The Scourge of Mankind

One wonders how the mind can get so screwed up that you would be willing to kill a fellow human being just because they don’t share your religious beliefs. But for any student of European history it is not too difficult to be reminded of such acts of barbarism being committed in the name of deity of sorts, when murder was on the repertoire in order to advance the interests of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe during the Dark or Early Middle Ages

Lest we forget, by slaughtering the infidel unwilling to convert to their version of Islam, the Muslim Jihadis of today appear to have taken a page from the late great King Charlemagne – or Charles the Great – the king of the Franks, who became the first emperor in Western Europe since the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and is sometimes referred to as the founder of modern Europe.

During his campaign to establish an empire in full support of the Church, he felt compelled to Christianize newly conquered people upon penalty of death, which lead to such events as the massacre of 4,500 captive rebel Saxons in October of 782 in what is now known as Verden in Lower Saxony, Germany. The unfortunate Saxons had rebelled against King Charles’ invasion and his subsequent attempts to Christianize them from their native Germanic paganism.

And that massacre pales in comparison with the events almost 500 years later, in 1209, in the town of Béziers in the Languedoc region.  When the Roman Catholic Church established the Inquisition, it was set up initially to wipe out the Cathar movement in southern France where it had taken hold in opposition to the hitherto dominant Roman Catholic religion. Apparently, there were a lot of Cathars living in the town of Béziers, to the point that it was seen to be a Cathar stronghold, and on July 22nd, 1209, under leadership of the Abbot of Citeaux the town was attacked, ransacked, and completely burned to the ground, the majority of its population of 20,000 people killed, including many women and children. That this would have included many thousands of Roman Catholic adherents who were also living in Béziers didn’t seem to matter. When questioned about this, the Cistercian abbot-commander of the Catholic crusaders, is on record of having said that: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eis. (Kill them all, the Lord will recognize His own).

Now all this happened a long time ago, and while today the Christian faith is far more benign,  the justification for this kind of slaughter remains an intrinsic part of the foundation of the Christian faith: the bible, for in Deuteronomy XIII.12-16, the faithful are instructed as follows:

If thou shalt hear say in one of these cities …, Let us go and serve other Gods …; then shalt thou surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly and all that is therein. … And thou shalt burn with fire the city and all the spoil thereof every whit for the Lord thy God. … And it shall be a heap forever; and it shall not be built again.

And so we are here today, 800 years after the slaughter in Béziers – and yes, it was rebuilt again! –  and in the 21st century, and as can be evidenced from recent events in the Middle East, innocent people continue to be slaughtered in the name of some god or prophet or another. One might claim that this kind of action has nothing to do with the religious beliefs themselves – and that they are misused when wielded as weapons of murder and destruction. No – it is precisely the unsubstantiated and irrational nature of these beliefs that allows them to be used in this manner. When you think you have the creator and eternity on your side – all your actions are justified; you cannot be wrong!  Until we shake off the influence of these dangerous nonsensical beliefs, our species will continue to be murdered for them.

This leads me to say that to believe in the existence of a god or other kinds of super-natural beings is terrible affliction and a seemingly endless source of human tragedy. Because – while in principle these are nonsensical and hence harmless beliefs– it is at the same time the sickly smell of centuries of savagery and senseless slaughter of thousands  of people in the name of such beliefs – and primarily in the competition between such beliefs.  And when you read up on human history and listen to the news today, this shall be revealed and made abundantly clear: “Religion is the Scourge of Mankind”.