Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On Faith, Doubt, and Humility: Marcus Borg 1942 - 2015

So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know. – Marcus Borg
The controversy surrounding President Obama’s recent remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast reminded me of why the world will miss Marcus Borg, who died a few weeks ago at the age of 72. In comments that I am certain Borg would have approved, the President noted correctly that faith is sometimes “twisted and distorted, used as a wedge – or, worse, sometimes used as a weapon.” He asked how we can best “reconcile . . . the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths” with “those who seek to hijack religion for their own murderous ends?” Humanity has been struggling with these issues throughout the course of time, the president said, and even Christianity owns its share of historical blemishes, from the Crusades and the Inquisition to Christians who used the Bible to justify slavery and Jim Crow. “[T]his is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”

Conservative Christians were predictably outraged, wrongly suggesting that the president had equated Christianity with Islamic extremism. But what I suspect really got under their “bible believing” skin was what the President said next:
[W]e should start with some basic humility. I believe that the starting point of faith is some doubt – not being so full of yourself and so confident that you are right and that God speaks only to us, and doesn’t speak to others, that God only cares about us and doesn’t care about others, that somehow we alone are in possession of the truth.
Nothing drives self-righteous Christians crazier than the thought that perhaps we do not know all of the answers, and that a healthy dose of doubt and humility is a necessary component of a mature and abiding faith. In response to the president’s talk, Erick Erickson of wrote that, by suggesting faith and doubt can co-exist, the president proved he is not really a Christian. “Christ himself is truth,” Erickson wrote. “When we possess Christ, we possess truth. . . So I wish the President would stop professing himself to be a Christian if he is not going to proclaim Christ as truth and the only way to salvation.”

The reaction on the right to the president’s speech reflects the great divide between liberal Protestantism and Christian fundamentalism. To the fundamentalist, expressions of doubt are the opposite of faith; it is unilateral disarmament in the fight to convert the world to the One True Way.

One of the many problems I have with the Christian Right is their belief that a very narrow brand of Christians are alone the sole possessors of the truth, and that anyone who expresses even a little humility on matters of faith, or who critically examines a passage of scripture or questions the authority and premise of established religious doctrine, is unworthy. For liberal, open-minded Christians more secure in their faith, acknowledging Christianity’s past transgressions – the Inquisition and the Crusades, centuries of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe and the Christian Church’s silence and complicity in the Holocaust, Christian justification in the American South for slavery and Jim Crow, or modern-day acts of violence in the name of Christianity against abortion clinics – simply reminds us that we live in a struggling, imperfect world. It appreciates that human beings are flawed and struggle throughout their lives for answers to existential and spiritual questions. And it accepts that, while all faith traditions contribute acts of compassion, comfort, and beauty, all have at times contended with sinful acts committed by people who misappropriate religion to justify dishonorable ends.

*     *     *     *

I am saddened by the loss of Marcus Borg, a long-time professor of religion at Oregon State University and the author of many truly outstanding books that have profoundly affected my views of religion, Christianity, and the Bible. I first discovered Borg about 15 years ago, when my Dad handed me a copy of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (Harper Collins, 1994). In this slim volume, Borg explained in clear and concise language what mainline seminaries have taught for decades, but which seemed to be a deep, dark secret in the average church pew – that the Jesus of history is distinct from the Christ of faith.

In many of his writings, Borg described his own personal faith journey, including his Lutheran upbringing and periods of growing doubt and agnosticism, followed by a more mature faith built on study, history, and understanding. He helped me see that it was acceptable to acknowledge that my childhood image of Jesus no longer made much sense and was a product, not of the prophet and teacher who lived and preached in Nazareth and Galilee, but of biblical authors who wrote decades after Jesus had died, and of an institutional church founded centuries later that incorporated a divine savior and the doctrine of the Trinity into traditional Church teachings.

I learned through Borg’s writings what has been understood and developed over the last two hundred years of biblical scholarship – that the gospels are “neither divine documents nor straightforward historical records” but instead “represent the developing traditions of the early Christian movement.” Through careful comparative study of the gospels, it is easy to see that the authors of these books were “at work, modifying and adding to the traditions they received.” For example, the portrayal of Jesus in the gospel of John (“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”), is distinctly different from the Jesus depicted in the earlier gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And yet, Jesus as divine savior, as portrayed in John and supplemented by the birth stories in Matthew and Luke, has become the dominant view of conventional Christianity.

I was always troubled by the conviction, expressed in many evangelical and traditional Christian circles, that only by believing in Jesus as divine savior – born of a virgin, God incarnate and physically resurrected from the dead – could one achieve eternal salvation. This belief was stated by none other than the great theologian, NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip, at the national prayer breakfast: “[I]f you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior” and “you’re just a pretty good guy or a pretty good gal, you’re going to Hell.” Funny how a statement from the president that we are all imperfect, Christians included, leads to apoplectic exclamations of dreadful offense, but a statement from Bubba that four-fifths of the world is destined for hell achieves not a peep of protest.

So, Darrell, are my Jewish daughters condemned to hell because they were raised in the Jewish tradition and not taught to believe what I was taught to believe as a young child? Does it matter not that they are more ethical, more concerned about justice, and more compassionate than many so-called Christians I know? Am I destined for the eternal flames simply because I have questions about the meaning of scripture, or because I dare question the foundation of things taught to me as a child based on educated notions of science and observation? What kind of God is that? What kind of religion is that? I simply cannot accept as valid such a view.

And Marcus Borg made it easier for me to accept that I need not worry.

Borg helped me to understand that “[t]here simply is a major difference between what Jesus was like as a figure of history and how he is spoken of in the gospels and later Christian tradition.” Borg distinguished the pre-Easter Jesus, or the Jesus of history, from the post-Easter Jesus, or the Christ of faith. Both concepts are part of the Christian tradition, but when you understand how the latter concepts developed, it becomes much plainer that the Christian life does not depend on one’s ability to believe impossible things, and that one can maintain doubts and set aside the irrational without compromising one’s relationship to God.

Borg also helped me to see that, for the early Christians, “the post-Easter Jesus was the light that led them out of darkness, the spiritual food that nourished them in the midst of their journey, the way that led them from death to life.” John’s gospel describes “the living Christ of Christian experience.” Even though much of John, including its account of Jesus’ life and many of his sayings are not historically factual, for Christians, John’s gospel is nevertheless “true” in a spiritual and experiential way.

Borg’s writings were thoughtful and nuanced. He helped me become comfortable with the historical and theological accuracy of what I always secretly believed – that “the Bible is a human product: it tells us how our religious ancestors saw things, not how God sees things.” If all persons of faith understood the Bible in this manner, there would, I am convinced, be far less religious strife, religious extremism, religious-inspired violence, and religious division. Part of the problem, Borg noted correctly, is Christian illiteracy. According to Borg,
…even for those who think they speak “Christian” fluently, the faith itself is often misunderstood and distorted by many to whom it is seemingly very familiar. They think they are speaking the language as it has always been understood, but what they mean by the words and concepts is so different from what these things have meant historically, that they would have trouble communicating with the very authors of the past they honor.
When we finally reject the notion that there is one “right” way of reading the Bible, or that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible, and factual word of God, humanity will advance to a higher level of understanding and reconciliation. Too many Christians are afraid of critical thinking, of questioning the professed truths put forth by institutional authorities. I would never expect a fundamentalist Christian to enthusiastically endorse Borg’s writings or perspectives, but I wish they would read Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time and The Heart of Christianity (Harper Collins, 2004). Regardless of how we approach biblical scholarship, faith and belief, Christianity should turn us towards compassion and love for all.

And I wish non-Christians would read Borg to understand that fundamentalist Christians, while often portrayed by a media ignorant of religion as the public face of American Christianity, do not represent all or even a majority of Christians, and that fundamentalism does not approach the fullness, depth, and breadth of the more open and non-judgmental strands of Christianity.

The historical Jesus described by Borg was a Jewish teacher and prophet who embodied a vision of justice, peace, and hope that was not based on irrational and supernatural beliefs. He espoused the “kingdom of God” on earth, not in heaven, a vision of justice and equality in conjunction with a spiritual connection to a real and present God.

I will continue to struggle with faith and doubt. I will remain humble in my expressions of faith, non-judgmental and open to the many different ways in which faith and a belief in God are expressed and realized. I will not close my eyes to the many transgressions of faith that occur in the name of religion, and I will continue to oppose the many self-proclaimed Christians who distort and misapply the life and teachings of Jesus. But I will proceed with an understanding that I am often wrong, and do not know, and probably never will, the answers to all of life’s most meaningful questions. I only wish my conservative brothers and sisters would do the same.

Borg frequently lectured and spoke to church groups and others around the country, finding people hungry for spiritual nourishment, and yet thoughtfully skeptical and unsure of their faith as it had been taught to them as youth. During a question-and-answer session at one of these events, someone asked Borg, “But how do you know that you’re right?” Borg paused and responded, “I don’t know. I don’t know that I’m right.” And for this, I will remain forever grateful and indebted to Marcus Borg. Rest in peace, my friend.


  1. Mark,

    So some questions and thoughts as I read:

    Are you aware of the historical impetus for the Crusades? Do you believe the Crusades were unjustified, or do you believe the cause was largely just, but, as in all wars, there were excesses? Would it not be better to acknowledge the cause of the Crusades, while at the same time condemning the evil that was done, as we would, for example, when talking about the Allies’ fight against Nazism? We would not focus, would we, on war crimes committed by Hitler’s enemies, without first acknowledging that opposing him was the right thing to do?

    Do you have an understanding of the “Inquisition” that goes beyond “BAD!”? Are you aware of the historical backdrop that brought about the Inquisition and its life-saving goals? That there were many “inquisitions”? Are you aware of the total number of people who were killed in the Inquisition? Or how many were saved? Do you know, in general, who the good guys and the bad guys were? (hint: big brother, not big father)

    Isn’t it striking that the president must go back a thousand years to even begin to draw a moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. And, as noted above, is it not even more striking when you consider that without Islam there would not have been the Crusades to begin with?

    Were “conservative” Christians the only ones who were outraged over the president’s remarks? Were there not plenty of criticisms from across the religious and political spectrum? And do you really believe that what got “under the skin” of the “bible believers” was the “basic humility” line and not the arrogance of, “Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ”? (Can you back up your “suspicion” with examples?) Could the suggestion that to call barbarism barbarism is placing oneself on a “high horse” be the thing that most offended Americans on both the left and right? And should the president say things like this, that will likely end up in the next ISIS recruiting commercial?

    And where does this “high horse” logic lead? The end of slavery in this country came about, in no small part, from the hard work of deeply religious Christians (a fact he leaves out…and you too!). Would the president have told the abolitionists to get off their high horse because their own Bible supports the institution of slavery? Should Israelis get off their high horse for wanting to defend themselves against bad Muslims who want to wipe them off the face of the planet because, after all, their ancestors wiped out the Canaanites?

    And is not the religious violence of today, by and large, “unique” to Islam? One would have to go to ridiculous lengths, such as citing the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Westboro Baptists, for example, to even begin to substantiate the president’s position.

    Why are you troubled by those who have more confidence in their faith than you do? Why do you care that Erickson is confident in his beliefs? In what way is your life diminished because he believes Jesus Christ is the way to Heaven? Erickson, and every Christian on the planet, give or take a wingnut here and there, believes you have a right to a long and happy and safe life regardless of your religious beliefs and even those who believe acceptance of Christ is the only way to Heaven, still believe you should have a long and happy and safe life before you begin an eternity in the fiery bowels of hell.

    And isn’t faith, after all, about vanquishing doubt? Would you, with doubt in your heart, be able to face death at the hands of a bad Muslim by refusing to renounce your faith? Or would you fold like a cheap suit, because, after all, who are you to say which religion is right and which is wrong?

  2. And again you limit the objections to the president speech to the “right,” with nary a peep about those on your side that were also troubled by his sick equivalence. Why? And with the nonviolence inherit in the teachings of Christ in mind (“Sell your stuff and follow me…or not”) is it fair say, “it is unilateral disarmament in the fight to convert the world to the One True Way”? And, really, isn’t there only one religion that seeks to “convert the world to the One True Way,” and by any means necessary?

    How, exactly, is a “liberal, open-minded Christian” more “secure” in his faith than a devout or “fundamentalist” Christian? Where is the evidence that devout Christians do not acknowledge the wrongs done in the name of Christ? Who has the more closed mind, the fundamentalist or the liberal Christian who sees the Crusades and Inquisition as nothing more than a “transgression”? Haven’t you lectured about the dangers of seeing everything in black and white?

    And what, in Christianity today, is the downside of being judged by the more devout as “unworthy”? You still keep your job, your house, your head…

    Please back up the old canard about the Christian Church’s complicity in the Holocaust.

    When was the last abortion doctor murdered? And when he was murdered, what Christians, beyond the Westboro and LRA fan base, did anything but condemn it, despite the doctor being part of a baby killing holocaust of biblical proportions?

    And once again, why do you care what NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip believes? You seem to think doubt is the way to approach faith, but he doesn’t. How do you know he’s not right? And why must your elitism always sneak out? The “great theologian” may be more learned in religion than you could ever hope to be, yet to you, the obviously intellectually superior Liberal, he is “Bubba.” I would love to hear the slur you would use against a black Baptist expressing the exact same belief. The history of the racist Democratic party gives you plenty to choose from; which would be your favorite?
    Could it be that not a peep of protest was heard regarding “Bubba’s” comment because he’s a private citizen with every right to believe what he chooses to believe, while the president is, well, the PRESIDENT? Duh!

    And once again, why would you care where “Bubba” thinks your daughters are going to spend eternity? But more importantly, you miss the most interesting thing here, and the thing that would make for a thought-provoking essay: The fact that “Bubba” believes your daughters and all Jews are in need of saving, yet it is this type of Christian, the conservative Christian, that is the biggest supporter of the Jewish people and of the state of Israel. Conservative Christians are easily the best friends Israel has, much better than “liberal” Christians and even liberal American Jews. Why? Now that would be worth exploring: “On Bubba and the Jews.”

    Do you ever grow bored with constructing straw-man arguments? Who, exactly, is claiming that an questioning mind dooms one to eternal flames? Glenn Beck, for example, is a devout Mormon, yet he champions Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy to, “Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” Beck did just that and it led him to Mormonism. For others it leads them to an unbreakable faith in which martyrdom is preferable to life. And for some it leads to an endless straddling of the fence. What arrogance you reveal by the words you use against those with deeply held beliefs. Pity that you are not half as critical of Islam as you are of the dreaded “fundamentalists.”

  3. And there again is the more interesting essay: What are you missing that others have discovered, giving them this unquestioning faith? Your version of faith seems more centered on providing you with an easier path than in challenging your thinking. As you say, “Marcus Borg made it easier for me to accept that I need not worry.”

    Bubba believes what he believes because he is a bubba, a simple hick who only knows how to drive a car fast in circles. But he’s not alone, is he? And Marcus Borg has made it easy for you to ignore some of the great thinkers and writers who share Bubba’s beliefs, who have spent a lifetime “questioning with boldness” and who have come to believe in the divinity of Christ, that He is, indeed, the Way. So have you ever invited C.S. Lewis in to challenge you? Or G.K. Chesterton, or Saint Thomas Aquinas, or any other Christian apologist? Or were they just bubbas who could write, yet who were nevertheless “Christian illiterates” who were afraid of “critical thinking”? Do you not see the religious bigotry dripping from your writing?

    Can you even relate to those Christians who, at this very moment, are being told to renounce their faith or lose their heads? Who would do that for a fiction created by some long-dead anonymous writer? What have they learned that you haven’t, that gives them the courage to look a savage in the eye and say, “My Lord and Savior is Jesus Christ, so go eff yourself!”? (Okay, so maybe they leave that last part out, but you get my point.) I don’t know that I would be able to do that, but I know that I would like to think I would (including the second part). You?

    Instead you believe, oddly in today’s world, that if more people believed that the Bible is just another product of the human imagination that there would be “less religious strife, religious extremism, religious-inspired violence, and religious division.” This, in an age when the problem of violence is not a Christian one. And, in fact, any violence other than self-defense, on the part of Christians runs counter to the example set by the perfect man, a simple truth that cannot be claimed by the practitioners of the Religion of Peace.

    Would it, in fact, occur to you to ever write: “When we finally reject the notion that there is one “right” way of reading the Koran, or that the Koran is the inerrant, infallible, and factual word of God, humanity will advance to a higher level of understanding and reconciliation”?

    You wish that fundamentalist Christians would pick up Borg with no evidence that they have not. Is it possible they have read him and others and have come down on the side of the others? Perhaps they are hoping for the same open mindedness in you as you expect of them? This is an especially odd request coming from you considering the times I have offered to buy you books from different authors and have been rejected. Would not the proper bookshelf have Borg and Lewis side by side?

    Are you even aware of the charity work done by the most devout Christians? What makes you think that they have less “compassion and love for all” than you do?

    Expecting God to be non-judgmental seems strange considering we have no evidence of it. God forgives, yes, but he also judges. Libs like the “Go” but are uncomfortable with the “and sin no more” part.

  4. Do you find it a tad bit nutty to spend hundreds of words attacking the evil, cold-hearted, narrow-minded, fundamentalist Bubbas of the world only to finish up by writing, “I will remain humble in my expressions of faith, non-judgmental and open to the many different ways in which faith and a belief in God are expressed and realized”? Do you find it a tad bit arrogant that a man who struggles with faith and doubt is nevertheless enough of a religious expert to know who is and is not “distorting and misapplying the life and teachings of Jesus”? Do you find it a tad bit hypocritical and sanctimonious to then add, “But I will proceed with an understanding that I am often wrong, and do not know, and probably never will, the answers to all of life’s most meaningful questions. I only wish my conservative brothers and sisters would do the same.”

    Could we almost say you have mounted your own high horse?

    Rich R.

  5. Rich,

    Come on, did you not find even a hint of humor in my reference to “the great theologian, NASCAR driver….”? Did you not crack even the slightest grin when confronted with an image of Bubba the Theologian?

    Your comments are, once again, far too lengthy, but I will try to address the high-notes.

    While it may be true that we got some great castles out of the deal, the religious zeal inspired by the Crusades led to the slaughter of many Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe and the Holy Land. The massacres in the Rhineland during the Peoples Crusade and the resulting pogroms, which slaughtered many thousands of Jews, were cited by Jewish historians in the late 19th century as one of many compelling reasons to support Zionism.

    Just as violent Muslims believe they are engaged in a holy jihad against all opposed to their brand of Islam (Sunni vs. Shia, etc.), the crusading Christians who went off to re-conquer the Holy Land from Islam believed that non-Christians, including Muslims, Jews, and other alleged heretics, were the enemy of Christianity and should be destroyed.

    Moreover, some of the worst torture in human history was an integral part of the Inquisition. While I am not sure what good arose from the Inquisition and the Crusades, whatever positive spin can be derived would seem to have little to do with Christian morality and principles, especially where murder, torture, and forced conversions were involved. And yet it was all done, as the president correctly noted, “in the name of Christ.”

    Many historians assert that the rise of European anti-Semitism began with the pogroms and massacres of the Crusades and the religious zeal they inspired. As Europe adopted a more Christian identity, the Jews were increasingly perceived as outsiders. Indeed, one of the most unfortunate aspects of the whole crusading movement was that it marked a significant change in the relationship between Jews and Christians and led to centuries of Christian anti-Semitism in Europe, led to the expulsion of Jews from Spain, and eventually created the environment that allowed for the Holocaust to occur. Although there were plenty of exceptions and acts of Christian heroism during the Holocaust, many self-proclaimed Christians in Germany, France, Poland, and other parts of Europe were largely silent during the Holocaust, as was the German Church (Catholic and Protestant - again, with exceptions). And while the Nazi movement was not Christian, the vast majority of Hitler’s willing executioners were Christian (and most German Catholics and Protestants supported Hitler). Moreover, Christian anti-Semitism developed in large part from Catholic Church teachings, not rescinded until 1965 during Vatican II, that the Jews killed Jesus. The harm that doctrine caused cannot be under-estimated.

    Yes, Christianity has done much good in the world, and many Christians have performed incredible acts of compassion and mercy. The Christians who opposed slavery, for example, did so by persuading society that those people (including many self-professed Christians) who favored slavery were wrong – wrong in their view of human rights, and wrong in their view of the Bible. Indeed, much of the Christian debate over slavery and Jim Crow had a lot to do with one’s view regarding the authority of Scripture. Fundamentalism is and always has been the problem.

    There is nothing un-Christian or defamatory towards Christians and Christianity in admitting our past failings. It simply recognizes that people will use religion to justify their evil actions.

  6. Rich (cont'd):

    While much of the conservative uproar over Obama’s remarks was in response to the “get off your high horse” reference, the precise example I cited in my essay was Erick Erickson’s response to Obama’s endorsement of doubt and humility as a healthy aspect of faith. Of course, “get off your high horse” is just another way of saying that we should “practice humility” and acknowledge one’s own sins before judging too harshly the sins of others. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Remember that one?

    I have no problem with Erickson, or Darrell Wistrip, or anyone else proclaiming confidence in their faith. My problem is when they feel compelled to proclaim that my children, my wife and her sons, and many of my friends and relatives, are going to Hell. Call me overly sensitive. Do I care that a NASCAR driver thinks we are destined for Hell? No. But I find his statement a whole lot more offensive, divisive, and utterly without depth or true thought, than anything the President said.

    You would have to walk in my shoes to understand why I believe I am more secure in my faith than many of my fundamentalist brothers and sisters. My willingness to express uncertainty and doubt is proof of my honesty and willingness to discuss it, and my recognition that the human condition involves struggle and contemplation. In my experience, while a simplistic black-and-white, right-and-wrong mentality may bestow confidence, it is usually wrong and merely a cover for a deep-seated insecurity.

    While I genuinely respect the sincerity of most fundamentalist Christians’ professed expressions of faith, I do not sense from them a mutual respect for those who hold different religious views and beliefs (to say “you’re going to hell” is not, in my view, a sign of respect). What I do not respect, however, is the lack of scholarship and serious thought that underlies much of fundamentalist Christianity. There is a difference. And I make no apologies for it.

    By the way, I am critical of all types of fundamentalism, whether in Christian, Muslim, or Jewish form. When it results in fanaticism, fundamentalism becomes dangerous. Although the world of late has been seeing Islamic versions of religious fanaticism, they exist in all forms; one need only look to history to find examples. So, yes, my statement that, if more people recognized the Bible as a product of the human imagination there would be “less religious strife, religious extremism, religious-inspired violence, and religious division,” was intended to apply with equal or even greater force to followers of the Koran.

    Finally, I find it incredibly arrogant and offensive of you to discount the views of anyone who disagrees with fundamentalists of all stripes as somehow lacking knowledge of the faith. You have repeatedly stated in the past that moderate Muslims do not really know Islam, and that only the fanatics are accurately interpreting the Koran. I have no idea what you base that on, but it is certainly not your own personal knowledge of Islam or study of the Koran. But somehow you “know” that the Muslim fanatics are right and the hundreds of millions of Muslims who disagree with the fanatics are wrong.

    You do the same with Christianity, suggesting that progressive and liberal Christians, no matter how learned, are somehow less knowledgeable of “true Christianity” – in other words, less authentic Christians. I freely acknowledge I don’t have all the answers to the existential questions of life and the universe. Although such questions are important and worth much thought, prayer and contemplation, they are likely beyond my grasp, and yours. The only difference is, I recognize and acknowledge the uncertainty and find it to be a source of great wonder and hope. I only wish you would do the same.

  7. "While I am not sure what good arose from the Inquisition and the Crusades, whatever positive spin can be derived would seem to have little to do with Christian morality and principles, especially where murder, torture, and forced conversions were involved."

    The passionately curious would know in short order with just a minimum of effort! And the "good" had everything to do with Christian morality.