even with taking into consideration the worldly motives and extension, then blaming Christians for atrocity in the New World is more complex. We all know the negative facts about conquistadors and settlers, but the role of clergy is often misrepresented. And only negative examples are cited.
In the 1530s Dominican theologian Francisco de Vitoria concluded: “even if the Christian faith has been announced to the barbarians with complete and sufficient arguments, and they have still refused to receive it, this still does not supply a reason for making war on them and despoiling them of their goods” Numerous times the Jesuits were condemned by Spanish and Portuguese authorities for encouraging Indians to resist and protect savages.
“New Laws of the Indies” 1542 Leyes Nuevas, issued November 20, 1542 by King Charles I of Spain was influenced by people like Spanish missionary Bartolomé de las Casas. It was such a radical protection of Indians, that it created conflict between the Crown and the colonists.
The clergy’s attitude didn’t correspond well with settlers’ view. The settlers saw the chance to get rich, get land, and the obstacle: natives who weren’t that peaceful. Aztec civilization could be called the cruelest civilization ever. According to even the most conservation estimation, human sacrifices could be counted by thousands per year. Besides the Aztecs, several other tribes practiced human sacrifices, torture and cannibalism. So, the missionaries had a task not only to reach natives hearts, but reasoning with settlers to whom natives were nothing but savages.
If calling Christian religion, during the dark ages or medieval time, militaristic would be somewhat understandable, saying the same thing today is a blind lie. According to James T. Johnson, a major writer on the ethics of war and just war theory, Professor at the Center for Middle East Studies, in the Religion Faculty at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Except civil strife in Northern Ireland, the last 300 years of war had never been fought in the name of the Christian faith. Even if some groups still believe that there are places for Just War, some other like Anabaptists, Mennonites, Moravians, Quakers, Dukhobors, Brtheren held a view of total nonviolence view for centuries. Apparently such a big number of people had held that view, so the British government in 1802, issued exemption from military service for reasons of conscience.
In my opinion the biggest overstretch is to blame Christians for the holocaust. Many are pointing out that Hitler was baptized in the Catholic Church, and so was Stalin in Lenin in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Also, there are facts that Hitler was positively mentioning the Bible and Christianity in the 20s and even early 30s. But things changed dramatically when he came to power and a lot of churches and pastors disagreed with his polices of swearing alliance to Hitler, that only Arians can be pastors, and attempts of bringing pagan practices in the church. Thousands of pastors were arrested and many executed.
There have been a number of pastors and common Christians who have accepted his polices either because of a fear or their unbiblical belief of new Germany. But for Hitler and his aides it was clear: they had to do away with any form of Christianity after the war. Here are some of his statements during the late 30s and early 40s. “One is either a Christian or a German. You can’t be both.” “Do you really believe the masses will ever be Christian again? The tale is finished…but we can hasten matters. The parsons will be made to dig their own graves.” His comment about was about Reich, who wanted the synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. “I do not believe this possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself”
The true description of Germany starting from mid 30s to mid 40s is like this: Religious institution was discouraged, school prayers had been optional, denominational schools disappeared, carols and nativity plays were banned in schools, crosses started disappearing from hospitals and schools, religious youth groups were bullied. Only the Dachau concentration camp had 2,750 priests, seminarians, and lay brothers and more than 1000 of them had died there. Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett.
The truth is, yes some so-called Christians in Germany embraced Hitler’s antagonism against Jews, some stood up against it, but many others either choose to keep quiet, or their views didn’t matter because they were in prisons and camps, yet others actively were saving Jews and risking the lives of their own kids.
But did Hitler’s view come from Christians disliking Jews? I believe that his worldview had been shaped more by the theory of evolution than Christianity. The Church traditionally taught that a Jew is one who practices Judaism, and as soon he/she has been converted to Christianity his/her nationality is not important. The new convert is Christian. Hitler’s view weren’t religious but based on the survival of the fittest, which means weak, handicap people and inferior races ought to be eliminated. The church taught, even during its worst period, to accept the weak, poor, handicap and brothers from all nations.
It can not be ignored that huge number of clergy, pastors and just regular Christians risked their life to save Jews, and quite frankly had done more than the US and British governments. The last two, knew what was about to happen and what was happening to Jews, but for different reasons decided to keep it quiet.
It is also important to take into consideration today’s anti-Semitism in post Christian Europe. According to a recent BBC article, 46% of Jews in France and 40% in Belgium are considering to emigrate from those countries due to fear for their safety. The threat is coming from both Muslim extremists and left and right wings political views
What about “Big 5”?
My question to Richard Dawkins would be “how about the “Big 5?”. It is a list of the bloodiest wars and regimes of all time and all of them were started and done by people who were atheists, Marxists, Nationalist, etc. The most conservative numbers as follows:
Mao Zedong 40mil
Stalin’s Regime 20mil
Russian civil War 9mil
Do you consider Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot religious or Christians? Some are going as far as to say well Stalin and Pol Pot had religious education, and Hitler was baptized. Seriously? Try living in those days and confess that you are a Christian and see what would happen to you. No, Richard, they are your guys, your bros, and your company. They were against religion, especially Christianity. Then how is that each leader from the “top 5” killed more people than the 500 years of inquisition and crusades combined?
Show me examples where atheists coming to power didn’t oppress Christians, and opposition? French Revolution? Russian Revolution? Mexican Revolution in the 1920? Red Terror? Mao Zedong’s reign? Cultural revolution in China? It is funny, that today’s secular humanists are trying to distance themselves from their communists and Marxists cousins. Guys, you are all one big family! Your grandma and grandpa are Atheists and Evolutionists.
People who are not Jesus’s followers do evil, despite what they call themselves. Even Jesus’s followers have done evil, but it wasn’t because of what Jesus taught them, but because they either didn’t understand something, or were blinded by materialism, hatred, nationalism, etc. Still, if I personally would have to choose, I would rather end up in the company of imperfect Christians than atheists