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A Blemished Legacy

Lord John Acton, is, perhaps, best known for the remark, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” which he made in a letter to an Anglican Bishop. He had also   remarked that: “Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality’.’

Christian theology has its origins from the preaching reported, word-of-mouth of the last three years of the life of a Jewish carpenter’s young son, who met a cruel and painful death. He was crucified, at 33. Jesus lived and died as a Jew. But his followers, then just a small handful, believed him to be the “Christos”, the Messiah (Savior), whose coming had been foretold in the ancient Jewish scriptures; the Torah. The utterances attributed to Jesus are from information gathered from his followers and set out many years after his death. Hence, they are often contradictory. There were hundreds of Gospels, (Good News), including that of Judas and Mary  Magdalene, which were discarded, in favour of the musings of only four of his Apostles: Matthew Mark, Luke, and John, which are also not in sync with one another.

While Jesus’ sermons were centered on love (‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’’), in time to come, the sword followed the Bible, like its shadow! With power, came abject corruption. Morally, spiritually and fiscally. The warm and loving spirit of this great, gentle, and courageous unlettered Teacher was lost in the struggles for acquiring more control, influence, and, of course, material goods. World domination was a theme favored by early Christian leaders from the very start.

But the beginnings were very humble. The Roman Empire was on its decline. As Buddha had noted: ‘that which Begins must End!’. The people were fragmented by their worship of different deities — Neptune (Poseidon), Venus (Aphrodite), Mars (Ares), Apollo (Apollo), Diana (Artemis), and many more.

Constantine I’s father became the Western Roman Emperor in 305 AD. After his father’s death, Constantine I fought to take power. He became the Western Roman Emperor in 312 AD and the sole Roman Emperor in 324 AD. Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to adhere to Christianity. He issued an edict that protected Christians in the Empire, but he himself converted to Christianity only on his deathbed, in 337AD. There was a method in this so-called madness. By forcing all his subjects to convert to Christianity, which he decreed, he bound together with the splintering Roman Empire. Thus, Christianity got a firm base and flourished – more than three hundred years after Jesus’ demise!

Australian author, Michael Sherlock, an atheist himself, says quite bluntly “Christianity did not become a major religion by the quality of its truth, but by the quantity of its violence“. Sherlock’s aim, as an author, is to expose the “sacred” lies, frauds, and forgeries of religion. Sherlock says quite candidly, “Before we can clear a path to find the truth, whatever that may be, we must first neutralize the filth which has infected the minds of so many. Super-naturalism, superstition, pseudo-science, and religion, all embody this mental filth, and the scientific method, with its humble, honest, and evidence-based approach to questions of probable truth, represents the neutralizer.”

I, personally, subscribe to his viewpoint. I believe, there are two means of attaining Knowledge, The first, is to learn more. The second, and by far more important, is to unlearn our prejudices and “beliefs’ thrust into our psyches over centuries of mental conditioning and blind adherence.

Christianity has not proven to be so peaceful a religion as it proclaims to be. Many people died for refusing to convert. A lot of ancestors of the pain of death against their will and violence played a prominent role in convincing them to do so.

Christians believe in the one and only God that created everything in six days. On the seventh day, God rested, which the Jews observe as the Sabbath. This God has three parts to him: the Father; the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit later impregnated a virgin woman, so she would conceive the Son of God – the Messiah. The Messiah later grew up to be a man who performed many miracles. He was, afterward, crucified in order to save his followers’ souls. The Christian belief is based on a series of books, which were later put together, to make the “Holy Bible.” Christianity first emerged in the mid-first century in Jerusalem. It then spread throughout the Roman Empire, and, eventually, the world. Early Christians were known for inciting riots throughout the Roman world. They were even commonly responsible for gross acts of terrorism. Their actions killed innocent people in the name of God, and destroyed ancient artifacts, in the name of salvation. It was Christians, after all, who was responsible for burning the ancient Great Library of Alexandria, along with all of its knowledge, to the ground.

The violence committed by Christian zealots got to such a height that it threatened the internal stability of the Roman Empire. Further, the movement had become so large that the Empire could no longer ignore it as a legitimate power, and it could, at the same time, allow its people to persecute these rebellious and blatantly criminal groups. If they did either, they risked the complete collapse of the Empire. Emperor Constantine, I   inherited this predicament. There was also a pressing danger of civil war by warring factions, who either were neo- Christians or followed diverse deities of the Roman pantheon. Rather than upping the Empire’s war against the Christian religion, Constantine I paved the way for it to become the official creed of the Empire. It was he who summoned the Council of Nicaea. This Council spent three weeks researching and arguing about the early Christian writings which would or would not be included in a Cannon of laws for the Christian faith. In the end, they assembled the basic structure of what is now the modern Bible. Upon completion of this task, Constantine I put the full force of the Empire behind the text. Anyone who challenged or contradicted the new transcript would face death, and many did.

In 476 A.D., the Western Roman Empire collapsed under the pressure of constant invasions by German tribes seeking but being denied, asylum in the Realm. This collapse destroyed the political unity of Western Europe which had existed under Rome, reducing the region to a series of feuding fiefdoms. It also created an enormous power vacuum. This power void was over the cultural and spiritual well-being of the people in the region. The Roman Church, eventually to be the Roman Catholic Church, stepped into this space with gusto, and anyone who did not recognize their Divine right to dictate the will of God, suffered the consequences. The Church employed professionals skilled in the art of torture for those most chronic cases, and it routinely sponsored public executions to both entertain the people and to also warn them against defying the will of the Roman Catholic Church. Women would be burned at the stake as witches, and men would be hung, put on the rack, pulled apart by horses, and gutted in the name of Jesus Christ’s holy mercy. The Church even offered up a publication designed to flush out those who practiced the dark arts, the Milieus   Malefic arum, or The Witches’ Hammer. These tactics were used to keep Europe in a state of fear and terror for a thousand years.

There is, of course, then, the Holy Crusades, which lasted from the end of the eleventh century to the end of the thirteenth century. The most formidable, deadly – and fanatical – of the Crusaders were the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, also known as the Order of Solomon’s Temple, the Knights Templar, or simply the Templers. They were a Catholic military order founded in 1119 AD, headquartered on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem through 1128 AD when they were recognized in 1139 AD  by the  Papal Bull (public declaration by the Pope)  The Order was active until 1312 AD when it was perpetually suppressed by Pope Clement V by the Bull ‘Vox in excelso’.

The background of the Crusades is simple. In the middle of the seventh century, a new religion arose in the Middle East:  Islam, which served to unify the Arab tribes. This unity brought forth the birth of an empire that would eventually stretch from the farthest eastern reaches of the Old Persian Empire, all the way to Spain in the west. This, of course, meant that they took the ‘Holy Land’ from the Eastern Roman Empire and continued to advance on their Capital. This upsurge created an expensive trade pact for Western Europe as high trade tariffs. Under the guise of coming to the military aide of the floundering   Eastern Roman Empire, Pope Urban II rallied all of Europe to send troops to reclaim the ‘Holy Land’, Jerusalem, now in the control of the Muslims,   for Christendom. What followed was two centuries of sanctioned ‘Holy War ‘and genocide; not for the salvation of any kind, but for relief of tax penalties incurred for trade with the Far East. Even worse, many of the people who were killed in the name of Christ and the Holy Mother Church, were themselves, Christians

This was not the last time that Christianity found itself in the middle of a bloodbath. With the second loss of the Eastern trade routes, western Europeans began seeking alternative routes to the goods of the East. This, eventually, led them to encounter the lands and peoples of an entirely new hemisphere – the Americas, and then all of lower Africa beneath the Sahara, as well as, parts of Asia. In the Americas, as competing Empires, with the blessings of the Pope in Rome, they conquered ‘native’ peoples and stole their wealth. Christianity was at the forefront of the subsequent efforts to subdue and dominate the ‘natives’. Empires conquered in the name of God and Gold, and the monks who followed them punished those ‘natives who refused to accept their new roles as a conquered people. The consequences of denial were just as severe as they had been for Europeans after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The Christian priests would mock Nature worship, practiced by the indigenous people they triumphed over – through deceit, outrageous cruelty, and violence. Their writ ran even in the European sectors. The playful god of music, Pan, who was shown as a goat in a human form, playing the flute, was derided and described as “Satan”, complete with horns and hooves. This portrayal of the Devil holds until this date!   Jesus, also, an Arab of Jewish descent, who must have been dark-skinned; sunburned, with large calloused hands from toiling in his earthly father’s work-shop, and in the fields, even at the age of twelve, is depicted–and worshipped- as a fair-complexioned, handsome blond   European man!  As the Americas declared their independence from Europe, this practice spread to Africa and Asia, and the consequences of refusal were the same. People were hunted like wild animals and their body parts were used as trophies because it was clear to Europeans that the lands they conquered were granted to them by God. If they were not, then the people already living there would have developed the land in European fashion! God had made them weak so that Europe could plunder their resources in his name. This, of course, was the logic that Europe used to justify the building of empires in the Americas, Africa, and Asia.

It is no secret that the Papacy has been tainted, many times over, by delinquent Popes.

 

 

  •       1032–1044; 1045; 1047–1048 AD, Succeeding Popes who “sold” the Papacy.

 

 

  •       Pope Urban VI (1378–1389 AD), who complained that he did not hear enough screaming when Cardinals who had conspired against him were tortured.

 

  •       Pope Alexander VI (1492–1503, born Rodrigo de Borgia), was not only guilty of nepotism but incest as well. His daughter, Lucrezia, was notorious for holding orgies in which she partnered sexually with her father and younger brothers as well. His diseased and unattended corpse swelled until it could barely fit in the coffin.

 

  •       Pope Leo X (1513–1521 AD), a spend-thrift member of the Medici family who once spent 1/7th of his predecessors’ reserves on a single ceremony.

 

 

Christianity began as an underground movement. It became the religion of the status quo, and then once in power, it became the doctrine of the Roman   Empire. Further, once in power, it did everything that was required to stay in control and expand its supremacy. This included authorizing the killing of its own people and the destruction of the foreign ‘savages’ who refused to yield to the ‘Will of God.’ To be fair, Islam is guilty of the same crimes and has followed a similar cycle.  Islam’s faith has been spread around the world with the power of the sword, and like every religion before it, it has justified theft, rape, pedophilia, and murder in the name of God’s Divine Will. Religion is nothing more than a tool. It is a means to end. The spread of faith is not its main goal, but it is obligatory compliance and blind, unquestioning obedience. Do as you are told and your place in Heaven is secured. Resist the powers that be, and you will find yourself suffering not only eternal torment in the fiery pits of Hell, and also physical and mental torture on Earth!

The biggest factor that lends weight to this argument is the fact that Christian lore is almost entirely plagiarized. Consider the story of Moses. Moses’ parents had to hide him from the Egyptian Pharaoh who was on a rampage against the firstborn children of Israel. His parents put him in a reed basket and sent him down the Nile in the hope that he would be found and raised by a good Egyptian family. Moses (which means ‘rushes’ or reed), was eventually, found by an Egyptian Princess and raised to be Prince until he betrayed the Pharaoh and led his original people (the Jews ) out of slavery. This mirrors, almost exactly, the Akkadian story of Sargon the Great. Perhaps, we should go back further. Consider the story of Noah and the Great Flood. This story was taken directly from the Sumerian tale, The Epic of Gilgamesh. These, of course, are not the most significant of the plagiarisms. By far, the most important and most dramatic copying of all is the story of Jesus Christ, itself. The Christ was born of a virgin– Mary and raised as a carpenter by a surrogate father until he was twelve. He then began his education as a Rabbi and Teacher, and at the age of thirty, started his Ministry. After three years of work, he was betrayed by one of his own disciples, turned over to the authorities for a purse of thirty shekels of silver, and then he was executed.

Following Jesus, at that time, was very dangerous, but it was especially so for Joseph of Arimathea. He was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, the powerful Jewish Council which was, headed by the High Priest, Caiaphas, and which had condemned Jesus to death. Joseph of Arimathea risked his reputation and his life by standing up for Jesus, as he was his secret follower.

Joseph of Arimathea was a highly visible, distinguished member of the Sanhedrin, whose seventy-one members were the wealthiest and most powerful men of Jerusalem and the surrounding regions. Arimathea was himself a highly visible and distinguished member of the Sanhedrin. But after the crucifixion, Joseph set aside his fears and he went to Pontius Pilate. He boldly asked for Jesus’ body, which he interred in the tomb that he had built for himself, which was carved in the rocks. (The Bible references to Joseph of Arimathea are in Matthew 27:57, Mark 15:43, Luke 23:50-52, and John 19:38).

Mosaic Law required that the bodies of those who were executed must not be allowed to remain on the cross overnight. (Deuteronomy Chapter 21, verses 22-23). Since Jesus’ death occurred around three o’clock in the afternoon, the time for burying him before the beginning of the Sabbath at sunset, was short.

To make sure that Jesus received a proper burial in accordance with Jewish rites, Joseph of Arimathea, therefore, had asked Pontius Pilate for custody of Jesus’ body.

According to theologians, after he had been securely entombed, with a giant rock placed at its entrance, so that no one could enter (or leave!), on the third day when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, she found the stone had been set aside and the body of Jesus was missing. Jesus then showed himself to her. He had risen from the dead!

He then appeared before Saul of Tarsus, who was so taken aback that he became a follower and changed his name to “Paul”. Finally, Jesus emerged before his disciples; especially Thomas, who had doubts about his resurrection. He then ascended, alive, into the Kingdom of Heaven.

This story mirrors, exactly, that of the ancient Egyptian god, Horace, who did all of these things – more than three thousand years before Jesus!

A Table compiled of some of the gory past of the Roman Catholic Church will reflect on its bloody history.

1096 AD: Roman Catholic Crusaders slaughtered half the Jews in Worms, Germany.

1098 AD: Roman Catholic Crusaders slaughtered almost all of the inhabitants of the city of Antioch.

1099 AD: Roman Catholic Crusaders massacred 70,000 Muslims and Jews when they captured Jerusalem.

1208 – 1226 AD: Roman Catholic Crusaders slaughtered approximately 20,000 citizens of Beziers, France, on July 22, 1209 AD.  By the time the Roman Catholic armies finished their “Crusade,” almost the entire population of Southern France (mostly Albigensian Christians) has been exterminated. During the six centuries of the Papal Inquisition, which began in the 13th century, over 50 million people were killed.

1236 AD: Roman Catholic Crusaders slaughtered Jews in the Anjou and Poitou regions of Western France. The Catholic Crusaders trampled to death, under their horses, 3,000 Jews refused baptism.

1243 AD: Roman Catholic mobs burnt alive all the Jews in Berlitz, Germany (near Berlin).

1298 AD: Roman Catholic mobs burn alive all Jews in Rottingen, Germany.

April 26, 1349 AD: Roman Catholic mobs burned to death all Jews in Germersheim, Germany.

1348–1349 AD: The Jews were blamed for the bubonic plague. Accused of causing the ‘Black Death’, Jews were rounded up by Roman Catholic mobs. They were hanged, burned, and drowned by the thousands in revenge and retaliation for this ill-founded charge.

1389 AD: Roman Catholic mobs murdered 3,000 Jews in Prague when they refuse to be baptized.

1481–1483 AD:  At the direction of the Roman Catholic Inquisitors, authorities burned at the stake at least 2,000 people during the first two years of the Spanish Inquisition.

1540 – 1570 AD:  Roman Catholic armies butchered at least 900,000 Waldensian Christians of all ages, including babies, during this 30-year period.

1550 – 1560 AD: Roman Catholic troops slaughtered more than 250,000 Dutch Protestants through torture, hangings, and burnings during this ten-year period.

1553 – 1558 AD:  Roman Catholic, Queen Mary I of England (aka “Bloody Mary”), attempted to bring England back under the yoke of Papal tyranny. During her reign, about 200 men and women are burned to death at the sake. Her victims included Bishops, scholars, and other Protestant leaders.

1572 AD:  St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. French Roman Catholic soldiers began killing Protestants in Paris on the night of August 24, 1572. The soldiers slaughtered at least 10,000 Protestants during the first three days. At least 8000 more Protestants were executed as the massacre spread to the countryside.

1618 – 1648 AD: The Thirty Years’ War. This bloody, religious war was planned, instigated, and orchestrated by the Roman Catholic Jesuit order and its agents in an attempt to exterminate all Protestants in Europe. Many countries in Central Europe lost up to half their population.

1641 – 1649 AD: Eight years of Jesuit-instigated Roman Catholic butchery of Irish Protestants claimed the lives of at least 100,000 Protestants.

1685 AD:  French Roman Catholic soldiers butchered approximately 500,000 French Protestant Huguenots on the orders of the Roman Catholic King, Louis XIV of France.

Circa 1938 – 1945 AD:  Catholic Dictators like Adolf Hitler and Monsignor Tito slaughtered six million Jews and four million others, in Europe prior to and during World War II.

1941 – 1945 AD: The Roman Catholic Ustashi in the Fascist State of Croatia exterminated more than one million Serbian Orthodox Christians. Roman Catholic killer squads were often led by Franciscan priests, monks, and friars. This genocide was choreographed by two Jesuit Priests: Aloysius Stepinac and Ivan Saric.

However, under the leadership of its last two Pontiffs, in particular, the Roman Catholic Church has tried to iron out many of the creases of its violent past and come to terms with many topics that were earlier taboo to it.

Born, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, in Bavaria, Germany on 16 April 1927, he took the name of Pope Benedict. He was elected as the Pope in 2005, until his resignation in 2013. Benedict’s election as Pope followed the death of Pope John Paul II.

Ratzinger’s father was a policeman and his mother a hotel cook. The youngest of three children, Ratzinger was six years old when the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933. His parents, who were staunch Catholics, were hostile to the regime. Ratzinger entered the Seminary in 1939. In 1941 he was compelled to join the Hitler Youth, and in 1943 he was drafted into the German military, serving in an anti-aircraft unit in Bavaria, before being sent to Hungary to set tank traps, in 1945. He deserted in April of that year and was captured by American forces and held prisoner for a brief period.

Ratzinger humbly accepted his election as the Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church on April 19, 2005, becoming at the age of 78, the oldest newly elected Pope, since Clement XII (1730–40 AD). His choice of the name “Benedict XVI”  recalled St. Benedict of Nursia, the patron Saint of Europe and the founder of Western monasticism, as well as earlier Popes of the same name, including Benedict XV (1914–22), who sought to mediate between the hostile forces during World War I. Benedict XVI immediately took a step to continue Pope John Paul’s dialogue with Judaism , Islam, and with other Christian Churches. Further, he declared that one of the goals of his papacy would be to revitalize the Catholic Church in Europe. Benedict, however, also made it clear that he would maintain his predecessor’s conservative orthodoxy on matters of sexuality, priestly celibacy, and ecclesiastical organization.

Benedict made a controversial decision in January 2009 to revoke the excommunications of four Bishops who in 1988 had been consecrated, without papal sanction, by Marcel Lefebvre (1905–91), an ultra-conservative French Archbishop, who was excommunicated with them. In November of that same year, in an act of outreach to conservative Anglicans, Benedict approved an apostolic constitution, or special decree, that allowed Anglican clergymen and laypersons to join the Roman Catholic Church while maintaining some Anglican traditions.

In 2010 allegations of sexual and physical abuse by parish priests and in parochial schools—particularly in Germany, Ireland, and the United States—brought Benedict and his role in the cases in Germany in particular, under close media scrutiny. In a pastoral letter, Benedict rebuked the Bishops of the Irish church for a failure of leadership. The Vatican also denounced as “false and calumnious” the charge that as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Benedict had been responsible for a policy of covering up cases of sexual abuse, declaring, instead, that his handling of the cases showed “wisdom and firmness.”

In February 2013 Benedict announced that he would resign at the end of that month, citing age and health concerns. His final public address in St. Peter’s Square drew a crowd of more than 50,000. On February 28, 2013, he formally resigned.

After him, Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis on March 13, 2013, when he was named the 266th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. Bergoglio, the first Pope from the Americas, took his papal title after St. Francis of Assisi of Italy. Prior to his election as Pope, Bergoglio served as  Archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998 to 2013 (succeeding Antonio Quarracino), as Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church of Argentina from 2001 to 2013, and as President of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina from 2005 to 2011. Named Person of the Year by Time magazine in 2013, Pope Francis has embarked on a tenure characterized by humility and outspoken support of the world’s poor and marginalized people and has been involved actively in areas of political diplomacy and environmental advocacy.

The fundamental belief, of the Christian ethos, which is common to all its often opposing factions, from the very start, is to have the absolute and unshakable conviction that Jesus died for their collective sins. That, he had risen from the dead on the third day after he was crucified. And, that, a pleasant, hassle-free abode in Paradise was guaranteed to its followers –   of course, only after death, which was the condition precedent!

Note: I am no stranger to controversies! All my life I have danced to my own drumbeat, and, as they say: ‘One cannot teach old dog new tricks!’ This compilation is not to belittle any faith or religious order. The historical facts are well documented and cannot be denied, covered up, or wished away. But, it is fervently hoped that history will not repeat itself! World peace and Universal Brotherhood are the only way forward. JAI HIND!

 

Author: AMIT KUMAR BHOWMIK

Amit Kumar Bhowmik is a lawyer based in Pune. He has his practice including in the Bombay High court as also other High courts as well as he appears as Counsel in the Supreme court. Although essentially having his practise on the criminal side he is an all-rounder having taken up matters in the matrimonial courts as well. He is a prolific writer and an unabashed champion of women rights.

 

DISCLAIMER: This article reflects author’s view point. Goa Chronicle may or may not subscribe to views of the author

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