Are We Also Inquisitive?

Christendom seemed to have grown delirious and Satan might well smile at the tribute to his power in the endless smoke of the holocaust which bore witness to the triumph of the Almighty.

, by Henry Charles Lea.

Jonathan Kirsch uses this quote to begin his , in which he outlines the history of terror practiced in the West as perceived threats to an ordered society, one in thought and organization, began to rear their shadowy heads.

The Bogomils of Bulgaria, the Cathars of France, the Fraticelli of Italy, the Jews of Europe, the Muslims of Spain - all thorns in the side of the established order of both church and state. Some of these, Kirsch argues, have remained thorns into the so-called modern era. The Nazi regime of Germany used much of the same language - even some of the same tools - against its Jewish population, but with a much more efficient means of final annihilation. The events of 9/11, he fears, have awakened all-too-familiar responses to what many people view as attacks on our "way of life." "Extraordinary rendition," "harsh interrogation techniques," Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Like the victims of the Inquisition, the defendants are not even entitled to be told what crimes they are accused of committing or what evidence the government has relied upon in arresting and holding them.

Demonization always raises the demonized to a status that too often supersedes the values of the culture which it is perceived to threaten. And so we are being encouraged to give up some cherished civil liberties, to understand the need to suspect and imprison, to see certain of our neighbors through the slitted eyes of distrust.

The Grand Inquisitor's Manual
is not only a lesson in history. It's also a cautionary tale for our time.