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Cool Guy in Pool

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Anthony Albano, Professor Held, Western Civilization, 15 December 2014


        Throughout the history of mankind, religion has brought communities together, given individuals purpose in life, and offered peace of mind. But amongst all of this, religion has also evoked wars, silenced critical thought, and in one way or another has played the role in the deaths of millions. With science not yet gaining a foothold in society, folklore was often used to assimilate the unknown. Witches were believed to be running rampant throughout Europe throughout most of the Early Middle Ages, diverting the virtuous from God’s path and ultimately were the source of any sort of misfortune during these times. This toxic ideology hypocritically caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people in medieval Europe.

        When the inexplicable occurs, many seek closure within the first apparent explanation of what happened, latching on no matter how absurd. One of the many idiosyncrasies of the human brain, this bad habit is inexplicably exhibited by the author of The Hammer of Witches, “They can cause abortion, kill infants in mere look, without touching them, and cause death; 

they dedicate their own children to devils; and in short, as has been said, they can cause all the plagues” (Sprenger, Kramer). This bizarre notion held by Europeans that certain individuals are capable of possessing these inhuman abilities was nothing new, as there are records of this type of concept dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Ironically, this fictitious concern felt all too real to the public, and resulted in the prosecution, torture, and even the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent Europeans.  

        Although the existence of these heinous individuals may have been doubted by many, very few individuals actually spoke out against witchcraft. Alienated by fear, pointed fingers swiftly gravitated towards those who criticized the prosecution of these witches, as well as the church, and any other prevalent European doctrine. French philosopher Nicolas Malebranche, while avoiding stepping on any toes, analyzed the thought process of those who encouraged this dangerous behavior in of his many philosophical works, Search after Truth. As evaluated in the following excerpt, “Superstitions are not easily destroyed, and they cannot be attacked without finding a large number of defenders. It is easy enough to prove that the inclination to believe blindly the dreams of Demonographers (those who study demons) is produced and maintained by the came cause which makes superstitious men stubborn” (Malebranche), the blind lead the blind. The risk of prosecution, torture and death forced many to bite their tongues out of fear, as rallying enough people to make a change while staying under the radar would prove to be a daunting task.


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