The Violent Heritage of Christianty

© 2007 by Tim Simmons

The recent insistence by Midwest Painter that nowhere in the Bible are Christians commanded to kill non-Christians has prompted me to do a bit of typing. I’ve already known about most of what I’ve dug up here but I thought I might try to put just SOME of the evidence in one post that Christianity has a bloody heritage not entirely unconnected to its holy scripture. My belief was that the Bible did command violence under certain circumstances but a wholesale command to kill anyone who was not already a Christian clearly is absent from the New Testament writings but IS depicted as historical events and direct commands from god in many places of the Old Testament.

Can we establish a link between the Bible and violence perpetrated by those who profess to be Christians? I think the answer to this one must be a resounding YES!

I will post a few quick things first then some links to some articles on the web in case anyone wants to browse them.

I’d first like to make the observation that the Old Testament is part of every Christian's Bible and they love to quote from it - when it suits them. But the OT law is still in force and binding on all Christians today.

The Old Testament was considered binding by Jesus and he even explicitly said as much in the following verses.

Matthew 5:17-19

17Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. [meaning, keep the laws just like every other Jew was supposed to do]

18For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

19Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus says he did not come to nullify the law. Plain and simple. He also says that the law will not become nullified until heaven and earth are destroyed and ALL things are accomplished. Sorry, Christians, you are breaking God’s commandments each and every day if you wear clothes that are part cotton and part polyester.

Another place concerning the law being in effect per Jesus is Matthew 15.

1Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,

2Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

4For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.

5But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;

6And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.

This is why I frame the post in terms of the Bible as a whole rather than limit myself to the New Testament. I believe I'm correct when I say that most Christians accept the Old Testament as being true and the word of God and as I’ve just shown above, the OT commandments (laws) are STILL in effect per Jesus. So any objection that Old Testament versus are not admissible are automatically nullified.

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Where would a Christian get any idea to harm someone just by reading the Bible – a message supposedly from an all-loving god?

Let me take a peek at just a few places from the Old Testament that MIGHT give someone an idea or two and then I will post a few thoughts on some NT passages.

Dig Through The Ditches And Burn Through The Witches

There is no telling how many people were murdered (mostly women who were burned alive in public) for being a witch in the last 3000 years. Hundreds? Thousands? I have no idea how many but why would we single out this particular person over any other? The answer lies in the Bible.

    Deuteronomy 18:10
    There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.

    1 Samuel 15:23
    For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

And then the clincher…

But let’s not leave out the male witches (wizards), either.

    Leviticus 20:27
    A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.

And one from the NT just to show that witchcraft was still considered a sinful thing during the formation of Christianity about 800 years later.

Galatians 5:19-21

19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

The real issue here wasn’t that witches were in cahoots with Satan or doing harmful things (in fact, they were doing exactly the same as the prophets only just not consulting god) but that Yahweh was a jealous god and anyone consulting OTHER spirits besides him were singled out as horrible sinners and were to be killed. I don’t know about you but this sounds like a command to do violence against someone who isn’t “one of us”.

If being a witch was so abhorrent to god (even above pedophilia which is not mentioned at all), then why wouldn’t it still be abhorrent to god today – especially since the law is still in effect per Jesus?

This, of course, is part of the cause for the witch hunts and witch burnings. But this couldn’t happen in this day and age in America, right?

The West Memphis Three:

In 1993, three young boys convicted of murdering three younger boys and the conviction hinged on Damien Echol’s involvement/knowledge of the occult and the type of music he and two other boys listened to. What chance did a young boy with knowledge of the occult and listening to Metallica have in a small, Bible-belt town when the prosecution assumed the murders were by a Satanic cult even before any arrests were made and in spite of the forensic evidence that it was a crime of extreme violence and hate and not any controlled ritualistic murder? Also view on youtube two HBO documentaries on this called “Paradise Lost…” and the sequel. Echols is now on death row. Watch these vids on youtube and get sick and pissed off at the double tragedy in which Christian beliefs played the biggest part in the wrongful convictions of three innocent BOYS.

Talk back and I’ll Send Ya Straight To Heaven!

I’m glad I didn’t grow up as an Israelite during the reign of Josiah. Basically, this is when most of the Old Testament was written/edited. 7th century BCE. I remember being whipped with a belt (until welps formed that took days to go away) and a switch (same song, different verse) for disobeying my parents but I think they were too lenient according to the following commands given by god.

Exodus 21:17
And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Exodus 21:15
And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

Ouch! Sort of makes being grounded for a week seem wimpy, doesn’t it?

No, no violence commanded in those verses.

So, according to the Bible, Christians should kill their children if they hit them or curse them. Gee, if Christians were to kill their own children for such a small sin as hitting them, what do you think they’d do to a stranger? A stranger that was an… unbeliever to boot?

Do a search for “put to death” from any online KJV Bible and you’ll find plenty of peaceful commandments from God. Here’s one I also find a bit odd when I think about all of the really bad things you could do instead.

Three different times God wants to kill anyone who works on the sabbath.

  1. Exodus 31:14
    Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
    Exodus 31:13-15
    (in Context) Exodus 31 (Whole Chapter)
  2. Exodus 31:15
    Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
    Exodus 31:14-16
    (in Context) Exodus 31 (Whole Chapter)
  3. Exodus 35:2
    Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you an holy day, a sabbath of rest to the LORD: whosoever doeth work therein shall be put to death.

An even more interesting law is this one.

Deuteronomy 22:11
Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together.

So, if my underwear was a mix of cotton and wool… I’d probably be stoned to death. It was more important to avoid mixing garment materials than to forbid a sin such as pedophilia, I guess.

With countless “put to death” commands in the law, what do you think was going on then? Do you think it may have created a tad bit of precedence for future followers of Yahweh? Christians, too?

Obviously, god was much more concerned about the ingredients of clothes than protecting children. Which brings me to the God-sanctioned slaughter of babies.

We can also see instances of God sanctioning the wholesale slaughter of several nations (including women, children and livestock) in Deuteronomy. This was done because God had promised some land to his chosen people and he had to take out the resident inhabitants first.

Deuteronomy 2:24-35

24Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold, I have given into thine hand Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land: begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle.

25This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.

26And I sent messengers out of the wilderness of Kedemoth unto Sihon king of Heshbon with words of peace, saying,

27Let me pass through thy land: I will go along by the high way, I will neither turn unto the right hand nor to the left.

28Thou shalt sell me meat for money, that I may eat; and give me water for money, that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet;

29(As the children of Esau which dwell in Seir, and the Moabites which dwell in Ar, did unto me;) until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the LORD our God giveth us.

30But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him: for the LORD thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as appeareth this day.

31And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have begun to give Sihon and his land before thee: begin to possess, that thou mayest inherit his land.

32Then Sihon came out against us, he and all his people, to fight at Jahaz.

33And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people.

34And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain:

35Only the cattle we took for a prey unto ourselves, and the spoil of the cities which we took.

This same type of slaughter happens a few more times in Deuteronomy with similar results. All the men, women and children were murdered so that the Israelites could have some land to inherit. This sounds a lot like God-commanded violence to me.

A similar thing happens to the Amalekites. God commands the Israelites to kill them all and they do. But the reason is that the Amalekites’ ancestors from 400 years earlier ambushed some Israelites and killed them. So, God decided to kill innocent Amalekites to make up for it. Men, women and children.

1st Samuel 15:2-3

2This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy [a] everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'

I can’t imagine a more loving and forgiving god. Not to mention just, since he’s murdering people who had nothing to do with the original crime.

Many more instances of God commanding murder could be cited but for me, this is enough. On to the New Testament.

Violent Influences Found In The New Testament

Did Jesus always promote peace and love? Could any of his words or actions be used as justification for violence?

Matthew 10:34-37

34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn
" 'a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'[e

37"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

This doesn’t sound much like the Jesus we’re accustomed to hearing about. If Jesus came to bring division, as he says here, then would some use this to justify use of the sword?

Luke takes the “love me more” part and changes it to actual hate for the parents.

Luke 14:26
"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.

Not much peace and love for your kin there, I guess. But perhaps it’s all just hyperbole. Even so, the point is that these passages give rise to justified violence – they open the door, if you will, to those who are looking for a nod of okay from god.

If You’ve Got Demons, You’re Not Getting Enough Exorcise.

The New Testament is full with the idea that demons or evil spirits could enter a person's body and possess them. This concept has also contributed to the persecution of those who acted differently or even those who had diseases such as epilepsy. Many mothers kill their children because they thought they were possessed and killing them would send them to heaven.

...during his evaluation in March that the voice she was hearing was benign at first -- 'but as the evening went on, she said the nature of the voice became sinister and threatening,' Watson said. 'The voice told her that her children were in danger. It was the devil or a demon, telling her she had to kill them in order to prevent something worse happening to them.' After Kukla allegedly stabbed her children, along with three dogs and a pet mouse, she sat outside her trailer and 'waited for a vehicle to take her to hell,' Watson testified. Watson said he reached his determination of Kukla's insanity based on tests he administered, along with other witnesses who saw Kukla apparently talking to someone who wasn't there.

Did the religion of love and peace cause her to hear demons and go insane? Was Satan actively working on her?

Many parents have killed their own children for religious reasons.

Another famous recent case is that of Andrea Yates.

She killed her five kids and in 2006 was acquitted by reason of insanity. I agree than a mother that kills her five children because she thought they would go to hell before getting saved due to raising them wrong is definitely insane.

Then there’s the offshoot problems such as Catholic celibacy which of course contributed to the molestation of countless young children throughout history. Any week in the news you can find a pastor of some church arrested for molesting some child. Is there a connection with Christianity? Just coincidence?

Many other cases of Christians doing bad things could be cited but the point is that false beliefs often give birth to other false beliefs – and horrible actions.

Hey, We’re Only Asking!

The Inquisition. Are you a Christian? No? I’m sorry but we’ll need to relieve you of your head. This is so well known I’ll just point you to the link near bottom of page.

Crusades? Another peaceful chapter in the life of a religion based on peace. See the link near the bottom of the page.

Another source for the justification of violence by the Church is Augustine of Hippo.

Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine)

Just War theory is a doctrine which holds that a conflict can meet the criteria of philosophical, religious or political justice, provided it follows certain conditions. The doctrine of the just war has its foundations in ancient Greek society and was first developed in the Christian tradition by Augustine in Civitas Dei, The City of God, in reaction to the absolutist pacifist strain of Christian ethics based on the doctrine of "Turn the other cheek" espoused by Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 5:38-48).

Sounds a lot like jihad and holy war to me. War is always just after it’s begun.

Unsurprisingly, crusades era preachers and writers seized on Augustine's popular reputation during the middle ages and cited his works in reference to the crusading movement as a justification for calling of violence in defense of the Holy Land and the eastern Christian empire of Byzantium. Cambridge Historian Jonathan Riley-Smith, for example, notes that crusades preachers turned... scholars for justification of Christian violence and Gregory VII had found in Anselm of
Lucca a partisan who, through a careful reading of the Fathers, above all St. Augustine of
Hippo, would build a convincing case for Christian violence as something which could be
commanded by God, was at the disposal of the Church and would, when properly used, be
an expression of Christian love.(1)

With the instruments of power now in their hands, Christians-even Augustine himself-felt the need to call on the state to punish heretics, to take civil action against those who were not following the truth. They wanted to bring to completion the Christianization of the world, at least of the Roman world. The standard of conduct in this world would not be as radical as it had been for the Donatists or for the earlier followers of Tertullian, but would ensure that the culture would gradually be Christianized. No longer would the radical discontinuity be required of "the ordinary Christian" in the "ordinary church."

With regard to being drafted into a war, most all the early church fathers spoke right up and used Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” motif in an attempt to avoid being enlisted as a soldier (with possible dire consequences).

But with regard to heretics (those who believed differently), we see copious amounts of writings by all the fathers against heretics. The undercurrent is one of hatred while the surface tone sometimes matches what you’d expect from a “loving” Christian but to my knowledge, no church father ever advised killing heretics outright. But it eventually became the standard modus operandi of the church.

… the case of the scholar and humanist Giordano Bruno was not the last execution for heresy. The most famous heretic is of course Joan of Arc, who was later cleared of all charges after her death and eventually made a saint. Heresy remained an officially punishable offense in Roman Catholic nations until the late 18th century. In Spain, heretics were prosecuted and punished during the Counter-Enlightenment movement of the restoration of the monarchy there after the Napoleonic Era.

A list of some of the people burned or otherwise murdered for not believing exactly as the orthodox Christians did or for not being Christian at all.

More reading…

Early Christianity:

Modern Christianity:

Modern America:

Christian terrorism:

This topic could encompass several books but can anyone read this entire post (which really just hints at the horrors) and truly say that Judaism/Christianity has not caused untold suffering in the world for the last 3000 years?

There may not be a command in the New Testament telling Christians to kill non-Christians but it’s clear to me that Christianity, the supposed light shining in the darkness, has a heritage of violence, bloodshed and needless human suffering. I am glad I am no longer a Christian.


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