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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Devil Among Us: America's First Witch Hunt

Here's a clip from the movie The Devil Among Us: America's First Witch Hunt. It's about the first witches who were executed in the colonies of New Haven and Connecticut in New England. (See: The Hanging of Goodwife Knapp in 1653.)


Marc said...

And the point is?

18 people were killed at the Salem Witch trials. 18 too many? sure.

Good pretext to bash teism in general or Christianity in particular? Depends. Are you going to tally up the people who died in the name of atheism? probably not.

jimmiraybob said...

Mark, witch trials occurred throughout "Christendom," from Europe to the New World. Thousands were murdered because of ignorance and superstition. We're not even talking about the inquisitions yet.

You try to bringing up a false equivalency and fail. The same pathologies underlie mass hysteria and brutish behavior whether conducted by Christian or non-Christian. Usually at the heart of it is a struggle for power and control.

Christianity happens to be an efficient organizing force and its struggle for power, its alliances with secular power (emperors and kings) and its eventual dominance in the secular world in which we live and its perpetual demagogic manufacture and manipulation of fear and ignorance is the root cause of its culpability in the atrocities so often attributed to it.

I might add that the "diversion you attempt is commonly referred to as a tu toque (you also) fallacy and does nothing to deflect from the point of the argument/comment.

jimmiraybob said...

I should add that the hunting and persecution of "witches" within Christendom continues today. You might try googling witches and Africa and/or Sara Palin.

Marc said...

That's interesting, Larry. Do you only accept comments that are convenient to you?

Marc said...

Trying again:


Could you please provide a reference for the "thousands" killed during which hunts?

I wouldn't for a second defend those atrocities. However, the same standard needs to be applied to the murderous explicitly atheistic regimes that killed orders of magnitude more people.

To me, that's a clear double standard. If it involves christians, they should take all the blame, even if they weren't being consistent with the tenets of Christianity. If it involves explicitly atheistic totalitarian regimes, it has nothing to do with atheism.

jimmiraybob said...


A good approximation is here:

Current scholarly estimates of the number of people executed for witchcraft vary between about 40,000 and 100,000.[1] The total number of witch trials in Europe which are known for certain to have ended in executions is around 12,000.[15]

It's a Wiki source (with citations) but I've seen similar numbers in more substantial secondary sources.

As far as the inquisitions, you could also Google or go to Wikipedia or for an entertaining account of the atrocities, you might read Dogs of God by Pinckney Benedict.

To me, that's a clear double standard.

Not unless you consider Larry or me or any other sane human being as defenders of genocide, mass murder etc. The "yeah, but look at what those other guys did" defense does nothing to diminish the original apparent implied assertion nor does it do anything to save the good name of Christianity and it makes your position look weak.

If you've murdered one person it doesn't do a lot of good to point at someone else that's committed ten or a hundred.

Not every argument, implied or otherwise requires a counter balance - unless maybe if you work in main stream media (scientists say sun will rise in east tomorrow morning. Others, however, disagree......).

If it involves christians, they should take all the blame...

BS (abbreviated to accommodate delicate sensitivities). They should be accountable for what their (general) institutions have done. Let the evil atheist regimes stand on their own.

The difference between the Christian regimes that have committed atrocities and the atheist regimes that have committed atrocities is that the atheist regimes don't try to pass the atrocities off as pure and holy and a right guide for all of mankind. Another difference is that the murderous evil atheist regimes you refer to have been obliterated. The "Church" marches on constrained by secular constitutions from gaining power to repeat past performances.

I am hardly convinced that the intersection of Christianity with secular power wouldn't produce more of the same in the name of purity. As far as most civilized nations today, there seem to be enough institutional controls to ward of evil dictators coming to power and committing like atrocities.

InfuriatedSciTeacher said...

Mark> Well, it depends. Did those atheistic regimes kill because they were atheist or did they happen to kill many and be atheist? I don't blame every murder by a Christian on Christianity, but I certainly lay the blame for those killed by witch-hunts and the Inquisition firmly at the feet of the church, as church doctorine was not only exploited for but an underlying reason for those occurences. The Crusades can be attributed to Christendom as well, although some of the bloodshed there is also the fault of good old human greed and lust for power.
Do you have an atheistic regime in mind, or were you about to trot out the old Stalin, Hitler and Mao canard?

InfuriatedSciTeacher said...

My apologies for misspelling your name... remember what it was but didn't bother to glance over to check if it was with a c or a k.

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