Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Religion and North American Exploration

rough draft only


            Some history books will tell you that all of Europe was once Roman Catholic. This isn’t so. There were other Christian religions that believed differently, and this was so back to near Christianity’s beginning. Christianity spread into Europe early in the First Century, but other than the Franks, most tribes adopted an alternative Christian belief called Arianism. Arians believed Jesus was subordinate to God. Catholics believed Jesus was God. Charles the Great, known as Charlemagne, became ruler of the Franks in 771. He conquered many of the other tribes, forcing them to give up their beliefs. If they wouldn’t become Catholics, he had them killed. From then on non-Catholics were persecuted and sometimes murdered, women and children included.
When Europeans were exploring America, a religious revolution swept Western Europe. A German Catholic priest named Martin Luther objected to some Catholic teachings and practices. One of these was selling of an Indulgence, a paper that proclaimed forgiveness of all sins. In 1517 Luther nailed a list of ninety-five grievances to a cathedral door.  Ordered by the Pope to retract them, he refused. Those who had similar doubts about Catholic belief and teaching supported Luther.
Luther was supported by some of the German nobility. Political support protected  the new religion. Many small groups and some larger ones developed. Called Protestants, they spread everywhere, but they were not unified. Many of them were no more tolerant than the Catholics. Political support modified some beliefs. At first Luther supported the peasants who were abused by the land-owning nobility. When the nobility gave him their support, that changed.  At first Luther opposed coercing religious belief, but he later called on those rulers who supported him to burn at the stake those who opposed baptizing babies. In Switzerland, John Calvin, another Protestant leader, had Michael Servetus, burned alive for teaching things Calvin didn’t believe.
The new approach to Christianity drew many believers away from the Catholic Church. Some were honest believers and some wanted power. Entire nations declared themselves Protestant. One of these was England. King Henry VIII sought the Pope’s support for a divorce and remarriage. It was not given. Henry turned England into a Protestant country. One of his daughters, Mary, tried to reverse that, killing all who would not conform. Her half-sister Elizabeth became queen. Elizabeth was a committed Protestant and an intelligent ruler. This led to conflict with Spain. Protestant England was not more tolerant than Catholic Spain was. They hunted down dissenters too, burning some of them alive. The last English dissenters to be burned alive were two men who wrote a pamphlet opposing beliefs they felt came from ancient religion but not from Christ. They died in 1611. [fact check date]
This story is longer and more complex than this, and much more interesting in its details. You may want to explore this on your own. What we need to know now is that religious difference effected the settlement and exploration of America.


  1. I would say that you wielded your Wordkiller well. I learned something new about Arianism. I had not heard about that part of Christianity before.

  2. An occasional reader2:56 PM

    The beauty of purchasing indulgences from a business point of view was that you could almost plan your sin in advance if you had sufficient funds. One thinks of a few words of verse written by an occasional blog contributor a million years ago:

    Forgive my trespasses I pray
    (I've one or two to make today...)

    As for executing those who didn't toe the party line on church doctrines like the trinity - Scotland has the dubious fame of being the last to execute someone for a muddled mixture of Arian and atheistic views. Thomas Aikenhead aged 18 shot his mouth off a little too publicly at the wrong time and in the wrong place and was hanged in Edinburgh for blasphemy in 1697.

  3. OOO, i didn't know that. i may look into that and use it.

  4. ... and here i own a set of McCauley's history and have read it. You'd 'a thought I'd remember this bit.