Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dubious Religious Authorities and Figures Part 2: The Reformers

Too often the reformation is depicted by protestants as some sort of moral victory for 'True Christianity' and that the reformers, most notably John Calvin and Martin Luther were heroes campaigning against the evil Catholic Church, but this simply isn't the case. Now I'm not siding with the Catholic Church here, as you should gather from Part 1 I don't think very highly of their antics either.

John Calvin (1509-1564), and Martin Luther (1483-1546) are held up as 'saints' in a way by many Protestants, and films like Luther just contribute to this image.

Lets take Martin Luther first since he came earlier.

In his later life, Luther was incredibly anti-Semitic and wrote a book by the name of 'Von den Jüden und iren Lügen' which translates to 'On the Jews and Their Lies'. He obviously spent a lot of time thinking about the Jews, and formulated a plan to get rid of them. Here is the plan.
  1. "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. ..."
  2. "Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. ..."
  3. "Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. ..."
  4. "Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. ..."
  5. "Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. ..."
  6. "Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them. ... Such money should now be used in ... the following [way]... Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed [a certain amount]..."
  7. "Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow... For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants."
  8. "If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews' blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country" and "we must drive them out like mad dogs."

Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism had a long-lasting impact on German religious and cultural views, and was a major influence on Hitler's Third Reich. Hitler himself though thought Luther was too soft on the Jews.
There isn't much else I can say about Luther, as his owns words speak for themselves, he was by no means the saint as portrayed in the film about him. I'm not really sure whether Luther directly committed any crimes against the Jews, but no doubt as a result of his writings, many people lost their lives.

John Calvin on the other hand while substantially less hateful towards the Semitic people still expressed some distaste towards them, as did most clergy in his day, saying things like:
"I have had much conversation with many Jews: I have never seen either a drop of piety or a grain of truth or ingenuousness—nay, I have never found common sense in any Jew."
 Where I find utter disgust with John Calvin lies in his totalitarian religious practices. Calvin was a very strong advocate of silencing anyone who had a dissenting view and by silence I mean murdering them. Calvin was personally responsible for burning Michael Servetus as the stake, who up until then was a close associate and friend of Calvin. Servetus was one of the great minds of his day, in fact he was the first European to accurately describe how Pulmonary circulation worked. What was he killed for? Heresy. Servetus was dobbed in to the Geneva Council for heresy by someone whom he considered to be a friend. He was killed for not believing in the Trinity.
Any moderate Christian who looks up to John Calvin as some kind of sophisticated Theologian or a hero of the reformation is thoroughly misguided. John Calvin is no better than Osama bin Laden.


  1. Yeah, apparently Luther hated like the first 20 years of his life. Those 8 points definitely reinforce that this chap was full of contempt.

  2. Even the Lutheran church denounced Luther in the 80's, so why some people would want to make a film glorifying him in 2003 is beyond me.