Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Catholics v. Protestants

In the part of south-east France where I'm settled, people are still aware of, and indeed sensitive to, bloody conflicts that took place here over four centuries ago. I'm referring to the so-called Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants [often referred to as Huguenots].

They lasted on and off for 36 years, from 1562 up until the salutary Edict of Nantes in 1598. Records indicate that the vineyards at Choranche, run by Catholic monks, were totally devastated by Protestant vandals in 1593. Besides, that date enables me to infer that the splendid stone cellar in my house dates from the beginning of the 17th century, when all the monastic installations in the region had to be rebuilt. It is said that, towards the end of the Wars of Religion, the Catholic lord of Pont-en-Royans, Antoine de Sassenage, slaughtered all the Calvinist troops in the village, and that the Bourne (so the story goes) "ran red with their blood".

I'm amazed to learn that Pope Benedict XVI has just approved a document that is likely to revive conflicts between Catholics and Protestants by reasserting naively the universal primacy of the church of Rome. The document affirms that Jesus established only one church on earth. This is total rubbish. Everybody knows today that Jesus, during his brief life, never established anything whatsoever that might be referred to as a church. After the crucifixion of their master, and up until the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, some 40 years later, the followers of Jesus remained Jews [referred to, these days, as Judeo-Christians], and played no part in the foundation of anything that might be thought of as a primitive Christian church. That did not start to happen until Gentiles led by Paul got into action. As far as early links with Rome are concerned, there is no proof whatsoever that the apostle Simon Peter went to Italy, and is buried at the Vatican. It's far more likely that he died in Jerusalem and was buried beneath the chapel of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives, at the place where Jesus wept while contemplating the temple and its future destruction.

As a relatively unconcerned observer, I have the impression that some of the reactionary decisions and declarations of the headstrong former cardinal Joseph Ratzinger will end up annihilating little by little the failing credibility of christianity, and hastening its doom.


  1. As you know, I was born in Romania. God was dead at this time (nevertheless I'm baptized). When I moved to Germany (I was about 9 years old), I had quite a lot of problems to deal with what they called "God".

    When I was about 14, I was quite impressed by a piece written by Lessing we read at school, called "Nathan the Wise". Since then, I have some difficulties to understand "Wars of Religion".

    "The centerpiece of the work is the ring parable, narrated by Nathan when asked by Saladin which religion is true: An heirloom ring with the magical ability to render its owner pleasant in the eyes of God and mankind had been passed from father to the son he loved most. When it came to a father of three sons whom he loved equally, he promised it (in "pious weakness") to each of them. Looking for a way to keep his promise, he had two replicas made, which were indistinguishable from the original, and gave on his deathbed a ring to each of them. The brothers quarrelled over who owned the real ring. A wise judge admonished them that it was up to them to live such that their ring's powers proved true. Nathan compares this to religion, saying that each of us lives by the religion we have learned from those we respect."
    Source: Wikipedia

    This was 30 years ago, terrorists didn't exist, at least not in the way they do today.

    I don't know what Ratzinger is trying to do, but his decisions seem to be a bit crazy.

    I wonder if such words as "respect" or "tolerance" have still a meaning today.

  2. Your evocation of Nathan the Wise provides a splendid tribute to the great man who left us a few days ago: André Chouraqui. In his autobiography entitled L'amour fort comme la mort, Chouraqui reveals that his Hebrew first name is Natân, pronounced Natane. [I hope the second letter a, with a circumflex accent, doesn't get screwed up by web browsers.] This name—that of a prophet attached to the legendary king David—is derived from the verb "to give". The great scholar hoped that his tomb in Jerusalem would carry his three names—Natân André Choraqui—followed by the expression "Died of joy", which is a reference to words from the Psalms: "You have given joy to my heart..." In many ways, Chouraqui deserves the title of Lessing's fable: Natân the Wise.