Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why did the Sanhedrin need a "Judas" to capture Jesus? This story is pure fiction.

 It is very unclear in the gospels just what Judas Iscariot's betrayal consisted of, probably because there was absolutely no need for a betrayal. Jesus could have been arrested any number of times without the general populace knowing about it. It would have been simple to keep tabs on his whereabouts. The religious authorities did not need a betrayal - only the gospel writers needed a betrayal, so that a few more "prophecies" could be fulfilled. The whole episode is pure fiction - and, as might be expected, it is riddled with contradictions.

1. The prophecy

Matthew says that Judas' payment and death were prophesied by Jeremiah, and then he quotes Zechariah 11:12-13 as proof!

2. Thirty pieces of silver

According to Matthew 26:15, the chief priests "weighed out thirty pieces of silver" to give to Judas. There are two things wrong with this:

a. There were no "pieces of silver" used as currency in Jesus' time - they had gone out of circulation about 300 years before.
b. In Jesus' time, minted coins were used - currency was not "weighed out."

By using phrases that made sense in Zechariah's time but not in Jesus' time Matthew once again gives away the fact that he creates events in his gospel to match "prophecies" he finds in the Old Testament.

3. Who bought the Field of Blood?

a. In Matthew 27:7 the chief priests buy the field.
b. In Acts 1:18 Judas buys the field.

4. How did Judas die?

a. In Matthew 27:5 Judas hangs himself.
b. In Acts 1:18 he bursts open and his insides spill out.
c. According to the apostle Paul, neither of the above is true. Paul says Jesus appeared to "the twelve" after his resurrection. Mark 14:20 makes it clear that Judas was one of the twelve.
In Matthew 19:28, Jesus tells the twelve disciples, including Judas, that when Jesus rules from his throne, they will sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

5. How did the Field of Blood get its name?

a. Matthew says because it was purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:6-8).
b. Acts says because of the bloody mess caused by Judas' bursting open (Acts 1:18-19).

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Is it the LORD'S Supper...or is it PAUL'S Supper?


In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper during the Passover meal (in John's gospel the Lord's Supper is not instituted - Jesus was dead by the time of the Passover meal).

In 1 Corinthians 11:23 the apostle Paul writes, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread..." Here Paul claims that he got the instructions for the Lord's Supper directly from Jesus (evidently from one of his many revelations). Paul writes these words about twenty years after Jesus' death, and had the church already been celebrating the Lord's Supper he certainly would have been aware of it and would have had no need to receive it from the Lord. Some apologists try to play games with the text to make it seem like Paul actually received the instructions from the other apostles, but one thing Paul stresses is that what he teaches he receives from no man (Galatians 1:11-12).

The Lord's supper was not invented by Paul, but was borrowed by him from Mithraism, the mystery religion that existed long before Christianity and was Christianity's chief competitor up until the time of Constantine. In Mithraism, the central figure is the mythical Mithras, who died for the sins of mankind and was resurrected. Believers in Mithras were rewarded with eternal life. Part of the Mithraic communion liturgy included the words, "He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation."[*].

The early Church Fathers Justin Martyr and Tertullian tried to say that Mithraism copied the Lord's Supper from Christianity, but they were forced to say that demons had copied it since only demons could copy an event in advance of its happening! They could not say that the followers of Mithras had copied it - it was a known fact that Mithraism had included the ritual a long time before Christ was born.

Where did Mithraism come from? The ancient historian Plutarch mentioned Mithraism in connection with the pirates of Cilicia in Asia Minor encountering the Roman general Pompey in 67 BC. More recently, in 1989 Mithraic scholar David Ulansey wrote a book, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, in which he convincingly shows that Mithraism originated in the city of Tarsus in Cilicia. That this is also the home town of the apostle Paul cannot be a coincidence.

Paul admits that he did not know Jesus during Jesus' lifetime. He also says that his gospel was not taught to him by any man (Galatians 1:11-12). All of Paul's theology is based on his own revelations, or visions. Like dreams, visions or hallucinations do not come from nowhere, but reveal what is already in a person's subconscious. It is very likely that the source of most of Paul's visions, and therefore most of his theology, is to be found in Mithraism. That we find Jesus at the Last Supper saying more or less the same thing Paul said to the Corinthians many years later is another example of the church modifying the gospels to incorporate the theology of Paul, which eventually won out over the theology of Jesus' original disciples.

[* Be advised that Internet Infidels has not been able to confirm some of these claims about Mithraism. Mithraism does predate Christianity (in at least two distinctly different forms, Persian and Greco-Roman), did become one of Christianity's rivals, and did have a large center in Tarsus in Paul's day. Mithras was the son of a God, a savior figure, and believers did gain eternal life (though it took at least seven initiations to get all the way to heaven), and did have some sort of communal meal. But whether Mithras "died and was resurrected" is hard to confirm, as is his virgin birth, and we do not know Mr. Carlson's source for his quote from the Mithraic liturgy and thus cannot confirm either its date or authenticity. Even if authentic, one would then have to rule out influence from Christianity before asserting this as predating the Christian formula.]

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The author of the Gospel of Matthew committed blatant Fraud..and his knowledge of Hebrew was pathetic


Matthew says that the birth of Jesus and the events following it fulfilled several Old Testament prophecies. These prophecies include:

1. The virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14)

This verse is part of a prophecy that Isaiah relates to King Ahaz regarding the fate of the two kings threatening Judah at that time and the fate of Judah itself. In the original Hebrew, the verse says that a "young woman" will give birth, not a "virgin" which is an entirely different Hebrew word. The young woman became a virgin only when the Hebrew word was mistranslated into Greek.

This passage obviously has nothing to do with Jesus (who, if this prophecy did apply to him, should have been named Immanuel instead of Jesus).

2. The "slaughter of the innocents" (Jeremiah 31:15)

Matthew says that Herod, in an attempt to kill the newborn Messiah, had all the male children two years old and under put to death in Bethlehem and its environs, and that this was in fulfillment of prophecy.

This is a pure invention on Matthew's part. Herod was guilty of many monstrous crimes, including the murder of several members of his own family. However, ancient historians such as Josephus, who delighted in listing Herod's crimes, do not mention what would have been Herod's greatest crime by far. It simply didn't happen.

The context of Jeremiah 31:15 makes it clear that the weeping is for the Israelites about to be taken into exile in Babylon, and has nothing to do with slaughtered children hundreds of years later.

3. Called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1)

Matthew has Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod, and says that the return of Jesus from Egypt was in fulfillment of prophecy (Matthew 2:15). However, Matthew quotes only the second half of Hosea 11:1. The first half of the verse makes it very clear that the verse refers to God calling the Israelites out of Egypt in the exodus led by Moses, and has nothing to do with Jesus.

As further proof that the slaughter of the innocents and the flight into Egypt never happened, one need only compare the Matthew and Luke accounts of what happened between the time of Jesus' birth and the family's arrival in Nazareth. According to Luke, forty days (the purification period) after Jesus was born, his parents brought him to the temple, made the prescribed sacrifice, and returned to Nazareth. Into this same time period Matthew somehow manages to squeeze: the visit of the Magi to Herod, the slaughter of the innocents and the flight into Egypt, the sojourn in Egypt, and the return from Egypt. All of this action must occur in the forty day period because Matthew has the Magi visit Jesus in Bethlehem before the slaughter of the innocents.



Since the prophecies mentioned above do not, in their original context, refer to Jesus, why did Matthew include them in his gospel? There are two possibilities:

1. The church says that the words had a hidden future context as well as the original context, ie, God was keeping very important secrets from His chosen people.

2. Matthew, in his zeal to prove that Jesus was the Messiah, searched the Old Testament for passages (sometimes just phrases) that could be construed as messianic prophecies and then created or modified events in Jesus' life to fulfill those "prophecies."

Fortunately for those who really want to know the truth, Matthew made a colossal blunder later in his gospel which leaves no doubt at all as to which of the above possibilities is true. His blunder involves what is known as Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (if you believe Mark, Luke or John) or riding on two donkeys (if you believe Matthew). In Matthew 21:1-7, two animals are mentioned in three of the verses, so this cannot be explained away as a copying error. And Matthew has Jesus riding on both animals at the same time, for verse 7 literally says, "on them he sat."

Why does Matthew have Jesus riding on two donkeys at the same time? Because he misread Zechariah 9:9 which reads in part, "mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey."
Anyone familiar with Old Testament Hebrew would know that the word translated "and" in this passage does not indicate another animal but is used in the sense of "even" (which is used in many translations) for emphasis. The Old Testament often uses parallel phrases which refer to the same thing for emphasis, but Matthew was evidently not familiar with this usage. Although the result is rather humorous, it is also very revealing. It demonstrates conclusively that Matthew created events in Jesus' life to fulfill Old Testament prophecies, even if it meant creating an absurd event. Matthew's gospel is full of fulfilled prophecies. Working the way Matthew did, and believing as the church does in "future contexts," any phrase in the Bible could be turned into a fulfilled prophecy!

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If you want to take a census in the USA for taxation, would you tell everyone to return to the city of their ancestors to do it? Ridiculous.

Both Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Matthew quotes Micah 5:2 to show that this was in fulfillment of prophecy. Actually, Matthew misquotes Micah (compare Micah 5:2 to Matthew 2:6). Although this misquote is rather insignificant, Matthew's poor understanding of Hebrew will have great significance later in his gospel.

Luke has Mary and Joseph travelling from their home in Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea for the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:4). Matthew, in contradiction to Luke, says that it was only after the birth of Jesus that Mary and Joseph resided in Nazareth, and then only because they were afraid to return to Judea (Matthew 2:21-23).

In order to have Jesus born in Bethlehem, Luke says that everyone had to go to the city of their birth to register for the census. This is absurd, and would have caused a bureaucratic nightmare. The purpose of the Roman census was for taxation, and the Romans were interested in where the people lived and worked, not where they were born (which they could have found out by simply asking rather than causing thousands of people to travel).

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Why would Mary try to have Jesus committed...if an angel had told her he would sit on David's Throne?

In Matthew, the angel appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him that Mary's child will save his people from their sins. In Luke, the angel tells Mary that her son will be great, he will be called the Son of the Most High and will rule on David's throne forever. A short time later Mary tells Elizabeth that all generations will consider her (Mary) blessed because of the child that will be born to her.

If this were true, Mary and Joseph should have had the highest regard for their son. Instead, we read in Mark 3:20-21 that Jesus' family tried to take custody of him because they thought he had lost his mind. And later, in Mark 6:4-6 Jesus complained that he received no honor among his own relatives and his own household.

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Almost an entire chapter of the Bible detailing the Genealogy of Jesus'...stepfather? Why?

Why does the author of the Gospel of Matthew bother giving us the detailed genealogy of Joseph?  Who cares who Joseph's ancestors were!  Joseph wasn't Jesus real father...or was he?



1. Matthew and Luke disagree

Matthew and Luke give two contradictory genealogies for Joseph (Matthew 1:2-17 and Luke 3:23-38). They cannot even agree on who the father of Joseph was. Church apologists try to eliminate this discrepancy by suggesting that the genealogy in Luke is actually Mary's, even though Luke says explicitly that it is Joseph's genealogy (Luke 3:23). Christians have had problems reconciling the two genealogies since at least the early fourth century. It was then that Eusebius, a "Church Father," wrote in his The History of the Church, "each believer has been only too eager to dilate at length on these passages."

2. Why genealogies of Joseph?

Both the genealogies of Matthew and Luke show that Joseph was a direct descendant of King David. But if Joseph is not Jesus' father, then Joseph's genealogies are meaningless as far as Jesus is concerned, and one has to wonder why Matthew and Luke included them in their gospels. The answer, of course, is that the genealogies originally said that Jesus was the son of Joseph and thus Jesus fulfilled the messianic requirement of being a direct descendant of King David.

Long after Matthew and Luke wrote the genealogies the church invented (or more likely borrowed from the mystery religions) the doctrine of the virgin birth. Although the virgin birth could be accommodated by inserting a few words into the genealogies to break the physical link between Joseph and Jesus, those same insertions also broke the physical link between David and Jesus.

The church had now created two major problems: 1) to explain away the existence of two genealogies of Joseph, now rendered meaningless, and 2) to explain how Jesus was a descendant of David.

The apostle Paul says that Jesus "was born of the seed of David" (Romans 1:3). Here the word "seed" is literally in the Greek "sperma." This same Greek word is translated in other verses as "descendant(s)" or "offspring." The point is that the Messiah had to be a physical descendant of King David through the male line. That Jesus had to be a physical descendant of David means that even if Joseph had legally adopted Jesus (as some apologists have suggested), Jesus would still not qualify as Messiah if he had been born of a virgin - seed from the line of David was required.

Women did not count in reckoning descent for the simple reason that it was then believed that the complete human was present in the man's sperm (the woman's egg being discovered in 1827). The woman's womb was just the soil in which the seed was planted. Just as there was barren soil that could not produce crops, so also the Bible speaks of barren wombs that could not produce children.

This is the reason that although there are many male genealogies in the Bible, there are no female genealogies. This also eliminates the possibility put forward by some apologists that Jesus could be of the "seed of David" through Mary.

[Editor's note: As one reader has pointed out, "Genesis 3:15 says 'And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed.' So women can pass on 'seed' according to the bible."]

3. Why do only Matthew and Luke know of the virgin birth?

Of all the writers of the New Testament, only Matthew and Luke mention the virgin birth. Had something as miraculous as the virgin birth actually occurred, one would expect that Mark and John would have at least mentioned it in their efforts to convince the world that Jesus was who they were claiming him to be.

The apostle Paul never mentions the virgin birth, even though it would have strengthened his arguments in several places. Instead, where Paul does refer to Jesus' birth, he says that Jesus "was born of the seed of David" (Romans 1:3) and was "born of a woman," not a virgin (Galatians 4:4).

4. Why did Matthew include four women in Joseph's genealogy?

Matthew mentions four women in the Joseph's genealogy.

a. Tamar - disguised herself as a harlot to seduce Judah, her father-in-law (Genesis 38:12-19).
b. Rahab - was a harlot who lived in the city of Jericho in Canaan (Joshua 2:1).
c. Ruth - at her mother-in-law Naomi's request, she came secretly to where Boaz was sleeping and spent the night with him. Later Ruth and Boaz were married (Ruth 3:1-14).
d. Bathsheba - became pregnant by King David while she was still married to Uriah (2 Samuel 11:2-5).

To have women mentioned in a genealogy is very unusual. That all four of the women mentioned are guilty of some sort of sexual impropriety cannot be a coincidence. Why would Matthew mention these, and only these, women? The only reason that makes any sense is that Joseph, rather than the Holy Spirit, impregnated Mary prior to their getting married, and that this was known by others who argued that because of this Jesus could not be the Messiah. By mentioning these women in the genealogy Matthew is in effect saying, "The Messiah, who must be a descendant of King David, will have at least four "loose women" in his genealogy, so what difference does one more make?"


Were the Early Christians non-violent because they wouldn't...or because they couldn't? Christians have no historical claim to Morality.

They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that mislike it, heresy: and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion. 
Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), Leviathan

In the first century there was no heresy for the simple reason that there was no orthodoxy. The 'heresies' referred to in old translations of the New Testament are merely differences of opinion . Small Christian communities believed what they wanted to, and worshipped as they chose. As we have seen, there were no central authorities, no set rituals, no agreed canon of scripture, no Church hierarchy, and no established body of doctrine. In line with the toleration practised throughout the empire each group of Christians was free to believe whatever it wanted. The natural consequence of this state of affairs was that ideas and practices in different communities diverged.             

Towards the end of the second century Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, saw the dangers of numerous opinions developing. He attempted to establish an orthodox body of teaching. He wrote a five volume work against heresies, and it was he who compiled a cannon of the New Testament. He also claimed that there was only one proper Church, outside of which there could be no salvation. Other Christians were heretics and should be expelled, and if possible destroyed. The first Christian Emperor agreed. Gibbon summarises the edict which announced the destruction of various heretics: After a preamble filled with passion and reproach, Constantine absolutely prohibits the assemblies of the heretics and confiscates their public property to the use either of the revenue or of the catholic church. The sects against whom the Imperial severity was directed appear to have been the adherents of Paul of Samosata; the Montanists of Phrygia, who maintained an enthusiastic succession of prophesy; the Novatians, who sternly rejected the temporal efficacy of repentance; the Marcionites and Valentinians, under whose leading banners the various Gnostics of Asia and Egypt had insensibly rallied; and perhaps the Manichæans who had recently imported from Persia a more artful composition of oriental and Christian theology.

The design of extirpating the name, or at least of restraining the progress, of these odious heretics was prosecuted with vigour and effect. Some of the penal regulations were copied from the edicts of Diocletian; and this method of conversion was applauded by the same bishops who had felt the hand of oppression and had pleaded for the rights of humanity"

Further laws against heresy appeared in 380 AD under the Christian Emperor Theodosius I, who laid down the new rule: We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom we adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of our own initiative, which we shall assume in accordance with divine judgement.             

St Augustine (AD 354-430) taught that error has no rights. He cited biblical texts, notably Luke 14:16-23, to justify the use of compulsion. Had not Christ himself blinded St Paul in order to make him see the true light. According to Augustine, coercion using "great violence" was justified. He made a distinction between unbelievers who persecuted because of cruelty as against Christians who persecuted because of love. A war to preserve or restore the unity of the Church was a just war, a bellum Deo auctore, a war waged by God himself. He also found a way to avoid churchmen getting blood on their hands: dissension against the Church amounted to dissension against the state, so anyone condemned by the Church should be punished by the state. Centuries in the future such ideas would culminate in the activities of the Inquisition, which also required the secular authority to execute its judgements of blood. Augustine is often recognised explicitly as the father of the Inquisition, since he was responsible for adopting Roman methods of torture for the purposes of the Church in order to ensure uniformity. Already, in AD 385, the first recorded executions for heresy had been carried out under Emperor Maximus at the request of Spanish bishops. Priscillian, Bishop of Ávila, had been charged with witchcraft, though his real crime seems to have been agreeing with Gnostic opinions. Along with his companions he was tried and tortured. They confessed, and were executed. The Church now had precedents for both witch-hunting and for persecuting heretics, with a moral unpinning provided by St Augustine.            

The Christian Emperor Justinian issued severe laws against heretics in AD 527 and 528. Henceforth those who dissented from the authorised line were debarred from public office, forbidden to practice certain professions, prohibited from holding meetings, and denied the civil rights of a Roman Citizen. For them, said Justinian "to exist is sufficient" - for the time being. In the middle of the fifth century Pope Leo the Great commended the Emperor for torturing and executing heretics on behalf of the Church.             

In theory heresy was the denial of some essential Christian doctrine, publicly and obstinately . In practice any deviation from the currently orthodox line could be judged heretical. By the fifth century there were over a hundred active statutes in the Empire concerning heresy. From St Augustine onward for well over a thousand years virtually all Christian theologians agreed that heretics should be persecuted, and most agreed that they should be killed. Heresy was explicitly identified as as akin to leprosy. It was a disease that threatened to destroy a healthy body of believers if they strayed from the Church's view of religious orthodoxy, just as leprosy was a disease that threatened the healthy bodies of individuals if they strayed from the Church's view of sexual orthodoxy.. Diseases like this had to be eradicated at all costs. St Thomas Aquinas thought it virtuous to burn heretics, and favoured the option of burning them alive. From around the turn of the millennium executing heretics became ever more common, and the grounds for doing so ever more unlikely. A group of Christians at Goslar in Germany who declined to kill chickens were executed for heresy in 1051.             

A long series of popes supported the extirpation of those who disagreed with the current papal line. Arnold of Brescia, a pupil of Abelard, shared his master's critical views of the Church, and also embraced the republican ideals of ancient Rome. He held that papal authority was a usurpation, and that the wealth and power of the Church was unchristian. He led a movement to re-establish a Roman republic and return the clergy to apostolic poverty. He was hanged and then burned as a heretic in 1155 by the pope, Adrian IV.             

The Waldensians, or Vaudois, followers of Peter Waldo of Lyon provided the next major target. They gave their money to the poor and preached the Christian gospel. Waldo attracted the hatred of the clergy when he commissioned a translation of the bible into occitan, the language of what is now southern France. The heresies of the Waldensians were numerous. Having read the bible for themselves they denied the temporal authority of priests and objected to papal corruption. They rejected numerous accretions, including the Mass, prayers for the dead, indulgences, confessions, penances, church music, the reciting of prayers in Latin, the adoration of saints, the adoration of the sacrament, killing, and the swearing of oaths. They also allowed women to preach. They were excommunicated as heretics in 1184 at the Council of Verona, and persecuted with zeal for centuries. 150 were burned at Grenoble in a single day in 1393. Survivors fled to remote valleys in the Alps. Pope Innocent VIII organised a crusade against them in an unsuccessful attempt to extirpate them. They were still being persecuted centuries later. In Piedmont in the middle of the seventeenth century further attempts were made to extirpate them. Anyone in Villaro who declined to go to a Roman Catholic mass was liable to be crucified upside down, but there was some variation in the manner of killing in other towns. Some were maimed and left to die of starvation, some had strips of flesh cut off their bodies until they bled to death, some were stoned, some impaled alive upon stakes or hooks. Some were dragged along the ground until there flesh was scraped away. One at least was literally minced. Daniel Rambaut had his toes and fingers cut off in sections: one joint being amputated each day in an attempt to make him recant and accept the Roman faith. Some had their mouths stuffed with gun-powder which was then ignited. Paolo Garnier of Roras was castrated, then skinned alive. Children were killed in various ways before the eyes of their parents. Those few who escaped to the mountains were mostly killed by exposure, starvation or disease.              .            

The term heresy covered ever more and more areas of belief. Paschal II, who occupied the papal throne between 1099 and 1118, claimed (quoting a forged document) that anyone who disagreed with the apostolic see was a heretic. In 1199, Pope Innocent III declared heresy to be high treason against God, having already called for the execution of those who persisted in their heresies after being excommunicated. He also said that those who interpret literally Jesus' statements about limiting their statements to a straight Yes or No were heretics worthy of death - confirming that those who refused to swear in court should be executed. In 1229 Pope Gregory IX declared that it is the duty of every Catholic to persecute heretics. He preached a crusade against the Stedingers, a Germanic people living near the River Weser, whose heresy amounted to no more than rejecting the temporal authority of the Archbishop of Bremen. An army of forty thousand was raised under the bishops of Ratzebourg, Lubeck, Osnabrück, Munster and Minden. Of the eleven thousand or so Stedingers able to bear arms, most were slaughtered on the field of battle. The rest were killed later, many of them being drowned in the Weser along with women, children and old men. The whole population was exterminated.            

Following the apostolic commands of Pope Innocent IV, the Archbishop of Narbonne consigned two hundred heretics to the flames in 1243. All manner of activities constituted heresy. It was heretical to eat meat on Friday, to read the bible, to know Greek, to criticise a cleric, to refuse to pay Church taxes, or to deny that money lending was sinful. St Augustine's idea that error has no rights, became a favourite of persecutors, and the great saint was often cited as authority for oppression of all sorts. Under Pope John XXII and later fourteenth century popes Franciscan spirituals were burned at the stake for such behaviour as claiming that Christ and the apostles had not owned property, preaching absolute poverty, wearing traditional hoods and habits and refusing to lay up stores of food. The Apostlicals, a sect founded in 1300, tried to live like the apostles. The luckier ones were burned at the stake like the sect's founder, but others suffered worse fates. Dulcino of Novara, the successor to the founder, was publicly torn to pieces with hooks, as was his wife.             

The Knights Templar were accused of heresy in the early fourteenth century. The charges are generally acknowledged to have been trumped up by King Philip of France, and inspired by his desire to seize their wealth. A Church Council was summoned to consider the question, but despite extensive torture, there was not enough evidence to proceed against the Templars, let alone to condemn them. When King Philip turned up with an army. The pope, Clement V, a puppet of the French monarchy, forced the unwilling Council to reconsider, and the Order was dissolved . Clement had already permitted individual Templars throughout Western Christendom to be tortured and burned as heretics to appease the king. Under torture they had confirmed that they rendered feudal homage to the Devil. This idea was largely responsible for the belief that there existed organised groups of people who worshipped Satan much as Christians worshipped God. And this idea in turn was largely responsible for making witches into malignant agents of the Devil. Before the Templar trials they had been harmless outsiders skilled in folk-medicine and weather forecasting. Now they were heretics who deliberately parodied Christian practices and made pacts with the Devil. We have already seen the consequences of this - the widespread persecution of supposed witches over several centuries.            

Cecco d'Ascoli, an Italian scientist, was burned at the stake in 1327 for having calculated the date of Jesus' birth using the stars. But there were more significant heresies than astrology. Movements to reform the Church, based on the teachings of John Wycliffe (England), Jan Hus (Bohemia) and Gerard Groot (Netherlands) were all condemned as heretical, though their popularity guaranteed their survival, and in time these teachings would trigger the Reformation. Heresy still covered everything from refusing to take oaths to refusal to pay church tithes. Any deviation from Church norms was enough to merit death: vegetarianism, the rejection of infant baptism, even holding the (previously orthodox) view that people should be given both bread and wine at Mass.             

In 1482, under Pope Sixtus IV, 2000 heretics were burned in the tiny state of Andalusia alone. Pope Leo X condemned Martin Luther in 1520 for daring to say that burning heretics was against the will of God. Evidently he thought it presumptuous for an ordinary human being to claim to know God's will. Perhaps he was right, because Luther changed his mind in 1531 and started advocating the death penalty for heretics and blasphemers. He thought it should be a capital offence to deny the resurrection of the dead, or the reality of heaven and Hell.             

Translating the bible into vernacular languages, or helping with the printing of such a bible was heresy according to the Roman Church. Generally, in Europe, women were buried alive for this offence. Men were burned alive. One printer in Paris was burned on a pyre of his own books. In the sixteenth century William Tyndale translated the bible into English. In danger of arrest and in fear for his life he fled the country. He was arrested in the Netherlands, and in 1536 was executed for heresy for agreeing with the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith.             

Anabaptists, the precursors of modern Baptists, were persecuted by Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists alike. The Anabaptists' main crimes were to call for social reform, to favour adult baptism over infant baptism, and to embrace pacifism - they would not kill, condone capital punishment or serve in armies. They also allegedly advocated ancient Antinomian views. Their leaders died in various ways. Thomas Münzer was burned at the stake in 1525. Feliz Manz drowned in 1526 (drowning was a favourite way of executing Anabaptists because of their views on baptism). Michael Sattler had his tongue cut out, was mutilated by red-hot pincers, and was burned alive in 1527 for a range of beliefs, none of which would now merit a criminal prosecution. When a whole town, Münster, went over to the Anabaptists in the 1530s Catholics and Protestants joined forces to retake the city. The Anabaptist leaders were publicly tortured to death with red-hot pincers and their bodies hung in cages outside a church, where they remained for some years.            

The range of offences that were considered heretical was flexible and ever expanding. It was still a crime to read the bible or cite inappropriate passages from it. A Protestant writing master from Toledo was burned at the stake in 1676 for having decorated a room with the full text of the ten commandments. (The Roman Church has traditionally omitted the part of the second commandment - the one that forbids the worship of images). In England the persecution of heretics was less popular than elsewhere in Europe, but not unknown. A group of refugees, probably Cathars, who denied the necessity for baptism, matrimony and the Mass, fled from the continent to England under Henry II to escape persecution. In 1166, at Oxford, they were tried by an ecclesiastical court with the King himself presiding, and were found guilty of heresy. Since no statute or precedent existed for sentencing, they were seared on the forehead with hot irons, whipped through the streets, stripped to the waist, and sent into the countryside to die of exposure in the winter snow. No-one would offer them food or shelter. To have done so would have been to disobey the word of God (2 John 10) and to abet heresy, and would therefore have been sinful and unchristian.             

John Wycliffe, the proto-Protestant rector of Lutterworth in Leicester, was the most eminent scholar at Oxford, giving him a measure of protection during his lifetime, especially since there was then still no official statute in England covering the offence of heresy. On the other side of Europe, Jan Hus, the Rector of Prague University, was heavily influenced by Wycliffe's ideas, and refused to surrender his books when ordered to do by the Pope. Supported by King Wenceslas he denounced the practice of granting indulgences. His preaching spread Wycliffe's ideas far and wide. Then, travelling under a safe conduct from the emperor Sigismund, he was arrested and tried by the Church Council of Constance. The Council disregarded his safe conduct on the grounds that a Church Council did not need to keep faith with a heretic. Hus was burned on 6th July 1415, making him a Czech national hero. Hussite ideas spread rapidly from Bohemia to Austria, Silesia, Saxony, Brandenburg, Bavaria and Hungary. Attempts at reconciliation with the Roman Church failed, and the Reformation loomed a step closer.             

Back in England the Church had no way to deal with Wycliffe or his followers, who were called Lollards. The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Courtney, and his bishops filled in the omission by forging an Act of Parliament to deal with heresy. But Parliament spotted the imposture and the House of Commons petitioned the King in 1383 to annul this bogus statute "never assented to nor granted by the Commons" . Genuine mild statutes were passed three years later, but the Church was still not happy. Prelates insisted on the death penalty, and a series of statutes, called de haeretico comburendo, were passed in 1401, under King Henry IV, introducing the death penalty for heresy. They failed to define the offence, so heresy would continue to be whatever the Church said it was. Once convicted, the heretic was handed over to the sheriff, who had no option but to execute the Church's judgement. Unrepentant heretics were to be publicly burned to death, as they were on the continent. The statutes came too late to catch John Wycliffe himself, but they caught many of his followers. Lollards continued to be condemned to the stake up until the 1530s. Others were caught too. Around 1520 the diocese of Lincoln alone was convicting over 100 people a year for the crime of "not thinking catholickly" .             

Espousing unorthodox views, however trivial, could result in death. In 1528 Patrick Hamilton was burned at St Andrews for holding heretical opinions, notably a denial of the freedom of the will. In 1546 Anne Askew was burned at Smithfield because of her beliefs about the Eucharist. In 1592 Henry Barrow and John Greenwood, who preached congregationalism, were hanged at Tyburn for "obstinately refusing to come to church". Their real crime seems to have been to advocate the separation of Church and State.  Unitarians were executed in 1612 in London and Lichfield, and one in 1651 in Dumfries. William Prynne, a Puritan lawyer, published criticisms of Archbishop Laud. For this had his ears hacked off by the public hangman in 1633. Along with others he was charged again and tried by the Star Chamber in 1637. The others charged had their ears cropped, and as it was discovered that Prynne still had stumps left on the side of his head, these were severed too. He was also branded on the cheeks, and then imprisoned for life along with the others.
After Thomas Hobbes published his book Leviathan in 1651 the English bishops wanted to have him killed. They used their influence in the House of Lords to sponsor a motion to have him burned as a heretic soon after the Restoration . The philosopher feared for his life when, in October 1666, Parliament talked about reviving the old statues De haeretico comburendo of 1401. But these laws had fallen into desuetude. Nothing came of the bishops' fulminations and Hobbes escaped prosecution. Leviathan was merely condemned by Parliament, and Hobbes was ordered to stop writing controversial books.. The old statutes were repealed the following year. From that time on, no-one in England need live in fear of burning for heresy. In Ireland the heresy law was repealed in 1696, and in most of Continental Europe much later. A schoolmaster was hanged in Spain in 1826 for heresy. His heresy had been to substitute the words 'Praise be to God' in place of 'Ave Maria' in school prayers. Because of secular laws the Churches now have more difficulty in persecuting heretics, but persecution is still part of mainstream Christian thought. The oath taken by Roman Catholic bishops at their consecration includes the following undertaking "with all my power I will persecute and make war upon heretics".

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Would Society collapse into Barbarism without Religion?

GIORDANO BRUNO BURNING  by André Durand (2000) (Rome, Giordano Bruno, martyrdom, Campo de' Fiori, stake, scientist, science, astronomy)
Some Christians are under the false impression that without religion, society would collapse into utter chaos and barbarism. If we were still superstitious, illiterate, ignorant Bronze Age nomads, that MIGHT be true, but this assumption is completely false in today's modern world.

Just look at what western society looked like before Science and Reason appeared in the Enlightenment. For more than 1,500  years, Superstition reigned supreme. Women who behaved a little oddly were deemed to be devil-possessed witches and either drowned or burned at the stake. Diseases were believed to be caused by evil spirits. People were regularly killed for thought crimes. Stop and think about that:  Under Christianity's long rule, killing people just for what they believed was routine, accepted, moral practice. The Christian Church had absolute control and barbarism was the means of maintaining its control over the populace.

As Science and Reason have advanced and have pushed Religion to the sidelines of power, we have become a much more tolerant and advanced society. Instead of believing that evil spirits or "humors" cause disease and therefore should be removed by blood letting or exorcisms, Science has shown us that the origin and treatment of disease has absolutely nothing to do with supernatural beings, good or bad.

Protestants killing Catholics for thought crimes
 St. Margaret Clitherow is "pressed" to death.

Rather than believing that persons who suddenly fall to the ground, frothing at the mouth, trembling from head to foot, are possessed by demons, Science has shown us that they have a medical disorder.  We no longer drown and burn women who act oddly.  We simply accept that they are odd.  Diseases by the hundreds can now be treated and even cured by scientific advances in medicine, not by holding exorcisms or prayer vigils.  These advances in the human condition are due to Science, Reason, and Logic and not due to Religion or its gods.

Giovanni Battista Bugatti, executioner of the Papal States between 1796 and 1865, carried out 516 executions (Bugatti is pictured here offering snuff to a condemned prisoner). The Vatican City abolished its capital punishment statute in 1969.

Therefore, I believe that men and women who place Science and Reason as the foundation of their belief system, and collectively, the foundation of their societies, have a GREATER chance of behaving in a more egalitarian, compassionate, humanistic, and yes, moral, manner than people who believe that the Supernatural controls all aspects of life and that an ancient middle-eastern holy book, written by scientifically ignorant Bronze and Iron Age nomads, is the source of all wisdom, truth, and knowledge.

Religion served its purpose at one time. It gave us a sense of order to a universe that made no sense. Now that we understand that droughts, floods, crop failures or successes, disease, and even death are not caused by invisible gods in the sky, religion, at least fundamentalist religion, is no longer needed.

 The destruction of knowledge
The Roman Catholic Church feared knowledge and went to great
lengths to suppress learning. Libraries were destroyed and scholars
were murdered. Here, a cardinal, eager to advertise his enforcement
of the Roman Catholic Church's decree about knowledge commissioned
this painting as proof of his adherence to the church's doctrines..