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Today’s Guest Post By: Nina. Please heck out her blog at: LadyFreethinker.com
I had tears in my eyes while creating this list, and I wish I could spy an end to the torture, murder and persecution that often comes hand-in-hand with blind faith. Religion can be perilous in the wrong hands, and we shouldn’t ignore the damage that stems from trying to forcibly convert people who don’t believe in a particular mythology. In some cases, people who probably did believe were punished because they didn’t conform to the standards set by the religious powers of the day.
The scary part is that millions of people still think they can justify their actions or beliefs with a passage from the Bible or Quran without first questioning the reasoning or moral implication. Whether that means discriminating against homosexuals, torturing animals or starting a holy war, the logic (or lack thereof) is the same.
Surely, other travesties belong on this list; but these make up some of the most atrocious horrors that religion has helped spawn throughout human history.
1. The Crusades
The Roman Catholic Church launched the Crusades in 1095 to gain Christian control of Muslim-occupied Jerusalem. Hmmm, sounds familiar. Pope Urban II started the first of the string of bloody holy wars, calling to ““exterminate this vile race from our lands.” Eventually, Christian armies also attempted to overtake the Moors, Slavs and Pagans until the Crusades finally ended in 1291. There was even a Childrens Crusade at one point, when a twelve-year old preacher claimed that Christ himself had instructed him to convert the Muslims. He reportedly led an army of about 30,000 adults and children in his zealous but short-lived campaign.
Human toll: Approximately 200,000 deaths, though accounts vary
2. The Spanish Inquisition
After forcing baptism on the Jews, the Catholic Church set out to find and prosecute those secretly practicing their chosen religion. Muslims, homosexuals and other “heretics” were vulnerable as well, and victims were subject to one-sided trials and torture as they were pressed to confess their sins. To fund the massive endeavor, officials seized the accuseds’ properties—although the Crown backed the Inquisitions, they did not pay for it themselves. The Inquisition began in 1480, and dragged on until 1834 (with a short break under liberal Napoleonic rule).
Human toll: 150,000 people accused of heresy, 3,000 executed
3. The European Witch Hunts
Talk about a war on women. From about 1450 to 1750 in Europe, Christians rounded up suspected witches, who were thought to have supernatural powers bestowed by the devil himself, and brutally tortured them to the point of confession. About half of the accused were hanged or burned at the stake, and a whopping 75 to 80 percent of these victims were female—those who didn’t conform to the patriarchy were most likely to be persecuted.
Human toll: 60,000 deaths, approximately
We know this one all too well. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda operatives hijacked four commercial planes in the United States. The terrorists crashed two planes into the World Trade Center in New York, and another into the Pentagon; the fourth plane crashed when brave passengers overtook their assailants, potentially saving thousands of lives. The act was a declaration of holy war against the US by Muslim extremist Osama bin Laden, and spawned two controversial wars that remain unresolved.
Human toll: 2,996 deaths, including the 19 hijackers
5. The Salem Witch Trials
What this episode lacks in scope it makes up for in pure idiocy. In a mind-boggling display of stupidity in 1692, leaders of the Puritan town of Salem allowed a couple of moaning, convulsing pre-teenage girls to convince them that devil-worshipping witches were in their midst. The girls’ tantrums and thoughtless accusations led to a local witch-hunting craze that ended only after the governor’s own wife was accused.
Human toll: 19 hangings, one 71-year-old man crushed with stone.
———-Thank you Nina for taking the time to write this up.
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