Saturday, September 16, 2006


The Pope is under attack for quoting one of last Christian emperors of Byzantium. The man was no fan of Islam or Jihad since he was on the receiving end of nearly constant attacks by the Ottoman Turks for most of his life. Large portions of the Muslim world are unhappy...... again. There are a lot of things for them to be unhappy about, but this isn't one of them. Too bad Benedict gave both sides another excuse to ignore the real problems in favor of useless yelling, name calling and general mayhem. Benedict may have chosen a poor time for his remarks, too bad they're true. However, Muhammad wasn't the first religious leader of the "compel them to come in" school of theology. Saint Augustine had him beat by almost two centuries.


Christianity and Islam are both "crusader" religions. The uproar on both sides only proves how few people read history books. Their own or anyone elses.


Islam conquered a North Africa with a Christian population widely regarded as heretics by the Roman church and already weakened by their attacks on each other. Large sections of North Africa once ruled by Carthage continued their opposition to the central government in Rome by opposing what they saw as an Empire with a Christian rather than a pagan face. Attacks by “barbarian” kingdoms on both Rome and North Africa further weakened the Christian hold.. And many of the so-called barbarians also called themselves Christians. Even if they were considered heretics by the church in Rome. Donatists, Montanists, Arians, Romans, Pelagians, and Byzantines. You couldn’t keep track of the different groups without a score card. And each group was ready to consign all the others to the deepest ring of Hell over differences in doctrine both major and minor.


What started as wars of religion on both sides became wars for territory under the cover of religion. At the high point Muslim kingdoms stretched from Spain to India. The Christian crusade to unite Spain ended in 1492. Followed shortly by the expulsion of both Muslims and Jews from Catholic Spain. Great choice, leave the land your people had lived in for centuries, after selling your land and goods at cutthroat prices or convert and live under constant suspicion of following your old faith secretly. More than a few who tried to leave found themselves sold as slaves or marooned on desolate coasts by the captains who’d taken all they owned in payment for passage. Oh, Edward I of England did the same thing in 1290 with similar results. The English Leopard beat out Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castille by two centuries.


The Western Church preached the First Crusade in the late 11th century to reclaim the "Holy Places" in the Middle East. The fall of Jerusalem ended with the far too usual massacre of Jewish and Christian inhabitants as well as Muslims. Yes Virginia, there were Christians living in Jerusalem. Too bad you couldn't tell them from everybody else. So they died with everybody else. This launched three hundred years of back and forth warfare mostly centered on the Kingdom of Jerusalem. One low point was the Sack of Constantinople by the armies of the Fourth Crusade on their way to the Holy Land. AGAIN. Western Christians murdered Eastern Christians on their way to make war on people who also regard Moses and Jesus as great prophets.

The final fall of Constantinople to the Turks cut the Eastern Caravan routes from China, India and the Far East. It's no coincidence that the Voyages of Discovery of the 1400's began soon after. You could still bring goods in by land, if you could afford the tolls. Side note: two of the books in my own library are on the Silk Road, the eastern caravan routes with Baghdad at the western end and a history of the Vikings. A map of the Viking trade routes has Baghdad at the eastern end. At one time you could move goods from China to the Baltic and England via these interconnected land and river routes.


Christians and Jews weren't always forcibly converted to Islam since they were considered People of the Book along with the Muslims. It really denpended on who was in command and how much control they had over their troops. There were massacres. I repeat there were massacres of Jews and Christians as well as Pagans who chose death over conversion. Even if they were spared, Christians and Jews usually had to pay special taxes and were often treated as second class citizens. The Balkans and large sections of India are still trying find ways to live with conversions from Christianity and Hinduism to Islam. Modern converts to Islam are considered to be descendants of traitors or untouchables and are treated as such. What can I say.


On the other side of the fence, the Shia's and the Sunnis have been at each other’s throats for centuries, each claiming that the others aren’t true “Muslims” and they both gang up on more recent groups like the Bahai's and Sikhs. Heresy, heresy.


So, sorry guys, go read your own history. The Pope may have chosen the wrong person to quote but he spoke the truth. And before we hurt our own arms patting ourselves on the back, check out the Inquisition, the Albigensian Crusade, the Thirty Years War, etc. etc. etc........


The tar bucket is big and the brush is broad. And it's enough to send some of us screaming for the hills


(and anything by David Arkenstone is the perfect antidote to some of my depressing reaserch)


tenyearnap said...

Haven't we as a species outgrown religion yet? Spirituality is one thing, but organized religion has been nothing but trouble.

lisaram1955 said...

I SO second your first comment....  Lisa  :-]

lightyears2venus said...

Fascinating and thorough synopsis--you must have done some research to refresh your memory for this one.  Incisive and right on.  I'm going to check out the Arkenstone link.

toonguykc said...

I think all religions are predatory and territorial.  Catholics are the worst....and I'm partnered with one.  SIGH