Mass Murder 

New Testament Early Church
Albigensian Crusade Waldensians
Michael Servetus What Went Wrong?
Canaan Constantine
No True Scotsman Pagan Intolerance
Atheist Mass Murder Islam
The Crusades All or Nothing
Peter the Hermit Iraq

New Testament

The New Testament prescribes shunning heretics, not murder:

"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." (2 John 1:10-11).
"Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them." (Romans 16:17).
"Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned." (Titus 3:10-11).

This is common church discipline for those brothers not walking the walk:

“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

Not keeping company with people is consistent with a long and happy life on the part of those thus treated.

False professors are a problem in every religious community. Jesus gave exact instructions on how to deal with the problem:

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

(Matthew 13:24-30)

Is the Lord's solution to the problem to make exhaustive inquisition until the fakes are detected and expelled from the fellowship? No, the church is to let them be. Let God detect and process the tares. Refashioning church life as a continuinig search-and-destroy mission to uncover and uproot the tares, while it certainly will find tares, will make the church a place of anxiety and mistrust rather than a haven. And so the Lord said, don't do it. Which hasn't stopped people from doing it.


Early Church

The early church writers continued the New Testament emphasis on religious toleration:

"However, it is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to his own convictions: one man’s religion neither harms nor helps another man. It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion — to which free-will and not force should lead us — the sacrificial victims even being required of a willing mind. You will render no real service to your gods by compelling us to sacrifice. For they can have no desire of offerings from the unwilling, unless they are animated by a spirit of contention, which is a thing altogether undivine. Accordingly the true God bestows His blessings alike on wicked men and on His own elect; upon which account He has appointed an eternal judgment, when both thankful and unthankful will have to stand before His bar." (To Scapula, Tertullian, Chapter 2).

Religious toleration is not a North African-specific development. And it sure as shooting is not an 'Anglo-Saxon' or 'Anglo-Protestant' development, as some people claim. One recent, spectacularly bad discussion gives this history for American religious liberty (which the author wishes to rescind in any case): "Thus, the American tradition of religious liberty, at least into the founding era, reflects a people-specific development—a particularity arising from a people applying universal principles for themselves themselves over time." (Wolfe, Stephen. The Case for Christian Nationalism (pp. 400-401).) Rather, the same cause: the teaching of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, was taken seriously and produced the same result.

Refuting the pagan Celsus, Origen notes Christians could not, even if they wished, reimpose the Mosaic law, being forbidden to strike their enemies:

"However, if we must refer briefly to the difference between the constitution which was given to the Jews of old by Moses, and that which the Christians, under the direction of Christ’s teaching, wish now to establish, we would observe that it must be impossible for the legislation of Moses, taken literally, to harmonize with the calling of the Gentiles, and with their subjection to the Roman government; and on the other hand, it would be impossible for the Jews to preserve their civil economy unchanged, supposing that they should embrace the Gospel. For Christians could not slay their enemies, or condemn to be burned or stoned, as Moses commands, those who had broken the law, and were therefore condemned as deserving of these punishments; since the Jews themselves, however desirous of carrying out their law, are not able to inflict these punishments." (Origen, Against Celsus, Book 7, Chapter 26)

Lactantius sings the swan-song of the early church era:

"There is no occasion for violence and injury, for religion cannot be imposed by force; the matter must be carried on by words rather than by blows, that the will may be affected. Let them unsheath the weapon of their intellect; if their system is true, let it be asserted. We are prepared to hear, if they teach; while they are silent, we certainly pay no credit to them, as we do not yield to them even in their rage. Let them imitate us in setting forth the system of the whole matter: for we do not entice, as they say; but we teach, we prove, we show. And thus no one is detained by us against his will, for he is unserviceable to God who is destitute of faith and devotedness; and yet no one departs from us, since the truth itself detains him...Torture and piety are widely different; nor is it possible for truth to be united with violence, or justice with cruelty...For religion is to be defended, not by putting to death, but by dying; not by cruelty, but by patient endurance; not by guilt, but by good faith: for the former; belong to evils, but the latter to goods; and it is necessary for that which is good to have place in religion, and not that which is evil. For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, and by tortures, and by guilt, it will no longer be defended, but will be polluted and profaned. For nothing is so much a matter of free-will as religion; in which, if the mind of the worshipper is disinclined to it, religion is at once taken away, and ceases to exist. The right method therefore is, that you defend religion by patient endurance or by death; in which the preservation of the faith is both pleasing to God Himself, and adds authority to religion." (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book 5, 20).

Even as the emperor was violating it, Ossius enunciated the principle of separation of church and state:

"Stop, I beg you, and remember that you are a mortal man: fear the day of judgment and keep yourself pure for it. Do not intrude yourself into the affairs of the church, and do not give us advice about these matters, but rather receive instruction on them from us. God has given you kingship, but has entrusted us with what belongs to the church. Just as the man who tries to steal your position as emperor contradicts God who has placed you there, so too you should be afraid of becoming guilty of a great offense by putting the affairs of the church under your control. It is written: 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God those that are God's.' (Matthew 22.21). Hence neither do we have the right to rule over the world nor do you, emperor, have the right to officiate in church. (Hist. Ar. 44.6-8, quoted p. 175, Athanasius and Constantius, Timothy D. Barnes).

Athanasius protested in favor of persuasion:

"But this modern and accursed heresy, when it is overthrown by argument, when it is cast down and covered with shame by the very Truth, forthwith endeavors to coerce by violence and stripes and imprisonment those whom it has been unable to persuade by argument, thereby acknowledging itself to be anything rather than godly. For it is the part of true godliness not to compel, but to persuade, as I said before. Thus our Lord Himself, not as employing force, but as offering to their free choice, has said to all, 'If any man will follow after Me,' and to His disciples, 'Will ye also go away?'" (Athanasius, 'History of the Arians,' Part VII, Section 67).

Alas the early church's tolerance for dissent did not last, and indeed did not long survive the acquisition of political power. The church which had been persecuted by the pagans in its turn learned to persecute. To Augustine, religious persecution was not an evil in itself, rather it was all a question of whose ox was being gored: "If, therefore, we wish either to declare or to recognize the truth, there is a persecution of unrighteousness, which the impious inflict upon the Church of Christ; and there is a righteous persecution, which the Church of Christ inflicts upon the impious." (Augustine, On the Correction of the Donatists, to Boniface, Chapter 2, Section 11). But they err who think it was always this way, or that those grounded in scripture did not know better. With the worldly success of the church, a temptation arose which was not resisted. Given the excesses of the Circumcelliones, a cross between the Levellers and Diggers of the English Civil War and Jim Jones' suicide cult, it is not entirely surprising African Catholics would seek legal protection from the State, but suppressing the peaceful Donatists along with the turbulent was an ominous precedent that blighted the church's future for a thousand years or more.

Thriceholy Radio

Albigensian Crusade

Jesus gave a simple test for discerning His followers: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:35).

As far as is the east from the west is mass murder from "love for one another." Yet mass murder, against the Cathari of Southern France, also called Albigensians, is just what history has hid her weeping eyes from seeing, instigated by the very institutions upon which the Roman Catholic Church bases its claim to legitimacy, including the papacy. The Cathari were gnostic dualists, hostile to the institutional church, who were concentrated in the south of France. The stammering medieval church found itself unable to persuade them they were in error, and so resorted to different means: "'Let the strength of the crown and the misery of war bring them back to the truth,' the pope declared." (The Albigensian Crusade, Jonathan Sumption, p. 75). As it turned out the French king was little interested, but the pope found ways and means nevertheless:

"It was [Pope] Innocent III who initiated measures which dealt the decisive blows against the dissidents...The outstanding lord in Southern France, Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, evaded Papal efforts to induce him to take positive action and Philip Augustus, the King of France, hesitated further to complicate his own difficult problems, including his chronic troubles with England, by risking a prolonged internal war to enforce the Papal commands. Then, in 1208, the Papal Legate, Peter of Castelnau, was murdered in Raymond's domains and perhaps at his court. Innocent took advantage of the widespread horror evoked by the crime to call forth a crusading army. Religious zeal represented in an outstanding leader of the crusading armies, Simon de Montfort, combined with quite secular motives, sectional jealousies, and the desire of the nobles of Northern France to reduce the power of the South and to profit by its wealth. Years of warfare followed, with wholesale destruction." (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume I, p. 456).

The random destruction of the inhabitants of Beziers, the blood of Catholics and Cathari mingled together, was an unparalleled crime against humanity:

"The army followed, and the legate's oath was fulfilled by a massacre almost without parallel in European history. From infancy in arms to tottering age, not one was spared — seven thousand, it is said, were slaughtered in the Church of Mary Magdalen to which they had fled for asylum — and the total number of slain is set down by the legates at nearly twenty thousand, which is more probable than the sixty thousand or one hundred thousand reported by less trustworthy chroniclers. A fervent Cistercian contemporary informs us that when Arnaud was asked whether the Catholics should be spared, he feared the heretics would escape by feigning orthodoxy, and fiercely replied, 'Kill them all, for God knows his own!' In the mad carnage and pillage the town was set on fire, and the sun of that awful July day closed on a mass of smoldering ruins and blackened corpses — a holocaust to a deity of mercy and love whom the Cathari might well be pardoned for regarding as the Principle of Evil." (Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume I, Kindle location 2735).

Steps the ecclesiastical council at Toulouse took, after the corpses were disposed of, to eradicate the Albigensian heresy include:

"Among other measures, the council forbade to the laity the possession of copies of the Bible, except the Psalms and such passages as were in the breviary, and condemned vernacular translations." (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume I, pp. 456-457).

The casualties of this Papal Crusade numbered in the tens of thousands:

"The Church reserved to itself the right to redistribute among the more faithful crusaders the confiscated lands of the defeated heretics. Thus the crusade attracted the most disreputable elements in northern France, and the result was horror. In 1209, Arnold Aimery exulted to the Pope that the capture of Beziers had been 'miraculous'; and that the crusaders had killed 15,000, 'showing mercy neither to order, nor age nor sex.' Prisoners were mutilated, blinded, dragged at the hooves of horses and used for target practice." (Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 252).

"If the blood of the martyrs were really the seed of the Church, Manichaeism would now be the dominant religion of Europe." (Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume I, Kindle location1836). Gnosticism was far from an egalitarian faith; a wide gulf yawned between two distinct ranks, the 'perfect' (Cathari), and the lower-ranking faithful. The already perfected ones were expected to be celibate and adopt a limited diet. While the rank and file often apostatized when offered incentives by the Catholic hierarchy, the higher echelon almost never did, instead going to a martyr's death: "The impression which the consolamentum made on those who received it needs no better testimony than the constancy of the Perfects during the crusade. For although mere believers often returned to the catholic fold, apostasies by Perfects were remarkably rare; and many hundreds of them died at the stake when the hill-towns fell to the crusaders." (Jonathan Sumption, The Albigensian Crusade, p. 51). However, the barbarity of the Albigensian crusade was so intense that often a willingness to conform meant nothing: "At Castres they could not decide whether penitent heretics should be burned along with impenitent. . .But the church, in 1209, did not yet have the police system to pursue those whose penitence was insincere, and Simon ordered that both alike should die." (Jonathan Sumption, The Albigensian Crusade, p. 106). Not to mention faithful Catholics piled up on the body heaps, or the occasional wandering Waldensian. While it can't be verified that 'Kill them all, God knows His own" is a bona fide, verbatim contemporary quotation, it does very aptly summarize the spirit of the Abigensian crusade.

Can blame for this murder spree be laid on Jesus' shoulders? No!:

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." (Matthew 5:38-39).

There was a time in church history when brilliant writers like Tertullian and Hippolytus could ridicule and shame the gnostics, by pointing out how far they had departed from Biblical norms. But the corrupt church of the thirteenth century had no such capacity; ecclesiastical office was held by the highest bidder. What the medieval church did know how to do, was kill people. Things had changed.

The Pope


The Waldensians differed from the Albigensians in that the Waldensians were orthodox, Bible-believing Christians. They are first heard from around 1170 A.D. as followers of a certain "Valdensius." Though not gnostics, their experience with Rome was much the same:

"A fate similar to that of Pragelato [1487] was in store for the Waldensians in the valleys of Argentieres and Vallouise. These folk had been consistently pacifist by tradition, so that they did not resist when the invaders came. The crusaders then proceeded to level their villages, destroying every trace of the Waldensian heritage. A few escaped massacre by hiding in caves or in wooded areas while others submitted to a forced adjuration of their faith. Those who managed to flee the area eventually joined with the Waldensians in the far south of Italy." (Giorgio Tourn, The Waldensians, the first 800 years, p. 65).

Once the Protestant reformation got underway, these Christians reached out to their reformed brethren. The end of their isolation did not guarantee their safety but only marked them out the more for Rome's wrath:

"There were sporadic attempts at resistance by a few. The old tradition of non-violence, however, with its innate respect for constituted authority, its ingenuousness and simplicity of heart, led the Waldensians to give themselves up. On June 5, 1561, the town of San Sisto, with its 6,000 inhabitants, was burned to the ground. Guardia Piemontese, its neighbor, was likewise destroyed. Prisoners were burned like torches, sold as slaves to the Moors or condemned to die of starvation in the dungeons of Cosenza. The massacre reached its height at Mantalto Uffugo on June 11th. On the steps in front of the parish church, 88 Waldensians were slaughtered one by one, like animals brought to market." (Giorgio Tourn, The Waldensians, the first 800 years, p. 91)

Surviving Waldensians adopted guerrilla tactics, and kept on surviving...and being killed:

"On April 24 [1655], Pra del Torno was taken by assault, reduced to rubble and thoroughly plundered -- that traditional place of refuge which in the past had been the Waldensian bastion of resistance and sanctuary of important victories. Within a few days the same fate befell Villar and Bobbio. Soon the ghastly picture was everywhere the same -- unarmed people tortured sadistically and massacred, the terror-stricken fleeing for their lives while the soldiers came down from the heights laden with booty." (Giorgio Tourn, The Waldensians, the first 800 years, p. 123).

Given that the victims of this unrelenting violence were Christians, it seems unduly harsh for atheists to nominate its perpetrators as the true Christians.

Michael Servetus

One would like to be able to report that, with the advent of the Protestant Reformation, all this oppression vanished. However that would not be true. Although the Protestant Reformers made eloquent pleas for freedom of conscience on their own behalf, they did not always extend the same right to those with whom they disagreed. The cognitive dissonance set up by this split between theory and practice was resolved by later generations in favor of the theory, i.e., religious liberty.

Michael Servetus

Michael Servetus was a Unitarian heretic burned at the stake in John Calvin's Geneva. Protests against his fate, by Sebastian Cavellio and others, ultimately carried the day and drew Protestants back to their better natures.

Although the achievement of toleration was ultimately to come through this route, initially their record was mixed. The main-line Protestants were nearly as eager to burn heretics at the stake as were Catholics, differing mostly, of course, in the identities of those they fingered as heretics. Moreover Protestants shared the belief common in the day that witchcraft was real. There are two competing views of this despised and persecuted religion, the first that it was indeed a religion widely practiced in the day. On this basis, modern-day Wiccan complain that they are the survivors of a long trail of tears: "'Witchcraft was the pagan religion of all of Europe for centuries prior to the rise of Christianity, and the religion of the peasantry for hundreds of years after Catholicism prevailed among the ruling classes of Western society. The witchcraft purges were the political suppression of an alternative culture, and of a social and economic structure. . . .'" (Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler, p. 249). There are indeed pagan survivals among European country-folk, like the May-pole dances; and mass phenomena like the medieval dancing manias might involve some revival of paganism: the cult of Dionysus centered around mass dancing through the countryside. Of course, neurologists have a thing or two to say about those dancing manias as well. However there is also compelling evidence that the women burned as witches in Europe and, briefly, in America, were, in fact, innocent. The charges bewildered them. Why, then, were they convicted?

The witchcraft trials that convulsed Europe were almost entirely the creation of torture. Torture is not a means of ascertaining the facts, it is a way to create facts. Since people will say whatever they need to say to get it to stop, as was realized long ago, torture is the ideal way to create a set of facts, like that witches fly on broom-sticks to the site of their Witches' Sabbath, indeed to create a world or world-view:

"That the details of the Sabbat varied but little throughout Europe is doubtless to be ascribed to the leading questions habitually put by judges, and to the desire of the tortured culprits to satisfy their examiners, yet this consentaneity at the time was an irrefragable proof of truth. . .The assembly might be held anywhere, but there were certain spots specially resorted to — in Germany the Brocken, in Italy an oak-tree near Benevento, and there was, besides, the unknown place beyond the Jordan. At all these they gathered in thousands. Thursday night was the one generally selected. They feasted at tables loaded with meat and wine which rose from the earth at the command of the presiding demon, and they paid homage to the devil, who was present, usually in the form of a goat, dog, or ape. To him they offered themselves, body and soul, and kissed him under the tail, holding a lighted candle." (Henry Charles Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Book III, Chapter VII, Kindle location 33799).

Like, this actually happened? People confessed to it. Torture can do that. Torture is a way to make sure those who have power will see their story told, whereas those who have none must sit in astonished silence. Eliminating torture eliminates witchcraft trials, Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, and much else besides that's worthless and nugatory. The Wiccans insist they are the survivors of persecution: "This awareness was known to many ancient celebrants, the Pagans, the 'naked dancers of moonlit groves' who were put to death by monotheists. 'Monotheism,' wrote Zell, 'is a synonym for genocide'. . ." (Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler, p. 372). If the witches actually were guilty as charged,— if they were pagan celebrants, then there might be something to this. However they said they weren't. Without torture to fuel the fire, witchcraft prosecutions sputtered out. Much as the modern pagans want them to be guilty, it seems likely they were not, they were falsely accused. Perhaps these inoffensive folk would not appreciate the Wiccans' misappropriation of their heritage, if they knew of it.


Divide and Conquer 
Divide and Conquer

What Went Wrong?

In the early church, bishops, including the bishop of Rome, were chosen by vote of the clergy and laity: "The ordinary process of the choice of a bishop by the middle of the third century was a nomination by the other clergy, especially the presbyters, of the city; the approval of neighboring bishops, and ratification or election by the congregation." (A History of the Christian Church, Revised Edition, Williston Walker et al, p. 83). Even Cyprian, an early promoter of clerical power, admits "the suffrage of the people" was at that time considered requisite for the legitimate election of a bishop:

"Moreover, Cornelius was made bishop by the judgment of God and of His Christ, by the testimony of almost all the clergy, by the suffrage of the people who were then present, and by the assembly of ancient priests and good men..." (Cyprian, Letters, 51:8)
" one, after the divine judgment, after the suffrage of the people, after the consent of the co-bishops, would make himself a judge, not now of the bishop, but of God." (Cyprian, Letters, 54:5)
"But — I speak to you as being provoked; I speak as grieving; I speak as constrained — when a bishop is appointed into the place of one deceased, when he is chosen in time of peace by the suffrage of an entire people, when he is protected by the help of God in persecution, faithfully linked with all his colleagues, approved to his people by now four years’ experience in his episcopate...when such a one, dearest brother, is seen to be assailed by some desperate and reckless men, and by those who have their place outside the Church, it is manifest who assails him..." (Cyprian, Letters, 54:6)
"...while the Bishop Cornelius was ordained in the Catholic Church by the judgment of God, and by the suffrages of the clergy and people..." (Cyprian, Letters, 66:2).

The people were free to choose the person they wanted to govern the church; they did not have to choose between candidates nominated by others. Just as William Jennings Bryan's barn-burner of a speech, 'The Cross of Gold,' inspired the Democratic National Convention to name him as their candidate in 1896, Ambrose's speech led the church of Milan to elect him, though he had not previously been mentioned as a candidate:

"So he went to the church. And when he was addressing the people, the voice of a child among the people is said to have called out suddenly: 'Ambrose bishop.' At the sound of this voice, the mouths of all the people joined in the cry: 'Ambrose bishop.' Thus, those who a while before were disagreeing most violently, because both the Arians and the Catholics wished the other side to be defeated and their own candidate to be consecrated bishop, suddenly agreed on this one with miraculous and unbelievable harmony." (Life of Ambrose, by Paulinus, Chapter 3).

  • “About the same time it happened that another event took place at Milan well worthy of being recorded. On the death of Auxentius, who had been ordained bishop of that church by the Arians, the people again were disturbed respecting the election of a successor; for as some proposed one person, and others favored another, the city was full of contention and uproar. In this state of things the governor of the province, Ambrose by name, who was also of consular dignity, dreading some catastrophe from the popular excitement, ran into the church in order to quell the disturbance. As he arrived there and the people became quiet, he repressed the irrational fury of the multitude by a long and appropriate address, by urging such motives as they felt to be right, and all present suddenly came to an unanimous agreement, crying out ‘that Ambrose was worthy of the bishopric,’ and demanding his ordination: ‘for by that means only,’ it was alleged, ‘would the peace of the church be secured, and all be reunited in the same faith and judgment.’”
  • (Socrates Scholasticus, Church History, Book IV, Chapter 30).

  • "About this period Liberius died, and Damasus succeeded to the see of Rome. A deacon named Ursicius, who had obtained some votes in his favor, but could not endure the defeat, therefore caused himself to be clandestinely ordained by some bishops of little note, and endeavored to create a division among the people and to hold a separate church. He succeeded in effecting this division, and some of the people respected him as bishop, while the rest adhered to Damasus."
  • (Sozomen, Church History, Book VI, Chapter 23).

  • "The city of Caesarea was in an uproar about the election of a bishop; for one had just departed, and another must be found, amidst heated partisanship not easily to be soothed. For the city was naturally exposed to party spirit, owing to the fervor of its faith, and the rivalry was increased by the illustrious position of the see. Such was the state of affairs; several Bishops had arrived to consecrate the Bishop; the populace was divided into several parties, each with its own candidate, as is usual in such cases, owing to the influences of private friendship or devotion to God; but at last the whole people came to an agreement..."
  • (Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 18.33).

  • "Thus, and for these reasons, by the vote of the whole people, not in the evil fashion which has since prevailed, nor by means of bloodshed and oppression, but in an apostolic and spiritual manner, he is led up to the throne of Saint Mark, to succeed him in piety, no less than in office..."
  • (Gregory Nazianzen, Oration 21.8).

Even as late as Leo the Great, the principle of popular election still held:

"When therefore the choice of the chief priest is taken in hand, let him be preferred before all whom the unanimous consent of clergy and people demands, but if the votes chance to be divided between two persons, the judgment of the metropolitan should prefer him who is supported by the preponderance of votes and merits: only let no one be ordained against the express wishes of the place: lest a city should either despise or hate a bishop whom they did not choose, and lamentably fall away from religion because they have not been allowed to have when they wished." (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 14, To Anastasius, Section VI.)

Though Leo was doing all in his power to turn the clergy into a closed guild and transfer real power to the hierarchy, he cannot help but express the traditional view, that a popular election is the way for the Holy Ghost to cast His vote:

"Accordingly, we ratify with our sanction your good deed, brethren, in unanimously, on the death of Hilary of holy memory, consecrating our brother Ravennius, a man well approved by us, in the city of Aries, in accordance with the wishes of the clergy, the leading citizens, and the laity. Because a peace-making and harmonious election, where neither personal merits nor the good will of the congregation are wanting, is we believe the expression not only of man’s choice, but of God’s inspiration." (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 40, To the Bishops of the Province of Arles).

Just as modern Baptist churches elect their leadership, so did the ancient church. Disputes between churches were settled in collegial fashion, by consensus reached at councils such as that held at Jerusalem (Acts 15). Democracy, while not affording absolute immunity against human rights abuses, does, nevertheless, in practice, provide some protection, as even the pagans realized:

"Besides, it would be a most shocking state of affairs if in a democratic state we should not all enjoy equal rights; and if, while judging ourselves worthy of holding office, yet we should deprive ourselves of our legal rights; and if in battle we should all be willing to die for our democratic form of government and yet, in our votes as judges, especially favor men of property." (Isocrates, Against Locites, 18-22, p. 345 Loeb edition.)

Other things being equal, democratic polities, as was the church of the apostles, are less likely to cast about for ways to oppress the people than are anti-democratic cabals.

In later years, as they turned from following their heavenly Lord to empire-building on earth, the original way of church governance fell by the wayside. The bishop of Rome, who had come to tyrannize over the other churches, ceased altogether to be chosen by popular vote: "The most significant event of the papacy of Nicholas II was the decree of this Roman synod of 1059 regulating choice to the papacy...In theory, the choice of the Pope had been, like that of other bishops, by the clergy and people of the city of his see. This was termed a canonical election...The evident purpose was to put the election into the hands of the cardinals, primarily of the cardinal bishops...This was, indeed, a revolution in the method of choice of the Pope, and would give to the office an independence of political control not heretofore possessed." (A History of the Christian Church, Revised Edition, Williston Walker et al, p. 206). To this day this naked power grab is represented as a 'reform' by Roman Catholic apologists. The church, having been a democracy, became instead a police state ruled by a self-perpetuating elite. Universal human experience with one-man rule shows that this system goes hand-in-hand with human rights abuses. The church's experience did not depart from the norm.


Some who defended these actions looked to Old Testament precedents like the extirpation of the pagan inhabitants of Canaan by the children of Israel. But God had already determined to drive the Canaanites and their toxic culture into extinction; no man could determine on such a course by his own authority. He is the potter, we the clay: "Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the LORD. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel." (Jeremiah 18:6). Where the potter has not spoken, by what authority can anyone pluck His workmanship out of His hands?

Bible Difficulties 
Bible Difficulties

Ancient Israel was a theocracy which did not allow for a multiplicity of religions in the land. There are no comparable institutions under the New Covenant. The status of human rights under the Old Covenant is somewhat mixed; King David, it would seem, made some allowance for dissenting political speech:

“Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. And all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: “Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!” Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Please, let me go over and take off his head!” But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David.’ Who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” And David said to Abishai and all his servants, ‘See how my son who came from my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite? Let him alone, and let him curse; for so the Lord has ordered him. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing this day.’” (2 Samuel 16:5-12).

This same concern: that God might be speaking through the dissenter, motivated Rabbi Gamaliel to counsel moderation against the Christians:

“Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. . .And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:34-38).

The prophets of Israel had used great freedom of speech against the rulers of their day, and of course had been persecuted in return; this precedent seems to have indicated caution, at least to those open to learning from it. Those reliant on the Old Testament drew mixed conclusions; the Hasmonaean rulers practiced forced conversion, of entire nations like the Idumaeans. The Zealots evidently intended to revive that practice:

“At this time it was that two great men, who were under the jurisdiction of the king [Agrippa] came to me out of the region of Trachonius, bringing their horses and their arms, and carrying with them their money also; and when the Jews would force them to be circumcised, if they would stay among them, I would not permit them to have any force put upon them, but said to them, “Every one ought to worship God according to his own inclinations, and not to be constrained by force; and that these men, who had fled to us for protection, ought not to be so treated as to repent of their coming hither.” (Josephus, Life, Chapter 23).

. . .but Josephus, it would seem, had drawn the opposite conclusion. Part of what went wrong with the medieval church is that they took it upon themselves to revive aspects of the Old Covenant, with no divine mandate.



"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.' Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan!'" (Matthew 4:8-10).

Satan's temptation, resisted by the Lord, was not resisted by some of His followers. The emperor Constantine began his reign with the admirable Edict of Milan:

The Edict of Milan (313 A. D.)

"When I, Constantine Augustus, as well as I, Licinius Augustus, fortunately met near Milan, and were considering everything that pertained to the public welfare and security, we thought, among other things which we saw would be for the good of many, those regulations pertaining to the reverence of the Divinity ought certainly to be made first, so that we might grant to the Christians and others full authority to observe that religion which each preferred; whence any Divinity whatsoever in the seat of the heavens may be propitious and kindly disposed to us and all who are placed under our rule. And thus by this wholesome counsel and most upright provision we thought to arrange that no one whatsoever should be denied the opportunity to give his heart to the observance of the Christian religion, or that religion which he should think best for himself, so that the Supreme Deity, to whose worship we freely yield our hearts, may show in all things His usual favor and benevolence. Therefore, your Worship should know that it has pleased us to remove all conditions whatsoever, which were in the rescripts formerly given to you officially, concerning the Christians and now any one of these who wishes to observe Christian religion may do so freely and openly, without molestation. We thought it fit to commend these things most fully to your care that you may know that we have given to those Christians free and unrestricted opportunity of religious worship. When you see that this has been granted to them by us, your Worship will know that we have also conceded to other religions the right of open and free observance of their worship for the sake of the peace of our times, that each one may have the free opportunity to worship as he pleases; this regulation is made we that we may not seem to detract from any dignity or any religion."
(from Lactantius, De Mort. Pers., ch. 48. opera, ed. 0. F. Fritzsche, II, p 288 sq.) (Bibl Patr. Ecc. Lat. XI). (Internet Medieval Sourcebook).

But the emperors who followed after, with the brief interlude of Julian the Apostate, increasingly adopted Taliban-style limitations of religious liberty until late in the fourth century the practice of paganism was criminalized. The Christian Church, once persecuted by the pagans, itself turned persecutor, turning its back to its founder's commands. As this fateful step of killing pagans was taken, a horrifying pagan curse rebounded upon the persecutors, who thereupon looked in a mirror and discovered that they were looking at. . .pagans. These nominal Christians became, all as part of the same process, neo-pagans who repopulated the gods' vacated heavenly niches with apotheosized saints, who took up the same specialized functions of making it rain, baking bread, presiding over childbirth, etc. They treasured sacred objects and venerated images of these powerful heaven-dwellers, just as their predecessors had done. . .not the Christians, who did no such things, I mean their other predecessors. This limping along on two feet, one pagan, one Christian, went on for a thousand years.

A grim milestone was reached in 385 A.D. when the gnostic heretic Priscillian was put to death. Even prior to that date members of a sect called 'Massalians,' meaning "people who pray," who worshipped "the Almighty" in public prayer meetings, had been persecuted to the death by nominally Christian authorities:

"Moreover, some zealous provincial governors have put many of these persons to death for debasing the truth and counterfeiting the customs of the church without being either Christians or Jews." (Epiphanius, Panarion, Books II and III, Section VII, Against Massalians, Chapter 60 (90), 2,3)

Paul cautions that marriage can lead to worldliness, as a wife seeks to please her husband: "...but she that is married cares for the things of the world, how she may please her husband." (1 Corinthians 7:34). To what level of compromise with the world does climbing into bed with Caesar lead?

Though a faith which demands allegiance of the heart cannot co-exist with the practice of forced conversion, Christianity was spread in Europe even by this alien means:

"The Saxons had remained faithful to their gods, as to a sign of their national independence. Odin was their most important god, and their most revered spot was the wood surrounding the Irmensaule, a colossal tree trunk, which was, in their eyes, the column which supported the world. . .It took Charlemagne thirty years and eight campaigns to conquer them. In 772 he went as far as the Weser, burned Irmensaule and the sacred wood which surrounded it; in 775 he crossed the river, was victorious in every encounter, and forced his enemies to be baptized at Paderborn, and to give hostages." (Charles Bemont, Gabriel Monod, Medieval Europe, 395-1270, Kindle location 2326).

In accord with the obvious expectation, these baptized pagans in many instances retained their beliefs and their customs; one might with more justice say, the pagans conquered the church, than that the church conquered the pagans. One alarming deformation of Christian practice that occurred at this dark time, was the cessation of church democratic self-governance:

No True Scotsman

The fallacious argument known as 'No True Scotsman' runs like so:

'No true Scotsman would steal a Bible.'
'But the Scotsman next door was just convicted of stealing a Bible.'
'Obviously, he's no true Scotsman.'

When crimes against humanity like the Inquisition and Albigensian Crusade are brought to their attention, Christians note that those guilty of these crimes were neither following the Lord's instructions nor animated by the Holy Spirit. After all, the Bible goes so far as to say, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death." (1 John 3:14). Atheists respond, 'Aha! No true Scotsman!'

Unlike 'Scotsmen,' perceptibly born to their estate, children of God are such only if acknowledged by their Father: "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:23).

The entry cost into the family of God is not high, one need only trust the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. But some who claim to have done so remain, according to God's word, 'liars': "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (1 John 4:2). While natal geography makes a Scotsman, faith, invisible to all but the One who searches the heart and mind, makes a child of God.

This is why I do not think, versus the atheists, that such crimes against humanity as the Inquisition demonstrate the nullity of the Christian promise. Whether the criminals responsible are God's erring children, or none of His, their actions are not Christianity in action, but the old Adam resurgent.

Hindu Extremists

Pagan Intolerance

"In a recent series of films on Pagan elders, Harold Moss said, in November 2005, that, 'Polytheist religions, in general, command a reverence for diversity.'" (Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler, p. 333) . In actual fact, is pagan polytheism associated with tolerance for diversity, and all good things? Or is this ancient complex the religion of tribe, blood and soil? One would think, listening to atheists, that Christians invented intolerance. Such is not the case. The 'argumentum ad baculum,' fallacious resort to force, is a standing temptation faced by humanity, from Cain onwards. Christians are prime victims, not the principal instigators: "What is the so powerful cause of this fury? Doubtless, because they cannot contend on the ground of reason, they urge forward their cause by means of violence. . ." (Lactantius, Epitome of the Divine Institutes, Chapter 52). Pagans are by no means immune to the temptation to win the argument by putting dissenters in the grave, thus achieving unanimity or at least silence. There is pagan on pagan violence:

"Protageras of Abdera, whom you just now mentioned, the greatest sophist of his age, was banished by order of the Athenians from their city and territories, and his books were publicly burned, because these words were in the beginning of his treatise concerning the Gods: 'I am unable to arrive at any knowledge whether there are, or are not, any Gods.'" (Cicero, The Nature of the Gods, Book I, XXIII.)

Paganism in its heyday knew communal religious rioting reminiscent of that seen today between Muslims and Hindus in India:

"An ancient, long-nourished feud, an undying hatred no truce
Can resolve, and wounds that can't be healed, are burning between
The neighboring towns of Ombi and Tentyra. Each side is seen
Swelling up with fury because each one has always hated
Its neighbor's gods and believed that none should be venerated
As gods but its own. So when a festival time came around,
The leaders and chiefs of the enemy cult thought they had found
A good chance that shouldn't be missed to keep the other town
From enjoying a glad and happy day -- great feasts in squares
And temples on the tables, and sofas that got constant wear
From lollers day and night, till the sun for the seventh time rose
To surprise them. Egypt is, no doubt, uncouth; but in those
Debaucheries practiced today, from what I myself have seen,
Its barbaric mob yields nothing to ill-famed Canopus. They dream
That defeat of babbling, staggering drunks would not be hard.
Over there men dancing to a black piper, with nard or lard
Or heaven knows what and flowers and chaplets on their heads;
Over here, a ravening hate. But they start, with noise widespread,
Their first insults -- war trumpets to passions burning to fight.
Then shouts back and forth, they clash, and bare hands rage to smite
Instead of weapons. Few jaws and chins escape being gashed,
Few noses, or none, come out of the fracas unbloodied, unsmashed.
Throughout the ranks can be seen broken faces, looking like none
That's human, bones gaping through torn cheeks, and fists that run
With blood from eyes. Yet they think themselves at play, in a game
Of waging war, like boys, for no corpses are trampled in shame.
And indeed, to what end does a mob of so many thousands brawl
If everyone lives? So the fight grows fiercer, and now they fall
To throwing stones -- the usual weapon in riots -- which they,
Stooping down, search for on the ground..." (Satires of Juvenal, Egyptian Cannibals, XV).

Modern Hindus, incidentally, fall behind no one in their willingness to kill people who do not subscribe to their viewpoint. And don't discount the Sikhs! When British India was partitioned into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, the two newly independent nations flung dead trains at one another: "In the Punjab trains would cross the border into India with carriages packed with dead bodies and marked 'A Present from Pakistan.' 'Presents from India' would move in the other direction. A British officer found 2,000 dead Muslims on a single train in Pakistan. It had been halted by stones on the line, then a horde of Sikhs had swarmed aboard to kill everyone." (John Withington, Disaster!, pp. 253-254). This is nothing new. According to historian Cassius Dio, regular wars were fought between adherents of one system of the Egyptian pagan theology and another:

"The Egyptians were discontented at the levies of money and highly indignant because not even their temples were left untouched. They are the most excessively religious people on earth and wage wars even against one another on account of their beliefs, since their worship is not a unified system, but different branches of it are diametrically opposed one to another." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 42, Chapter 34).

Egypt was the scene of a god-murder, at the hands of one pagan religionist acting against other pagans whose views he did not share. Cambyses the Persian emperor dispatched the sacred bull Apis whom the Egyptians worshipped:

"When the priests had brought Apis, Cambyses being somewhat affected with madness drew his dagger, and aiming at the belly of Apis, struck his thigh: then he laughed and said to the priests: 'O ye wretched creatures, are gods born such as this, with blood and flesh, and sensible of the stroke of iron weapons? Worthy indeed of Egyptians is such a god as this. Ye however at least shall not escape without punishment for making a mock of me.' Having thus spoken he ordered those whose duty it was to do such things, to scourge the priests without mercy, and to put to death any one of the other Egyptians whom they should find keeping the festival. Thus the festival of the Egyptians had been brought to an end, and the priests were being chastised, and Apis wounded by the stroke in his thigh lay dying in the temple." (Herodotus, Histories, Book III, Chapter 29).

According to Aelian, one of Cambyses' successors, Artaxerxes III, did the same thing for the same reason: "Now Ochus the Persian knowing this slew Apis and deified the Ass from a wish to pain the Egyptians to the utmost. And so he too paid a penalty, which all applauded, to the Sacred Bull, no less than Cambyses who was the first that dared commit this sacrilege." (Aelian, On Animals, Book X, Chapter 28). Whether this is a doublet I can't say, but it may be that the Persians never learned their lesson. These 'Parsees' evidently considered their own aniconic veneration of fire as superior to the Egyptians' animal-gods. If deicide of the people's god does not display intolerance, what would?

The trial of Socrates is a good case study in pagan intolerance:

Socrates' Apology

Anaxagoras is another, earlier philosopher who ran afoul of the Athenians' religious sensibilities, by teaching that the sun is an inert object: "He declared the sun to be a mass of red-hot metal and to be larger than the Peloponnesus, though others ascribe this view to Tantalus; he declared that there were dwellings on the moon, and moreover hills and ravines." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Book II, Chapter 3, Section 8). And canals on Mars probably, too; admittedly the details are sketchy, but this is in the main a naturalistic account, or at least it is trying to be; and that is why the Athenians did not like it. He was blaspheming their gods, the sun and the moon. In fact the prosecutor in Socrates' case tried to reprise the evidently successful prosecution of Anaxagoras in Socrates' trial, earning a rebuke from Socrates:

Socrates: "Or, do you mean that I am an atheist simply, and a teacher of atheism?

Meletus: "I mean the latter—that you are a complete atheist. What an extraordinary statement!

Socrates: "Why do you think so, Meletus? Do you mean that I do not believe in the godhead of the sun or moon, like other men?

Meletus: "I assure you, judges, that he does not: for he says that the sun is stone, and the moon earth.

Socrates: "Friend Meletus, you think that you are accusing Anaxagoras: and you have but a bad opinion of the judges, if you fancy them illiterate to such a degree as not to know that these doctrines are found in the books of Anaxagoras the Clazomenian, which are full of them." (Plato, Apology).

Pericles, however, was evidently able to persuade the Athenians to leave the sun and the moon to punish their own blasphemers:

"Of the trial of Anaxagoras different accounts are given. Sotion in his Succession of the Philosophers says that he was indicted by Cleon on a charge of impiety, because he declared the sun to be a mass of red-hot metal; that his pupil Pericles defended him, and he was fined five talents and banished. Satyrus in his Lives says that the prosecutor was Thucydides, the opponent of Pericles, and the charge one of treasonable correspondence with Persia as well as of impiety; and that sentence of death was passed on Anaxagoras by default.  When news was brought him that he was condemned and his sons were dead, his comment on the sentence was, "Long ago nature condemned both my judges and myself to death"; and on his sons, "I knew that my children were born to die.". . .Hermippus in his Lives says that he was confined in the prison pending his execution; that Pericles came forward and asked the people whether they had any fault to find with him in his own public career; to which they replied that they had not. "Well," he continued, "I am a pupil of Anaxagoras; do not then be carried away by slanders and put him to death. Let me prevail upon you to release him." So he was released; but he could not brook the indignity he had suffered and committed suicide. Hieronymus in the second book of his Scattered Notes states that Pericles brought him into court so weak and wasted from illness that he owed his acquittal not so much to the merits of his case as to the sympathy of the judges. So much then on the subject of his trial."
(Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Book II, Chapter 3, 12-15, Anaxagoras).

The Sun God 
The Sun God

Besides the account that he committed suicide, Diogenes Laertius offers another more hopeful one, that he retired to his native place: "At length he retired to Lampsacus and there died. And when the magistrates of the city asked if there was anything he would like done for him, he replied that he would like them to grant an annual holiday to the boys in the month in which he died; and the custom is kept up to this day." (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers, Book II, Chapter 3, Anaxagoras, Section 14). Plutarch had heard that story, too: "And Anaxagoras, giving up the honours which had been granted him, requested that on the day of his death the children be allowed to play and be free from their lessons. (Plutarch. Precepts of Statecraft, Moral Treatises, Chapter 27, Delphi Classics. Kindle location 56947.).

But he had to get out of Dodge. And Athens was likely one of the most tolerant places in the world at the time! What kind of toleration is this? You are allowed to say whatever you like, but you must not blaspheme their gods, the sun and the moon. Got it. The moral of the story is not that Solarism must join Christianity on the list of persecuting reigions. It's not a short list. Rather, human beings are tempted to use force to resolve disagreements, if political conditions permit them to do so. Failing divine command, it is wrong to do this. Among those who have succumbed to this temptation are Solarists, and also, unfortunately, Christians.

The Romans did not fall far behind the Athenians in their willingness to persecute and deport followers of minority religions:

"According to Livy, those who introduced foreign cults were frequently expelled from the city. He attributes a statement to this effect to a consul who spoke in 186 B.C. when taking action against the Bacchanalia: 'How often, in the times of our fathers and our grandfathers, has the task been assigned to the magistrates of forbidding the introduction of foreign cults, of excluding dabblers in sacrifices and fortune-tellers from the Forum, the Circus, and the City, of searching out and burning books of prophecies, and of annulling every system of sacrifice except that performed in the Roman way.'" (Livy, 39.16.8, quoted p. 235, Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity).

Pagans were intolerant, not of other pagans only, but of Christians and Jews. Among Alexander the Great's goals in conquering the East was to broadcast Greek culture, which he considered superior to all rivals. The successors of Alexander the Great sought to Hellenize the lands he had conquered; 'Jehovah' was to be consolidated with 'Zeus' and non-Greek customs like circumcision must cease. What this meant, for Jews in the days of the Maccabees, was conformity or death. It is thus odd to discover that pagans are convinced otherwise: "Most Neo-Pagans would agree with Ellwood that 'only monotheistic or monistic religions "convert" nations'. . .Most would also regard this as a great strength of polytheism — that it does not lend itself to holy wars." (Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, p. 51). The corrective to this misconception is to read the books of Maccabees, which detail the efforts of the pagan Successors to Alexander to do just that. Christians had a very similar experience with the pagan empire. Since literate people would have to be aware of these facts, there is perhaps a bit of winking going on.

Not only did Christians encounter persecution from the pagans of the West, the same thing happened in the East, as Nestorian missionaries and their converts were wiped out by, among others, the Persians and the Chinese:

"Indeed, this mission would be destroyed in the mid–ninth century when the Taoist emperor Wuzong condemned and expelled foreign religions and closed monasteries. As the imperial edict commanded, 'As for the Tai-Ch’in (Syrian Christian) and Muh-hu (Zoroastrian) forms of worship, since Buddhism has already been cast out, these heresies alone must not be allowed to survive. People belonging to these also are to be compelled to return to the world, belong again to their own districts, and become taxpayers.'"
(Jenkins, John Philip (2008-10-16). The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia--and How It Died (p. 65). HarperCollins.)

It is easy to understand why pagan religions whose whose raison d'etre is to reconcile the masses to the ruling elite resented Christianity, which spread like wildfire and owed nothing to the Chinese or Persian ruling class. There's nothing new under the sun. The pagans who fed Christians to the lions had not been taught intolerance by Christians, nor needed to be taught.

Among the record-breaking mass murderers of history are numbered the pagan animists who spilled out of Mongolia under the leadership of Genghis Khan, who left entire districts depopulated: "Let us set before our eyes, on the one hand, the continual massacres of the kings and generals of the Greeks and Romans, and, on the other, the destruction of people and cities by those famous conquerors Timur Beg and Jenghiz Khan, who ravaged Asia, and we shall see that we owe to Christianity, in government, a certain political law; and in war, a certain law of nations — benefits which human nature can never sufficiently acknowledge. It is owing to this law of nations that among us victory leaves these great advantages to the conquered, life, liberty, laws, wealth, and always religion, when the conqueror is not blind to his own interest." (Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Kindle location 6586). Christian history knows of no such atrocities, and why not, if we taught the world so to behave?

The Romans who fed Christians to the lions were not acting contrary to their own expressed principles. The pagan Romans never articulated the principle of religious toleration. Through the mouth of Maecenas, addressing Augustus, historian Cassius Dio gives the case for religious persecution:

"Therefore if you desire to become in very truth immortal, act in this way; and further, reverence the Divine Power yourself everywhere in every way, following our fathers' belief, and compel others to honor it. Those who introduce strange ideas about it you should both hate and punish, not only for the sake of the gods (because if a man despises them he will esteem naught else sacred) but because such persons by bringing in new divinities persuade many to adopt foreign principles of law. As a result conspiracies, factions, and clubs arise which are far from desirable under a monarchy. Accordingly, do not grant any atheist or charlatan the right to be at large." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 52, Chapter 36)

While it's true that the conquering Romans used to try to persuade besieged deities to desert and come over to their side, promising improved worship and living conditions, it does not therefore follow that private individuals were at liberty to worship whatever gods they pleased. The myth that paganism was inherently tolerant was very important to the mislabeled 'Enlightenment,' but it is just that, a myth.

  • "Not only as a token of the conquest she had made but also as a gratification to her pride, the conquering republic brought the gods of the vanquished peoples to Rome. With disdainful toleration, she permitted the worship of them all."
  • (Draper, John William (2014-03-31). History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (Illustrated) (p. 42).)

Did she really permit "the worship of them all"? Sure, when she didn't forbid it. When she wasn't closing down the temples of Isis, criminalizing the practice of astrology, and expelling philosophers and what have you from Rome, she permitted everything. When she wasn't wrapping Rabbis in scrolls of the law and burning them, she even permitted Judaism. And as for Christianity. . .

One might like to think that pagan violence against Christianity is a thing of the past, but such is not the case. Not only do the Hindu pagans persecute Indian Christians as readily as they do Muslims, pagan violence occurs pretty much wherever resurgent paganism is found, for example in Norway. In 1994, Varg Vikernes was convicted of murder and arson. Because Norwegian courts routinely hand down ludicrously brief sentences, he is currently out loose and living in France under the name Louis Cachet. According to Wikipedia, which is not usually a reliable source but which I must quote here, lacking any other, Vikernes' views at the time of the church arsons combined Odinism and Esoteric Nazism. The murder, evidently unrelated to the church arsons, was of fellow black metal band member "Euronymous," already controversial in the band after the suicide of the (aptly named) fellow band member "Dead." Vikernes stabbed "Euronymous" to death, claiming it was self-defense, though the jury evidently did not agree. Why this accusation was bundled with the apparently unrelated church arsons I couldn't say.

The church structures he and his associates burned were historically significant 'stave' churches. Vikernes told interviewers that the arson was "'revenge' for the desecration of Viking graves and temples." (Wikipedia article, Varg Vikernes). "According to Vikernes, the arsons were on the anniversary of the Lindisfarne Viking raid." (Wikipedia article, Varg Vikernes). At that time (793 AD), according to Alcuin, "Never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race. . .The heathens poured out the blood of saints around the altar, and trampled on the bodies of saints in the temple of God, like dung in the streets." (Alcuin, quoted in Wikipedia article on Lindisfarne raid.). This should surprise somebody? The Viking faith has never been peaceful; why shouldn't they strike at their enemies? No one ever told them not to. When Christians act just the same way as everybody else, it is understood we are doing wrong, because we are a peculiar people. In persecuting other faiths, the European church, nominally Christian, was doing no more than adopting the way of the world. Paganism is not intrinsically tolerant, never has been, never will be.

Atheist Mass Murder

Atheists condemn Christianity on the strength of atrocities like the Albigensian Crusade. Indeed, if you listen to people like Bertrand Russell, you would think that Christians invented persecution: "Before the rise of Christianity this persecuting attitude was unknown to the ancient world except among the Jews." (Bertrand Russell, Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization? Why I am not a Christian, Kindle location 908). Yet if we were to tote up the casualty count achieved by the officially atheistic regimes the world has seen, the atheists have the Inquisitors beat by a mile. Notorious atheist butchers like Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Enver Hoxha slaughtered their own people at an unheard-of rate. When it comes to piling up a body count, atheists take second place to none.

Starting in the Year Zero, Cambodia's Pol Pot eliminated an estimated one in five Cambodians:

"His harsh rule led to the deaths of an estimated one in five Cambodians, either through execution, illness, overwork, or starvation. He tried quickly to impose a communist rural utopia that excluded money, religion, property, cities, law, even romantic marriage." (Christian Science Monitor, February 1, 2005, 'The 20th century's most disastrous drive for rural utopia,' by Clayton Jones)

John Lennon, in his song 'Imagine,' dreams what a utopia this world would be if religion were to fade away. The world's actual experience with atheist regimes is that they are likelier to bring in hell on earth before they bring in heaven.

Christians are a common target of atheist persecution. When Communism came to Russia, the Bolsheviks' forced grain requisitions produced a severe famine within a few years. Vladimir Lenin decreed that, to combat the (Bolshevik-induced) famine, the Church should auction off its gold-encrusted icons and other treasures. The church was eager, as always, to help the hungry, but not in this way. This deliberate provocation sparked a conflict which cut short the lives of thousands of Russian Orthodox clergy and lay-people:

"On 26 February 1922 a decree was sent out to the local Soviets instructing them to remove from the churches all precious items, including those used for religious worship. The decree claimed that their sale was necessary to help the famine victims; but little of the money raised was used for this purpose. Armed bands gutted the local churches, carrying away the icons and crosses, the chalices and mitres, even the iconostases in bits. In many places angry crowds took up arms to defend their local church. In some places they were led by their priests, at others they fought spontaneously. The records tell of 1,414 bloody clashes during 1922-3. Most of these were utterly one-sided. Troops with machine-guns fought against old men and women armed with pitch forks and rusty rifles: 7,100 clergy were killed, including nearly 3,500 nuns, but only a handful of Soviet troops. One such clash in the textile town of Shuya, 200 miles north-east of Moscow, in March 1922, prompted Lenin to issue a secret order for the extermination of the clergy. The event was typical enough: on Sunday 12 March worshippers fought off Soviet officials when they came to raid the local church; when the officials returned three days later with troops and machine-guns there was some fighting with several people killed. The Politburo, in Lenin's absence, voted to suspend further confiscations. But Lenin, hearing of the events in Shuya, dictated contrary orders over the phone from his country residence at Gorki with strict instructions of top secrecy. . .Lenin argued that the events in Shuya should be exploited to link the clergy with the Black Hundreds, to destroy the Church 'for many decades,' and to 'assure ourselves of capital worth several hundred million gold roubles. . .to carry out governmental work in general and in particular economic reconstruction.' It was 'only now,' in the context of the famine, that the hungry peasants would 'either be for us or at any rate neutral' in this 'ferocious' war against the Church; 'later on we will not succeed.' For this reason, continued Lenin:
"'I have come to the unequivocal conclusion that we must now wage the most decisive and merciless war against the Black Hundred clergy and suppress its resistance with such cruelty that they will not forget it for decades to come. . .The more members of the reactionary bourgeoisie and clergy we manage to shoot the better.'
"It has recently been estimated that 8,000 people were executed during this brutal campaign in 1922 alone. Patriarch Tikhon claimed to know of 10,000 priests in prison or exile, including about 100 bishops." ('A People's Tragedy, The Russian Revolution,' by Orlando Figes, pp. 748-749).

This was a continuing theme throughout the seventy long, dark years that the atheists ruled Russia: "Religious believers, of course, were being arrested uninterruptedly. . .There was a 'night of struggle against religion' in Leningrad on Christmas Eve, 1929, when they arrested a large part of the religious intelligentsia. . ." (Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, p. 50). In spite of the spectacular failure of all prior atheist utopias, hope springs eternal. Atheist Sam Harris is confident that, this time, he knows how to get it right: conceal lie detectors in the wall panelling:

French Revolution

Is the problem communism...or atheism itself? In the French Revolution, the first flush of Jacobin anti-Christian sentiment was atheistic rather than Deistic.  Before the plundered and looted cathedrals of France became temples to a vaguely defined 'Supreme Being', they were proclaimed 'Temples of Reason': "Bearing a bust of Marat, the crowd marched to the Temple of Reason, the erstwhile cathedral, over whose portals were placed a large tricolor and a placard reading 'Light after darkness.'" (Twelve Who Ruled, The Year of the Terror in the French Revolution, R.R. Palmer, p. 188).

Rather bizarrely, Bertrand Russell wants to thank "the generations of freethinkers, who from the Renaissance to the present day, have made Christians ashamed of many of their traditional beliefs" (Bertrand Russell, Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization? Why I am not a Christian, Kindle location 913) for the discovery of tolerance. If these "freethinkers" had any conception of religious toleration, why then did they not practice it? Why were mass drownings their response to unapologetic Christian belief?

Subsequently outspoken atheists like Hebert were obliged to recant, and Deism was installed as the official religion of the revolution. One must wonder, however, to what extent the atheism which was the fondest dream of the Jacobins contributed to the waste of human life that ensued.

Did they practice religious toleration? Nothing like that; everyone had to conform. This is normal when atheists are in power. The lives of clerics who refused to swear the loyalty oath were forfeit to the Revolution:

"In order to let this dangerous moment pass by, M. de Langoirac, vicar-general of the archbishopric, had retired half a league off; in the village of Cauderan, to the residence of an octogenarian priest, who, like himself, had never meddled with public matters. On the 15th of July the National Guards of the village, excited by the speeches of the previous night, have come to the residence to pick them up, and moreover, a third priest belonging in the neighborhood. . .The octogenarian 'receives so many blows that he cannot recover;' the abbe du Puy is knocked down and dragged along by a rope attached to his feet; M. de Langoirac's head is cut off, carried about on a pike, taken to his house and presented to the servant, who is told that 'her master will not come home to supper.' The torment of the priests has lasted from five o'clock in the morning to seven o'clock in the evening, and the municipal authorities were duly advised; but they cannot put themselves out of the way to give succor; they are too seriously occupied in erecting a liberty-pole." (Hippolyte Taine, The French Revolution, Volume 2, pp. 198-199).

Atheists object: what is this but a circumstantial 'argumentum ad hominem,' as when one asks a critic of hunting whether he eats meat? The lethal rampages of never so many brutal, irrational atheists do not prove atheism false. Their unfortunate habit of cutting people's heads off and carrying them around on pikes does not prove atheism false. While not a formally valid argument against atheism, no more so than the corresponding argument against theism, these considerations will, it is hoped, focus critics' minds on intolerance as a debility of the old Adam. Atheists are justified in their focus on the shameful history of nominal Christianity, but overshoot in drawing sweeping anti-Christian conclusions. Atrocities delegitimize those institutions, like the papacy, long associated with them, not a Holy Spirit known not to be associated with them.


Karl Marx V. I. Lenin
Bhagat Singh Mao Zedong
Pol Pot Enver Hoxha
The Derg Che Guevara
No True Atheist Why?
Tu Quoque Prince of Tyre
Atheist Armies Jim Jones
The French Revolution

Atheist Killers


  • "Allah loves the little children,
  • All the children of the world.
  • Red and yellow, black and white,
  • Load 'em down with dynamite,
  • Allah loves the little children of the world."
  • (Anonymous scurrilous ditty)

There is legitimate concern for tolerance among this group of theists. The founder of this faith set the precedent for executing apostates and mockers. The secular legal scholar Montesquieu accuses, "It is a misfortune to human nature when religion is given by a conqueror. The Mahometan religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded." (Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Kindle location 6592).

War has been employed to spread this faith, as the poet said before the walls of al-Ta'if:

"If you refuse we will fight you doggedly,
'Twill be no weak faltering affair.
We shall fight as long as we live
Till you turn to Islam, humbly seeking refuge." (The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, A. Guillaume, pp. 587-588).

I do not know, however, that it is any more helpful to lump 'theists' together for evaluation on this issue than it would be to condemn 'politics' for the Cambodian killing fields. To say that the 'New England Town Meeting' needs to be suppressed before the killing starts, citing the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge, would be unduly alarmist. Pointing to the killing fields of Cambodia and saying 'Politics did this' is accurate. But the townsman who hides in the restroom during Town Meeting for fear the killing will begin at any moment has over-generalized. There is a 'politics' that does not fill up cemeteries. It is no more helpful to blame 'theists' because Mohammad ibn Abdallah thought up the efficient means of propagating his new teaching by killing those who will not subscribe to it.

Nevertheless the reader who investigates that dark corner of the publishing industry known as the New Atheism will discover the culprit for 9/11; it was not the nineteen hijackers, nor the false teachers who spurred them on: it was Religion. Those who produce this noxious hate literature cannot tell the difference between their Christian neighbors and those nineteen hijackers. See:

"'But it has never been clearer that there is only one place to lay the blame and it has ever been thus. The cause of all this misery, mayhem, violence, terror and ignorance is of course religion itself, and if it seems ludicrous to have to state such an obvious reality, the fact is that the government and the media are doing a pretty good job of pretending that it isn't so.' Our Western politicians avoid mentioning the R word (religion), and instead characterize their battle as a war against terror. . .The take-home message is that we should blame religion itself. . ." (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, pp. 343-344).

By 'religion,' his culprit for 9/11, of course, Dawkins means, not Muslim extremism alone, but Christianity as well. In fact, these authors cannot find any characteristic by which to differentiate between the two. Have you ever heard a slander so base, so outrageous? Guilt is not a kind of contagion that can be shed from the guilty party onto others standing nearby. The world at large does not have much tolerance for hate literature today, except in one case: that is, if it is directed against Christians. These are respected authors, and what they're trying to say is that Christians, or people indistinguishable by any mark from Christians, did 9/11. This is as appalling and grotesque as any similar prior claim, that Bolshevism is a Jewish plot to destroy Russia, etc.

While there is a strain of Islam that encourages violent acts, it is sadly not alone. Mohammed ibn Abdallah's method of silencing dissent is not unique to one false prophet: "It has always been a well understood doctrine of the Church that it was right and praiseworthy to kill every person who spoke evil of the Prophet." (John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, Chapter XIX, Confession Continued and Concluded, March 16, 1877, Seven Days Prior to His Execution). It is understandable why false prophets cannot abide critical examination. But not all prophets are false prophets.

The Crusades

During classical antiquity, the Arabs lived in Arabia. The Arab prophet Mohammed, while residing at Mecca and preaching and practicing religious toleration, succeeded in winning approximately forty converts.

The newspaper today describes the inhabitants of the Middle East as 'Arabs.' Some people seem to assume that things were always this way. In Ridley Scott's epic movie 'The Kingdom of Heaven,' it is taken for granted that the Franks are interlopers, while Saladin's Muslims are the rightful rulers of Palestine. But by what right did the Muslims rule the then mostly Christian populace of Palestine, or for that matter the still-majority Christian populace of Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, or Spain? If one says, 'By right of conquest,' then the Franks who conquered enjoyed the same right, as indeed would the Chinese had they taken the trouble.

The Hollywood elite's assumption that the Muslims are the one army of foreign imperialists who are never foreign and never imperialist rests on this force's genocidal success in whittling down the population of non-Muslims. In the Middle East today, the Christian population rarely reaches to ten percent, and in some places like Tunisia (Augustine's Carthage) is all but non-existent. How did they do it? They killed a lot of people. The survivors learned to keep their heads down.

It is greatly to be regretted that there was a time when the bishop of Rome was preaching Muslim doctrine: kill an infidel and you'll go to heaven. The Koran says that, the Bible does not. This malleability and plasticity of Rome's doctrine had already been apparent. When the people were impressed by the Manichaean gnostics' celibate clergy, Rome adopted clerical celibacy. Certainly this willingness to adopt innovations pioneered by other faiths had to stop, and Bible-believers can only rejoice that the reformers stood for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. But the bishop of Rome did not originate this vile and ungodly doctrine; the one who did deserves more blame than his late-coming imitator.

Peter the Hermit

Spain under its Visigothic monarchs did not respect the rights of minority religions, like Judaism. Like scripture says, "Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him." (Proverbs 26:27). They were alarmed to discover, with the threat of Muslim invasion looming, that some of their subjects welcomed such a development:

"In the year 694 the Government was thrown into the wildest panic by the discovery of another plot, in which nearly all the Jews of the kingdom were supposed to be concerned. It is no wonder that they conspired. In the midst of their own miseries —though Egica had somewhat relaxed the persecuting laws— they heard from the people of their own race and faith in Africa that under the Saracen rule the Jews were protected and honoured. Who can blame them if they intrigued with their kinsmen in Africa to bring about a Saracen invasion of Spain?
"The numbers and wealth of the Spanish Jews were even yet large enough to render them dangerous enemies of the kingdom; and besides those who professed Judaism there were thousands more whose families had for generations been accounted Christian, but who in secret cherished their ancestral religion, and the bitterest hatred of the Gothic oppressors. The king and the bishops, when the treason of the Jews was revealed, resolved upon nothing less than the entire uprooting of the Jewish faith."
(Bradley, Henry. The Story of the Goths (Kindle Locations 3713-3721). Didactic Press.)

Truth to tell this sounds like the problem Mr. Hitler had with all those Bolshevik Jews: is it really possible that "nearly all" the Jews were active participants in this treasonable communication with the enemy? Just as a disproportionate number of names in the Soviet Politburo were Hebraic, there were perhaps some Jews of the day who preferred Muslim government to the Visigoths. One suspects however that targeted prosecutions of those individual who could be proven, by any reasonable standard of evidence, to have given aid and comfort to the enemy, would have deflated this seventh century conspiracy theory. The strange illogic of bigotry is that all Jews must be punished became some Jews are Bolsheviks,— even the many Jews who subscribe to other political philosophies and are by no rational standard responsible for the murders and thievery of the Bolsheviks. The kinds of eruptions were common in the Middle Ages, climaxing in Peter the Hermit's terrifying murder spree.

All or Nothing

  • "Indeed there are many people in the world today, they're well known as jihadists, Muslim fundamentalists, people who want to kill, really do seriously want and intend to kill everyone in this room, who get the energy they've got, and they're willing to give their lives because they are so sure that God is with them. So if you want to believe that God intervenes on one side or another, and that God takes a hand in human history and human affairs, you have to grant it to them too. I don't know whether you're ready to do that. Or you'd have to say, no, it's only true when we say so. Which I think would be, wouldn't it? a rather unsatisfying argument."
  • (Christopher Hitchens, 14:36 in the debate between Christopher Hitchens and William Dembski at Prestonwood Baptist Church.)

"You have to grant it to them too?" Why? This is like saying, if many climate scientists believe the globe is warming and some few think it is cooling, you have to grant it to to both of them: it's both warming and cooling. Surely you would not want to imply the ones who are right are anything special, and the ones who are wrong are inferior? When people make mutually exclusive claims that cannot both be true, we do not grant it to both of them. This is not how we reason. But this is how atheist reasoning works, by bundling. Either all religious claims are true, or none. But some religious claims are mutually exclusive. Aha! cries the atheist: this proves religion is futile.

There is no other field of endeavor in which contending parties reason in this way. No alchemist ever said, if you say that burning is caused by rapid oxidation, you must also concede that burning is caused by the release of phlogiston, because otherwise one side would be right and the other wrong and this would be upsetting. The conflict between the phlogiston theory and the rapid oxidation theory does not prove that chemical science is impossible or irrational; it only shows that the phlogiston theory and the rapid oxidation theory cannot both be true. The phlogiston theory was discarded in the dustbin of history, not because of the chauvinism and parochialism of the oxidation champions, but because the event did not confirm it.


In 2003 the United States launched an unprovoked invasion of the secular socialist nation of Iraq. There was great public enthusiasm for this war at its onset among Christians. I do not know how the enthusiasts for this war can answer the unbelieving mother who wants to know for what her son died. With pseudo-Biblical clap-trap about 'Babylon'? Given the forces within Iraq with which the U.S. was obliged to align itself, the likeliest outcome of this invasion will not be freedom and democracy, but an officially Islamic state, with its concomitant bondage to a false religion. The pagans used to say that the mills of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine. While the pagans erred in ascribing plurality to the godhead, their perception that God's minute and exacting justice works its way in the world was astutely observant. How God will deal with America I do not know: I hope and pray it is with mercy rather than justice.

Unlike other nations conceptualized around a patch of real estate, the essence of America is an ideal: freedom. Those who hate the ideal do not love America, however loudly and raucously they may protest. Invading other nations in order to change their form of government is as Unamerican as it is Unchristian. Please, Lord, let the upcoming election prove the opportunity for patriotic Americans to regain control of this nation from the Unamerican cabal which took charge without benefit of majority support. Let the fog of misrepresentation, under cover of which those introducing such unheard-of innovations as 'pre-emptive war' pretend to be 'conservative,' dissipate and the truth shine clear:

War Against Iraq
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Atheist V. I. Lenin 
Atheist V. I. Lenin