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Christian Apologies Empty and Hollow

by J. E. Hill

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 15, Number 3.

The new trend in Christian religiousness seems to be the apology. The Reconciliation Walk 1 and others seeking atonement for the past actions of their church think all they need to do is give a little lip service to make 1,700 years of mass murder, oppression, and torture just vanish into thin air. The last of these includes apologizing for the crusades of the middle ages when Christianity was determined to reclaim the so-called holy land from the Muslims. While the Catholic church seems to be the most apologetic in terms of admitting faults (maybe because of the most guilt) for past actions, now other Christian sects have jumped on the apology bandwagon. 

While being sorry for past actions of the church is commendable, these apologist have the misguided notion that humanity should somehow forgive and forget the atrocities committed by the church for the enforcement of scriptural interpretation. The problem, however, is just this: in their apology, they are making excuses and place blame. Instead of coming out and just admitting this was wrong and pledging it will never happen again, excuses are given for the lack of divine governance during these tragic escapades.

Three excuses emerge here: (1) The perpetrators of these crimes against humanity, were not using true scriptures but a selfish interpretation to achieve earthly goals. (2) Satan cause the church to sin in God's name. And, (3) they were not real, true Christians. All of these assertions are false. 

Not only were these people convinced they were scripturally and divinely guided, in both idea and action, they used the Bible and scriptural references therein to reinforce and act upon their common conviction of the honesty, value, and righteousness of their work. They carried out their duties with dispatch and efficiency. Their records show a meticulous detail for procedure and biblical "fairness" as they carried out their divine commandments to purify the earth of infidels, heretics, witches, heathens, and intellectuals. 

That Satan celebrated one of his greatest triumphs by making the church sin in God's name is one of the most ridiculous (and bizarre) suggestions that Christians could ever come up with. How are we to know when Satan might do this again? Moreover, how do we know it is not Satan deceiving us with this apology? They should apologize for this excuse alone. 

The idea that these people were not "true Christians" is laughable. Yet, more and more today we hear this argument. The true error in this thinking is clear especially in this country: Blasphemy is no longer a crime, nonbelief is not a crime, witchcraft is not a crime. If they were, this compassionate Christianity would soon be as violent and oppressive as its inquisitional predecessors. The evidence is quite clear from countries that are theocracies such as Iran, Afghanistan, or Pakistan that this can happen in our modern world. Even the ranting and raving from the current radical religious Right in this country should be cause for concern because these people believe they are the real, true Christians with the real interpretation of Scripture. This is confusing. It appears there are two types of Christians: the true Christians and the not-true Christians. The problem here is, it's the "true" Christians that do the dividing. 

Just the fact that many real Christians are bent on defending the churches' actions on these atrocities is evidence there will be no unilateral, unconditional, unequivocal apology ever forthcoming from all Christians. If they all cannot be united in the condemnation of the senseless acts of wholesale slaughter of people because of what they may or may not believe, then how do we know it is indeed the true Christians that are now offering the apology? 

  • For the record, let's take a look at some of the acts perpetrated by the church in their quest for domination of the hearts and minds of the populous. 
  • The destruction of the library at Alexandria, 390 C.E.: thousands of ancient scrolls and books lost. The damage is immeasurable to the study of ancient history. The dark ages begin. 
  • The systematic elimination of the non-Christian opposition of the early church: 325900: victims unknown but ranges from 5,000 to 50,000.
  • The Crusades, 1095 -1300: starting with the Peasants Crusade and the Slaughter of Innocents, there were nine crusades in all including the disastrous Children's Crusade. Thousands upon thousands were killed to the rallying words: "Dieu Le Volt" (God wills it).
  • The routine and frequent killing of Jews by Christians: 350 -1945: millions killed.
  • The Inquisitions, 1200 -1500: in all, the total victims is immeasurable, hundreds of thousands, a million or more, perhaps, depending on whose figures are used. Men, women, and children. Most were tortured first then burned or hanged. 
  • The witch hunts, 1500-1780: tens of thousands of victims. Mostly women, children, the old and infirm. Most were tortured first then burned or hanged.
  • American slavery, 1500-1865: 50-million plus victims. Men, women, and children.
  • Racial/sex discrimination: lynch mobs, hate groups, random killing, intimidation & etc. 1865-present: victims unknown and still counting. 

This is a lot to be sorry for. 

If these Christians were truly sincere and apologetic, perhaps they should insist the church return all the property, money, gold, silver, jewels, art work, household furnishings, or give monetary compensation in lieu of the loss to the descendants of the victims. After all it was this booty that made the church rich and powerful in the first place. It is only fair and the real, true Christians should realize this biblical principle and demand retribution to its victims. 

We should forgive. It is right to do so. However, the Christian community needs to quit making excuses and placing blame but squarely take responsibility and shoulder that burden as part of their religious historical legacy. These atrocities should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand and a few empty words about how regrettable these horrific acts were. As with the Holocaust, we should never, ever forget these events that took so many lives in the name of religion. Neither should we should not let the church sweep its bloody legacy under the altar of a new religious order or conscience. We should forgive, but never let them forget. 

John Hill is a member of the Inland Northwest Freethought Society.

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This page was last updated 12/04/2003

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