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Struggle of Faith and Reason: A History of Intolerance and Punitive Censorship

Part II: From Mediaeval Cathars to Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini

Juhani Sarsila

Humanists look up to Hellas as the cradle of European culture. The book spans nearly five centuries of a later epoch of this worthy tradition. Starting with the awesome high-mediaeval Cathars, the exposition proceeds in chronological order. Eventually, we meet Giordano Bruno and Lucilio Vanini, both of them red-letter heretics. The work affords cognisance of a neglected branch of learning. History of morals in general, and that of the struggle of faith and reason in particular, provides in-depth insights into the allotted fate of dissentient man. A potentially fateful nexus appears to be interweaving between book and author. Organised religion is evermore based on the politically beneficial idea of anthropomorphism or metaphysical projection. For has Man not made God in his image?

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II Extirpation of Heretics



Emperor Frederick II was very intolerant for a freethinker as he passed religious laws for his extensive dominions in Italy and Germany between 1220 and 1235. Although he had no personal faith, he enacted that all sham and hoax Christians, even freethinkers, should be outlawed, arrested, and put to trial. Those who would not abjure, then, should be set to fire. Those who gave in to the directives of the authority and recanted their errors should be jailed and if they relapsed, should be executed. Further, Frederick, whom we dislike calling ‘Great’, urged that the deviant’s personalty should be confiscated and his house levelled to the ground. Politically and socially prudent and callous, Frederick also directed that the dissidents’ children, to the second generation, should be rendered ineligible to positions of emolument unless they successfully betrayed their father or some other dissident (Lea 1966, III, 183; Bury 2007, 42).

Also other rulers, like Louis IX of France, passed extremely severe laws against blasphemers, including the ultimate penalty for heresy (Lea 1966, III, 183; Peters 1989, 51). After the unorthodox and hard-hearted Frederick II surreally homologated death by cremation at the stake throughout his vast empire, France immediately followed suit, introducing the same punishment in 1270, although the principle had been in force for decades. One exception, worth a few words in this connection, confirms the rule, as we have a look at the history of England that still remained little troubled with heresy...

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