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God's Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  479 ratings  ·  101 reviews
“The Inquisition is a dark mark in the history of the Catholic Church. But it was not the first inquisition nor the last, as Cullen Murphy shows in this far-ranging, informed, and (dare one say?) witty account of its reach down to our own time, in worldly affairs more than ecclesiastical ones.” — Margaret O’Brien Steinfels, former editor, Commonweal

The Inquisition conducte
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 17th 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Bill  Kerwin

Murray's book is a brief, impressionistic survey of the various Inquisitions pursued by the Catholic Church: the Medieval (mid-13th century to roughly the mid-14th)), the Spanish (late 15th Century to mid-19th), and the Roman (mid-sixteenth century to the present). The Medieval was waged against the Cathari of Southern France, the Spanish against heretical “conversos” (former Muslims and Jews), and the Roman against the explosion of suspicious print material in the post-Gutenberg age. In additio
I went into the book expecting to read about the Spanish Inquisition. Like most people I don't know a great deal about the actual Inquisition, but I do have a great many references from popular sources. This book isn't about the Spanish Inquisition though, or more to the point it is about so much more. It covers all three of the Church's Inquisitions as well as a number of later events that are more secular in nature but no less Inquisitions.
The three Inquisitions of the Church are the 1st agai
Webster Bull
I don’t know about you, but I want to understand the Inquisition. I’m only four years a convert, and still in love with the Catholic Church, so I want to understand why anyone would not love it. It’s like falling in love with a girl at school and then hearing things about her in the locker room. You want to get to the bottom of things.

By my count, the Church has received four big black marks from non-Catholic historians and kibitzers. I understand two of them: the Crusades (no issue) and the pri
This is an exceptional and important vision of the Inquisition that illustrates the relationship between the justifications being offered for torture in the modern United States. What is so appalling, is that the Spanish Inquisition, after its initial fury under Tomas Torquemada, became significantly more moderate than, for example, the process of extreme rendition as it has been practiced in our time. It is startling to see the examples he offers of the parallels between Inquisitorial interroga ...more
"No one expects the Spanish Inquisition." At least so says Monty Python. And who knew that the Spanish inquisition was one of many inquisitions? In this fascinating history, Cullen Murphy tells us not only about the inquisition in Spain, and many others that are less well known -- certainly not well known enough to be the subject of Monty Python jokes about the "comfy couch" torture anyway. Murphy doesn't stop with history though, and brings the reader up to date. Right up to Guantanamo and the ...more
Dan Petegorsky
Meh. For me this one should have been either a lot more or a lot less. I’d expected a more illuminating account of what we now know about the Inquisitions, with lessons for today. But the actual historical sections are pretty cursory, while the contemporary parts are all too familiar for anyone who follows the news. It’s more or less a long essay on how the inquisitional impulse continues in the bureaucratized national security state, and how strongly religious and political intolerance continue ...more
Cullen Murphy’s 2012 book, “God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World” is not a dry academic tome on a phenomenon that happened centuries ago. It is a lively and well-written look at the Inquisition and how its intellectual rationale forms the basis for the mass repression and state-sponsored violence that plagued the 20th century and continues into this century.
“There were many inquisitions,” Murphy explains, dividing this intermittent 700-year religious persecution spons
Very interesting premise that is flawlessly documented. The information on the Inquisitions (there were several) alone is worth reading. The parallels to modern events are as chilling as Orwell's 1984. During an interview the author speculated if someone in the US during the 50's was told that in the near future torture would be sanctioned by law they would be appalled. Yet, thanks to the Bush administration, that's exactly what happened.

During an interview with NPR the author says, "There isn't
Jason Golomb
“God’s Jury” author Cullen Murphy spent a lot of time in archives while researching this book. He writes extensively on the mad amounts of Inquisition-related documentation that exists world wide, much of which is only recently being uncovered and researched. Some documents are surprisingly damning in their straightforward accounting of the mechanisms of its own atrocities.

What Cullen makes clear is that the Inquisitions (and they can be categorized into multiple phases) weren't just an effort
Inquisition Fun Facts: There were really three Inquisitions: the Medieval Inquisition (1241), the Spanish Inquisition (late 15th C.), and the Roman Inquisition (16th C.)
The Medieval was set against the Cathars of France. Cathars were dualists who believed that a good God could not be responsible for the eveil in the world. So, Evil mush have been a separate creation. (Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code invokes the Cathars).
The Spanish was run almost entirely by the King and Queen of Spain (Fer. and Isabe
God's Jury is an interesting, if rather too thinly detailed, history of the Inquisition, combined with an extensive contextualization of Inquisitorial institutions in history, from the Church to England, Germany, the Soviet Union and right down to the present day US government and Guantanamo Bay. I enjoyed it for its historical presentation of the Inquisition, and for the historical contextualization. Murphy reminds us that there were really three Inquisitions, the Medieval, the Spanish and the ...more
John McDonald
Murphy is an editor at large of Vanity Fair, and his writing proves him a scholar of the first order. Although it is nowhere stated publicly, any reader with origins or roots in Catholicism, wonder whether he also is Jesuit-trained, parsing history and digging to deep intellectual depths as any good Jesuit does. One asks whether his burrowing into the most infamous and perhaps the longest lasting single campaign ever embarked upon is a quest to undertaken so that he might understand the reasons ...more
Admittedly, I was listening to the audio version as I have found myself taking several long car rides recently. This book has been on my list for a while because I'm a bit of a historical sucker for the Inquisition and it's not too often you find a popular history book about the Inquisition that isn't just a bit sensationalized or focused on methods of torture. Instead, Murphy focuses on the multiple methodologies of the Inquisition(s) and does a solid job of relating it's foundational bureaucra ...more
I couldn't finish it. It didn't seem to have any sort of organization, just meandering from topic to topic. There was plenty of scene-setting, describing in boring detail what a certain spot looks like today, where something important happened 800 years ago, while information about the Inquisition is put on the back burner (you know, that tedious New Yorker stuff), or a lengthy digression about some small point that two scholars disagree over, complete with a physical description of one of the s ...more
Well written and accessible. A touch too flippant in parts. Discussing Dolores Umbridge in the same context as Torquemada was probably ill-advised (my love of Harry Potter books notwithstanding).

What was most interesting to me was the idea that inquisitions are moral exercises rather than just wanton sadism...though the two are not mutually exclusive. Perpetrators, back in the day as well as in our own time, are so certain of their position that they will countenance the most tortuous twists of
Excellent explanation of how the Inquisition's tactics and organization led to, and influenced, government intelligence techniques used (and taken for granted) today.

Explains how the inquisition was directly responsible for modern concepts such as bureaucracy, surveillance, and even archives!

Very fun read, though a bit paranoid in its final pages.
This book traces the history of the Inquisition, and shows how the methods of the Inquisition continue today in secular form. That is because the methods of the Inquisition are essentially the methods of a state bureaucracy. Very interesting read. The most salient point I take from it is to beware of moral certitude: moral certitude can justify anything.
Lynda Kraar
Cullen Murphy leads you by the hand and shows you around the Promised Land of the Inquisition. We are still in that era. I now better understand how the weirdness is not only tolerated but also allowed to be enforced with little or no push-back from the masses. Why didn't anyone try to put a stop to it in Europe? What would we have done? Something different, if we were around at the time? And who are "We?" As Murphy says, we were not around in the 15th century and have zero idea how people lived ...more
This was a well written overview of the Inquisition. Being recently interested in religious history, this book offered an interesting introduction to the whole spectacle. While it's not a super long book, it is quite detailed about many different accounts and histories from the start of the inquisition to the modern day. The author also connects it with modern day inquisitional events that show that this dark time from our history really hasn't ended or even changed much for that matter. It has ...more
I did not know the Inquisition was active in Arizona. Makes sense if you think about it - we had Spain, so we had the Spanish Inquisition. Never had thought about it before. Also did not know that Pope Benedict had been the "Grand Inquisitor" before he became pope - at least in effect; he headed the Congregation for Defense of the Faith, which was the third incarnation of the Inquisition, after the Congregation of the Holy Office. Very interesting book. Also talked about what kind of atmosphere ...more
Steve Anderson
God’s Jury does what it sets out to do, and does it very well. Cullen Murphy explores not only the human instinct toward righteousness that leads to the suppression, even eradication of those with different points of view, but as well the attributes of organizations which enable inquisition to survive over time. He points out that the horrors of inquisition inflicted by one upon another, however terrible they may be, may not even be its greatest cost. The deliberate suppression of ideas during t ...more
Harley Gee
I never thought of the Inquisition as anything but a glaring example of wrongheadedness of censorship from a distant time. But Murphy offers a lot more. As subtitle states, Murphy builds the case for the pervasive influence of the Inquisition in shaping not only religious doctrine but in the development the modern state, particularly as it relates to security in recent and current times.

He segments the historical stages of the Inquisition into first the creation of a formal organization for det
Beth G.
In our imaginations, we offhandedly associate the term "inquisition" with the term "Dark Ages." But consider what an inquisition - any inquisition - really is: a set of disciplinary procedures targeting specific groups, codified in law, organized systematically, enforced by surveillance, exemplified by severity, sustained over time, backed by institutional power, and justified by a vision of the one true path. considered that way, the Inquisition is more accurately viewed not as a relic but as ...more
Margaret Sankey
This is a wide-ranging tour of the cultural life of the Inquisition--Murphy interleaves experiences working in the Vatican archives of the Inquisition (opened fairly recently, and only very recently provided with a modern archivist to manage it's idiosyncratic filing system) with references to the Inquisition in modern political speech (how could Kenneth Starr NOT know what the Spanish Inquisition was?), Occitan Cathar-themed tourism, interviews with historians who have worked with the subject ( ...more
God’s Jury is a fast paced, sometimes humorous and generally well-written romp through history examining the concept of the Inquisition. When I picked it up, I assumed it was just about the Inquisition. While it certainly covers this, it moves beyond it and touches on related issues like censorship and surveillance as well. Cullen Murphy ignores chronology and thematic organization in favor of exploring connected ideas in very rapid succession. You find yourself hopscotching through centuries an ...more
Quick: what do Monty Python, Tomas de Torquemada, Guantanamo, the Cathars, Ferdinand and Isabella, Galileo, Queens Elizabeth and Mary, and Pope Benedict XVI all have in common? The answer, of course, is "The Inquisition," and as the subtitle of this book indicates, Cullen Murphy believes that that long-ago horror had profound effects on us today.

God's Jury is that rare and excellent piece of non-fiction, scholarly yet breezily and beautifully written by someone who believes that he has something
The author provided an interesting history of the Inquisition, giving it credit for developing an archival system for storage and retrieval of documents unmatched in its time and which served as the forerunner to all library systems since. I knew that its purpose was to root out heresy, where the church felt it needed to be purged. I did not know that local Inquisitions, such as those of Spain and Portugal, used the Inquisition apparatus to rid their countries of jews and "crypto-jews," people o ...more
Read this for the Towson branch of the Baltimore County Public Library's History Book Club. I did not feel well enough to go to the actual Book Club and discuss the book... :-( ...but thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved all the information on archives and how the records of the Inquisition were scattered, destroyed, preserved, and recaptured throughout history. As a historian, I find all the parallels drawn between the Inquisition(s) and current events to be a bit anachronistic. But as a gener ...more
Keith Parrish
In this book, Cullen Murphy takes a look at the origins and history of the Inquisition an its impact on the modern world. Murphy brings out several surprising facts including that the Inquisition was not officially shut down until the 20th century and that people were still executed by its authority as late as the 1840's and in far-flung places like modern day New Mexico. The more intriguing parts of the book however are the parallels he draws between the establishment, organization, and operati ...more
May 14, 2013 Sean added it
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John Cullen Murphy, Jr. (born September 1, 1952) is an American writer and editor probably best known for his work at The Atlantic, where he served as managing editor (1985–2002) and editor (2002-2006).

He was born in New Rochelle, New York, and grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was educated at Amherst College, from which he graduated with honors in medieval history in 1974. Murphy's first maga
More about Cullen Murphy...
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“The important question to ask is why these bodies are allowed to exist. If a country such as Spain allowed a repressive body like the Inquisition to exist for four hundred years, it is not because the Inquisition forced itself on the Spanish nation. It is because the Spaniards allowed it to exist.” 0 likes
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