the "Thirty Year's War" that began in 1618 when Protestant leaders threw two Catholic emissaries out of a Prague window, and which turned central Europe into a wasteland of misery, leading to the deaths of more than a quarter of Europe's population.
-- Ed Babinsky (author of "Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists")
The depravities of the Catholic church bred the Protestants, and the invention of mass printing during the same time brought a dawn of knowledge, a re-nascence of thinking that had been put down 1000 years before. The Protestants stripped the Christian philosophy of all of the colorful Catholic trappings, bringing us the sanitized, cinder-block Baptist church of today, more prudish, still scorning intellect and learning.
-- A World Lit Only by Fire - The Medieval Mind and The Renaissance, by William Manchester
France checked its Protestants by the most horrible outrage that stains its chronicles, the St. Bartholomew Massacre (1572), over which the Pope sang a Te Deum, and by the war against the Huguenots. England stank with the burning flesh of "martyrs" on both sides. In the little Netherlands Catholic Spain's "butcher's bill" amounted to more than a hundred thousand men and women. Germany, or the whole central part of Europe, remained a charnel-house for decades. Bohemia, the main battlefield, and until then a most promising civilization, had its thirty thousand prosperous villages reduced to six thousand, its three million enlightened citizens reduced to seven hundred and eighty thousand beggars. The plague, supervening upon the impoverished people, carried off a further hundred thousand.Based on their devout reading of the Bible, the Reformers advocated witch hunts:
-- The Story of Religious Controversy, by Joseph McCabe
LinkExodus 22:18: Thou shall not suffer a witch to live....Luther believed that witches should be burned even if they harmed no one, since they made pacts with the devil. He was personally responsible for at least four witch burnings in Wittenburg.
Calvin ... himself said on one occasion:"The Bible teaches us that there are witches and they must be slain ... this law of God is a universal law."Another prominent Protestant, John Wesley (1703-1791), the founder of the Methodist Church, wrote that anyone who denied the reality of witchcraft was:in direct opposition not only to the Bible, but to the suffrage of the wisest and best of men in all ages and nations ... Thus giving up of witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible.
In Britain, 30,000 went to the stake for witchcraft; in Protestant Germany, the figure was 100,000
-- William T. Walsh (historian)
Persecutions by Roman Catholics led to retaliations by Protestants culminating in Europe's second bloodthirsty Thirty Year War (1618-48). As terrible as the Catholics were to the Protestants, the Protestants were equally intolerant and did not miss the chance to return the favour. Catholics and Protestants persecuted, fought and killed each other in the millions. Next to this, persecution of the tiny remnant of non-Catholic and non-Protestant heretics and those accused or suspected of witchcraft continued. This time they were persecuted not only by Catholicism but also by Protestantism.
The result of all this was a victory for no one, and an estimated drop of Germany's population from 18 million to 4 million. With too few people left to work the field and trade for goods, starvation and disease ravaged the miserable survivors. Such are the fruits of European Christianity.Link
"What is marvellous about this infernal undertaking, is that each chief of murderers has his banners blessed and solemnly invokes god before he sets off to exterminate his neighbours."
-- Philosophical Dictionary, Voltaire
Hunger and deprivation followed the Thirty Year War, according to James A. Haught in Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness:
"Too few people remained to plant fields, rebuild cities, or conduct education or commerce. The disaster helped break the historic entwinement of Christianity and politics. The concluding Peace of Westphalia prescribed an end to the pope's control over civil governments."The Peace of Westphalia was signed in 1648.
Though Protestantism wasn't part of the Holy - and wholly Roman Catholic - Inquisition, Protestants did not shy away from using the same instruments and means of torture to suppress dissidents and their enemies. Luther, for instance, was well-known for demanding and endorsing the use of the rack and other tortures to punish prostitutes and even farmers who understandably opposed the German Princes. Martin Luther's vituperative work on rebellion, Against the Robbing and Murdering Peasants, gave religious sanction to curtailing the uprising of the peasant and farmer class, leading to the deaths of around a 100,000 people and making Germany more autocratic than before.
"The principle which the Reformation had upheld in the youth of its rebellion - the right of private judgment - was as completely rejected by the Protestant leaders as by the Catholics . . . Toleration was now definitely less after the Reformation than before it."
-- Historian Will Durant
It is well-known that belief in the justice of punishing heresy with death was so common among the 16th-century Reformers-Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and their adherents - that we may say their toleration began where their power ended.
-- Catholic Encyclopedia
Of course, Protestants should not be imagined as innocents in all of this. Attempting to abandon several centuries of developed church tradition, Protestant theology focused instead upon stricter adherence to scriptures. As an example, the harsher laws of the Old Testament developed greater prominence in Protestant lands than they did in Catholic lands. Protestant leaders also embraced some of the nastier doctrines of a few Catholic theologians, like Augustine's ideas about free will and predestination. Luther wrote in 1518: "Free will after the Fall is nothing but a word. Even doing what in him lies, man sins mortally."Link
In Switzerland, John Calvin created a vicious theocracy in which morality police were employed to control people's behavior. Citizens were harshly punished for a wide variety of moral infractions, including dancing, drinking, and generally being entertained. Theological dissidents were summarily executed, like Michael Servetus who was burned for doubting the Trinity. It isn't surprising that some of the nastiest Christians in America today, like Christian Reconstructionists, are unabashed Calvinists.
During the many Huguenot wars ravaging France, Huguenot soldiers hunted priests like animals and one captain is reported to have worn a necklace of priests' ears. In England, after King Henry VIII created the Anglican Church, he went after both Catholics and Protestants. Catholic loyalists like Sir Thomas More were quickly executed, but Lutherans who doubted retained doctrines like transubstantiation were also not spared. When his daughter Mary reached the throne in 1553 she became known as "Bloody Mary" because she attempted to reinstitute Catholicism through violence - but she only managed to make the country even more Protestant.Unsurprisingly, not all Protestants were created equal - some wretched groups were uniformly hated by all parties. One example of this is the Anabaptists, who were martyred for their faith in huge numbers. Anabaptists briefly took the German city of Munster, but Catholic armies regained control, torturing to death Anabaptist leaders with red-hot pincers. Their bodies were hung in cages from a church steeple where they remained for many years as a visible reminder of what happens to those who dare to oppose church authority.
In time, the Huguenot sect of France would be punished by the Catholics and driven to extinction, after 8 wars against them. In the massacre of St. Bartholomew's Day alone, 30,000 Huguenots were slaughtered. St. Peter's in Rome honoured the event with a Te Deum, and a year of jubilee was declared to celebrate the victory.
See also: the section on Protestantism for more on Luther, Calvin and other Reformers.
Different Protestant sects also persecuted each other. The Anabaptists were, as stated, universally hated:
Zwingli... and his followers threw the poor Anabaptists into the Lake of Zurich, enclosed in sacks
At a religious convention at Hamburg in April, 1535 the Lutheran towns of Lubeck, Bremen, Hamburg, Luneburg, Stralsund, Rostock and Wismar all voted to hang Anabaptists and flog Catholics and Zwinglians before banishing them. Luther's home territory of Saxony had instituted banishment for Catholics in 1527.
"That seditious articles of doctrine should be punished by the sword needed no further proof. For the rest, the Anabaptists hold tenets relating to infant baptism, original sin, and inspiration, which have no connection with the Word of God, and are indeed opposed to it . . . Secular authorities are also bound to restrain and punish avowedly false doctrine . . . For think what disaster would ensue if children were not baptized? . . . Besides this the Anabaptists separate themselves from the churches . . . and they set up a ministry and congregation of their own, which is also contrary to the command of God. From all this it becomes clear that the secular authorities are bound . . . to inflict corporal punishment on the offenders . . . Also when it is a case of only upholding some spiritual tenet, such as infant baptism, original sin, and unnecessary separation, then . . . we conclude that . . . the stubborn sectaries must be put to death."
-- Martin Luther
"Melanchthon accepted the chairmanship of the secular inquisition that suppressed the Anabaptists in Germany with imprisonment or death. 'Why should we pity such men more than God does?' he asked, for he was convinced that God had destined all Anabaptists to hell."Link
One final remark needs to be made. Despite attempts of Protestants to distance themselves from all of Catholicism's numerous evils, Protestantism is rooted only in the Catholic sect of Christianity. After all, the Reformation and the various Protestant sects it gave birth to, were born of Catholicism and not of Greek Orthodoxy, of the numerous early heresies like Arianism, or of the early Christian forms like Gnostic Christianity. The history of Protestants prior to the Reformation, is undeniably the history of their Catholic ancestors.
It is a matter of history and the perspective of the winners. For instance, the English today like to look upon Guy Fawkes as the Catholic madman who wanted to blow up the Parliament and turn England Catholic again. Yet, the fact is that had Fawkes succeeded, England might well be Catholic now and commemorate Fawkes as a hero instead.
Should the Protestants object that they are in no way responsible for the crimes of the Papacy, we shall cheerfully concede the plea; but at the same time we beg to remind them that Catholics are also Christians, and that the historian must deal with the whole system through all the centuries. Besides, as Michelet observed, Protestantism is after all only an estuary, and Catholicism the great sea.Link
-- Crimes of Christianity, G W Foote and J M Wheeler
It's not over yet.
"I am no Platonist; I am nothing at all. But I would sooner be a Paulician, Manichean, Spinozist, Gentile, Pyrrhonian, Zoroastrian, than one of the seventy-two villainous sects who are tearing each other to pieces for the love of the Lord and hatred of each other."Violent clashes between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland still continue. Though their ancestors were not Christian and did not convert voluntarily, today's Irish are willing to die and kill for a religion which was forced upon them.
-- Lord Byron
The Globe and Mail: Catholics, Protestants riot in Belfast, Saturday, June 18, 2005:
Belfast — Roman Catholic hard-liners assaulted police and Protestant marchers in a religiously polarized part of Belfast, and nearly 30 people were injured, Northern Ireland police said Saturday.