The Middle Ages were the Golden Ages for religous terrorism. The Christian church was determined to stamp out heretical thought. Many of the techniques used during this time to terrorize commoners into being devout Christians still stand out as the most fiendish torture devices every created. Christianity was also at war with Islam and Judaism and had no qualms about how it fought those wars.
AKA: Vlad III, Vlad the Impaler, Son of Dracul (the Dragon), Dracula. Vlad is known to literature as a vampire but he is known to history as a terrorist par excellence. Ruler of Wallachia, now Romania, in the 15th Century, his favorite form of torment was the spike. In 1459 he had 30,000 merchants impaled on spikes; he had his dinner served so he could watch them died. He would impale Turkish invaders, nobles, and commoners with equal aplomb. While a captive in Hungry, Vlad amused himself by impaling birds and mice on sticks.
Stating that none should go hungry in his kingdom, Vlad invited the poor and sick to a grand feast in his capital. He locked them in a great hall and burned it to the ground. His terrorism was effective. It is said there was no crime in Wallachia because of fear of the spike. Mohammed II turn back his invasion force when he encountered 20,000 impaled Turkish prisoners on the banks of the Danube. I've sometimes wondered if Dick Cheney had lived in a less civilized time how like Vlad Tepes he would have been.
The Historian is an excellent novel that bridges the history of Vlad Tepes with the legend of Dracula. It is a worthy read.
The link above is interesting because it is from a modern Catholic scholar who has a neutral to positive view of the Inquisition. Just as there are Holocaust deniers, the Catholic Church is rife with Inquisition deniers who claim it was really a good thing (Prof. Thomas Madden).
The Inquisitions, there were several in different European countries, was designed to root out Jews, Muslims, and heretics and terrorize them through the threat and act of torture into becoming True Christians. The process was simple, people in a city would denounce their neighbors and the accused would be interrogated using torture devices that have not been improved upon in over 600 years. Those few who did not admit their heresy and repent were turned over to the local government to be burned at the stake. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people were tormented in the name of God.
The Inquisition from a Jewish perspective. If you are of a morbid mind, here are drawings of the tortures used. For a little comedy, Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition skit.
Malleus Maleficarum - The Witch Hunts
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exodus 22:18) This one sentence has been responsible for the torment and death countless people - the estimates range up to nine million. The killing continues to this day. Over 800 killed for witchcraft in the Ituri province of the Congo in 2001. In Tanzania in the 1990's, 20,000 people were slaughtered as witches. The killing continues in much of Africa and rural India. Over the past two decades, more people have been killed through witch-hunts than were killed by Al-Qaeda. The west isn't immune. Last January in the United States a woman was fired on suspicion she was a witch. In my California Assembly district, Steve Baldwin won an election in 1994 running on an anti-witchcraft platform. The campaign against witches is mostly an attack upon independent women (Jerry Falwell calls the National Organization for Women the "National Organization of Witches."). The goal is to terrorize women into obsequiousness.
The Malleus Maleficarum was an instruction book on how to find, torture, and kill witches. Here is an archive of European witch-hunt texts.
Next time, America's surprising contribution to terrorism.