211: CHRISTIAN ATROCITIES #7: The Dark Ages

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the totally unique Christian/Atheist blog where nothing is sacred. Here I think aloud about religion and life; it’s my personal polemic, and I hope you get something out of it!” Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.

For one thousand years, approximately 600 C.E. to 1600 C.E., Europe slumbered in the “Dark Ages”. Nothing could take place unless blessed by Holy Mother Church. The ‘Christian’ spirit permeated  both private and public life –the family, work, education, politics, economics; the medieval Catholic mindset dominated everything . Not only that, the popes named and deposed emperors and kings at will.

There were endless wars, where popes and bishops, followed by troups of mercenaries, charged around in armour slaughtering at will.

The villeins (peasants) lived a propertyless dreary life  cultivating the land of the church and  their feudal lords from dawn to dusk.

Superstition reigned supreme: the illiterate masses were encouraged by the church to look to relics, holy water and amulets as the answers to all their problems.

Intellectual life was at a very low ebb: universities were dominated by scholasticism, according to which the most convincing and valid argument was that which could be supported by the maximum number of quotations from the Church Fathers and the Bible. A method which was clearly unscientific.

Illness was attributed to sin, and no doctor was allowed to treat a patient until he had confessed his sins! (Or the doctor would be excommunicated.)

Plague was divine punishment and was countered by processions and services.

The suppression of sexuality has been linked to the mass outbreaks of psychosis, neurosis sadism and perversions.

Cathedrals, like autobahns built by the Nazis, were showpieces reinforcing the ideological supremacy of the ruling nobility. From their pulpits the population were exhorted to be obedient and humble toward God and his lords on earth.They were told they could expect compensation for their miserable lives on earth after they died, (provided they were obedient and humble enough).

Blasphemy was punished by cutting the offender’s tongue off.

Devils and spirits with occult powers were believed in by all.

Censorship by the church meant that Galileo and others had their books put on the Index of Forbidden Books. Some astronomers were burnt at the stake (Bruno); Galileo was forced to recant, and it was not until 1822 that the Holy Office in Rome allowed Copernican cosmology to be disseminated among Christians.

The church cannot be proud of starting up schools and universities: the education level of the vast majority of the population  was well below that of the Greeks and Romans, who also pursued scientific studies at their academies. The idea of giving a basic education to  to all people did not even arise in more than 1500 years of Christianity. It was not even envisaged as an ideal worth striving towards, let alone putting into effect. Even in my lifetime, there were countless Christians living in Spain, Italy and Portugal who could neither read nor write. The Christian west has not really produced any education at all – if there are good educational institutions now, they are all based on the secular model. My own Oxbridge College was not founded (by a bishop of course) until the mid 14th century; what took them so long? 1300 years to produce a college or two!

It is a historically demonstrable  and bitter fact that Christianity brutalised men and kept them ignorant, rather than raising them up and educating them.
Faith has always been irreconcilably opposed to rational thought. The Orthodox church, and others in the east were no better. No church produced any technology, maths, science, nor any historical and critical thought.

Fortunately, beyond the fringes and below the radar lurked the Jews, the Arabs, Greco-Roman writings and some secular Germans. From them came the Enlightenment.

Phew!

Oh, by the way, some American evangelical fundamentalists want a return to that glorious era. ‘Mental’ is the word!

Related Zingcreed Posts:
Christian atrocities #1: Slavery
Christian atrocities #2: The slaughter of non-Christians
Christian atrocities #3: The crusades
Christian atrocities #4: Anti-semitism
Christian atrocities #5: The Inquisition
Christian atrocities #6: The treatment of heretics

Sources:
Kahl, J. “The misery of Christianity” Penguin (1968) p.194 ff

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