The Surprising History and Legacy of the Inquisition
The renowned historian and critic Jonathan Kirsch presents a sweeping history of the Inquisition and the ways in which it has served as the chief model for torture in the West to this day. Ranging from the Knights Templar to the first Protestants; from Joan of Arc to Galileo; from the Inquisition's immense power in Spain after 1492, when the secret tribunals and torture chambers were directed for the first time against Jews and Muslims, to the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent women during the Witch Craze; and to the modern war on terror—Kirsch shows us how the Inquisition stands as a universal and ineradicable reminder of how absolute power wreaks inevitable corruption.
Jonathan Kirsch is a book columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed King David, Moses, The Harlot by the Side of the Road, and The Woman Who Laughed at God. He lectures and consults widely on biblical, literary, and legal topics and is a past president of PEN Center USA West.read more
The Inquisition of the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition and the Roman Inquisition provided for centuries of terror, torture and well documented strategies in annihilating mostly innocent people for heresy. While the original objective of the Inquisition was the Roman Catholic Church's fear of losing control over the thoughts and beliefs of Christians, the inquisitors, the Church and later, the kings of Spain and France, turned it into a strategy in profiteering and later, genocide. Cloaking themselves with a language that played down what they were actually doing to the victims, the Inquisition laid the path for modern inquisitions such as the Nazi regime, the Soviet Gulag, the witch trials, the Japanese American internment, the McCarthy anti-Communist hunt and the American military proceedings in Abu Ghraib.It's horrifyingly interesting to read how the Inquisition made heretics wear large fabric crosses on their garments to humiliate them, even if they had been released from trial, and that this practice was used by Hitler with the Jews in WWII. The practice of getting neighbors, friends, and relatives to spy on and denounce each other, and the purpose of a trial to get victims to name others were used also by the Nazis and McCarthy's committee. Even the Inquisition's practice of spreading imagined depravities against the targeted victims continues to be used today to build disgust and fear against them.Even the tools of the Inquisition have not been destroyed or left to gather dust in some dark museum. Some of them have been used through the centuries and some, such as the water torture, now renamed waterboarding, and the humiliating dunces cap, are being used today. It was appalling to see how easily it's been to press the panic button in people, and once pressed, how very quickly it can be to spread fear, distrust and the belief that inhumane treatment of those we fear is acceptable, because they are now seen as being less than human. Once the panic button is pressed, how ready are we to relinquish common sense, embrace the flimsiest of excuses to legalize the torture and incarceration of our imagined enemies. Covering some very distasteful details of mainly the Inquisitions' strategies and practices, this is, however, a really good documentation of man's need to control that which he fears. It certainly made me realize that not only does history repeat itself, but that there are some who will actually try to justify evil actions.read more
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Mention the Inquisition to any informed person and you're likely to garner a response somewhere between horror and disgust. Kirsch, a prolific writer and documenter of our past (A History of the End of the World; Gods Against the Gods), offers up an amazing recounting of the abuses by clergy and state in those terrible times. Clinical in its descriptions, the narrative's lively and crisp prose brings us right into the torture chamber, shining a much-needed light into the mindset of the church and its representatives. Alarmingly, the author insists that although the Inquisition is but a memory for us today, the inquisitional mindset is alive and well. Kirsch discovers many examples in more modern and familiar history: the Salem witch trials, Hitler's Germany, Roosevelt's placing Japanese-Americans in interment camps and Senator McCarthy's Communist-hunting. All of these injustices, he says, find their root in the same sense of power and privilege. Kirsch's forceful and cautionary account is essential reading for historians and anyone who wants to understand the potential dark side of religion. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved