This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.
Íñigo Balboa y Aguirre, the thirteen year old narrator of The Adventures of Captain Alatriste, is being held in the secret dungeons of Toledo by the dreaded Spanish Inquisition. As he goes through the daily routine of being interrogated (spared the rack because he is not yet fourteen) he reflects:
Later, with time, I learned that although all men are capable of good and evil, the worst among them are those who, when they commit evil, do so by shielding themselves in the authority of others, in their subordination, or in the excuse of following orders. And even worse are those who believe they are justified by their God. Because in the secret dungeons of Toledo, nearly at the cost of my life, I learned that there is nothing more despicable or more dangerous than the malevolent individual who goes to sleep every night with a clear conscience. That is true evil. Especially when paired with ignorance, superstition, stupidity, or power, all of which often travel together.
And worst of all is the person who acts as exegete of The Word—whether it be from the Talmud, the Bible, the Koran, or any other book already written or yet to come. I am not fond of giving advice—no one can pound opinions into another’s head—but here is a piece that costs you nothing: Never trust a man who reads only one book. [Arturo Pérez-Reverte, The Adventures of Captain Alatriste: Purity of Blood p 159 (NYT review)]
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