22 February 2009

Christianity is torture

Crucifixions vs. mediaeval tortures, who wins?

The other day I was watching a series on the Discovery Channel about various torture and execution devices from a number of different era.

The first featured ancient devices (including wicker men) but focused on crucifixion. The show mentioned that crucifixion was extra horrible and painful due, strangely, to the way the victims are stretched out on the crucifix, which causes compression of the diaphragm. This encouraged victims to try to push up with their legs and create room for their lungs to breathe, but that only put more pressure on the ankle nails; hence victims control their own intense pain. Pretty neat.

But the followup mediaeval show had much more crazy stuff, including iron maidens, racks, pears1, and thumb/head screws. These are dementedly thoughtful and intentionally painful, and the show didn't even mention some of the even more painful methods.

Crucifixion does have advantages in that it is pretty much a 'fire and forget' device. That said, the extra effort the mediaeval devices required enabled executioners to play on the minds of their victims, letting them anticipate the agony, thus making the torture that much worse. This isn't to deny that crucufixion wasn't horribly painful - it certainly was - yet when you hear most Christians talk about it, crucifxion usually "the most horrible, painful punishment" that humans have ever devised. Why is it that so many Christians deny the even more painful later inventions?

I have two guesses:

1) Christians always like to make their god-related stuff superlative - God is unstoppable; omnipotent-scient-benevolent; loves us like a parent, but to a greater greater extent than any parent, etc. So they make it sound like Christ's crucifixion has to be the most painful thing ever.

2) They ignore the mediaeval execution devices because these were the creation of other Christians. So they are conveniently neglected.

I have a third guess that, depending on how you look at it, is either less or more charitable: they simply don't know much about mediaeval torture. Maybe they just aren't as twisted as guys like me, who love this stuff (and gave a speech about it during a grade 8 public speaking contest).

1Sadly, the mediaeval pears are not thought to be able to break jaws or kill people; they are merely painful gagging devices.

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At February 25, 2009 9:12 AM, Blogger Carlo said...

Maybe they just aren't as twisted as guys like me, who love this stuff (and gave a speech about it during a grade 8 public speaking contest).

Wow man, that's pretty messed up. I mean how long have you been actively thinking about this stuff? You know, come to think of it, pretty much all young boys are fascinated by the macabre, so I guess it makes you into less of a potential whack-job...

At March 04, 2009 7:28 PM, Blogger Tom Foss said...

Sadly, the mediaeval pears are not thought to be able to break jaws or kill people; they are merely painful gagging devices.

I was under the impression--and the Wiki entry is ambiguous on this point--that pears weren't strictly gagging devices, particularly if the victim happened to be an accused witch or homosexual.

At March 21, 2009 8:41 PM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Yeah, I'm pretty messed up. Just glad that we can discuss these things mainly in a historical way, not in a current events way. As an engineer, I can certainly appreciate the ingenuity that go into these things.

At March 21, 2009 8:42 PM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

Tom, I forgot to mention that. I imagine they'd also use it for the witches or homosexuals. But again, it would mainly be as a pain/terror thing, rather than a kill-by-rupturing thing.

At July 24, 2009 5:36 PM, Blogger Bronze Dog said...

Late to the thread, since I haven't been visiting as regularly. Some of the inventiveness involved in cruelty can be fascinating, though I don't think I have it as bad as you: I don't own a gun, but I like shows about the evolution of firearms and all the mechanisms that developed.

At August 16, 2009 9:33 PM, Blogger King Aardvark said...

I like that stuff too, have books and such. There's just something about violent technology. Primitive childish little boy stuff, I'll bet.

I have a desire to build a trebuchet at some point in my life.

At March 02, 2012 10:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I'm commenting on such an old post. I'm new and was just browsing through the religion section. Being somewhat religious myself, I enjoy going through what non-believers think of Christianity.
Anyways, I don't know what Christians you've been talking to, but the idea behind the death of Jesus being the most painful ever is not necesarily because of the form. Although admittedly crucifixion is painful, what supposedly makes His death so terrible is the impact of taking upon Himself the sins of all those who have ever lived, are living, or will live in the future. If you have ever experianced just a bit of guilt from doing something you shouldn't have, then you might see how this could be more difficult than it sounds. Supposedly Christ had to deal with the guilt of having done every betrayal, thievery, murder, etc. that had ever taken place.
On which form was crueler, I don't know. Being whipped to the point your just about to die then being hanged on a piece of wood or taking a very personal tour through a midieval torture chamber... neither seems all that pleasant.


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