New World vs Old World: Religions

               The Old World was a time of religious turmoil in Europe.  In the 1400’s nearly all of Western Europe was Roman Catholic. The Church was at the center of society in most countries, thereby executing a great amount of influence on the people. Portugal and Spain were especially swept up in religious turmoil. Monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand ruled over a land in which three faiths-Christianity, Judaism, and Islam-had all coexisted peacefully for many centuries. Even though there was peace, Isabella and Ferdinand believed that the only way to have a peaceful country was through religious and political homogeneousness. Also, there was a growing anti-Semitism in Spain, and the monarchs responded to this by launching the Inquisition. The inquisition targeted anyone who was not a follower of the Christian faith. Jews, Protestants and Moors were given the ultimatum of conversion of expulsion. Even those who had converted were often suspected of secretly practicing their old religion. Thousands fled to Portugal where they soon faced a similar fate. The Spanish Inquisition was a time of fear in Spain.  To prevent heresy, many extreme measures were taken, such as the banning of books, and burning at stakes. Also, in order to fight heresy the Holy Office of the Inquisition was established. It is no wonder then, that when Spain sent inquisitors and missionaries to the New World, they came under the pretense of religion. In this time religious hypocrisy was not taken into account, the only thing that mattered was spreading the word of God. The inquisitors feared what they encounter in the New World. The people, animals, plants, and culture did not fit into the world they were taught exzisted through the Bible. Is it any wonder then, that they assumed this to be the workings of Luther? So caught up in their religious beliefs, it is probable that many believed they were truly saving the people of the New World from eternal damnation.  Both Portugal and Spain would use the Holy Office as a means of control of their people in the colonies. “…the institution went from being a modest instrument for rooting out heresy to facilitate evangelization, to an elaborate bureaucratic organization attempting to control moral, spiritual and intellectual life in the colonies.” (Encyclopedia of Religion)