Disease Gave Christianity The Upper Hand In The Americas

It is often said the Crusades, which killed millions of Muslims, were a noble undertaking by the Vatican because without them we would now be Muslims. We don’t know this and I have my doubts.

When Europeans came to the Americas there were civilizations here that were, to say the least, noteworthy. The Incas and Aztecs, among others, were advanced in mathematics and astronomy. Their organizational skills were exceptionally well developed. They bred animals and crops. They did not have the weapons Europeans had but might have been more successful against the European invasion but for one misfortune, disease.

Europeans, because of their diversity, had resistance to diseases than the more isolated natives in the Americans. Something like 40% of the native populations of South, Central and North America died. People dying plus those caring for the sick spelled defeat.

We can talk theoretically about conversions. That is, could the Europeans have converted Indians to Christianity without the force of the gun? We’ll never know, but we do know the marketing program of Christianity was aimed at pagans, not at those natives of the Americans.

Plus, American natives were not under the thumb of Rome. Europeans could celebrate release from a conqueror. I doubt natives would have celebrated being conquered.

I would guess many Christians would see the spread of Christianity across the American continents as inevitable. Probably these same folks see its future to be as successful as its past.

It is apparent today that neither its past nor its future are inevitable successes.

35 Responses

  1. Jinx II

    It certainly didn’t help my Native American ancestors when both the US Cavalry and the Bureau of Indian Affairs distributed smallpox “blankets” as part of their attempts at genocide……religions at that time though they were not humans.

    1. mark anthony

      what is your source for this story? I have heard it, too, but never bothered to track it down, At Ft Snelling, tho’ one reason for establishing a fort was to keep peace between the Indian tribes (and to keep the Brits out). Post physicians, as I recall, ministered to the Indians. I think that the natives were considered to be savages, but not non-humans. In any case, the “they are not human” bit is a game that people have played many, many times. Witness out own times.

  2. Juan Ruiz

    The indigenous people of the Americas were not the idealized societies of Rousseau or Costner’s “Dances With Wolves.”

    1. Shuan 7:57 Apparently the moron who wrote this article is completely oblivious to the aztec/incan human sacrifices

      This moron is quite aware of that human sacrifice. As I recall, there was human sacrifice in the Bible. I was not talking about the quality of their religion but their ability to resist invasion by Europeans and the early generations of settlers. My point was, that perhaps you missed, the spread of Christianity was helped by the fortuitous event of Indian deaths from illnesses brought by people of European ancestry.

      1. mark anthony

        As I recall from my rather sketchy history of that part of the world, the Aztecs were relative late comers to the area, built up an empire that was resented by some of the conquered peoples who then sided with the Spanish.
        and yes, there was human sacrifice in Scripture. the Jewish people seem to have condemned it fairly early on. The Ba’als it seems continued the practice and did their relatives in the Punic Empire (i.e. Carthage).

  3. PJ

    If it wasn’t for the evil Christians this world would be a utopia, according to you. I’m not sure what Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot were – but I’m sure Christianity had something to do with their evil ways. Wait! Stalin was a communist (which means he was an atheist, but he was a drinker). So, Christianity and alcohol (got it!). Thanks for clearing this whole thing up, I’ll sleep a lot better tonight.

    1. beasec

      Hitler was a catholic, and his troops went into battle with “Gott MItt Uns” on their belt buckles. Stalin was training to be a priest early in his life, and he and the Russian Orthodox Church colluded many times. Hope that helps you sleep!

      1. beasec 8:16 Welcome and thank for pointing that out. I’ve discussed here endless times Hitler’s devotion to his Catholic faith. Catholic leaders also endorse Hitler. That is interesting, too, about Stalin. I’ve read Stalin saw the church more as a competitor in politics more than something he instinctively disliked.

        But those who hate atheists love to associate despot leaders as atheists even though the same ones used both atheism and religion whenever it fit their needs. Religious leaders and politicians in this country use various religious beliefs whenever fits their needs.

        1. PJ

          I don’t hate atheists, but from your continual writings sounds like you hate Christians. Just pointing out how you lump a group of people into something twisted. Hitler lumped a group of people (Jews) and used them for his own advancement. Hmm. interesting ๐Ÿ™‚

          1. PJ

            Your good at this, I think I’ll go mow my lawn. Thanks for the conversation, and the H with the 3 m’s on the end

      2. Henry

        beasec, using your logic, Madilyn O’Hair the atheist is a bible believing Presbyterian based on her early life. Obviously, Stalin and Hitler were atheists based on their later lives, not based on their denomination in their early lives. Good try though.

        1. Henry 8:42 Obviously, Stalin and Hitler were atheists based on the later lives, not based of their denomination in their early lives. Good try through.

          Good try on your part. The Nazi belt buckles were not made in Hitler’s youth but while he was in power. His friendship with Catholic Bishops and their praise of him, same thing. During his period in power he made statements both for and against religion. Maybe in his public life he found it profitable to both praise and criticize the church. Maybe in his private life he was devoutly religious.

          In the end there is a different between the crusades which were carried out in the name of the church and Hitler who carried out his brutality in the name of the German people. Neither he nor Stalin said theirs was a war in the name of atheism. Believers here continue to claim their cause was atheism but there is no evidence it was. They were brutal dictators who saw religion as competition from the ends they wanted to achieve.

          Today we see the same thing. The anti abortion political operation claims to some audiences abortion is about religion, it is a sin. To other audiences they claim it is about “DNA” or “heartbeat”. It’s about whatever works.

          1. Henry

            The belt buckle on Hitler’s troops with the logo that had been around since before Hitler was born is proof of his Catholicism? That is quite a stretch. Kind of twilight zone material devoid of facts and much presumption. Please straighten up your logic and reasoning lest you be disregarded.

          2. Henry 11:04 is proof of his Catholicism?

            The proof is he wanted some of the German population to think he was Catholic. He could have changed the belt buckle to put his own name on it. He could have not met with and praised Catholic officials. It’s the same as anti abortion political operatives who want some to think it is a religious issue and some to think it is a civic issue.

            As far as Please straighten up your logic…lest you be disregarded, it’s too late. You and many others disregard my logic already. ๐Ÿ™‚

          3. Henry

            Jon:“Itโ€™s the same as anti abortion political operatives who want some to think it is a religious issue and some to think it is a civic issue.”

            You present as an either/or fallacy. To many, both religious and civic are present. The civic arguments are the only ones that stand a chance when presented to a non-believer, and you seem to dip into the pool of illogic defying any reasonable civic argument.

          4. Henry 11:45 You present as an either/or fallacy. To many, both religious and civic are present.

            And, you present Hitler Stalin as either/or. My point is that in politics, it’s whatever works. Anti abortion is about politics.

          5. Henry

            Quite simply, Hitler operated in the secular during his reign. That is not an either/or, but just was. How many polish monks and priests did Hitler outright assassinate during the polish invasion? 1500 or so. War is messy. The RCC got the message. Some placed survival over principle. Some placed principle over survival. I do not fault either. You could indeed say Hitler’s act was not secular, but rather a religious act working against Christians, an atheist act. So in that sense, you are right.

        2. beasec

          Henry, If you doubt Hitler’s religion read Mein Kampf and judge for yourself. As for Stalin, Pol Pot, etc., their common bond with religious despots is dogmatism. Stalinism (and more presently relevant the North Korea ideology) is a quasi-religious ideology wherein the cognitive disorder of valuing defense of dogma even when objectively disprovable with evidence is preferred over rational thinking.
          In short, defending beliefs that are demonstrably false is nuts! Worse, the result is often murder and mayhem — which is all too often blamed on atheists!

          1. Henry

            1253, “In short, defending beliefs that are demonstrably false is nuts!”
            Good reason for you to leave the dark side and become a Christian.

          2. PJ

            often murder and mayhem โ€” which is all too often blamed on atheists

            I didn’t know atheists were getting blamed for murder and mayhem, I thought it was Trump. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Karla W.

    Jon, Please keep up the good work with writing fact based columns. Please just disregard the people who are arguing for arguing sake who have no real fact base to back them up. Thank you for the thought provoking articles.

  5. Glenn

    The discussion could go in many directions. Saying Christianity spread because disease killed off so many ties two things together that are not related. Why did the Europeans go to America? Well, why did the original people travel from the Africa/Middle East to Asia and across the land-bridge (if that is how they did it, it is not conclusive) to America? No one is native to a place on our planet. We are all usurpers of place, whether held by a previous group or not.

    Why do we have the urge to explore? I think a major reason is the controlling nature of the biological/genetic animals we are. We are programmed to survive. We expand, explore, take, use; whatever the need, because we cannot do otherwise – a key reason we will expand into the stars one day, survival.

    Religion is related to this mold, but it is also independent from it. I think religion was originally a means to bring like thinking people together so they could express their awe of God in a like manner. It probably was a pure thing in the beginning. But at some time, the humans who were elevated into the leadership positions of the religion discovered something – they discovered they had power. As it is said, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    The religions today appear to have become bureaucratic and yes, the oft said phrase, like a business. Missing in some religions, and in many of the religious, is excitement, energy, and yes, the awe religion was originally created to convey.

    I agree disease helped the Europeans more easily defeat the people who were here when they arrived. I disagree Christianity was linked to it, but of course, the consequence was to spread Christianity to these “poor ignorant God-less people.” They were that at times and none of those things at others, but the people arriving here couldn’t see that. They were too busy expanding, taking, and yes, surviving.

    1. PJ

      Wow Glen, that was profound. I think Jon likes to blame Christianity for the ills in this world,
      but I think it’s people. The urge to control others is great. If we would have had no religion back when America was discovered, would it have turned out different?

    2. Henry

      1:11“Missing in some religions, and in many of the religious, is excitement, energy, and yes, the awe religion was originally created to convey.”

      That metric is hard to measure, so should it be measured and judged missing or present? After being around some fellow Christians for quite awhile, it became evident that some are on fire for Jesus, but they outwardly look like a normal citizen in secular society. They quietly study the Word. Without fanfare they attend worship. They are in prayer quietly in their home. They are on fire. It just cannot be easily seen, let alone casually judged.

  6. Mark Kummer

    Jon, were you raised as a christian? If so can we blame your atheism on some sort of falling out. Supposedly Gandhi would have converted to Christianity except for the Christians. I think Bertrand Russell’s father or grandfather was excommunicated for defending Darwin. As far as Hitler goes he didn’t allow the clergy at funerals, he had a large number of followers that were anti religion, and he once said โ€œThe Christian-Jewish pestilence is surely approaching its end now. It is simply dreadful, that a religion has even been possible, that literally eats its God in Holy Communion.โ€ So what ever connection to the Catholic Church or atheism that a person wants to make would be incorrect. Hitler was a totalitarian murderer that was so egocentric that his belief system had him as the fรผhrer, the leader, and probably the savior. He was his own God. Mr. Lindgren, thanks for your letters, I find them very interesting and there is no blame in becoming a free thinking atheist, definitely a logical conclusion for many people.

    1. Mark 11:16 Thank you for the comment.

      One of my steps toward not believing was the experience of being a Mayor. Perhaps every Mayor, Governor and President has had the same experience. Someone comes in and says he knows the ultimate truth about God and all the others who make the same claim do not. Because of this, he says, his views should be put into law.

      Just last week Jess Sessions used the Bible to justify separating small children from their parents. Putting the Christian religion into laws and policies goes on daily. That is why I blog.

      Thanks again.

      1. Mark

        I think that people like Sessions can find a reason for what they want in the bible. It is reprehensible to separate children from their parents especially after a fatiguing journey. Some of the descriptions of what would happen to them if they stayed in Central America are horrific. I watched a pastor on TV scold a local church for not including dinosaurs on the Arc. He said that they could have been dinosaur eggs. The genocide, punishment, and fear from parts of the bible are impossible to believe would be done by God. Larry King was asked what would he say to God when he gets to heaven. His response “why were you so mean?” Fredric Douglass opposed the use of the bible to keep slaves in slavery. I never have understood the quote of Jesus about slaves being subject to their masters. But I believe that Christianity at its core has the two parts. Number one is love God with your whole heart. (God is perfectly described in Corinthians 13:4-8) and the second is love your neighbor as yourself. The rest is subject to scrutiny or is worthless dogma. Trump’s continual assault on the press is hurting the nation. A good opinion page is crucial at this point in our history and you contribute greatly to it. Thanks.

  7. Mark

    One more comment, I taught American History for a few years and I believe that the percent of American Indians that were killed by disease was about 90%. Many times in history it is no coincidence that two major events happen in the same year. In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue. In that same year the Spanish had finally defeated the Moors and were able to afford to fund the Columbus expedition. With that many native people dying the European cultures including their religions became the norm in the Americas. Differences in the people sent to the Americas by The English, more family units, and the Spanish, more males seeking riches, also had a great impact on the ethnic groups of today. Thanks again Mr. Lindgren

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