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Inquisitions | The Nation

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Inquisitions

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From Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone. Copyright © 2008 by Eduardo Galeano. Translation copyright © 2009 by Mark Fried. Published by Nation Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group, New York. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York, and Lamy, New Mexico.

 

Origin of Hell

 

The Catholic Church invented Hell and the Devil.

The Old Testament makes no mention of the perpetual barbecue, neither do its pages feature an appearance by the monster reeking of sulfur who carries a trident and sports horns and a tail, claws and hooves, goat's legs and dragon's wings.

But the church asked itself: What will become of reward without punishment? What will become of obedience without fear?

And it wondered: What will become of God without the Devil? What will become of Good without Evil?

And the church concluded that the threat of Hell is more effective than the promise of Heaven, and from then on ministers and holy fathers have terrorized us with sermons about torture in the fiery abyss where the Evil One reigns.

In the year 2007, Pope Benedict XVI confirmed it:

There is a Hell. And it is eternal.

 

Arguments of the Faith

 

For six centuries and in several countries, the Holy Inquisition punished rebels, heretics, witches, homosexuals, pagans...

Many ended up at the stake, sentenced to roast over a slow fire fed with green wood. Many more were subjected to torture. Here are some of the instruments utilized to extract confessions, modify beliefs and sow panic:

the barbed collar,

the hanging cage,

the iron gag that stifled unwanted screams,

the saw that cut you slowly in two,

the finger-stretching tourniquet,

the head-flattening tourniquet,

the bone-breaking pendulum,

the seat of pins,

the long needle that perforated the Devil's moles,

the iron claw that shredded flesh,

the pincers and tongs heated to fiery red,

the sarcophagus lined with sharp nails,

the iron bed that extended until arms and legs got pulled out of their sockets,

the whip with a nail or knife at the tip,

the barrel filled with shit,

the shackles, the stocks, the block, the pillory, the gaff,

the ball that swelled and tore the mouths of heretics, the anuses of homosexuals and the vaginas of Satan's lovers,

the pincers that ground up the tits of witches and adulterers,

and fire on the feet,

among other weapons of virtue.

 

Evil Copies Good

 

In one of his frescoes in a chapel in Padua, Giotto painted the torments that demons inflict on sinners in Hell.

As in other artistic works of the period, the instruments of infernal torture, which provoked shock and fear, were the very tools used by the Holy Inquisition to impose the Catholic faith. God inspired his worst enemy: in Hell Satan imitated the technology of pain that the inquisitors applied on earth.

Punishment confirmed that this world was but a dress rehearsal for Hell. In the here and now and in the great beyond, disobedience merited the same reward.

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