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Title: Anti-Protestantism  
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Subject: Anti-Christian sentiment, Persecution of Christians, Voice of the Martyrs, Religious discrimination, Religious discrimination in the United States
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Luther as the Devil's Bagpipes by Eduard Schoen, circa 1535.

"Anti-Protestantism," which might be more accurately described as either "Catholic Anti-Protestantism," or, "Orthodox Anti-Protestantism," is an institutional, ideological or emotional bias, hatred or distrust against some or all forms and divisions of Protestantism and its followers.


Anti-Protestantism, also known as Catholic Anti-Protestantism, originated in a reaction by militant societies connected to the Roman Catholic Church alarmed at the spread of Protestantism following the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Martin Luther's Proclamation occurred in 1517. By 1540, Pope Paul III had sanctioned the first society pledged to extinguish Protestantism.[1] Christian Protestantism was denounced as heresy, and those supporting these doctrines excommunicated as heretics. Thus by canon law and the practice and policies of the Holy Roman Empire of the time, Protestants were subject to persecution in those territories, such as Spain, Italy and the Netherlands, in which the Catholic rulers were then the dominant power. This movement was started by the reigning Pope at that time and various political rulers with a more political stake in the controversy then a religious one. These princes instituted policies as part of the then extant Spanish Inquisition, these abuses of that crusade originally authorized for other reasons such as the Reconquista, and Morisco conversions, ultimately led to the Counter Reformation, and the edicts of the Council of Trent. Therefore the fallout from the political repercussions of various European rulers for their own political reasons supporting Roman Catholicism or the new Protestant groups, only subsequently branded as heretical, and after rejection by the adherents of these doctrines of the Edicts of the Council of Trent, resulted in religious wars and outbreaks of sectarian violence, one example of which is the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre.

The Protestants from the Tyrolean Zillertal valley who had to leave their home in 1837

By contrast, Eastern Orthodoxy initially viewed Protestantism as less of a threat. They had comparatively little contact for geographic, linguistic and historical reasons. Protestant attempts to ally with Eastern Orthodoxy proved problematic. In general, many Orthodox had the initial impression that Protestantism was a new heresy that arose from a previous heresy, the previous heresy being Latin Catholicism itself.

In 1771, Bishop Charles Walmesley published his General History of the Christian Church from her birth to her Final Triumphant States in Heaven chiefly deduced from the Apocalypse of St. John the Apostle, written under the pseudonym of Signor Pastorini. The book forecast the end of Protestantism by 1825 and was published in at least 15 editions and several languages.[2]

By the 19th century and later, some Eastern Orthodox thinkers, such as Berdyaev, Seraphim Rose, and John Romanides believed that Northern Europe had become secular or virtually atheist due to its having been Protestant earlier. In recent eras Orthodox anti-Protestantism has grown due to aggressive Protestant proselytization in predominantly Orthodox countries.

Hostility to mainline Protestantism

In the United States, hostility to mainline Protestantism comes from stereotypes of "WASPs". This is a mildly derogatory term describing people of "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" background, but can be applied to all Protestants of Western European descent. It can describe upper middle class Protestant people and their values in teasing or disparaging terms. WASPs tended to be portrayed as rigid and emotionally reserved. This reference reflects the Early Puritanism of the New England area, and the struggle for acceptance in large population centers by non-Protestants throughout much of the 18th and 19th, and well into the 20th centuries. These political struggles used religious epithets to brand the adherents and power brokers of the then establishment and their opponents as being primarily of one or the opposite religious persuasion, resulting in terms such as Papists and WASPs becoming common usage as derogatory terms. However this reaction is primarily based on mutual bias and emotionalism, rather than actual proof of a con-comittant anti-religious bias, as the establishment policies were based more on economics and politics than any true religious beliefs, and anti-Protestant sentiment was more a reaction of disappointment to such exclusivism, than hatred. Pop-culture references to this occur in the discussions of the mayor's background in Spin City, the Jim Dial character in Murphy Brown, and many characters in the film Mona Lisa Smile.

Among conservative Christians (including Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox as well as Evangelicals and Protestant fundamentalists), mainline Protestant denominations are often characterized as being theologically liberal to the point where they are no longer true to the Bible or historical Christian tradition. These perceptions are often linked to highly publicized events, such as the decision to endorse same sex marriage by the United Church of Christ. While theological liberalism is clearly present within most mainline denominations, surveys show that many within the mainline denominations consider themselves moderate or conservative and holding traditional Christian theological views.[3][4]

Hostility to Evangelicals

In the United States, critics of the policies adopted by the Religious Right, such as support of traditional one-man one-woman marriage and support of Right to Life for the unborn, often equate evangelicalism as a movement with the Religious Right. Many evangelicals belong to this political movement, although it is a diverse movement that draws support from other Protestants, Mormons, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox, among other non-evangelical groups. A few critics have even suggested that evangelicals are a kind of "fifth column" aimed at turning the United States or other nations into Christian theocracies. Cultural progressive activists have indicated fear of a potential Christian theocracy as one of the reasons for their opposition to the Christian Right.[5]

Some evangelical groups that hold to a Dispensationalist interpretation of Biblical prophecy have been accused of supporting Zionism and providing material support for Jewish settlers who build communities within Palestinian territories. Critics contend that these evangelicals support Israel in order to expedite the building of the Third Temple in Jerusalem, which Dispensationalists see as a requirement for the return of Jesus Christ.[6] Many evangelicals reject Dispensationalism and support peace efforts in the Middle East, however.[7][8]

Some Christian groups focused on the Bible have been derided as "Bible thumpers". Bigoted depictions of evangelicals as uneducated rubes or hypocrites are common in Hollywood movies and television shows, such as Saved!, Shawshank Redemption, There Will Be Blood [9] and Inherit the Wind.[10]

Catholic and Protestant disagreement in Ireland

Woodcut showing Luther and the reformers as the Antichrist

In Northern Ireland or pre-Catholic Emancipation Ireland, there is a hostility to Protestantism as a whole that has to do with communal or nationalist sentiments than theological issues. During the Tudor conquest of Ireland by the Protestant state of England in the course of the 16th century, the Elizabethan state failed to convert the Catholic natives to Protestantism and thus followed a vigorous policy of confiscation, deportation, and resettlement. By dispossessing Catholics of their lands, and resettling Protestants on them, the official Government policy was to encourage a widespread campaign of proselytizing by Protestant settlers and establishment of English law in these areas. This led to a counter effort of the Counter Reformation by mostly Jesuit Catholic clergy trained specifically for this purpose, to maintain the "old religion" of the people as the dominant religion in these regions. The result was that Catholicism came to be identified with a sense of nativism and Protestantism came to be identified with the State, as most Protestant communities were established by state policy, and Catholicism was viewed as treason to the state after this time. While Elizabeth I had initially tolerated private Catholic worship, this ended after Pope Pius V, in his 1570 papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, pronounced her to be illegitimate and unworthy of her subjects' allegiance.

The Penal Laws, first introduced in the early 17th century, were initially designed to force the native elite to conform to the state church by excluding non-Conformists and Roman Catholics from public office, and restricting land ownership, but were later, starting under Queen Elizabeth, also used to confiscate virtually all Catholic owned land and grant it to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland. The Penal Laws had a lasting effect on the population, due to their severity (celebrating Catholicism in any form was punishable by death or enslavement under the laws), and the favouritism granted Irish Anglicans served to polarise the community in terms of religion. Anti-Protestantism in Early Modern Ireland 1536-1691 thus was also largely a form of hostility to the colonisation of Ireland. Irish poetry of this era shows a marked antipathy to Protestantism, one such poem reading, "The faith of Christ [Catholicism] with the faith of Luther is like ashes in the snow". The mixture of resistance to colonization and religious disagreements led to widespread massacres of Protestant settlers in the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Subsequent religious or sectarian antipathy was fueled by the atrocities committed by both sides in the Irish Confederate Wars, especially the repression of Catholicism during and after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland, when Irish Catholic land was confiscated en masse, clergy were executed and discriminatory legislation was passed against Catholics.

The Penal Laws against Catholics (and also Presbyterians) were renewed in the late 17th and early 18th centuries due to fear of Catholic support for Jacobitism after the Williamite war in Ireland and were slowly repealed in 1771-1829. Penal Laws against Presbyterians were relaxed by the Toleration Act of 1719, due to their siding with the Jacobites in a 1715 rebellion. At the time the Penal Laws were in effect, Presbyterians and other non-Conformist Protestants left Ireland and settled in other countries. Some 250,000 left for the New World alone between the years 1717 and 1774, most of them arriving there from Ulster.

Sectarian conflict was continued in the late 18th century in the form of communal violence between rival Catholic and Protestant factions over land and trading rights (see Defenders (Ireland), Peep O'Day Boys and Orange Institution). The 1820s and 1830s in Ireland saw a major attempt by Protestant evangelists to convert Catholics, a campaign which caused great resentment among Catholics.

In modern Irish nationalism, anti-Protestantism is usually more nationalist than religious in tone. The main reason for this is the identification of Protestants with unionism - i.e. the support for the maintenance of the union with the United Kingdom, and opposition to Home Rule or Irish independence. In Northern Ireland, since the foundation of the Free State in 1921, Catholics, who were mainly nationalists, suffered systematic discrimination from the Protestant unionist majority.[11] The mixture of religious and national identities on both sides reinforces both anti-Catholic and anti-Protestant sectarian prejudice in the province.

More specifically religious anti-Protestantism in Ireland was evidenced by the acceptance of the Ne Temere decrees in the early 20th century, whereby the Catholic Church decreed that all children born into mixed Catholic-Protestant marriages had to be brought up as Catholics. Protestants in Northern Ireland had long held that their religious liberty would be threatened under a 32-county Republic of Ireland, due to that country's Constitutional support of a "special place" for the Roman Catholic Church. This article was deleted in 1972.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Smith, Christian. American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving. The University of Chicago Press. 1998
  4. ^ Lang, Andy (April 2001). "Denominational identity still important". Archived from the original on 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2006-12-24. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Doomsday Code, available online at
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "The Cameron Report – Disturbances in Northern Ireland (1969)". Retrieved 2012-01-21. 

External links

  • Poll of Catholics
  • Islamic nations views of other religions
  • Center For Religious Freedom Country Profiles
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