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Medieval and contemporary acts of torture, genocide, war crime, ethnic cleansing and crime against humanity through religion (Part 2)

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His achievements include improvements to the telescope and the consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism. On a controversy over his heliocentric theory with opposing astronomers and the Roman Inquisition in 1615, he was tried by the Holy Office on suspicion of heresy and was forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life in house arrest, under which he impressively wrote what is said to be his finest work: Two New Sciences, in which he summarized the work he had done forty years earlier, on the two sciences he called Kinematics and strength of materials.

Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600) Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, mathematician, poet and astrologer, was also tried for heresy by the Roman Inquisition on charges including denial of the “Trinity”, denial of “Transubstantiation”. The inquisition found him guilty and in 1600 he was burned at the stake. Other charges made against him were: 

1. Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Jesus Christ, and Incarnation.

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2. Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ.

3. Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus.

4. Holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and mass.

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5. Claiming the existence of a plurality of planets and their eternity.

6. Believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes.

7. Dealing with magic and deviation. 

Bruno was known to have opposed that the sun was just another star moving in space, and claimed as well that the universe contained an infinite number of inhabited worlds, identified as planets orbiting the stars. 

The cruelty of the punishment of having burned him at the stake was heightened with the provoking act by those who punished him, of thrusting a crucifix through the flames for him to kiss, which with remarkable bravery, he is said to have quickly turned his face the other way. 

Grotesquely, “pro – life” murder became routine at abortion clinics across America. In 1993, a born – again Christian picket shot Dr David Gunn to death in Pensacola, Florida. The following year, a fanatical minister used a shot gun to kill Dr. John Britton and a volunteer escort at a different Pensacola clinic. Also in 1994, a Catholic killed two young women at a Massachusetts clinic, screaming “You should recite the rosary” as he fired bullets into them. In 1998, a bomb killed a security guard and maimed a nurse at a Birmingham clinic, and a “pro – life” sniper killed Dr Barnett Slepian of Amherst, New York. And Australia suffered a “pro – life” killing in 2001 when a guard at Melbourne clinic was shot in the face while religious pickets surrounded the building. 

One of America’s most gripping religious shockers was the 1993 siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Federal agents learned that cult leader David Koresh was stockpiling large numbers of illegal weapons. When a SWAT team went to the sprawling wooden complex with search warrants to confiscate the guns, a fierce battle ensued, killing four officers and six cultists. Federal agents maintained a seven – week siege around the compound, trying to persuade the group to surrender. When that failed, they used armored vehicles to punch holes in the buildings and inject tear gas. But fire erupted, killing Koresh and seventy – eight followers, including eighteen children. Eight surviving cultists later were sent to prison. 

Here are some other religion related horrors since 1990: 

Florida’s Temple of Love was actually a temple of hate. Leader Yahweh ben Yahweh taught his black disciples to despise “white devils”. To gain entry into his inner circle, believers had to kill white victims, sometimes bringing back ears as proof. Others were assigned to kill temple members who backslid. In 1992, Yahweh and six lieutenants were convicted of 14 murders. 

The Oregon commune of Guru Bhagwan Rajneesh disintegrated in the 1980s, but leaders were still being prosecuted in the 1990s for bizarre crimes such as growing salmonella bacteria in secret laboratory and putting the germs into salad bars at restaurants, sickening 750 people.

The mysterious Solar Temple sect, also called the Cross and the Rose, made headlines in 1994 when about 50 members committed suicide ritualistically in a mirror – lined underground chamber in Switzerland. Others later took their lives in Canada, bringing the group’s death toll to 74.

Members of Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth) cult worshiped their guru so ardently that they paid $2,000 to drink his bathwater and $10,000 to sip his blood. They also killed on his command, murdering various disfavored people. The sect secretly manufactured sarin nerve gas, and in 1995 they released it in Tokyo’s subway. A dozen commuters were killed and 5,000 were sickened. Numerous leaders of the sect went to prison. 

Some members of the Heaven’s Gate cult in California castrated themselves to squelch their sexual desire (believed perhaps for following the biblical observation by Jesus that some believers “have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake”). It is reported that after the Hale – Bopp Comet was discovered; Heaven’s Gate members thought they would be magically transported to a UFO behind the comet if they committed suicide, so 40 of them did so in 1997. 

A total of 979 members of a Uganda doomsday church were killed I 2000, most of them locked in a temple and roasted by a gasoline explosion on the day a leader said that the virgin Mary would carry them to heaven.

Although killing wasn’t involved, child molestation by Catholic priests and Protestant evangelists grew into a different type of religious catastrophe in the 1990s. More than 400 American priests were accused of sodomizing youngsters, and various Catholic dioceses paid an estimated $500 million in lawsuit damages.

Bizarrely, some religious murderers are revered by the faithful. Consider the 16th century Catholic leader who became Pope Pius V As grand inquisitor, he sent troops to kill 2,000Waldensian Protestants in southern Italy. After becoming pope, he sent troops to fight Huguenot Protestants in France, telling the commander to kill all prisoners. He also launched the final crusade against Islam, sending a Christian naval armada to slaughter Moslems in the Battle of Lepanto (off the Greek coast) in 1571. And he revived the inquisition to torture and executes Catholics suspected of heresy. After his death, Pius V was canonized a saint. “What mean and cruel things men do for the love of God, author W Somerset Maugham wrote. Playwright Eugene Ionesco echoed: “I the name of religion, one tortures, persecutes, builds pyres”. And Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Weinberg observed: “With or without religion, you will have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things – but for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”.

In Northern Ireland, a deadly mixture of religion, politics, and nationalism has made northern Ireland one of the most hate – plagued lands in the world. 

It is a place where Catholics and Protestant terrorists endlessly kill each other, and kill peacekeeping police and other civilians who get in the way or speak out too forcefully. Catholics suspected of disloyalty to the Catholic cause are “kneecapped” by pistol shots.

It is a place where working class Catholics and Protestants live in guarded neighborhoods, afraid to venture into “enemy territory”, afraid for their children to be far from home. Twenty – foot – high “peace walls” separate religious sectors, blocking sniper bullets but not high – flung rocks and fire bombs. 

The disaster caused by the lone Minister, the Reverend Jim Jones, who as a young idealist in Indiana – USA founded the Peoples Temple, a mixed – race congregation of poor people. A religious horror, unlike any other and one that particularly astonished the world occurred at the Peoples Temple camp. The camp started with 150 of Jones’s followers in rural Ukiah, grew to 5,000 and moved again in 1971 to a black section of San Francisco. It offered a free dinning – hall, a drug rehabilitation program, a free clinic, a legal aid office, a day – care center, and a senior citizens center, and eventually claimed 20,000 followers.

The ugly side of the ministry grew when rumors circulated that children were beaten, that weird sexual activity was taking place that adults were required to give all their assets and their welfare checks to the church, that the Minister (Jones) led his flock in suicide drills. The odd reports that emerged also included that Jim Jones proclaimed himself a prophet of God, then Jesus himself, and preached that the world would end on July 15, 1967, and it didn’t. He read a magazine article listing places that would be safest from radioactive fallout after a nuclear war, which was a so – called reason why he eventually encouraged up to 150 of his followers to move to rural Ukiah, California where his followers increased to 5,000 and 20,000 eventually. 

In 1977 New West magazine published reports from former members exposing abuses in the Peoples Temple, that many members wanted to leave but were afraid to go. Two who quite, Jeannie and Al Mills published a bitter book Six Years with God. In early 1978, more than fifty relatives of the camp residents called Jonestown asked Secretary of state Cyrus Vance to help remove their family members from the “concentration camp”. Congressmen were petitioned, and in November, 1978, Representative Leo Ryan of California flew to Jonestown to check on the complaints and took with him several aides, news reporters, state department officers, and relatives of the camp colonists. The entourage landed at an airstrip at a Guyanese town – South America near the colony. They were shown hospitability around the settlement and all seemed well. 

The second day, the mood changed. A colony member slipped a television reporter a note begging for help in leaving the camp. A man with a knife tried to attack Rep. Ryan. The visitors decided tom leave. Six colonists asked to go with them. They all rode in a truck tom to the airstrip. As they boarded two planes, one of the defectors, a stooge sent by Jones, pulled a pistol and began shooting into the group. Then three gunmen appeared, took guns from a trailer and also began firing. Rep. Ryan was wounded. So were two NBC News reporters and a San Francisco Examiner reporter. Then all four were executed with point – blank bullets in the head. A woman defector from the colony also was killed. Eleven others were wounded. The rest fled into the jungle or were left unhurt as the killers sped off to avoid nearby Guyanese soldiers.

Back at the settlement, Jones assembled his followers and announced that the congressman’s party had been executed, and said it was time “for us to meet in another place”. The unquestioning believers gave clenched – fist salute. Guards with automatic rifles ringed the settlement area. 

The camp’s physician and two nurses mixed cyanide with fruit drink in a steel drum which the colonists lined up for doses of death. The fluid was squirted into the mouths of babies. The victims fell in random rows while Jones kept talking into a public address system and chanting “mother, mother, mother”. His body later was found with a bullet wound in the head. Only two other colonists were shot. Altogether, 914 died. Nearly 300 of them were children. A handful of members slipped into the jungle and survived. 

The Peoples Temple maintained a headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital. On the day of the mass suicide, a woman leader at the Georgetown office and her three children had their throats cut. 

In the aftermath, authorities found US$10 million of Peoples Temple wealth hoarded in banks in Panama and elsewhere. 


By Ebou Sohna 


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