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Help Où finit la secte? Où commence la religion? Religion et philosophie Characteristics of a Destructive Cult
LA QUESTION DES SECTES: UNE QUESTION D'EQUILIBRE What is Scientology? “L'avenir d'une illusion”. (1927) La religion et la mort
Comment vivre dans la certitude de la mort? Are Science and Religion Compatible? Et l'homme créa les dieux
Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) Bertrand Russell

A few centuries after the death of Jesus Christ, there were many different sects that considered themselves Christian. In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine I centralized the authority of the Church in Rome, thus rendering suspect all practices that departed from the official state religion.

In the 12th century, the Catholic papacy created the Inquisition, an ecclesiastical institution whose purpose was to arrest, try, and sentence people who were guilty of heresy. In the early Christian church, heretics had simply been excommunicated. But with the establishment of Catholicism as the state religion, heretics became regarded as enemies to be hunted down, tortured, and killed. Sanctioned by all the popes of that time, the Inquisition sowed terror across Europe throughout the Middle Ages.

Link : L’inquisition Link : INQUISITION: INTRODUCTION Link : XIIe siècle : diversité et contestation

In a sense, religions constitute a symbolic, social form of therapy for the anixety surrounding death. Historically, religions have unquestionably served the same purpose as art: they have helped to satisfy the universal human yearning for immortality.


It may seem rather healthy for a community to develop a set of rituals and beliefs that lets it deal with the trauma surrounding the phenomenon of death. But when these beliefs become dogmas that prevent individuals from accepting scientific knowledge that might also relieve their existential anxiety, then these beliefs become problematic.

This issue has led many commentators to make a distinction between all the major faiths as embraced by the people and the institutions that control the way these faiths are practiced. Like all other power structures, these churches often claim a monopoly on truth, enrich themselves on the credulity of the people, refuse any dialogue with other faiths, and form strategic alliances with the political powers that be.

In this sense, the institutionalized power of mainstream religions is not very different from the power exercised by cults. It seems to be only a matter of degree that separates the mind control imposed by cults from the dogma imposed by institutionalized religions. In both cases, a privileged minority uses mental manipulation to keep as many people as possible in a state of dependency by depriving them of their ability to think critically.

Philosophers and free-thinkers have often been the first to be tormented by the established religions of their day. Wasn't it a plot between the religious authorities and the Roman authorities that spelled the end for Jesus? And when they realized that they had created a martyr, wasn't it the same Romans who co-opted the figure of Jesus to build the Catholic church?

Religious texts have long been written in a language that was inaccessible to the common people, such as Latin. The Church's relations with science have scarcely fared any better, because science has called the Church's dogma into question. Galileo, for instance, was forced by the Church to recant his theories, and Giordano Bruno ended up being burnt at the stake. Even today, in many U.S. states, the theories of Darwin are being attacked by religious fundamentalists.

For some philosophers, such as Bertrand Russell, the wars of religion and the Inquisition (see sidebar) represent some of the most depraved chapters in human history. Like Marx and Freud, Russell also believed that the churches have always been the enemies of moral and human progress.

In short, though religious sentiment does answer people's profound desire to comfort one another in the face of death, it has always had a dark side as well: the manipulation of the masses by a privileged few.

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