From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister (2002)
“For the understanding of religions… a complete understanding of myth is mandatory.” -Mircia Eliade.
[…] When Alfred North Whitehead was the chair of philosophy at Harvard University, he made this observation: “Christian theology has been the greatest disaster in the history of the human race.”
Was he correct? A brief review:
391 C.E. (A.D.): Christians burn down one of the greatest libraries in the world in Alexandria. Over 700,000 scrolls were destroyed.
500 to 1000: The church takes over and brings with it the cancer of the Dark Ages, destroying almost everything that defined civilization. The Christian church all but wiped out education, technology, science, medicine, history, art and commerce. During this period the church amassed enormous wealth.
1099: Christian crusaders take Jerusalem and massacre Jews and Muslims. In the streets were piles of heads, hands and feet. Millions were killed as a result of the Crusades.
1208: Pope Innocent orders a crusade against the French Cathars. Over 100,000 were killed by Atnaud’s men at Beziers.
1231: Pope Grebgory IX establishes the Inquisition. Inquisitors were given license to explore every means of horror and cruelty. Victims were rubbed with lard or grease and slowly roasted alive. Ovens built to kill people, made famous by Nazi Germans, were first used in the Christian Inquisition of Eastern Europe. Hitler, by the way, said he admired Martin Luther more than any other German, because Luther despised the Jews.
Gruesome tortures used on hundreds of thousands of non-Christians in the Inquisition were so repugnant and horrible that I cannot even describe them to you. The Inquisition spread as far as India.
1377: The pope’s army descended on the Italian town of Cessna. For three days and nights beginning on February 3, the slaughter continued. The squares were filled with blood. Women were violently raped, a ransom was placed on children, and priceless works of art were destroyed. Over 5,000 people were butchered.
1497: The church began an enormous burning in Florence. The works of Latin and Italian poets, illuminated manuscripts, women’s ornaments, musical instruments and paintings were all burned.
1500s: The witch hunts are going full speed ahead. Members of the clergy proudly report how many were killed. The Lutheran prelate Benedict Carpazov bragged that he had killed over 20,000 devil worshippers. Historians estimate more than 9 million people were executed after 1484, mostly women. This was as brutal as anything that happened in the Nazi’s 20th-century Holocaust.
1572: On St. Bartholomew’s day more than 10,000 Protestants are slaughtered in France. Wrote Pope Gregory XIII: “We rejoice that you have relieved the world of those wretched heretics.”
George Bush, when he was President: “I don’t consider atheists to be citizens of America.”
Randall Terry, of Operation Rescue, the anti-abortion fanatics: “It’s us against them. It is the God-fearing people against the pagans of the United States.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “Christian theology has been, and is, a disease of the intellect.”
1n 1995, Pope John Paul II sent a letter to his cardinals. He wrote: “How can one remain silent about the many forms of violence perpetrated in the name of the Christian church, wars of religion, tribunals of the Inquisition and all other forms of violations of the rights of human beings?”
John Paul does not have enough days left in his life to say, “For my part, I am sorry” to all of the millions and millions of human beings slaughtered by the Christian church, to all new discoveries of truth slaughtered by the church, or to a legacy that has promoted sexism, racism, the desecration of the natural environment and the intolerance of other world spiritual traditions from Buddhism to the American Indian.
The United Church of Canada put their apology to the Indians in these loving and tender words: “Long before our people journeyed to this land, your people were here, and your understanding of the Mystery that surrounds us all was deep, and rich, and to be treasured. We did not listen to you. We were closed to the value of your spirituality. We tried to make you like us. We destroyed your vision. As a result the image of the Creator in us is twisted and blurred and we are not what we were meant to be. We ask you to forgive us.”
One of my Anthropology professors at the University of Colorado would spend an entire week documenting the horrendous damage done to people around the world by Christian missionaries. There is no word for religion in any American Indian language. They had no need for artificial, man-made, religion. Their every moment of every day was lived as an expression of the spiritual and sacred dimensions of existence. It was a living mythology always pointing toward the Mystery, rather than an artificially retained mythology that exists only to support the institution, the Christian church. Joseph Campbell often made this point in his lectures.
Jean Baptiste De Bienville, upon meeting the Nez Perce for the first time, wrote these words in his diary: “Their honesty is immaculate and their purity of purpose most remarkable. They are more like a nation of saints… than ‘savages.'”
Let us remember the spiritual legacy of the American Indian.