Past Religious Intolerance in Europe and America
Within the Roman Empire, there were long periods of religious freedom and tolerance. As long as a person fulfilled their normal civic duties, they were free to worship as they wished. Within the empire, many religions flourished: the Greek and Roman Pagan religions, mystery religions, Christianity, Judaism, Mithraism, etc. Unfortunately, "civic duties" included periodically making a nominal sacrifice to the Pagan Gods at the Roman temple. One of the reasons for the heavy persecution of the Christians was that many refused to perform this duty.
After the establishment of Christianity as the main religious force in Europe, this period of relative tolerance ended. Persecution of minority faiths was still common:
The European conquest of North America resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of Natives by conquest or disease, and the forced religious conversion of many of the survivors. It is only in recent years that a few Christian churches have begun to realize the enormity of the crimes perpetrated against Natives, and have made formal apologizes. It is also only recently that Native spirituality has become widely appreciated and valued by non-natives.
- Jews were horribly persecuted. Initially, this was because all persons of the Jewish faith (past, present and future) were regarded as equally responsible for the execution of Jesus Christ. In reality, the crucifixion appears to have been a routine execution by the Roman occupying forces. Yet the descendants of 1st Century CE Romans, the Italians, were never blamed for Jesus' unjust execution. Only the Jews were.
During the Middle Ages, Jews became a handy scapegoat during the plagues. Often at the instigation of the Christian Church, Jewish communities were invaded and many individuals massacred. The logical end-result of centuries of anti-Semitism occurred during the Holocaust when the Nazi's exterminated about 6 million Jews.
- Break-away Christian movements were viciously exterminated by the Christian Church. These included the Cathars, Knights Templar and Huguenots.
- Followers of the Old Religion were ruthlessly hunted down by the Church. These were followers of the religion of the ancient Celtic people (which Christianity had replaced). A few hundred thousand Witches, other heretics, and innocent people were arrested, tortured, and burned at the stake over the period circa 1450 to 1792 in Europe. After the Reformation, the Protestants preferred to hang Witches.