The Terrors of Christendom


32 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2007

See all articles by David E. Guinn

David E. Guinn

State University of New York (SUNY) - Center for International Development


Many scholars and activist have argued that the liberal political tradition's development of the concepts of religious freedom and separation of religion and the state arose out of the Enlightenment's effort to address the chaos of the religious wars that had rent their societies. Through what I refer to as the liberal religious compact, these societies sought to avoid religious violence by privatizing religion - walling it off from the secular public square. While the United States and Western Europe can, in large part, claim to bear witness to this position - even in those countries, a number of troubling incidents of religious violence have arisen, including anti-abortion violence, the Muslim riots in the Paris suburbs and the British terror cells and the London bombings.

Of equal concern, a rising tide of religious violence, often identified with religious fundamentalism, is sweeping the world. Many commentators have noted that Western leaders struggle with how to address this type of violence because they operate from a political orientation that views religious participation in public discourse with suspicion if not outright hostility.

In this new book I want to explore the relationship between religion, violence, politics and law - specifically, how the liberal political tradition has approached the problem (the liberal compact), how that approach was historically conditioned by Western culture, and how it can be adapted to address contemporary challenges to peace and stability associated with religion.

Chapter two, "The Terrors of Christendom" reviews the history of religious violence within the Western European, specifically Christian, tradition which provided the context for the thinkers and politicians responsible for the development of the liberal religious compact. This history primarily shaped by the relationship between the Christian church and the state, evolved through five stages: persecution (64-312 C.E.); adoption (312-425 C.E.); autonomy (440-751 C.E.); the establishment of Christendom (750-1307 CE); and fragmentation (1307-forward). It includes the age of martyrdom, the adoption of Christianity by Constantine, the Crusades and the Inquisition, and the wars of religion surrounding the Protestant Reformation.

Keywords: religious freedom, religion and violence, terrorism, liberalism, conflict resolution, inquisition, crusade

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K33, K42

Suggested Citation

Guinn, David E., The Terrors of Christendom. David E. Guinn, CONSTANTINE'S STANDARD: RELIGION, VIOLENCE, POLITICS, LAW & FAITH TO DIE FOR, Chapter 2. Available at SSRN:

David E. Guinn (Contact Author)

State University of New York (SUNY) - Center for International Development ( email )

State University Plaza
Albany, NY 12246
United States


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