For balance, and also because I found it fascinating, some comments on the origins and methods of the Inquisition.  Modern pagan thought seems to be that the “burning times” have been exaggerated and sensationalized, but 50,000 dead is no small change.  Of course, if the methods discussed in that post were indeed typical, it’s doubtful many of those caught up in that net were legitimate witches.

It’s not so much organized religion which is a problem, as religion mated with government.  Or perhaps any utopian, moralistic ideology embedded in government.  As erudito points out, Stalin’s purges were reminescent in many ways of the witch trials.  And communism has often been characterized as a religion – most recently, in my own reading, by Jung.

This serves to confirm my feeling that government, if it is to be at all virtous, must steer clear of grandiose visions and god-given missions.  No matter how seemingly noble.  In light of this, statements such as:

So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.

are not encouraging.   Of course, as a British commentator on public radio commented this morning, American leaders have always been given to that sort of grand posturing.  It’s a wonder we’ve stayed as free as we have, as long as we have.  I’ll take a leader who proclaims “It is the policy of the United States, to continue muddling along, and to keep our appointments as best we can, and to get a decent amount of sleep and maybe get a round of golf in this weekend, if it doesn’t rain.” any day.

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  1. quick reminisce…

    I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment.. but I don’t think most people do.. (or maybe they do.. and the media doesn’t…) but your last sentence just made me think of

    Kerry: I want to diminish terrorism to the level of nuissance.
    Bush: We must win the War on Terror 100%!

    Practicality over Idealism is what we need to have.. (not that we can’t have ideals.. but only that we don’t let them overrule our sense of what actually can be accomplished…)

    1. Re: quick reminisce…

      I think idealism is absolutely necessary… but conversely, that idealists should never be given coercive power.

  2. It continues to amuse me how US leaders believe that they dictate the governing ideals that run our country. While in some ways they do, as they represent a majority (however slim) of the populace’ viewpoints and desires. However, to state something as grand as “The policy of the United States is to eradicate tyranny, blah blah” is kind of ludicris. I wonder how many of the US citizens actually care about tyranny in the world at large?

    Now, as for the “burning times”, I’ve noticed that a lot of neopagans seem to use that term to reference the Salem Witch Trials, not the Inquisition as a whole. I never really referred to that time as anything more than “The Inquisition”, and I hold the belief that the inquisition was more of a “cleaning house” done by the Catholic Church. Most of the condemned that were actually called witches, were only people that believed differently from the Church, rather than actual witches. Or, rather, they were being tried as witches even though the tribunals knew full well that they were not.

    Further, I think that the vast majority of that 50,000 were killed as Heretics, not Witches.

    *shrug* I wonder how many of those burned actually WERE witches?

    1. Further, I think that the vast majority of that 50,000 were killed as Heretics, not Witches.

      From the post I referenced, it sounds like once you were accused of one, they tended to throw in the other for good measure, and sodomy to boot. It also sounds like the REAL crime many/most od the accused committed was being more well-to-do than those around them – pressaging the pogroms and purges of later centuries.

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