Christianity and the Black Death
Could humanity have saved more lives during the period of the black death if it were not for the church?
As it is today, so it was back in the days of the black death. The churches have and had a lot of power, have benefited on superstition, and taken advantage of misplaced faith. Today we are dealing with the Ebola virus, which in many ways is the same as the black death. So far at least one priest from Spain has died from the virus; he went down to Liberia with no medical training whatsoever, no equipment to shield himself, only prayers and a faith in a god that could not protect him more anyone else. In other words, history repeats itself.
Basically, the Black Death started in the Crimea area of South Eastern Europe and is believed to have been spread further into Europe by Genoese traders who caught the virus from the aforementioned area. Also, Genova, which was a trading center back in the 1340s, was a calalyst in the spread to the rest of Europe. A trader from England arrived in the city of Bergen in 1349. Rats on board fled the ship and spread it’s virus and germs to the rats in Norway. And in short within two years 50% of Norway’s population was gone.
So could lives have been saved if it were not for Christianity and the catholic church ?
In the 1300s witch burning, Jew burning, and basically the burning of anything that did not fit into the world of church was quite popular. Cats, especially black cats, were associated with witches, and so was anything else that went wrong. If you’re cow gave a lot of milk, but your neighbor did not get any milk from his cow, you had to be a witch. Obviously you had put a hex on his cow in order to screw up his life; most likely because of envy or Satan told you to do it.
Now as we know today, rats carried the disease commonly called the Black Death, or in Latin Atra Mors, and is caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis. But, because the church connected the cats with Satan and witchery they started a huge cat hunt to counter the wrath of god and stop the Black Death of spreading through the country. Cats were burnt, thrown into the water with something heavy around them or just whacked in the head and thrown away. Historical records have later shown us that areas and farms that had cats around people actually did survive or had less deaths compared to cat free areas. So we can safely say that the church is to blame for a significant portion of the deaths in Europe and Norway. Of course one cannot blame the church for the actual germ that came to Europe because of trading, war, and total lack of knowledge about diseases and how to treat them (Germ Theory).
This leads us to another topic where the church can be blamed for more deaths in Norway, in collaboration with the Black Death. In earlier years, the time of the vikings, it was common practice to take a bath every Saturday, which then was called for Laugrdagr, literally meaning “wash day”. Once a week the vikings washed themselves. No other people did this in Europe at that given time. And everyday they combed their beard and their hair. To look neat and remove things that were not supposed to be in the hair. Now, this practice stopped a couple of hundred years after Christianity had come to Norway and entirely taken over as the leading religion. Which incidentally was about the time the Black Death came. Almost no one washed themselves anymore and combined with new and dense cities society was like one big germ party. Furthermore the church, the largest power factor in Norway at that time, did nothing about the situation except collect money from the poor for absolution. All they did was walk around in the streets praying and holding masses. Spreading the germ even faster since this meant that they had to gather large masses in order to pray away the disease. In other words church prayer did nothing, had no power to heal, and even resulted in a greater portion of the population killed.
This, in effect, meant that almost all who could write and had an education either died or left leaving Norway a second rate country. Just one hundred years before we were a powerful in Europe and four hundred years before that, we were the power in Europe.
Coincidentally, the last known man to have died from the Black Death in Norway was the bishop of Stavanger, Guttorm Pålsson, who died January 7. 1350. He was most likely a priest in the church of Bergen. However, little is known about this man mostly due to the fact that we lost a lot of historical documents during this period of time. Because the church trusted in a god that has never done anything verifiable for anyone, its immense power and wealth was useless against the death, shrouded in black.