Sunday, February 19, 2006

Christians Caused the Dark Ages? GET OUT!

BY POPULAR DEMAND: The “argument” that it was Christianity that pitched Europe into the Dark Ages:

Western histories have put forth many theories about the fall of Rome and attributed the onset of the Dark Age to a wide variety of causes, except the one cause that may have had more to do with it than any other: Christianity. 1

“…Christians said one of the diabolic symptoms of the oncoming end of the world was ‘the spread of knowledge,’ which they endeavored to check with wholesale book burnings, destruction of libraries and schools, and opposition to education for laymen. 2 By the end of the 5th century, Christian rulers forcibly abolished the study of philosophy, mathematics, medicine, and geography. Lactantius said no Christian should study astronomy. Pope Gregory the Great denounced all secular education as folly and wickedness, and forbade Christian laymen to read even the Bible…. 3

“Pagan intellectuals and teachers were persecuted and schools were closed. Christian emperors commanded the burning of all books of the philosophers …. After years of vandalism and destruction, St. John Chrysostom proudly boasted, ‘Every trace of the old philosophy and literature of the ancient world has vanished from the face of the earth.’ 4

“…After temples were destroyed, monks and hermits were settled in the ruins to defile the site with their excrement, and to prevent reconstruction. 6

“Rulers melted down bronze, gold, and silver artworks for money. Peasants broke up marble gods and Goddesses and fed their pieces into limekilns for mortar. 7 It is recorded that 4th-century Rome had 424 temples, 304 shrines, 80 statues of deities in precious metal, 64 statues of ivory, 3,700 statues in bronze, and thousands in marble. By the next century, nearly all of them were gone…. 8

“Bertrand Russell described the philosophical outlook of St. Jerome: ‘He thinks the preservation of virginity more important than victory over the Huns and Vandals and Goths. Never once do his thoughts turn to any possible measure of practical statesmanship; never once does he point out the evils of the fiscal system, or of reliance on an army composed of barbarians. The same is true of Ambrose and Augustine…. It is no wonder that the Empire fell into ruin.’ 11

Suppression of the teaching priestess or ‘alma mater’ led to an eclipse of education in general.

“Church historians have claimed nothing of real value was lost in the destruction of pagan culture. Modern scholars disagree. The havoc that afflicted art, science, literature, philosophy, engineering, architecture and all other fields of achievement has been likened to the havoc of the Gigantomachia – as if the crude giants overthrew the intelligent gods. The widespread literacy of the classical period disappeared. Aqueducts, harbors, buildings, even the splendid Roman roads fell into ruin. …. Centuries of devastating war could hardly have shattered Roman civilization as effectively as did its new obsession with an ascetic monotheism. 24

“…The study of medicine was forbidden, on the ground that all diseases were caused by demons…. 26

“Priestesses were especially persecuted, because they were female, wealthy, and laid claim to spiritual authority. 27

“By denying women’s spiritual significance and forbidding Goddess worship, the church [also] alienated both sexes from their pagan sense of unity with the divine through each other.
From my footnotes you can see I typed only about a quarter of Walker’s argument before my typing fingers fell asleep. I can’t recommend The Women’s Encyclopedia highly enough. And if possible, buy the hardcover – this is a thick book that doesn’t hold up well in a soft cover.

If you’d like full citations for any of the footnoted sources, let me know.

The foto of Sean Connery and Christian Slater comes from Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1986 film, The Name of the Rose, based on the Italian book by Umberto Eco. This film takes place in the Dark Ages,

“… in an isolated and massive Dominican [Christian] Abbey…. [It] shows the dark side of monastery life, a life of sexual deprivation and literary censorship that brings out weird emotions in people. This story … shows the drudgery, fear, and harsh religion of the European Dark Ages, in a way I haven't seen before in a film…. This is easily a controversial film, what with its straightforward look at Catholicism….”
From Go HERE for more about the film.


Morgaine said...

My first copy of the Encyclopedia fell to pieces. I have a newer one, and I've given several copies to friends. It's a wonderful resource. I wish it were available on line instead of just print.

Anne Johnson said...

If you look on the horizon, you can see a new Dark Age a-comin' and not far in the distance.

Did you know that Michelangelo had to sneak around to Jewish autopsies to learn about human musculature?

Hey, Athana, check out the wacko troll in my comments. He's a refugee from Appalachian Greens, where he's been wreaking havoc. You'll be glad I don't know how to link!

Athana said...

Ditto with my first copy, Morgaine. If I were paranoid, I might jump to the conclusion that the publisher made this book to self-destruct (a bit too close to the mark, if ya know what I mean).

Anne, I try to be optimistic, but sometimes I see that ol' Dark Age fluttering on the horizon myself. I take great comfort in the fact that all the psychics who've foretold doom and gloom for the turn of the millenium say that the DA won't last long, and that a new Bright Age will come on its heels in a hurry.

Athana said...

I saw your troll, Anne. He's a beaut! Have fun with him.

Anne Johnson said...

Gosh, if he crosses over to your site, he'll flip his lid (not that he's wearing one).

Morgaine said...

Ugh - have you all had the same influx of trolls that I've had? Why do they bother?

Athana- I do think that there's a reason they left it in that form. They also have a tendency to let it go out of print.

Athana said...

I was surprised to see that there are hardcover copies of the Encyclopedia. I sprang for one when my softcover broke apart (and got partly lost) the last time I moved. Unfortunately the hardcovers aren't cheap. Everyone knows they're scarce and getting scarcer.

Athana said...

Anne, I woke up this morning to "he'll flip his lid -- if he's wearing one," and had to laugh out loud. Thanks for the chuckles.

Morgaine said...

You know, I've never seen a hardcover edition of it. If I can find one, maybe I'll give my paperback to my little cousin.

Morgaine said...

Hey, Athana-

send me an email - I need your address, and I can't get to my regular mail program for a couple of days.