Wednesday 17th July 2024,
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The Genesis of Racism in the Church

The Genesis of Racism in the Church

“It ain´t the parts of the Bible that I can´t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”Mark Twain


Thomas Aquinas}

The  racist tendencies historically originated from a specific “theological” dogma from the Catholic church, officialized by Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s in Italy (who was made a saint for it). Thomas Aquinas’ theory, which became the official theological position of the church and therefore the rationale of the colonial expansion ordered by the popes, was that non Christian peoples or “heathens” had a kind of “second class” soul, therefore they could be killed, mistreated, exploited, robbed, enslaved and denied all power and dignity.

The same “second class soul category” was applied to women, who were considered by Thomas Aquinas and other theologians as “impure by nature”, and therefore “had” to be punished, exploited and denied all power and dignity.

Pagan Goddess Brighid}

This was mainly due to the fact that pre-Christian European civilizations had similarities with the Vedic worldview, with a widespread worship of the Mother Goddess, practically identical to the Hindu philosophy and theology.

So according to the Church theologians, heathens and women (including those born in Christian families) could at best become “acceptable Christians” as much as their “inferior nature” allowed them to be, but always in a subordinate position to their masters, that had to be white males from a Christian people, and against whom they could never rebel.

Pope Gregorius VII

Pope Gregorius VII

The law of the Church was undisputedly enforced over all kingdoms of the time with thethreat of excommunication for the rulers. Besides, the Church had a strong army, a wide network of faithful spies all over Europe (all the priests and clergy men), and sufficient money for extensive bribing. Several emperors tried their chances against the popes, but they were defeated, like Henry the IV (king of Germany and Italy) who had challenged the authority of the Pope Gregorius VII (Ildebrand of Soana, who was pope from 1073 to 1085) over his government affairs.

The pope excommunicated him, and he had this order proclaimed to all corners of Henry’s empire: “On the order of God, I forbid Henry to rule on the peoples of Italy and Germany. I absolve all his subjects from any promise or oaths of loyalty to him, and I excommunicate anyone who may serve him.”

In the winter of 1077 Henry traveled through the Alps with great hardships to the fortress of

King Henry the IV

{King Henry begging the {Popes forgiveness

Canossa in Italy, where Gregorius lived, and remained barefoot and dressed in a simple cloth in the snow for 3 days outside the fortress, waiting for Gregorius’ “forgiveness” and submitting himself and his empire to his political control.

Pope Gregorius’ laws, to be unquestionably accepted by all Christians, were the following:

1. The pope cannot be judged by anyone on earth because he is the direct representative of God
2. The Church of Rome has always been, and will always be, infallible and unquestionable
3. Only the pope can depose bishops
4.Only the pope can carry the imperial insignia
5. The pope can depose emperors and kings, and free their subjects from the duty of obedience towards rulers
6.All the kings must kiss the pope’s feet
7. The pope’s ambassadors, even if laymen, have exclusive power on all bishops
8. An elected pope is automatically and unquestionably a saint, simply on the strength of St. Peter’s merits, because he is the legal representative of Peter.

This theory of the “second class soul” became the legal and ethical basis of slavery and forced prostitution, on which the Church made huge fortunes, and of colonization, which made huge fortunes both for the Church and for the kingdoms and empires that served as the Church’s subordinates — Spain and Portugal particularly.

slavesIn fact all the non-European populations encountered and conquered were non-Christians (and hence, “heathens”) besides not being white-skinned, the concept of “heathen” became equal to “non-white”. Most “heathens” encountered by Spanish and Portuguese armies in their colonization conquests at the orders of the Popes were black or brown: African and south American populations, who were systematically enslaved or mass butchered as mentioned before.

Many Muslims (especially Arabs) have the same racist concepts as exemplified by the recent Dafur genocide in Sudan, where the government supports the Arabs who are openly slaughtering and torturing the “black slaves”, i.e. the native Sudanese people, who are also Muslim, but of “an inferior class”.

It must be remembered that the white populations originally living in the Saharasia-Arabia-north African-Palestinian areas about 5,000 years ago were the first peoples to invent slavery and they kept a sort of monopoly over it until the Vatican became a mighty competition in the slavery business with the colonial expansion.

Still today, several Arab Muslim states consider slavery legal and practice it widely by many

Arab Slave Trade

{Arab Slave Trade

means, “harvesting” India, Bangladesh, as well as other countries where financially motivated people are ready to sell human beings on the “black market”.

This practice of slavery and conquest of new territories dug a deeper and deeper division among the “whites” and “non whites”. So the development of racism was simply a by-product of the supposed superiority of Christians over non-Christians, and of the colonization started by the Popes.

turks take constantinople

Turks take Constantinople}

It is very important to understand the historical situation in Europe in the 1400s and 1500s: the Turks taking Constantinople (the doorway to the Indies used for trade until that time by Christian merchants under the popes), the separation of the protestants from the Church in Rome, the “discovery” of America, the greater powers given to the Inquisition against the general cultural humanistic rebellion (on the philosophical, artistic, scientific, social fields) etc.

When Britain, Germany, Holland and the other kingdoms in north Europe became protestant, the pope was left with only Italy, France, Spain and Portugal under his control (which meant much less power and income). At that time the catholic kings were simply servants of the pope and derived all their power and authority from the pope’s sanction.

{Pope Martin V

In 1417 with the bulla Rex Regnum, Pope Martin V gave to the king of Portugal the “right of crusade and conquest” over the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Templars, a Christian military monastic order, developed a great centre of nautical studies, military arsenal and shipyard at Sagres (Portugal) and a naval basis at Lagos (Portugal). From there the naval army of Portugal conquered almost all the eastern part of Africa.

Reconquista which ended with the fall of Granada

Reconquista which ended with} the fall of Granada

Spain also made the Pope happy by reconquering the territories it had lost to the Muslims (fall of Grenada, 1491) and making the pope’s Inquisition the absolute and unquestionable power in the police and judiciary systems. Besides, in 1492 Columbus (financed by Spain) “discovered” America and hence claimed rights on it, so in 1494 with the treaty of Tordesillas the pope Alexander VI (Ferdinando Borgia born in Jativa, Valencia, Spain, who was pope from 1492 to 1503) officially and “legally” divided the PROPERTY OF THE ENTIRE PLANET between Spain and Portugal by drawing a geographical line, and ordering the two kings, by God’s authority, to conquer the new territories, make them Christian and take away all their wealth for the glory and profit of the church.

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake}

The kings of England, France and Holland organized pirate fleets to get some crumbs of the enormous pie of the “New World”. The success of Sir Francis Drake in piracy encouraged the government of England to finance an expedition to north America, where the British “purchased” (for a very small price and bribery) or conquered (generally by a clever game of alliances, further dividing the tribes who had already some hostility against each other) vast and scarcely populated territories to be used as penal colonies. Soon the ships carrying the convicts were followed by ships carrying voluntary emigrants fleeing from oppression, religious intolerance, epidemics, wars, poverty and degradation that were rampant in

Europe under the Christian governments.

Gradually, the growing number of immigrants pushed the colonial government to appropriate more and more territories, often expropriating and deporting the natives in “reservations” established in less interesting and smaller lands.

conquistadors praying

conquistadors praying

However, the native americans in those territories were neither made slaves, mass slaughtered or forced to convert to Christianity with the Inquisition methods, as it was normally the case in the territories conquered by the catholic Spanish and Portuguese “conquistadores”. It must be said that the “Spanish” and “Portuguese” territories were much more interesting: rich of gold, various wealth and very densely populated by settled groups of advanced and complex civilizations that had built empires, while in north America (the territories targeted by the British) the largely nomadic populations did not even had the concept of land possession and lived a more individualistic, spiritually-oriented and free life.

They did not give any value to gold or material possessions, they had not amassed great wealth or built cities, and therefore their population was not so large.

columbus arrives

Columbus arrives

When Columbus landed in Cuba in 1492 there were 8 million inhabitants, while 4 years later 50% of the entire population had already been massacred and the Spaniards were “forced” to import slaves from the other islands in Caribbean.

America was called “west Indies” (as opposed to the “east Indies”, i.e. India proper), and since the Spanish conquerors of south America spoke Spanish, the native Americans in those areas (Maya, Inca, Aztec, Toltec, etc) came to be known as “indios”, the Spanish equivalent of the English “Indian”.

conquistadorIn 1520 Mexico had 25 millions of inhabitants, while in 1592 the number was 1.5 million: 95% of the inhabitants had been killed.Those who remained in the subsequent centuries were a mixed breed and COMPLETELY Christianized; their original languages and customs practically lost forever. A large part of the non-white populations of present south America, besides the mixed Spanish-Indio breed, are black people or mixed breed of African origin (Spanish+African or African+Indio), because Spaniards and Portuguese carried many more slaves from Africa (who were physically stronger) to cultivate the sugar, tobacco, coffee, cocoa fields in their new territories when the local population practically disappeared.

The only native populations who survived in those areas were very small numbers of nomadic and “uncivilized” tribes hiding in the deepest Amazon forests. Altogether, at the beginning of 1500s the native populations of the entire Americas (both south and north) were estimated at about 80 million, and in the mid 1600s the number was 10 million, in a time when the ENTIRE POPULATION OF THE WORLD was less than 400 million people.

Natives being tortured and killed

Natives being tortured and killed)

Nino de Guzman, governor of Mexico City, enslaved 10 thousands local natives over a total population of 25 thousands, and killed the rest. Life expectancy for a slave was 25 years of age. Slaves were almost always transferred by ship from their original lands to break all

slaves fed to spaniard dogs

Slaves fed to Spaniard dogs

chances of re-grouping and rebelling, although their life conditions during such trips were even worse than usual; for example in one trip from Porto de Plata from 800 indios embarked, 600 died and their bodies were thrown at sea. The slaves who survived were fed with the flesh of other indios, which was also given to the Spaniards’ dogs.

However, the Spaniards’ idea was not annihilating the natives, because slaves had a monetary value. They only killed those natives who resisted slavery, were unsuitable for slavery (old people, diseased people, etc).

Women were raped by Columbus' men

Women chosen for rape by Columbus' men

Actually, the conquistadores were interested in multiplying their slave wealth. The price of a female slave was higher when she was pregnant, and it was a normal routine that indio women were raped by the conquistadores, who often tied their husbands under the bed “for more fun”. However, the newborn babies often died because the mothers had no milk due to malnutrition, bad living conditions, abuse and excessive work: in 3 months in Cuba only, 7 thousands babies died for this reason.

Britain got into the colony and slavery business only later, in order to get a slice of the juicy pie that Spain and Portugal were siphoning off into the Church’s treasury. Britain’s position was somehow milder because the British monarchs (although not less bloodthirsty, greedy, and immoral than their Spanish and Portuguese counterparts) were against the popes and wanted to keep their freedom (not for their peoples, for themselves, but nonetheless freedom was recognized as a positive value). Protestantism was therefore a milder version of Christianity, and the British colonization was somehow less tyrannical and bloody than the Spanish and Portuguese versions, that wiped off entire populations in Africa and south America and practically destroyed their native cultures and considered freedom, cultural and religious diversity, and social equality as heresy, i.e. seriously criminal ideas to be punished by torture and death.

Bible Slavery

Bible and Slavery

When slavery was officially abolished and declared illegal by the secular government due to the pressure of public opinion in 1865 in the USA, the Church quickly turned its coat and started proclaiming that all human beings were equal and that slavery was bad, so that they could get supporters from the newly freed slaves. Although it took it almost another 100 years for the Church to recognize that women had any rights! Still today, the idea of opening priesthood to women in the Catholic church is considered an abomination to most “religious” people.



persecution of non christians

About The Author

Mataji Parama Karuna Devi started to study and practice Vedic knowledge in 1970. In 1978 she left her home and career to move into the local Iskcon ashram in Italy, And actively worked at the translation and publication of the literary works of the founder or the movement, as well as at the personal service of the Deities in the temple and in preaching. Starting from 1984, she extensively traveled around the Indian subcontinent, from the Himalayan foothills to the extreme south, in a cultural and spiritual full immersion, living as a local person among the local people, attending the traditional Hindu temples and meeting many extraordinary personalities at a very high level in the religious field. In 1986 she officially left Iskcon, dissociating herself from the Organization's policies and conclusions. and started her own preaching center in Italy, also publishing several study guides, translations, and religious and spiritual texts. In 1994 she moved to Jagannatha Puri in Orissa, where she established the Jagannatha Vallabha Vedic Research Center and actively participated to the cultural and religious life of the orthodox Hindu community. Under the tutelage of the deula purohita of Sri Jagannatha Puri Mandir, she underwent the suddhi, prayaschitta, vratyastoma and diksha rituals characteristic of the ancient vratya tradition of Orissa. Among her works: a pilgrimage guide to Jagannatha Puri (Puri, the Home of Lord Jagannatha), an extensive commentary on Bhagavad gita, a summary study on Bhagavata Purana, a translation of the major 108 Upanishads, an Introduction to Vedic knowledge, and a multi-volume research on the life and teachings of Krishna Chaitanya.

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