The French novelist, Victor Hugo, once said, “There is in every village a torch- the school teacher; and an extinguisher; the priest.” Although Victor Hugo lived in the age of modernism, the medieval idea of intolerance, promoted through religion and politics, was not foreign to him; had he been alive two hundred years earlier, his defiant attitude and constant séances to contact his deceased daughter, may have gotten him accused of witchcraft, or heresy.
Although the Puritan Salem Witch trials have received great notoriety, (Placeholder2) the basis of their justification of intolerance may well have been founded in the rulings and writings that originated from the papal throne of Pope Innocent VIII. The Puritan society that was formed to promote a more pure way of living, found itself justifying the very acts of elitism that they had accused the Church of England using against them. They adopted a system of witch trials and moral justice that could have very well come straight out of the “Hammer of Witches” that was compiled by Pope Innocent VIII’ German Inquisitors. (Placeholder3)
In The Hammer of witches, vigilantes are instructed to begin with torture to gain a confession and then take the accused aside to get the confession. If a confession is not publicly given then more torture is applied. In Salem, an 80 year old farmer by the name of Giles Cory refused to confess his guilt and enter a plea, so he was tortured to death by way of heavy stones being placed on his chest until he could no longer breathe. He was said to have chosen death because he realized that there was no way o...
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... being made the accused. The almost comical twist of the witch hunts is the fact that those with moral courage and strength would have been the accused, and therefore the ones NOT surviving.
We can see that this is not new, and is not about religion but about power and control. We can point fingers and call the religious amongst us fanatics or hypocrites, but really there seeming intolerance is more about fear, and less about piety, more about propaganda and less about obedience. When power seeking people are given free reign then they no longer need to pretend to be thinking of “the greater good” and can commit genocide unchecked.
In Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, “les Miserables”, he writes, “Honesty does not fear authority”, but I would add my own conclusion: fear corrupts authority so that honesty must bow to death and a hope for a better life in the life to come.
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