Thursday, September 23, 2021

Review of Heretics and Believers by historian Paul Marshall

Incredibly scholarly, detailed history and analysis of the English Reformation! The first couple hundred pages are so academic—meaning dealing in lots of statistics and sociological details of an overview of the period of Henry the 8th, that I found the large volume dry and slow.

But once, I adapted back to scholarly study, (and since more ill in bed, able to listen for hours at a time), I began to live in its pages of that god-awefull period—in the worse sense of that adjective.

That’s one dramatic result of my reading this great history of Christians of all sorts and all levels--is that while modern creedal Christianity is often horrific, so unjust, so immoral, so intolerant, so selfish* at least, modern Christians (except when they call for bombing Iran with an atom bomb) don’t burn many thousands of other Christians at the stake and other horrific slaughters!

Many years ago, I studied the Reformation and knew that the Roman Catholic Church, Bloody Mary, Geneva and Calvin, Luther, Zwingli committed immoral horrors, etc., but I didn't have any idea that the English Reformation was so evil too.

It’s shocking how almost all English Christian leaders and their followers, Protestant and Catholic, the lords and nobility, the shop keepers and the working class--ALL were intolerant and strongly supported the burning of “heretics.”

Heresy then didn’t even need to be huge, like a denial of God or the Creeds, but could be just a smaller point like owning a prohibited book, such as an English translation of the Bible, or holding to the Lutheran view of the Mass, instead of Henry the 8th’s or the Pope’s view.

And, tragically, in all the chaos, at least 30,000 peasants and working-class people rioted and revolted across England demanding the return to traditional Catholicism with holy water, pilgrimages, altar and sacrifice in the Mass, when Edward the 6th tried to introduce a stronger Protestantism than his father had!

It’s amazing, that an English Civil War started to happen 100 years before the infamous one in the 1600’s! Also, it is depressing how the so-called good guys, the Protestant young king and his advisors deceived the sincere leaders of the traditionalist revolt, told them they would compromise and had the rebel leaders come down to London for negotiations, but then executed them.

After that, they then sent the small army of the government (about 8,000 English troops and hired mercenaries from Germany) to defeat various small armies in different shires. It was divide and conquer. And they did.

That was good, that the rioters didn’t gain control, but Edward the 6th burned a lot of innocent Christians, too. I thought only Catholic and Reformed leaders on the Continent burned people.

Then all hell broke loose when Edward suddenly sickened and died and Mary, who allegedly was a kindly individual came to the throne. She immediately reversed all of Edward’s Protestant polices, and had all the churches bring back altars for the Mass sacrifice, holy water, etc. And she burned over 300 individuals in 5 years. Thankfully Mary got sick and died.

It appears—at least based upon this massive historical volume—that all Christians of all sorts, Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran, etc. were bad, very bad, nothing like Jesus. The only exception appears to have been the very few Mennonite-sort of Anabaptists who rejected intolerance, injustice, violence, heresy-executions, etc.

And then came Queen Elizabeth, who immediately started rescinding some of Mary’s regressive actions.

However, one of Elizabeth's advisors told her she ought to "hold her cards close"—in other words, even if she is a convinced Protestant, it will be better for her if she hides that, and adopts a moderate course of change against Mary’s total reversion, rather than do exactly what she believes is right. Making too many changes will lead many English Catholics to react severely and violently against her and her sudden reversal of Mary’s religious norms.

Also, while taking a strong stance against Catholic “superstitions,” Elizabeth didn’t immediately pursue persecutorial actions against all Catholics.

But the government did begin to destroy Roods, statues of Mary, Catholic paintings, etc.

But, thankfully (that I appreciate!), Elizabeth opposed Knox and Calvin and their extreme language and intolerant actions. So she didn’t choose anyone for her advisers who were followers of Knox-Scotland and Calvin-Geneva.

Sad, however, even in moderation, Elizabeth’s rule was intolerant like present day intolerance in the U.S. now. Historic statues of famous American leaders of the past are torn down, but not the worst presidents or leaders, just ones picked by extremists such as BLMers.

Also, Elizabeth, ordered communion tables to be kept with coverings, which upset her Reformed bishops and leaders. And she denied priests the freedom to marry, basically, the Catholic view!

Worst of all, though nothing like nations on the continent nor her father or Edward the 6th or Mary, Elizabeth executed many individuals:-( She wasn’t nearly as civil and moderate as I had thought.


All of this goes to show, what I’ve become more and more convinced of over many years, that basing one’s life on the Bible isn’t the way to go, because that famous text led to many contrary and contradictory religions, most of them horrific:-(, indeed, evil.

Well, I probably could say far more, but I am anxious to be done with this depressin review. I finally finished the very long tome (over 35 hours long, probably at least 800 pages) very late last night near midnight.

A magisterial study of Christianity in the 16th century.
Evaluation: A+! --- *This is especially the case when far left Christians (including Sojourners, liberal Christians, Quakers, Mennonites, etc.) strongly support untrue propaganda against the police, demand the tearing down of historic statues, and push CRT and BLM as the truth.

And far right Christians, centrally Trump Evangelical Christianity, where 84% of Evangelicals (white) have strongly supported Trump and his immoral and unjust polices including his constant lying, pride, bullying, distorting, demeaning, ad nauseum. Heck, Evangelicals still strongly support him even after his January 6th rioters stormed the Capitol, injuring 100 police officers. And Trump and theyclaim the violent far-right-winger, Ashley Babbitt, was an innocent protester!

In the Light,

Dan Wilcox


Anonymous said...

Maybe we should take the horrors as evidence that maybe things are getting a little better after all!!
So sorry that it was illness that afforded the opportunity to read/listen; but Yay for you that you found a way to bring some good out of that suffering! Thanks so much for sharing with all of us! & hope you will steadily feel better!!!!
Elizabeth B

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thank you, Elizabeth B,

Yes, I agree with you that, as bad and tragic as current conditions are in the U.S.and many other places in the world, this period of time is far better than all past history for humans in general.

The psychologist Steven Pinker makes the case for that in his 2 famous books, Better Angels of Our Nature (statistically, there is far less violence and war now than in the historic past) and Enlightenment Now (because of Enlightenment values of the last couple hundred years, World War 1-11 excepted, humankind has more safety, health, food, equality, justice, etc. than in the past).

How are you doing? Since RD has been down for months, have you been commenting elsewhere?

Dan Wilcox

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the Pinker tips! -- I should have known about them and think I've heard some mentions, but obviously didn't pay close enough attention!!

We've been fine tho chastened by Delta back into hermithood.... but plenty to think about! RD has a new post up -- looks like Linda took pity on us and posted a piece by David Madison. I haven't read it -- somehow during the RD down period I've gotten sensitive to some of the relentless negativity and feel like maybe I'm moving on.... tho that's happened in the past & I ended up coming back : )

I've been interacting some with Chris Highland's blog "Friendly Freethinker" [] and read his "Was Jesus a Humanist?" pretty carefully. That took me to Don Cupitt's "Jesus and Philosophy," where he argues that Jesus marks a turning point in the field of ethics. Some back & forth with Chris there. Discovered that Thich Nhat Hahn wrote a biography of the Buddha! Have been really enjoying this trek with the Buddha -- I think the translator did a splendid job -- and I decided to spring for the Cobb Institute class "The Rebirthing of God" [ ] which is interesting.

Yesterday I may have gotten a clue about a longstanding puzzle of mine! [ ] So lots going on between the ears : ) if not in RL (real life) : )

Great to hear from you! Looking forward to checking out your Quaker excerpt next! And wishing you well!!!!

Dan Wilcox said...

Wow, you have been active between the ears:-) I agree with you about seeking to avoid the negativity. It's gotten even worse.

Thanks for your recommendations. I had sort of forgotten about Chris' blog--will check that out. And am trying to remember if I've read Hahn's Buddha biography since I've read a number of his books.

And will now go to your site and read your clue:-

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks so much for all the replies!!! I'll be answering, but wanted to let you know of a 1-hour zoom session you might enjoy. It's "pay-what-you-like." I can't remember whether you've mentioned the unconscious, but just in case -- the final class session of "The Rebirthing of God: Christianity's Struggle for New Beginnings" next Wednesday (10am Pacific time) draws from the last two chapters of the book of that name by John Phillip Newell: "Reconnecting with the Unconscious" [subheads -- Opening to the well of the imagination, The marriage of the conscious and the unconscious, The promise of union, Dreaming the way forward] and "Reconnecting with Love" [subheads -- God is love, Saying Yes to the heart of the other, Giving up our imaginary position as the center, There is no distinction between love and justice]. The leader does a great job with power point and music, and the participants usually have thoughtful comments. This past Wednesday was especially moving, I thought.... I especially enjoyed a rather long clip from Taize.
If you should try it, you can watch the first three zoom classes as well.
2 B continued!
Happy October Eve!

Anonymous said...

PS I think you'd remember if you've read this biography -- it's 579 pages, and I have a sore wrist from hefting it : ) I'm really enjoying these old stories of the Buddha, and the teachings interspersed. It's sort of peaceful and calming just to read! : ) and I feel like I'm getting a better feel for the teachings, encountering them in these settings, drawn from Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese sources. If you haven't read, I enthusiastically recommend!
Write on!!

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for all the info. No, I realize now that I've not read that biography. Sounds intriguing. The long book I did read by Thich Nhat Hanh was The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for mentioning "The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching"! I had forgotten about that -- I don't remember why I stopped after just a few pages, but now that I pick it up, it's a great companion for this biography, switching back & forth. Thank you!!!

And -- exploring traditions -- Suddenly I am full of tips!!
This is a wonderful talk from this morning, personal and moving, involving the Upanishads, by Robert Mesle, process philosopher, at LA UU community.
Talk starts around minute 30 & ends around 48.
I have a hunch you would like it
I think this is all the links for this year!!!!!!!
At ease! & always Thanks!!