Excerpt from "Time Traveling with Science and the Saints"

" At the close of the 15th century, when Pope Innocent VIII condemned Germans who had been accused of being possessed by Satan, he set in motion a witch hunt that would spread across Europe to England, Scotland and Ireland, and then to American shores. In Catholic countries, belief in witches became mandatory, and to dispute their existence carried the risk of being charged of heresy. Belief in werewolves was also fostered by the Inquisition; in 1484 the same Pope Innocent VIII ordered that cats belonging to witches must be burned along with their owners. Unfortunately, the atrocities committed by Protestants during the Witch Hunts and the inter-religious wars were every bit as inventive and savage as those devised by the Catholics.
Guided by the church's "how-to" manual, the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer) and using the excuse that torturing women suspects helped prepare the accused for the rigors of hell, Catholic and Protestant churchmen served up a reign of horror that tortured, maimed and murdered hundreds of thousands, including children as young as nine, using instruments of torture inscribed with "Glory be only to God."
On discovering that lightly pricking various parts of the accused's skin always detected areas that felt no pain (areas that science has revealed we all possess) a productive and "infallible" method of detecting witches came into use. As with the Inquisition, to be accused was tantamount to being found guilty.
In 1586, in the region of Treves, all but two women in two villages were put to death, and two other towns were completely destroyed. In Silesia, an executioner who had lowered the age limit to include three-year-old children, roasted to death more than a thousand persons in specially built ovens. (Inquisitor Pedro Arbues, who engineered the deaths of hundreds, was canonized by Pope Pius IX in the 19th century.)
Believing that women were imperfect because they had been formed from only a rib, and because they were seen as the source of original sin, the Witch Hunts persecuted women ten times as often as men. Wherever the Witch Hunts operated, they enriched the church, which charged its victims for the very ropes that bound them and the wood that burned them. Each torture carried a fee, and on those instances that the Inquisitors chanced upon a wealthy victim, they treated themselves to a banquet at the sinner's expense.
How do we know this? Well, party because, in 1631, a Jesuit priest named Friedrich Von Spee published Cautio Criminalis, a whistle-blowing book describing the horrors awaiting the accused. In one section, he reveals that none could hope to escape, for a guilty plea brings death, and to claim innocence reveals evidence of demons within - and the church cannot be wrong. In closing, Von Spee pleads with women to confess immediately to avoid the endless torture that will precede their execution: 'Why, foolish and crazy woman, did you wish to die so many times when you might have died but once?'
The horrors of the Inquisition and the Witch hunts often became part of the public record. The Tariff for Torture, for example, which was published in Bonn on January, 1757, even listed a gruesomely detailed schedule of maximum fees to be paid to executioners so as to conserve the purse of the archbishop of Trinsic:

For tearing apart and quartering by four horses - 526 Gold
For beheading and burning - 526 Gold
For beheading only - 252 Gold
For beheading and tying the body on the wheel - 400 Gold
For strangling and burning - 400 Gold
For breaking alive on the wheel - 400 Gold
For burning alive - 400
For cutting off a hand and beheading - 326 Gold
For burning with a hot iron - 126 Gold
For beheading and sticking the head on a pole - 326 Gold
For beheading, tying on wheel, and mounting the head - 500 Gold
For each squeezing with red-hot tongs - 26 Gold
For cutting out tongue and burning wound - 500 Gold
For nailing cut off tongue or hand to the gallows -126 Gold

Even those who had served the church could become the Witch Hunt's prey: After Alison Peirsoun of Byrehill had cured the ailing Archbishop of St Andrews, he not only refused to pay her, he had her arrested for witchcraft and burned to death.
And where did these witches come from? Certainly not from reality, but instead from the churches themselves! In almost every case, witch hysteria arose only after priests and clergymen preached sermons designed to instigate suspicions, then accusations and trials, which is exactly what happened in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 after a series of fear-filled sermons by the Reverend Samuel Parris. (Trivial Pursuit asks the question, "How many were burned to death as a result of the Salem Witch Trials," then correctly answers "none." But - perhaps because religion is the sacred cow in America - they fail to inform the reader that nineteen were hung and one was pressed to death.)
At the same time that the Witch Hammer was belaboring the Western world, a bright, versatile and creative young Italian with a talent for science and art was beginning to make a name for himself. Working for princes and popes he became a master of engineering and biology, and of music and science. On observing marine fossils in the sedimentary rocks far up in the Alps, this astute observer correctly concluded that the Alps had arisen from beneath the sea. His name was Leonardo da Vinci, and when he wasn't digging canals to divert rivers, he turned his fertile mind to designing transmission gears, primitive turbines, a parachute and hydraulic jacks � and painted the Mona Lisa.
Da Vinci fervently believed that someday humans would fly, writing passionately "There shall be wings! If the accomplishment be not for me, 'tis for some other. The spirit shall not die; and man... shall have wings..." For producing more than five thousand pages of sketches and notes, and arguing that the sun does not orbit the earth, Leonardo da Vinci is regarded by many as the first exemplar of the budding Renaissance.
But in an era saturated with spirits and demons, Leonardo's genius and his habit of writing in reversed script, which could only be read with a mirror, eventually led to suspicions of collusion with Satan. Pope Leo X, on hearing the rumors, restricted da Vinci's work, so da Vinci moved to France, where, for the remainder of his life he served as the first painter and engineer to the king.
Imagine what the world could have been � and might be like today if the glimmerings of enlightenment that were evident in Aristarchus, Archimedes, Hippocrates or da Vinci had been encouraged rather than displaced by the tidal wave of anti-science that Christianity unleashed upon the Western world, creating men like St. Gregory I, who, despite being one of the least ignorant popes, believed that a nun who had eaten a piece of lettuce without first making the sign of the cross had consumed a devil who was sitting on it, and that the demon, when commanded by a holy man to come forth had replied: 'How am I to blame? I was sitting on the lettuce, and this woman, not having made the sign of the cross, ate me along with it.'"

The author donates all of his book profits to educational charities.

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George Erickson, 4678 Cedar Island Drive, Eveleth, MN 55734