Where Zinn doesn’t follow Las Casas is where the priest mentions the Indians’ cannibalism — the priest reports, on the very next page after the passage Zinn has paraphrased, that the Indians eat very little meat “unless it be the flesh of their enemies.” Zinn, busy painting the Europeans as uniquely violent and oppressive, naturally never gives credit to the feature of Western civilization that is actually responsible for Las Casas’s indictment of the abuses to which many of the Spanish did subject the Indians: Christianity. It was after he heard anti-slavery sermons by Dominican monks that Las Casas gave up his own plantation and became “the Apostle to the Indians.” Thus, the priest describes the perpetrators of atrocities against the Indians as “so-called Christians.” Las Casas preaches, “Sin leads to sin, and for many years they lived unscrupulously, not observing Lent or other fasts” and eating meat on Fridays. Zinn ignores such old-fashioned religious explanations for the Spaniards’ descent into criminality against the natives and pretends that Las Casas, like himself, is a secular critic of imperialism.
He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the Christian King of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where Men should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people on whom he has obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed again the Liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.