“If you refuse to convert to Islam, then the only thing between you and us is the sword.” (Muslim leader in Trinidad, Abu Sa’d at-Trinidadi, proclaimed this fatwah repeatedly to all Christians, and again on February 3, 2017).
In our world of radical uncertainty, the religiously faithful are certain. Devotees of any God believe in their Almighty Divine Entity and whatever related gospel that Entity may preach. To them, it does not matter that none of the statements, stories and events can ever be verified, or tested. No matter how delusional, utterances proclaimed by their God are the Holy Truth and nothing but the Truth.
Presently, about 3,000 gods are worshipped around the world, not counting a large array of demigods and adjuncts. All faithful followers are equally convinced that only their God is the One and Only True One, and all others are false prophets. Since none of the faithful are open for rational debate, any conversation is a waste of time and effort, so leave it for what it is. Anyone has the right to believe whatever he, or she, wishes.
That peaceful tolerance changes when non-believers have to face aggressive evangelizing, intimidation and terror by fanatics. In today’s world, many non-believers are forced by the sword to adhere to the ethical and religious values of one or another fanatical religious group.
ISIS displayed the horror of intolerant and of radical, Islamic Jihad on the world stage, for all to witness. Executions in public, often broadcasted via the media, are to intimidate as many as possible. In the meantime, tens of thousands died in the fervour of religious delusion of ISIS.
But the ISIS’ case is neither unique nor exclusive for Muslims. Jahin or John Calvin (1509-1564)---no, not today’s Calvin Klein, the underwear designer but the Protestant leader and Potentate of the City-State of Geneva, in the 16th century---was much on the same footing as today’s Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS.
Calvin was set to convert Geneva into the first Kingdom of God on Earth, just like ISIS was preparing Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State for the Mahdi to return. The Anabaptist, Jantje van Leiden, had tried to establish his Kingdom of God in Munster, in 1634-1635, but he failed.
Calvin reigned over Geneva with terror. He had no desire that others should love him as a brother. Calvin was a ruthless dictator who did not hesitate to burn his adversaries in public, alive on the stake, over unimportant theological disagreements.
Infamous became the case of Servetus (1553), a Spanish, Protestant leader, who disagreed with Calvin on such obscure theological issues as child baptism and the Trinity. Servetus was arrested after Sunday church services in Geneva, imprisoned and, after a fake trial that did not allow the accused any defence, condemned to death.
Death-at-the-stake by roasting with a slow fire is the most agonizing of all modes of execution. Even in the Middle Ages, famous for cruelty, it was seldom carried out. Servetus was only one of thousands who was labelled a heretic and met a horrible death in the name of the One-and-Only-God and his Holy Word.
The horrors of the Inquisition, of Tomás de Torquemada (1420–1498) a Castilian Dominican friar and the first Grand Inquisitor in the late 15th century may be well known, even today, but the Protestants were no better. Tolerance of deviating ideas about the interpretation of the Holy Scripture could not exist, not even with Protestants who claimed that each faithful had the right to have a direct and unique relationship with his God. Calvin was certain, only he was right, as right as ISIS-Baghdadi is today.
In Calvin’s Geneva, cheerful and unconstrained enjoyment was sinful. To give humanity precedence over discipline was inconceivable. Calvin had a father thrown in jail for smiling in the church at the baptism of his child. Ethics patrols searched houses and frisked citizens in the streets of Geneva for the correctness of dress, colours, food, church attendance, prayer and searched for any possible glimpse of frivolity. Unsympathetic severity was fundamental in Calvinist doctrine.
Calvinism still rules a large number of Protestants in Northern Europe, especially Holland, the former New Netherland in the USA, white South Africa, and South Korea. The lifestyle, as Calvin preached it, is still dominated by asceticism and literalism of every word in the Bible. Abstinence from worldly pleasures, identical to that of ISIS today, still goes to extents of absurdity.
Religious fanaticism, no matter which God you pick, remains extremely dangerous to peace and happiness in our world. Would not you rather suffer from radical uncertainty than being certain with blood dripping from religious intolerance?
Jacob Gelt Dekker