The Horrifying Sins of Christianity, Century after Century

“The savagery of Columbus’s Christian conquerors rivaled that of the Nazis or ISIS.”

By David Madison | 2 February 2024
Debunking Christianity

First Landing of Columbus on the Shores of the New World. (Image: Dióscoro Puebla / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

A few months ago, an elderly Catholic friend explained to me how the church had guided her religious development. Regarding the certainties about god they’d been taught in catechism, she said the priests “…told us not to think about them.” Hence reading the Bible was never encouraged, because that might provoke skeptical thoughts. In fact the gospels are dangerous territory: there is so much in them that can alarm modern readers who are even somewhat aware of how the world works. Nor do the clergy want their parishioners to explore—to think about— the history of Christianity: how the church and the faithful have responded to those who disagree and resist; examples include the Crusades, the Inquisition, burning women thought to be witches. However, Christianity is guilty of so much more—so much worse—but the devout don’t want to explore these realities of history.

Charles Bufe’s 2022 book, 24 Reasons to Abandon Christianity: Why Christianity’s Perverted Morality Leads to Misery and Death (Kindle, 465 pages), provides a wealth of information on these realities. Yes, that’s a harsh title, but the author makes the case for it in great detail. Bufe had the same experience as my elderly friend:

While attending Catholic grade school and high school, I don’t recall ever hearing a single Bible verse read aloud by any of my teachers. My classmates and I were definitely not encouraged to read the Bible; the schools I attended gave us Baltimore Catechisms to read and memorize, not Bibles. That might have been for the best. While Catholic catechisms are authoritarian, dogmatic, and filled with absurd assertions that induce guilt, shame, and unquestioning obedience, at least they aren’t filled with murderous, sadistic commands.  (footnote, page 426, Kindle)

“…filled with murderous, sadistic commands.” That’s what happens when people read the Bible with an open mind, uninfluenced by clever Christian apologists: they discover the very dark elements of scripture. Is Charles Bufe a Bible scholar? No. He has a degree in Music Theory and Composition, and has been labeled as an anarchist. But his skills as a researcher are demonstrated in this book. His 24 reasons for abandoning Christianity are described in 24 chapters. I will focus here on the information he presents in just a few of them.

It’s hard to imagine a more horrible, disastrous imposition of Christian belief than what Bufe describes in his Chapter 17: The Christian Chosen People Mentality and Its Deadly Consequences. He focuses especially on European conquest of the Americas, drawing especially on David Stannard’s book, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (which I discussed in my article here on 23 November 2023). By any standards of decency we would embrace today, Christopher Columbus qualifies as a criminal—but he imagined he was doing his Christian thing:

“During his voyages of ‘discovery,’ Columbus routinely planted a cross on newly ‘discovered’ islands, and then read a statement, the Requerimiento (Requirement) to the natives in Spanish, a language they didn’t understand.” It read in part:

I certify to you that, with the help of God, we shall powerfully enter into your country and shall make war against you in all ways and manners that we can, and shall subject you to the yoke and obedience of the Church and of Their Highnesses [Ferdinand and Isabella]. We shall take you and your wives and your children and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as Their Highnesses may command. And we shall take your goods, and shall do you all the mischief and damage that we can, as to vassals who do not obey and refuse to receive their lord and resist and contradict them. (Kindle, p. 311)

Bufe notes: “The savagery of Columbus’s Christian conquerors rivaled that of the Nazis or ISIS.” (p. 312, Kindle)

The murderous religious arrogance displayed by Columbus—and most of the other European explorers in both north and south America—is only one element of a catastrophic theological problem here. By far more natives Americans were killed by the diseases the Europeans brought with them, because they had no natural immunities to them. The deaths were in the hundreds of millions. Was this all part of a divine plan? Did the Christian god have no clue this was going to happen? We lose all confidence in the claim that the world is under the watchful eye of an all-knowing, all-powerful god.

I can’t think of a better reason for abandoning Christianity. What percentage of devout believers have given any thought whatever to these brutal historical realities?

Bufe’s 18th chapter is titled, Christianity’s All Too Comfortable Relationship to Slavery. This comfort is firmly rooted in the Bible. What a puzzle that the Ten Commandments omit any mention—let alone prohibition—of slavery. Ownership of slaves is a given in both the Old and New Testaments. This is one of the major sins of the so-called Good Book, with horrible consequences, as Bufe notes:

As to why so many Christians supported slavery, there’s a simple answer beyond scriptural support of it: money. There were approximately 4,000,000 slaves in the United States at the time of the Civil War, and they were overwhelmingly owned by Christians…  (Kindle, p. 338)

As an indication of how common slave ownership was, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the Southern Baptist Convention’s oldest seminary, issued a report in 2018 that revealed that all of the seminary’s founders were slave owners, between them owning dozens of slaves. (Kindle, p. 338)

Bufe concludes the chapter, mentioning the racism that endures in the wake of slavery:

As a final note regarding slavery, the murderous racism left in its wake, and the supposed beneficial effects of Christianity upon morals, compare two maps: one showing the extent of the Bible Belt (the most religious part of the U.S., thus supposedly the most moral part of the country) and the other showing the locations of the almost 5,000 lynchings in the 19th and 20th centuries in the United States. The maps are virtually identical. (Kindle, p. 341)

Bufe’s 19th chapter is titled, Christian Misogyny. Here also, we can only be baffled that women especially have not fled the church. But once you’ve “accepted your place,” it’s hard to grasp that the men in charge have defined your place—and not usually for your own good, but theirs. In an Appendix Bufe includes many of the Bible texts used to put down women.

It would be impossible to calculate the damage done to humanity, to human progress and well-being, by the belief that women are inferior. Bufe quotes prominent church fathers who stridently reinforced the denigration of women in the Bible. This reinforced a long tradition:

The misogynistic bias in Christian scripture, the writings of the church fathers, theologians, pope after pope, and innumerable preachers has long been translated into misogyny in practice. Throughout almost the entire time that Christianity held Europe and America in its lock grip, women were all but slaves—they had essentially no political rights, their right to own property was severely restricted, and they were oft times subjected to shockingly brutal treatment. (Kindle, p. 348)

In the not-too-distant past, Pope Francis let it be known that the Catholic Church would never ordain women as priests. They have been approved for secondary positions, but are forever excluded from the special status of priest. How ironic that the Vatican costume designers have done a fantastic job dressing its clergy to look like they’re ready for extravagant balls! I am reminded of the famous lyric of Jerry Herman, for his musical about a drag queen, La Cage aux Folles: “When my spirit starts to sag, I hustle out my highest drag.” The Vatican certainly sends conflicting signals.

Bufe’s 22nd chapter brings us back to horrible, grim reality: Christian Antisemitism. There are a few verses in the New Testament that have fueled hatred of Jews for centuries. Jesus-script in John 8 includes the comment that the Jews are from their father the devil. In Matthew 27:24-25, Pilate is puzzled that the crowd calls for Jesus to be crucified.

So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood, see to it yourselves.’Then the people as a whole answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’

These and other verses have done so much damage, and Martin Luther’s rage no doubt contributed to Nazi determination to rid the world of Jews.

First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honor of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians. (Kindle, p. 390)

This was no doubt taken as justification for Kristallnacht, 9-10 November 1938.

When I recall the advice my Christian friend received from her priests—not to think about the lessons learned in catechism—Bufe’s first chapter comes to mind: Christianity Harms Children. “Please don’t think” is the way all religions thrive. This is not the way to make a better world. And Christians would do well to carefully ponder all of the 24 reasons that Bufe discusses in detail in this book.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

David Madison was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. He is the author of two books, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, now being reissued in several volumes, the first of which is Guessing About God (2023) and Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught: And Other Reasons to Question His Words (2021). The Spanish translation of this book is also now available.

His YouTube channel is here. At the invitation of John Loftus, he has written for the Debunking Christianity Blog since 2016.

The Cure-for-Christianity Library, now with more than 500 titles, is here. A brief video explanation of the Library is here.

Ten Things Christians Wish Jesus Hadn’t Taught (with author Dr. David Madison)

Interview with ex pastor David Madison

Ten Tough Problems in Christian Belief with David Madison

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