The Authoritarian Violent Path to Faith. Reviewing Mittelberg's "Confident Christianity" Part 9

I'm reviewing Mark Mittelberg's book Confident Faith. [See the "Mark Mittelberg" tag below for others]. In this post I'm going to write on a path to faith Mittelberg didn't mention, and probably didn't even think about. I previously wrote about the Authoritarian Path to Faith, i.e., "Truth Is What You've Always Been Told You Must Believe", which is being required to believe authority figures. However, being required to have "blind obedience" to "unquestioned authority" is bad, and very dangerous.

But being forced to believe under the threat of torture or death is so much worse. Any faith that does this is unworthy of belief. Period. There are no circumstances where this can be morally justified. So if any religion does this to gain converts, especially over the course of centuries and sanctioned by an overwhelming number of its intellectuals, leaders and practitioners, then such a religion should be discarded forever into the dustbin of history. At no point would a loving omniscient God allow his people to think this was a good thing to do. So if such a god cannot help his people refrain from doing this to others, he cannot do anything else in human history either, including starting such a religion in the first place.

The Authoritarian Violent Path is the worst faith path. It's to be forced to convert under the threat of torture or death at the point of a sword, a gun or a whip. I'm writing this as a reminder of how converts used to be made by Christians. In an earlier century, if Mittelberg were writing his book he would have to write about it, and I have no doubt there are people who come to Christianity today in the same way, just like how Islam is still being spread. People interested should read a few chapters in my anthology Christianity is Not Great: How Faith Fails, especially 1) Religious Violence and the Harms of Christianity, by me; 5) Love Your Enemy, Kill Your Enemy: Crusades, Inquisitions, and Centuries of Christian Violence, by David Eller; and 7) They Will Make Good Slaves and Christians: Christianity, Colonialism, and the Destruction of Indigenous People, by David Eller.

Historically speaking, this authoritarian violent path to faith is probably the most prevalent and effective one used to gain religious converts. Most religions are not missionary oriented, while cross-cultural missionary efforts without violence show meager results at best. So the evidence proving this is the case can be seen by the global distribution of religions. The best explanation for the distribution of religions is due to forced colonization, the slave industry, conquests and wars.

Look at this map of world religions found here:

World Religions Map

Here's the key enlarged a bit since it’s too small in the picture:

Throughout most of Christian history violence was its theme, its program, and its method for converting people and keeping believers in the fold. Its history is a history of violence. There is no escaping this. We see it in the reign of Constantine who forced the church to come to a consensus. Then in the centuries that followed, wars settled their differences, as told by Phillip Jenkins in The Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1500 Years. According to Jenkins,
Horror stories about Christian violence abound in other eras, with the Crusades and Inquisition as prime exhibits; but the intra-Christian violence of the fifth- and sixth-century debates was on a far larger and more systematic scale than anything produced by the Inquisition and occurred at a much earlier stage of the church history . . . vicious civil wars still reverberated two hundred years after Chalcedon.
The winners of these wars decided orthodox doctrine for the next fifteen hundred years:
When we look at what became the church’s orthodoxy, so many of those core beliefs gained the status they did as a result of what appears to be historical accident, of the workings of raw chance. . . . This was not the case of one side producing better arguments in its cause. . . . What mattered were the interests and obsessions of rival emperors and queens, the role of competing ecclesiastical princes and their churches, and the empire’s military successes or failures against particular barbarian nations.
During the reign of Christianity the Crusades were for the purpose of taking land and people for God and Christ. It was much the same with the Inquisition, the motto of which was found in the dreaded words: "Convert or Die!".

When Protestants rejected the religion of the Roman Catholic Church, there was even more religious violence beginning in the sixteenth century. In France (1562–1598) there were a series of eight wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants (primarily Calvinist Huguenots), known as the French Wars of Religion. The Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) was one of the most destructive wars in European history. It pitted Christians against each other. This war was fought primarily in Germany, but other countries got involved as well. Roman Catholicism and Protestant Calvinism figured prominently in the opposing sides of this conflict. So great was the loss of life from this war that estimates show one-third of the entire population of Germany was killed. W├╝rttemberg lost three-quarters of its population. Brandenburg suffered the loss of half of its population, as did Marburg and Augsburg, while Magdeburg was reduced to rubble. Outside Germany, nearly one-third of the Czech population died as well. We’re talking about a bloodbath between what most Christians today would call their brothers and sisters in Christ. This bloodbath was largely over the authority of the Catholic Church, the means of salvation, the priesthood of all believers, the nature of the Eucharist, and the proper candidates and mode of baptism.

Then there were missionary efforts that brought pagan converts into the Christian fold from around the world by means of forced colonization and the slave trade, both of which destroyed indigenous people groups in America (cf. Manifest Destiny) South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia, which David Eller expertly writes about in his chapters.

Again, any faith that does this is unworthy of belief. Period. There are no circumstances where this can be morally justified.