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How do you explain sainthood for people who committed genocide to a child?

I have an ancestor who committed horrible atrocities, and was rewarded for them with sainthood. The older DS gets, the more the nature of his questions about our family tree change, and this weekend, good old great great great great (keep going a dozen or so more) grandpa baby killer came up.

He understands that the main goal was converting people to one set of rules (Christian law). He understands there was a lot of war, not just in Norway and Scotland, for a lot of reasons that were really about power and money, but used religion as a front. What he does not understand is why the man was granted sainthood for slaughtering thousands of people. I can explain religious fervor to him, and the difference between an extremist and a regular person of a faith. His question, and I don't have a good answer for him, is why do regular people acknowledge the sainthood of people who committed atrocities to "earn" it?

(to clarify, the particular saint in question is Olaf, but he's hardly unique in earning sainthood via crusade)

Answer Question
 
NotPanicking

Asked by NotPanicking at 8:50 AM on Sep. 9, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,172 Credits)
Answers (36)
  • I can't help, I don't get it either.
    luvmygrandgirl

    Answer by luvmygrandgirl at 9:01 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • is why do regular people acknowledge the sainthood of people who committed atrocities to "earn" it?

    Because regular people are often uneducated as to the details of the saint's life.
    They are often told, i.e. this person was pious and inspired many people, and never realize that they killed anyone who was "uninspired".

    The second part has to do with believing in the miracle of saints.
    That some people are more special to God as a result of their piety than others.
    feralxat

    Answer by feralxat at 9:34 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • Perhaps if you focus on the fact that he gained sainthood (a huge christian reward) because he brought christian enlightenment to his country and his people? The massacres were a means to an end in a desperate time in world history.
    goldpandora

    Answer by goldpandora at 9:34 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • Perhaps if you focus on the fact that he gained sainthood (a huge christian reward) because he brought christian enlightenment to his country and his people?

    He sees no value in bringing "Christian enlightenment" to anyone, as we are not Christian. His specific question was, "why do people today still call him a saint when he tortured all those people?"
    NotPanicking

    Comment by NotPanicking (original poster) at 9:42 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • I don't think there's an easy answer.

    Why he was made a saint is the easier part of the problem because you can explain that things were done differently during different historical eras and that, at that time, the ends DID justify the means. Another thing worth keeping in mind is that the church and politics have always been closely intertwined. The attempt to hide that connection is simply more complex today than it was then

    Why he is still viewed as a saint is harder in my opinion. The church has long had the opportunity to do the right thing with regard to the canonization of brutes and, as we know, it has chosen to do nothing. I'm sure they're painted into a corner. If you make up miracles it's not like you can say "oops, our bad"
    Mrs_Prissy

    Answer by Mrs_Prissy at 9:53 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • Perhaps if you focus on the fact that he gained sainthood (a huge christian reward) because he brought christian enlightenment to his country and his people? The massacres were a means to an end in a desperate time in world history.
    -----------------------------------------
    Enlightenment is a good excuse for mass massacres?
    sahmamax2

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 10:07 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • There are Christian denominations that do NOT consider him a saint. The Episcopal Church recognizes only a very few post-Bible figures to be saints.
    gdiamante

    Answer by gdiamante at 10:36 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • I think, as has been stated already, many people don't pay enough attention to know the deeper details of who the saints are and what their lives entailed. So many may not even be informed enough to question it. Many Christians are not Catholic and may not even pay attention to the idea of sainthood and who is or is not a saint, or have different beliefs about who qualifies as a saint, etc. I left Catholicism before my confirmation or catechism classes, so I don't know how much attention is given the lives of the saints to know whether or not Catholics would be familiar with the atrocities tied to some of them. But if they are they probably just find some way to justify it in a way that might claim we can't expect more of someone than what was the standard in the time in which they lived or what they were instructed to do in their life, idk. I certainly don't justify it myself...
    bandgeek521

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 10:50 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • I'm a Christian, but I'm Southern Baptist and we don't recognize saints. If he's truly interested, you could make an appointment to speak with a Catholic priest to get the questions answered.
    missanc

    Answer by missanc at 11:04 AM on Sep. 9, 2013

  • I am not familiar with Olaf and so I looked him up and there is not a great deal on him.
    Basically he was a Viking that ied himself out in other countries including England. He became Anglonized(sp) and a Catholic.
    He went back to Norway and took theses ideas with him and did his best to replace the old religion with the Catholic religion. There was a lot of blood shed. He was ousted more because of his Anglicized ideas than because a war on religion. So to the Catholic viewpoint he was spreading the Word. He returned a few years later and was killed on the battlefield, reportedly calling out his love of God. He was locally canonized by a Bishop and then many years later by the Pope. Reportedly there were miracles (text did not specify)

    Now to answer what I would say. The time was about 1030. That is a long time ago and people thought and acted much differently than they do now. It was a very hard life for most
    Dardenella

    Answer by Dardenella at 2:42 PM on Sep. 9, 2013

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