The Lucifer Effect by Zimbardo, 2007, Excerpts
The bible of the Inquisition, the Malleus Maleficarum, or “The Witches’ Hammer” was required reading for the Inquisition judges. It begins with a conundrum to be solved: How can evil continue to exist in a world governed by an all-good, all-powerful God? To reduce the spread of evil in Catholic countries, the proposed solution was to find and eliminate witches. What was required was a means to identify witches, get them to confess to heresy, and then destroy them.
Making witches the despised dispositional category provided a ready solution to the problem of societal evil by simply destroying as many agents of evil as could be identified, tortured, and boiled in oil or burned at the stake.
Given that the Church and its State alliances were run by men, it is no wonder that women were more likely than men to be labeled as witches. The suspects were usually marginalized or threatening in some way: widowed, poor, ugly, deformed, or in some cases considered too proud and powerful. The terrible paradox of the Inquisition is that the ardent and often sincere desire to combat evil generated evil on a greater scale than the world had ever seen before. It ushered in the use by State and Church of torture devices and tactics that were the ultimate perversion of perfection.
Escher Circle Limit IV