On the use and abuse of the Spanish Inquisition

Karen Armstrong says it’s complicated.



Karen Armstrong says it’s complicated.


Well the Inquisition is a prime example, again, of a complete mixture – cocktail of religion and politics. It’s created after Spain has been torn apart in a brutal civil war, and Ferdinand and Isabella, who come in, try and unite the population by turning on an enemy within. But they never intended it to be permanent.

It’s also, unfortunately, the Inquisition was also used very much in Protestant propaganda during the Reformation. It was always pointed to as the absolute hideous example of Catholic violence, and as a result the violence of the Inquisition was vastly overestimated. There have been revisionist historians that say that really the numbers who died were very, very much smaller than those who were killed in Protestant countries because they were Catholics.

So we tend to use these myths for our own self-serving ends, and instead of looking quite clearly and dispassionately at the facts.