it's time to face the unthinkable truth- you have freedom of and from religion because of people who believed in a deity- believed enough in the early 1500s to sacrifice their lives rather than betray their beliefs.
after the reformation it can be said the catholics killed the protestants and the protestants killed the catholics and they both really enjoyed killing the jews and the anabaptists. as is obvious from their name the anabaptists did not believe in infant baptism. they thought only adults who had come to their majority and of their their own free will could opt to be baptised( or not). simple enough-it's a matter of faith and personal conscience and seems so obvious to us now but at the time christians of every ilk (who thought they ruled the world and everyone fucking in it by god's command. early western civilization in europe was a theocracy in every sense of the word.) went into a right tizzy .martin luther thought they all deserved execution- but then again he thought the peasants needed to be slaughtered wholesale for being uppity and the jews needed to be run out of christiandom on a rail, violently a la something like a kristallnacht.
in history the anabaptists are a footnote- fanatics in a crueler, more brutal time chock full of other fanatics in the midst of peasant and religious wars, famine and the black death. yet their ideas changed the world fundamentally-defining governance as we now know it and expect it to be. if the founding fathers had not come out of the european cauldron that destroyed the anabaptists with the determination for their country to avoid such a fate for its' citizens- our president would be pope and the secular government would take its orders from a church. the men who came out of the european enlightenment and created the united states of america, based on the very concept of human freedom of body, mind and soul, are the inheritors and ultimately implementers of the brave ideals for which the anabaptists died unheralded.
religion has always been used to control people.all the horrible things we now see islam doing to people- for in truth although they rage against the infidels and kill them it is mostly other muslims who are oppressed and killed by radical muslims- in an attempt to set up a world wide caliphate beholden only to the koran and allah, the christians did before them. the roman catholic church determined what god wanted and nobles, lords and kings made sure it was carried out. "witches", jews and "heretics" were murdered, people converted at sword point and everyone tithed to the church, filling it's coffers .religion could be made into one big racket to amass power and wealth at the expense of anything anyone alleges someone called jesus may have said or done.one believed what one was told to believe and no one could read any way as the printing press, the greatest of equalizers, was yet to be invented.the idea of spirituality and faith as personal, individual was unheard of. the idea of god's sole representative, the Church, not ruling earth unthinkable.
movable type changed it all and when some uppity heretics translated the bible into languages people actually understood and spoke- fuck all broke out.there had always been those who opposed the Church and its excesses, outright crimes and worldliness but kings and rulers were forced by the Church to kill them all- as happened to the cathars in what is today france- god would certainly sort them out.popes and monks ate, drank, murdered, raped and fucked like rabid devil bunnies- it's just the serfs who had to follow the 'word of god' and obey the only secular authority with any authority the roman catholic church.
when the 'protestant revolution' was just the 'reformation', after anti-semite, as the anapabtists called him, Brother Pig martin luther nailed his 95 theses to the wall , the northern european states experienced waves of reformers, self proclaimed prophets and, basically, raving loonies. the original anabaptists dedicated themselves to some fairly simple beliefs- baptism of adults into a church of believers, the bible as the truth , the sole authority, and a rejection of the state and church united, those in secular and thus religious power, being able to dictate matters of belief to people- what we call separation of church and state. brother pig's main problem with the anabaptists wasn't their core spiritual beliefs but with their rejection of the government's right to interfere with matters of personal faith. he objected to their subversion of the theocratic feudal state and thought they should be executed for it.
in 1529 by decree all anabaptists or ' rebaptized persons' were to be put to death no matter their age or gender.they were beheaded, drowned and burnt alive. but their ideas, which spoke to the very concept of individual liberty and free will bestowed by god alone, were so very hard to kill.as one ruler noted ," What am i to do? The more i kill, the greater becomes their number."
when the best and brightest and most pure proponents of the ideals of the anabaptists were caught and killed the void was filled with whack jobs, the violent and those who saw themselves as god's mouthpiece, running about saying crazy ass things and causing something akin to the flower power movement of the 60s- people lying around in fields, not working, fucking and waiting for the apocalypse caused by 'the man'. think: the manson family only circa 1500. eventually one group captured the city of münster. conceived in purity and faith they descended into debauchery and treachery and thirst for worldly power. betrayed from within, they were overcome in a siege by the ruling bishop and executed to a man. the cages the executed were hung in are still on display:
photo:Rüdiger Wölk, Münster. used according to creative commons license.
the ultimate tragedy of the brethren was transformed into reverence for their basic original ideals and comes down to us through the mennonities and the amish whose antiquated curious lifestyles belie the true importance of their heritage and ultimate raison d'être.
i can do no better to acknowledge both the original promptings of the anabaptists and their contribution to religious freedom than to quote otto friedrich from his wonderful book, "the end of the world: a history":
"The Anabaptists' original ideas were much grander than that, and they have spread far. The idea of adult baptism into a church of believers, and the supreme authority of the Scriptures was taught by Dutch Mennonities to John Smyth the founder of the Baptist church,that is now the largest Protestant denomination in the world. The insistence on nonviolence reappeared in Quakerism, in Thoreau, Tolstoy, and Ghandi. Not the least important, the separation of church and state, the idea that deprived the Anabaptists of political defenders and thus of political survival, is now fundamental to American society. Yet because of Münster, the Anabaptists are still regarded as zealots...
The ultimate cruelty of history is that it has denied them the ideas for which they died." p. 177
indeed. so go buy one of those nice baby swiss cheeses and thank the amish that you get to worship as you please.and don't scare the damn horses!
"roma, tant es grans
la vostra forfaitura,
que dieus e sos sans
en gitatz a non cura,
tant etz mal renhans,
roma falsa e tafura..."
- guilhem figuera
( rome so great
is your evil doing,
god and his saints
you regard not,
so little are you restrained,
rome false and deceitful...
(translation from provenc̡al- otto friedrich, the end of the world: a history)