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Were the Inquisitors bad people?

 article about Were the Inquisitors bad people?

This article belongs to Religion theme.


I claim that those medieval church fathers and inquisitors in the service of the church who destroyed their religious opponents without mercy were not basically bad or evil people.

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Medieval church fathers did their evil things just because they loved their neighbours too much.
On the contrary they did their deeds just because they believed that wrong knowledge would really harm people. This harmful knowledge would prevent people from accepting the only truth presented by the church, accepting of which would be the only way to eternal salvation that was far more important thing for them than the brief visit on earth.

In fact they often did their evil things just because they loved their neighbours too much.

Pedro Berruguete. Saint Dominic Presiding over an Auto-da-fe, painted around 1495. (Wikipedia)

What were the forces that did drive these people to use the all the horrors of inquisition and even burning at stake to protect their neighbors from the evils of wrong knowledge? What are the motives that drive religions to act like this?

One very interesting way to explain this process this is the guild-theory created by especially Pascal Boyer. In the societies of antiquity and medieval times most of the work in a society was done by different guilds. The different professions formed closed societies that took care of that the production and prices were kept at suitable levels and there was no outside competition.

In similar vein the spiritual needs of a society were taken care by a guild which did protect and guards the needs of its own profession like any other guilds did. When knowledge was the only resource this guild had, it had first and foremost to keep the rivalling bases of knowledge away to keep its position intact.

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The basic techniques for keeping a religion alive are old, but only the invention of writing did in fact make it possible to create religions that would pass for generations at an end basically unchanged.
In similar vein one can ask why just the few religions we have now do exists, but hundreds of others have perished without leaving any traces?

One plausible explanation is that just the remaining religions have perfected the methods and tactics that keep a religion alive and unchanged from generation to generation. There has been an evolutionary process that has created the religions we among us just now.

The basic techniques for keeping a religion alive are old, but only the invention of writing did in fact make it possible to create religions that would pass for generations at an end basically unchanged. The belief-systems preceding written religions would inevitably degenerate and change rapidly, when things would inevitably be remembered differently or simply forgotten.

Only after the invention of writing could one create rulebooks that would make it possible to check how one should think on given positions and the process of degeneration of religions would slow down or even stop altogether.

Finally in the Roman Empire there was a quite unique situation where different religions could freely compete for the minds of the people of this vast empire and this evolutionary process was intensified greatly.

In this extremely rare evolutionary jungle of religions only such a guild did survive, who denied other religions the right to even exist and who were most active in extinguishing the other religions.

More benign and benevolent religions were crushed and their teaching could survive only in areas where the winner's strong hand could not reach them.

The members of victorious Catholic Church did not naturally see their motives in this light at all. The evolutionary process had anyhow brought about a situation in which only such religion could survive that could make its followers to work for this religion quite unselfishly and above all to hate all those who believed differently.

Those members of clergy who mercilessly destroyed unbelievers did not do these things for selfish reasons and motives. Only an outsider could clearly see how their actions were aimed to preserve the power of their own religious institutions.
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In fact very often you need to be an outsider to see the real motivations behind the actions of a tightly knit organization.

They themselves could not have understood that this was indeed was the real motivation behind their actions, even if they must have all the time consciously pondered what line of action would benefit the Mother Church most. Their motives would appear to them to be without any personal ambitions.

In fact very often you need to be an outsider to see the real motivations behind the actions of a tightly knit organization. Such outsiders have not been present in the ranks of the scholars studying the medieval history, as they have mostly been a part of a very Christian tradition of looking at history.

The social and spiritual standing of the western state churches has been wiped away by Age of Enlightenment, rise of humanism and especially by rise of real science and they cannot physically attack those thinking differently anymore.
The old basic techniques of preserving a religious tradition are however still there and in full use.

All the basic rites of passage are still administered by the religions, nearly are children born in western Europe are still automatically taken to be members of the state church and the religious indoctrination is started well before children can understand what it is all about. This forced feeding of religious doctrines is continued at schools, if parent do not act actively to prevent it.


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