Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Inquisition is a Laughing Matter, Today

History of Christianity: the Inquisition

As part of my never ending quest to understand Western civilization, I'm currently reading The History of Christianity by Paul Johnson. Here he is describing the establishment of the Inquisition, its purpose and techniques. When I read this I was immediately reminded of the famous Monty Python skit The Witch, from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I remember watching it as a teenager and I was literally rolling on the floor with laughter. Anyway, here is the quote from the book and a video of the witch trial, and here's to hoping that our civilization isn't retreating to those dark times, even though it feels like it sometimes...

In the 1180s the Church began to panic at the spread of heresy and thereafter it took the lead from the state…the codification of legislation against heresy took place over half a century, roughly 1180-1230, when it culminated in the creation of a permanent tribunal staffed by Dominican friars…it had a certain vicious logic…convictions of thought crimes being difficult to secure, the Inquisition used procedures banned in other courts…the names of hostile witnesses were withheld, anonymous informers were used, the accusations of personal enemies were allowed, the accused were denied a right to defense or of defending counsel and there was no appeal. The object, quite simply, was to produce convictions at any cost; only thus, it was thought, could heresy be quenched.
The total Christan society of the Middle Ages was based on an intense belief in the supernatural. It tended to live on its nerves. Lacking any kind of system for determining the truth scientifically and objectively, society was often bewildered.

Here is an excellent example of the comic possibilities in such a society (as long as you do not actually live in it):

About the author
Joab Cohen is the author of the psychological thriller The Jewminator and
the vegan action hero novel Captain Tofu and the Green Team (coming soon!)

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