13:50, October 24 107 0 theguardian.com

2017-10-24 13:50:04
BBC’s Gunpowder tells torture like it is

I see no reason why readers should object to the scenes of torture in Gunpowder (Viewers complain of ‘hideously violent’ BBC1 drama Gunpowder, 23 October), as they are essential to understanding the fear that (often innocent) people had of being arrested and executed. My only criticism is that these extreme methods were usually only for those convicted of high treason. Those of Roman Catholic beliefs were generally burnt at the stake as heretics. Women were not hung, drawn and quartered as it involved nudity, so it’s highly unlikely that the old woman was stripped naked before being crushed to death. This is an excellent drama that deserves praise despite the horrific but necessary acts of violence which sum up the brutal age that our ancestors had to endure.

Lorraine Haldane

Hove, East Sussex

While the brutality of the torture and executions may have a role in explaining the motivation of the plotters to blow up parliament, it also has a role in demonstrating that Christianity is not historically the warm cuddly religion that people believe it to be. Islam is depicted as a brutal religion because in some parts of the world similar acts (some not quite as gruesome) are carried out in its name. Rory Stewart, on behalf of our government, argues for the assassination of our citizens who fight for them (Kill British Isis fighters in Syria, says minister, 23 October). However, violence and repression have traditionally been used by religions to deal with political opponents, whether within or between states.

Perhaps people knowing the treatment that dissenters to the Protestant regime endured will see that our current views have far more to do with the evolution of attitudes in civil society than they do religion, even though some believers helped drive the changes. Across the Atlantic, the Christian right have the same desire to neutralise opposition and incorporate their religious views into law. When criticising religious bigotry and violence, we each need to step back and think “there but for the Enlightenment go I”.

Roy Grimwood

Market Drayton, Shropshire

I trust that the viewers who found the BBC’s Saturday evening gore-fest Gunpowder too bloodthirsty will not be setting light to Roman candles while burning effigies on a roaring fire this November.

Ian Grieve

“Gordon Bennett”, Trent and Mersey canal

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