Related Question

How did the Crusades impact modern Christianity?

  • How did the Inquisition impact modern day Christianity own sense of morality and spirituality?
  • What do these things mean to a person of faith?

The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis (inquiry on heretical perversity), was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy. Inquisition practices were used also on offences against canon law other than heresy. (Wikipedia)

  • 5
    Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!
    – Flimzy
    Sep 28, 2011 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


I'm addressing all of the inquisitions, not merely the Spanish Inquisition here. Several were perpetrated by kings, not the Catholic Church.

I agree with the other answers that state that the Inquisition is a stain and an evil that should never have happened. None of what I'm posting here should be taken in any way that detracts from @James Black's answer, or @Apocatastasis. I'm merely listing some impacts not listed in their answers.

Impacts include:

  • A tendency to view Church authority with skepticism, particularly when we smell an abuse of power
    • For me, personally, this is why I tend to lean on the words of Scripture, which never changes, as opposed to religious teachings of any one denomination.
  • A cadre of anti-theists, who object to Christianity, among other reasons, on the basis of the fact that the Inquisition happened. Examples: 1 2
  • A rise in atheism, anti-theism, antireligion, and other beliefs based on the assumption that since the Inquisition(s) were perpetrated by "Christians" that Christianity supports such atrocities. (see previous references)
    • It doesn't. At least not if you believe that Jesus taught that we are to love our enemies as well as our neighbors
    • I also personally think that just because these officials were self-described Christians, their actions show that they had no idea what it means to be a Christian.
  • Christians that are stronger in their views of the importance of God's commandment to love our neighbors (and our enemies) because we have such a stellar (if horrific) example of how not to treat those who disagree with us. examples: 1 2
  • Christians and non-Christians alike that are better educated and on guard against such abuses, because as long as human nature is what it it, it could happen again if we're not vigilant. example: 1
    • Unfortunately, this isn't the majority. Just like all other generations, we think we're so much more enlightened than they were in the past. We're not. The Germans refused to believe what the Nazis were doing because they thought it couldn't happen in their society. If we can't learn the lesson that people are corrupt and it can happen as soon as we let our guard down, it will happen. Time and time again.

Also, if my understanding of the history and timelines is correct, then at least some of the Inquisitions happened before or during the Protestant Reformation.

Since the Reformation was as much about rebelling against abuses by the Church (See several of the points, including but not limited to #10, 24, 27... here) as it was about differences in doctrine, you might be able to argue that the widespread existence of protestant denominations is at least partially due to the Inquisition. Certainly, Church-sponsored torture and murder of those who simply believe differently are examples of corruption and abuse of power. If not a direct cause, the Inquisitions certainly would have added fuel to the fire.

  • Could you please share some references?
    – user23
    Oct 12, 2011 at 19:03
  • I added a few. I stuck to very general statements, based on my experiences interacting with various Christians and non-Christians, Catholics and protestants, atheists, and anti-theists. I don't know if there are studies that support my claims, but certainly most of them can be backed up my a quick google search. Anti-Christian sites that use the Inquistions, Crusades, and Witch Hunts abound, so that claim should be obvious. Christian responses to these attacks on Christianity back up some of my other claims. I don't think I listed anything not commonly accepted or known... Oct 12, 2011 at 23:34
  • "For me, personally, this is why I tend to lean on the words of Scripture, which never changes, as opposed to religious teachings of any one denomination." Ironically, that would make you a kind of 'denomination' in and of itself. Since that's what all the denominations claim: we only go by the Bible. Aug 17, 2017 at 12:08

The impact on the Spanish Inquisition on Christianity is more of an example when people use religion as a way to gain more political power. Unfortunately we see this same behavior, the justification of following God's will in various parts of the world, such as the problems in Nigeria and the atrocities in the Sudan.

When leaders, or political activists seek to gain power, and the ministers provide the religious backing, by stating this is God's will, then we have abuses such as in Guantanamo prisons, as American's torture and denigrate people of other religions.

But we also have some people in Europe and the US that continue to talk about killing Muslims because of their religion, when the goal is financial gain, under the cover of religion.

So, the Spanish Inquisition was a very dark period, and should never have happened, but as long as Christians idly stand by and don't stand up for those that believe differently, showing God's Love to the world by our willingness to die for those that may hate us, or those that are different than we are, we are all guilty of the atrocities committed, and even listening to ministers espouse such hatred, and saying nothing is just as bad as doing the action, as words not only damage our relationships with others, but also what we say, or listen to and say nothing, reflects on whether Christ is truly within us.

For a brief talk about the politics behind the Inquisition:


For an essay on Words healing or hurting: http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/view/words-can-heal-or-hurt

Here are a couple of quotes on what we say:

Proverbs 10:18-19 (NKJV):

18Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool. 19In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.

Psalm 141:3 (NKJV):

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.

  • "But we also have some people in Europe and the US that continue to talk about killing Muslims because of their religion, when the goal is financial gain, under the cover of religion." Citation please? Most of the time when I see anti-Muslim sentiment being spread around, it's not about money at all; it's about people perceiving Islam (correctly or incorrectly) as a violent religion and not wanting to end up getting killed by terrorists or jihadis.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Oct 12, 2011 at 18:25
  • @MasonWheeler - When political leaders are talking about killing/jailing Muslims it is for political power. For example you can read publiceye.org/liberty/training/Muslim_Menace_Complete.pdf and this gives some good info: rightweb.irc-online.org/articles/display/… Oct 12, 2011 at 21:17

Understanding the Inquisition only in the Christianity (or Spanish context) is a biased and reduced conception.

Nowadays, when the concept of laicism has evolved sufficent to create a neat distinction between religious identity and national membership in Western societies, the Inquisition is seen as a mounstruosity, but in old ages that distiction was more diffuse. Religous identity was important enough to determine national loyalty. Heresy was also a betrayal to the nation.

Also, prosecution for religious disense was not privative of Spain. We must remember the execution of Miguel Servet by French Calvinists. Muslims had a similar mechanism too.

Another important fact is the gross exaggeration of the Inquisition victims. Only by the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I in England had more Catholics died than heretics were burned by the Spanish Inquisition in its whole existence. Torture wasn't invented by the Church: it existed before she and was used ordinarily by civil powers to get "the truth". In fact, Inquisition courts were the first to supress torture in their processes. The jails of the Inquisition were better than the civil ones too.

In summary: brutality and violence were an epochal characteristic and not a consecuence of Inquisition. Those methods were somoothed gradually precisely thanks to Christianism.

  • This addresses the history of the Inquisition, but does not answer the question that was asked: what is the effect on modern Christianity?
    – bradimus
    Aug 14, 2017 at 16:15
  • The effect is linked to the interpretation of history. Aug 14, 2017 at 16:17
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    @bradimus: The point that I understand Apocatastasis to be making is that the effect of the Inquisition proper is overwhelmed by the effect of the popular retellings of it, which are more about demonising Renaissance-era Spain than really dealing with what an ecclesiastic court actually did or didn't do. It's analogous to the easy USA-demonising that's been rampant throughout the Third World since the 1970s.
    – Wtrmute
    Aug 14, 2017 at 18:38

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