Monday, June 01, 2009

Sebastian Castellio

"We can live together peacefully only when we control our intolerance."Sebastian Castellio, against John Calvin's burning the alleged heretic Michael Servetus at the stake, October 27, 1553

Best known as a ferocious biting gadfly on the quivering withers of John Calvin, whose hands were "dripping with the blood of Servetus," Sebastian Castellio was known as well as a passionate advocate for separation of church and state. He was, at one point, so on the outs with Calvin that he, a Spanish nobleman and one of the best-educated men in Europe, was forced to support himself and eight dependents by begging for food from door to door through Switzerland; Castellio's later fortunes did improve.

Michael Servetus, as you may recall from your lessons at the extraordinarily enlightened Sunday school which you attended as a child, was the first European physician to describe pulmonary circulation; he also rejected the Trinity on the grounds that it was adventitious nonsense encrusted onto the gospel by Greek sophistry, and more to the point, from Calvin's point of view, rejected also predestination asserting not merely free will but free conscience.

Once in a great while, I reconsider a decision I made decades ago not to be a Presbyterian; a decision colored by Calvin's willingness to immolate heretics, as I recall. Calvin, it seemed to me, was not a morally pretty man but a vicious, authoritarian martinet intolerant of opposing views and as plainly capable as any Borgia Pope or Dominican inquisitor of sadistic barbecue. I didn't like him then. I don't like him now. If there is architecture in Heaven, John Calvin is a garderobe gargoyle.



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home