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Nothing to Do With Christianity: Chris Columbus reflects European Mindset of the Time

The Rev. Reed Braden over at Homosecular Gaytheist (and friends!) thinks that  he’s captured the Christian mindset with this quote from Christopher Columbus’s writings:

Many of the men I have seen have scars on their bodies, and when I made signs to them to find out how this happened, they indicated that people from other nearby islands come to San Salvador to capture them; they defend themselves the best they can. I believe that people from the mainland come here to take them as slaves. They ought to make good and skilled servants, for they repeat very quickly whatever we say to them. I think they can very easily be made Christians, for they seem to have no religion. If it pleases our Lord, I will take six of them to Your Highnesses when I depart, in order that they may learn our language. […] I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern them as I pleased.

In its pure form, Christianity would tolerate no such mindset. This isn’t the mindset of a Christian; this is the mindset of a typical European of the 15th century.

Mentioning the conversion of the natives to Christianity is typical of what Lee Camp calls the “Constantinan Cataract” viewpoint: after the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity took on a rather militant manner of converting people. It tended to do conversions by force rather than allowing people to hear the gospel and pledge their lives to Christ of their own accord; trusting that God will draw his elect to himself as the Bible promises. Christianity by coercion isn’t Christianity. The apostles would be horrified. Jesus would be grieved.

I share the outrage of Mr. Braden, but I do not agree that it has anything to do with Christianity. Columbus’s mission was to evaluate foreign lands for conquering and bringing under Spain’s control. His primary goal wasn’t to be a Christian missionary. Sorry, Reed, you lose.

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on October 14, 2008, in Apologetics. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Rev. Reed Braden

    I mentioned two vile aspects of that Columbus quote that stemmed directly from his Christianity: Slavery and the destruction of cultures by way of “spreading the Gospel”.

    The wholesale destruction of cultures in the name of mission work still continues today and is seen as highly virtuous by almost every Christian I have ever met. I can’t even fathom the amount of money (and I can fathom with the best of the fathomers) that Christians spend each year on sending missionaries into the Amazon and into war-torn African nations to bribe the natives and the misplaced into Christianity (and out of their cultural beliefs and practices) with promises of food, technology, peace and eternal life.

    Tell me how missionaries today aren’t coercing people into Christianity. They even do it on their home soil! Most homeless shelters in the United States are religious organisations and only allow homeless people to eat their food and sleep in their beds if they attend their church services and listen to their pastors! Tell me how that’s not coercing people into Christianity when the only option for food and shelter for many Americans who have lost their homes is to sit and listen to a pastor tell them that they are going to hell.

    You didn’t even mention the slave trade, but I’ll go ahead and address it anyway. I don’t know if by your omission of my point on slavery, you implied that you are in favour of slavery or not, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt and just assume that you didn’t read half of what I wrote. The slave trade was not religiously motivated but it was propagated and carried out by churches and elected officials, drawing from verses of the Old and New Testaments that proscribe laws on how to deal with slaves. God apparently condones slavery.

  2. Rev. Reed Braden

    OH MY GOD! I just realised you’re Cory Tucholski! I had so much fun completely obliterating your arguments last time we met online. So good to see you and smack down your arguments again! Have fun with your six readers!

  3. Rev. Reed Braden

    One last thing before I go, when did I say that mission work was Columbus’ primary goal. Words: Do not put them in my mouth.

    You fail, Cory Tucholski.

  1. Pingback: Cory Tucholski Returns! « Homosecular Gaytheist (and friends!)

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