HOW THE PURITANS CAME FROM MOHAMMED | 1999-06-05
In the eighth century, the swelling tide of Islam had conquered all of North Africa and spilled over into Europe. The legions of Mohammed came across Spain and surged into the very heart of Europe. They went all the way across France and were only stopped at the battle of Tours, in what is now Belgium.
After the Battle of Tours, the forces of Islam were driven out of what is now France. But they held onto Iberia, the Peninsula which now contains Spain and Portugal. While the rest of Europe was free of the Mohammedan threat, Spain began a long, agonizing war to free itself of Mohammedan rule. This war lasted for over SEVEN CENTURIES, from the eighth century until 1492.
The slow, horrible process of taking Spain back from Islam was called the "reconquista," the Reconquest. Like later religious wars, it was fought without mercy. As always, the war between two forces that claimed to bring Love and Brotherhood to All Mankind was brutal beyond imagination (See May 15 article, "Wordism"). No one is more totally merciless than Communists and self-styled "Christians" who think they are battling for The Only True Faith.
Finally, after three-quarters of a thousand years of torture and mass killing, the last Mohammedan outpost in Spain was conquered. By this time, the Spaniards were religious extremists to an extent other Europeans found hard to imagine. Naturally, all those generations of war had caused Spain to become unbendingly devoted to its religion.
In 1492, the reconquista ended, and the Spaniards were fanatical Catholics. Then, only twenty-five years later, the Protestant Reformation began. To fight the Reformation, each Catholic country set up an Inquisition. But the Spanish Inquisition was far more ruthless and brutal than any other.
Spain was by far the most powerful Catholic country. It had just taken over the New World, and gold was pouring into Spain. As a result, the extremism of Spain became the standard for battling Protestantism.
While Catholic powers like Austria tried to some extent to reason with Protestants, Spain demanded they be burned alive as quickly as possible. Because of the long, long war Spain had fought to free herself from the grip of Islam, Protestantism was met with pure repression in Catholic lands.
The result of Catholic fanaticism was the rise of an equally fanatical form of Protestantism. In countries where Catholic princes ruled and a Protestant revolt developed, that Protestant revolt was always Calvinist. John Calvin was an absolutely unbending religious extremist who wrote his own theology and ruled Geneva as a religious dictator. He regarded every other form of Protestantism as too soft, and he preached that practically everybody but the few who belonged to his church were damned to Hell. In fact, he even preached that most of the people IN his church were also damned!
In most countries, only the Calvinist kind of Protestant viciousness could fight against Spanish-led Catholic extremism. In France, in Scotland, in the Netherlands (which was rebelling against Spain at the time), the grassroots Protestant revolt was Calvinist.
Mohammed had conquered Spain, and the Spanish Inquisition was a direct result of Spain's long and merciless struggle against its Moslem conquerors. The power of Calvinism was, in turn, the direct result of the Spanish Inquisition.
In England, the Puritans were Calvinists. They were extremists who wanted to clean out every trace of what they called "Papism" from the English Church. These were the Puritans who came to New England.
Let us get one thing straight. The Puritans were entirely different from the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock were NOT theocratic Puritans. Our post-Civil War history likes to confuse the small band of Pilgrims who came here for religious freedom with the Puritans, who came here to stamp out every trace of religious freedom within their territory.
Puritans banned every other church from their territory until 1690, when the British Government forced them to allow other forms of worship. Dissenters like Roger Williams and Hutchinson were thrown out. The spirit of Europe's religious wars had come to America. It would be the basis of the later New England outlook that led to fanatical abolitionism, the Civil War, and the totalitarian tendencies of today's American left.
We see this pattern repeated throughout history. Fanaticism leads to fanaticism. The later fanatics always claim that what they are doing is all right, because of what the earlier fanatics did. Lenin and Stalin claimed that what they did was all right because the Czar had been so evil. The Nazis claimed that what they did was all right because they were fighting the Communists. Today, the antiracists claim that their suppression of all opposition is all right because they are fighting Nazism.
England spent centuries developing freedom of speech. Now they are going back the other way, all in the name of fighting racism (See "Poisoned Fruit," October 24). In America, anti-white fanaticism is justified in the name of fighting Nazism and bigotry (See January 30, "Dirty Old White Men,").
Just as the spirit of the Spanish Inquisition lived on in the Puritans who claimed to be its worst enemies, the spirit of Adolph Hitler lives on today in those who claim to represent Love, Brotherhood, and Racial Tolerance.