Therefore, my question is: Was the Albigensian Crusade more about maintaining sound and safe societies than it was about crushing heretical thoughts?
There was of course some political and economic reasons for some French landholders to support the suppression of the Cathars.
Yet, from an overall perspective the Albigensian Crusade was necessary and the Cathar movement had established a peculiarly strong foothold in the Languedoc area of France. This was an oddity for the Church, who had really not seen a succesful heretical movement in quite a long time. They achieved success thanks to the protection of the nobility of Southern France and also a surprisingly large number of Catholic Priests who either adopted Cathar beliefs or at least defended their rights to those beliefs (the details of this are sketchy, but either way it was bizarre behavior for the times).
They were notalways peaceful either, as some try to claim today. One of their “street preachers” Peter of Bruys tried to incite his followers to forcibly marry monks and burn down monasteries.
Cathar beliefs are very interesting (in an academic sense), but certainly very odd as well. They tended to mix the dualism of Manichaeism with gnosticism, but also had an essence of eastern beliefs (probably Persian) as they believed in reincarnation of sorts. To a Cathar, the Earth is hell and ruled by the demiurge (Lucifer) to which one is punished for succcessive rebirths until God releases you after you’ve realised that the demiurge is a false god and not the true God of heaven.
Cathars of course believed that Catholics were paying homage to the demiurge with the sacraments and not to the true God of the Gospel of John, because as Catholics we did not reject the material world.
Whew…that’s about as deep into that as I care to venture.
And yes, they believed that suicide was moral, even a good thing (remember the material world was considered evil) and that copulation and reproduction were horrible. In fact, bringing a child into the world was thought of as bringing another human into the enslavement of the demiurge. They would not eat meat and some other things. I’m not really sure how they got around reproduction, but also believed in having sex more casually.
'Twas an odd lot.