Saturday, April 19, 2014

Atrocities — All in the Name of Religion

There are many examples of evil committed in the name of “God”, “Allah” or other alleged “Supreme Deities” such as India’s goddess “Kali” or the Sun God of the ancient Aztecs called “Tonatiuh”; perhaps you prefer Re, also spelled Ra, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun and creator god.

Throughout history religion has been used as an excuse, or driving force, for some of the worst atrocities imaginable. From pre-history to modern history, religion is, for many folks, just a glorified excuse to kill other folks.

In truth the history of religion is a horror story. If anyone doubts it, just review this brief chronicle of religion’s gore during the last 1,000 years or so:

You’ll probably be surprised to know that as recently as the 1850’s Human sacrifices were still occurring in Buddhist Burma. Cases in point, when the capital was moved to Mandalay in 1857, no less than 56 “spotless” men were buried under the new city walls so as to “sanctify and protect” the city. Shortly thereafter two of the burial spots were found empty, so royal astrologers decreed that 500 men, women, girls, and boys, should be killed and buried at once, otherwise the capital must be abandoned. Fortunately to some, the condemned only included about 100 folks; they were actually killed and buried before British governors of the time stopped the ceremonies.

Members of India’s Thuggee sect strangled people as sacrifices to appease the bloodthirsty goddess Kali; this practice didn’t begin until in the 1500’s. The number of victims has been estimated to be as high as 2 million. The professional assassins or organized “Thugs” were claiming about 20,000 lives a year in the 1800’s until the British rulers successfully stopped the atrocities. At a trial in 1840, one such Thug was accused of killing 931 people.  Even today, a few Hindu priests sacrifice goats to the goddess Kali in the stead of humans.

The Medieval Inquisition is actually a series of Inquisitions beginning around 1184. It was in response to the large popular movement throughout Europe perceived to be sacrilegious to the Christian way of thinking.

On May 15th of 1252 Pope Innocent IV issued a papal bull which first authorized the use of torture by inquisitors.  Since the Inquisitors were forbidden to afflict the accused with methods that resulted in bloodshed, mutilation or death, one of the more common forms of medieval inquisition torture was known as “strappado”; wherein the hands of the indicted were bound behind the back with a rope, and the victim was suspended in this way, dislocating the joints of both arms.  To add insult to injury, weights were often added to the legs dislocating those joints as well. Otherwise, screaming victims were typically pierced, stretched, burned, and broken on fiendish pain machines to make them confess to their false beliefs and to identify fellow transgressors.

When the “Black Death” swept through Europe from 1348 to1349, rumors alleging that it was caused by Jews poisoning wells ran a muck. So naturally, hysterical mobs slaughtered thousands of Jews in several countries.  The prince of Thuringia, a federal state of east-central Germany, announced that he had burned his Jews for the honor of God.

In the 1400’s, the Inquisition shifted its focus to witchcraft. Priests tortured untold thousands of women into admitting that they were witches who flew through the sky and engaged in sex with the devil.   Lest we forget, when the Puritans settled in Massachusetts in the 1600’s, you could say they created a religious “police state”; nonconformity to there doctrine could lead to flogging, branding, hanging, the cutting off of ears, or simply boring through the tongue with a hot iron. Most anything “non-puritan” was considered a capital offense. No less than four stubborn Quakers defied this rule of law and were hanged. Then in the 1690’s the fear of witches clutched the colony. Result: Twenty alleged witches were killed and 150 others imprisoned.

The Aztecs began their elaborate theocracy or government with “divine” guidance in the 1300’s and brought human sacrifice to, shall we say, a golden era. About 20,000 people were killed each year so as to appease several gods — especially the sun god Tonatiuh, who required a daily “nourishment” of blood. The heart of the sacrificed victims was ceremoniously cut out and some bodies were actually eaten ritualistically. The lucky victims were simply drowned, beheaded, burned or dropped from great heights. In a rite to the rain god, terrified screaming children were slain at some sites so that their tears might bring rain to the region. As a sacrament to the maize goddess, a young virgin was forced to dance for 24 hours, before she was killed and peeled; her skin was then worn by a priest to continue the dancing rite.

The Christian Crusades (1095-1291):           

Since the time of Constantine the Great (Roman Emperor from 306 to 337) Christians had made pilgrimages to the Holy Land. This became the norm even though Moslems established rule in Jerusalem in 638; Christians during this era were allowed to visit the city. In the 11th century, however, the situation changed. As fate might have it, when the number and frequency of pilgrimages to Jerusalem was at new peaks, the Turks took control of Jerusalem and prevented pilgrimages to the “Holy Land”.

Pope Urban II (1088-1099) was responsible for supporting Emperor Alexus I (1081—1118) of Constantinople in launching the First Crusade. He made a rather
dramatic speech calling for the Christian prince’s of Europe to go on a crusade to rescue the Holy Land from the Turks. The speech was given at the Council of Clermont in France and joined the ideas of “making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land” with that of “waging a holy war against infidels”.  This resulted in the onset of the first of seven (some say nine) Christian Crusades.

The general consensus, in the light of their original purpose: The Crusades were complete failures. They made no enduring conquests of the Holy Land and they did not check the advance of Islam. On the other hand, they fostered a harsh intolerance between Muslims and Christians, where before there had been some measure of mutual respect. They also introduced a rebirth of prejudice, hatred of, or discrimination against those of the Jewish persuasion.

If you are curious about the death toll; no exact official figure is given although according to, a very rough estimate of the total death toll throughout all of the Crusades equals 1.5 million Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

When India finally won independence from Britain in 1947, the “great soul” of Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t up to preventing Hindus and Muslims from turning on one another which resulted in a killing frenzy that took perhaps a million lives. You may recall that even Gandhi was killed by a Hindu who thought him too pro-Muslim.

Not to be out done by the uppity Christians, the Islamic jihads (holy wars), mandated by the Koran, has killed millions over 12 centuries. In the early years, Muslim armies spread the faith rapidly: east to India and west to Morocco. Then wouldn’t you know it, splintering sects branded other Muslims as infidels and declared jihads against them too. A few examples include: In 658 the Kharijis (todays Ibadi offspring dominant in Oman and Zanzibar) broke with the majority of Muslims and battled Sunni rulers.  The Azariqis (a sect of Shi’ite Muslims) declared death to all “sinners” and their families; they killed numerous leaders in modern-day Iran, Iraq and Syria. They were finally wiped out by conquering Mongols; but their vile name survives.  In the 1850’s a Sudanese mystic, ‘Umar al-Hajj, led a barbaric jihad to convert pagan African tribes.

In Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978, followers of the Reverend Jim Jones killed a visiting U S congressman and three newsmen; but Rev. Jones didn’t stop there; apparently at the Reverend’s direction and naturally in the name of God, cyanide was administered to men, women, and children in a 900-person suicide pact that shocked the world.

In Nigeria in 1982, religious fanatics killed and mutilated several hundred people as
heretics and infidels. Naturally as some fanatics do, they drank the blood of several of the victims. When the militia showed up to subdue the violence, the religious cultists sprinkled themselves with “blessed powder” that they were sure would make them impervious to police bullets. It didn’t.

Hindu and Muslim bloodshed erupts from time to time throughout India. More than
3,000 were killed in the province of Assam in 1983.  Would you believe that in May of 1984 a few alleged Muslims had the audacity to hang dirty sandals on a Hindu leader’s portrait; knowing no doubt that such a bold act was a religious insult.  In-any-event, this act triggered a week of arson & riots resulting in 216 dead, 756 wounded, 13,000 homeless, and 4,100 in jail.

It seems clear that folks who think religions of the world are a force for good are looking only at Dr. Jekyll and ignoring Mr. Hyde completely. Apparently such folk fail to see the superstitious savagery infiltrating both history and current events; keep in mind that this publication has not touched upon the various “Crazy’s” who kill at times, randomly, simply because “God” told them to.

Some say that during the past three centuries, religion has gradually lost its power over life in both Europe and America, and “church horrors” have ended in most regions of the West. But if that’s true, the poison lingers.

It may be fashionable among thinking folks to say that religion is not the real basis of today’s strife in places like Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland, India and Iran (to name a few) and that sects merely provide labels for combatants.

Regardless, Religion, if nothing else keeps such groups in hostile camps. Without it, divisions would in all likely-hood blur with the passing of generations; our children could perhaps adapt to new times and eventually forget ancient wounds. But religion keeps them alien to one another.

In short: Anything that divides people breeds cruelty and religion serves that ugly purpose.