The Spanish Inquisition: To Maintain Ethnic Purity Or Merely Religious Orthodoxy?

1832 words - 7 pages

Racism is the belief that ethnicity is the primary determinant of human traits and that racial differences produce an inherent or natural superiority of a particular race over another.
While racism is a more modern term, the prejudice beliefs behind it have been apart of history since the beginning of time. In the 15th and 16th centuries Spain enacted one of the most studied inquisitions in history. The Spanish Inquisition consisted of some of the darkest days in Jewish history and contains some of Christianities most shameful chapters. Extensive research has revolved around this particular inquisition in the attempts to understand how a seemingly tolerant society could take such a radical turn. There are numerous ongoing debates as to whether or not this inquisition was an instrument used to maintain a certain ethnic purity within the empire or whether it was simply an attempt to create a more religiously orthodox society.
The Spanish were not the first to forcibly convert Muslims and Jews and they were certainly not the last. In 1095 the Pope called for the first crusades, which involved Christian militants and missionaries to travel long distances in order to attack the infidels. While their main target was initially Islamic communities, every crusade came with attacks on Jewish communities as well. The crusaders mission was to wipe out the so called ‘other’ while Christian missionaries attempted to convince the ‘other’ to convert to the only true religion, Christianity. Although conversion is not nearly as horrific as slaughter, they were still attempting to erase an entire culture and turn them into something they believed to be
superior, themselves. While the crusaders attempted to purge other nations of its infidels, they came to the realization that there were Jews who lived within their own boarders and this brought the crusaders back to Europe to cleanse their own villages.
Although hundreds of thousands were slaughtered, there were still a small number of Jewish communities that remained scattered across Europe. Many wonder why they were even tolerated at all, however Jews did have their purpose within the Christian community. Many believed that it was God who allowed them to live, as they served as a sign that the Old Testament did exist and their existence proved to those who questioned Christianity, the validity of the New Testament. Their poverty and exclusion from society stood as an example of the punishment one would receive should they refuse the Christian church. Although they attempted to rid the world of all other religious cultures, these early Christians were not racist in the modern sense of the word. Anti-Judaism was a dislike of the faith itself and not necessarily the people who practiced it. Many believed they were simply misinformed and the fact that they were willing to allow converted Jews to be assimilated into their society proves that they did not have an issue with the people racially.
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