Saturday, February 18, 2006

CHRISTIANS: Persecuted, OR PROSECUTED?


In a comment left on Feb. 9, Paxton raises an extremely important issue:

He says:

I was under the impression that the original Christian converts were victims of torture, not perpetrators of it. Either you have a skewed understanding of ‘original’ or I have a skewed understanding of history.”
I’m afraid, Paxton, that the "skewing" belongs to you. The ancient Romans were notoriously nice to all religions. When early Christians began looting, rioting, burning, and violently barging in on the religious services of others, however, the Romans stepped in:

“Contrary to the conventional mythology, Christians were not persecuted under Roman law for being Christians, but for committing civil crimes. They caused riots, ‘often tumultuously interrupted the public worship, and continually railed against the public religion.’ They seemed to have been guilty of vandalism and arson. The Great Fire in 64 A.D. was set by Christians who were ‘anxiously waiting for the world to end by fire and who did at times start fires in order to prompt God…’ (Walker, The Women’s Encyclopedia, 1983: pp 209-210).
This is just a small taste of Walker’s mind-boggling essay on the barbarity of the early Christians. Her sources: Guy R. Phillips, Brigantia; J. de Voragine, The Golden Legend; Knight, Discourse on the Worship of Priapus; de Camp, The Ancient Engineers; and several others. Walker even goes so far as to suggest that, more than any other factor, it was Christianity that pulled Europe into the Dark Ages.

Paxton: Don’t feel bad -- you’re not alone. Most everyone has been hoodwinked. "History," afterall, is written by the conquerers.

______
Thnx to THIS SITE for the foto of the sacred statue of the Goddess Ceres (Demeter). Her nose is missing because early Christians aimed to destroy all reminders of all religions but their own. When they lacked the strength to break up entire statues, they broke off what pieces they could. Cute, huh?

9 comments:

contratimes said...

Athana,

If history is written by the conquerors and is therefore untrustworthy, then, should you succeed to reinvigorate interest in the goddess by 2025 and Ms. Walker finds her perfectly (gender) harmonious world by that same date, should we conclude that yours and Ms. Walker's historiography is also untrustworthy, since both of you shall be conquerors?

Walker is patently wrong.

Peace!!

BG

Athana said...

We wouldn't be "conquerers," contratimes -- not in the sense I meant the word, and not in the sense you'd usually mean if you'd use it.

But I think I see your point. Perhaps not all military conquerers prevaricate when they write history. I'm not certain all have, or that all do. Or will.

AS for Walker's accuracy, as you can see from the sources I gave in my post -- sources Walker used to write her essay -- Walker didn't make this stuff up herself. She backs up almost every paragraph she writes with at least a couple of sources. Why not check out her sources before telling me point blank that she and her sources are wrong?

Morgaine said...

Athana, do you remember this post I did on the Christian assault on learning?

And of course, Contratimes' comment is so common - they have that deeply indoctrinated knee-jerk reaction to anything gynocentric and new to them. What a culture to assume that we already know everything!

And they can't perceive of any structure of government that doesn't include dominance or colonialism. It's so sad.

Athana said...

Morgaine, yes, I remember that post. It feels so good to know someone else who seems to feel at home among the ancient Greeks. I wasn't aware that the reason ARistotle remains in great abundance is because the Christians took a liking to him.

In a way that's a comfort. It means the ancient Greeks were even more wonderful than we think they are (and they couldn't begin to compete with their ancestors, the Minoan Goddess worshippers).

The romantic in me still beleives we'll develop time travel before I die, and I'll get to go back and see what life was really like, BP (Before Patriarchy).

contratimes said...

Athana and Morgaine,

You must consider me blind: for surely I can see that the two of you are attempting to dominate and control (this discussion). There is nothing knee-jerk about me; nor have I ever penned a knee-jerk phrase. However, I have just read several such phrases drafted by others.

If you think I cannot perceive anything other than colonialism and dominance, on what do you base your perception, intuition? You have committed an intellectual injustice, for you have concluded something with no evidence. Neither of you know me; neither of you has spent one second in my mind. All I've done is DIRECTLY commented on what Athana has actually written: I've stayed on topic. Who has mentioned a thing about colonialism, dominance, indoctrination or gynomorphism other than you two? Athana has hardly answered a question I've asked. She at least admits to some uncertainty about her claim that history is written by the conquerors; that such history cannot be trusted. For it presumes that such historiographers have colored history according to a political and therefore limiting, self-aggrandizing agenda. But if everything historical that is written; nay, if everything that is written is dubious due to the hidden political agendas of any writing's authors, then everything written here by Athana falls into that category. What makes comments here any more trustworthy than Plutarch's or Suetonius's? Moreover, if Athana is motivated by an agenda, perhaps even by one that she does not see, is she misreading the history of the ancients; is her 21st-century lens distorting her vision of the past? Or is Athana able to transcend the political, to walk above agendas, seeing both the ancient and present with clarity?

As for Ms. Walker's credentials and sources, I am sure they are impeccable. However, it is demonstrably false (though the argument may take reams of paper) to assert that Christianity's effect on the Dark Ages was deleterious. St. Francis singlehandedly may have done more for enlightenment than the regressive Enlightenment itself. I am not, however, one to look at Church or even world history through rose-hued glasses, for I know the hearts of people and I know they are full of corruption and dishonesty (and goodness and truth). The Church indeed made mistakes (which it has identified, and for which it has apologized).

But it is obscene to think the Church is anti-intellectual. If a person wants to see the Church in toto as it is presented by Bob Jones University, that is fine, but it means little. The Catholic Church is deemed by many to be too heady, too cerebral; too codified, analyzed, and rational, even heartless and devoid of feeling. Aquinas is the father of modern Western rationalism; the Jesuits are perhaps the most well-educated people on the planet; Teilhard de Chardin was a Catholic, as was the simple yet powerful Mother Teresa. While each of these people (or groups) is controversial, none is/was against learning, against the use of the mind.

Is Kierkegaard the Dane against learning, or Descartes? How about Kant, or Annie Dillard? How about Michelangelo or Blaise Pascal, or Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Lewis, Tolkien, Eliot, L'Engle, O'Connor, or Queen Elizabeth? Which Christians are you talking about; please point to these Christian oppressors of reason!

Morgaine, re: your post on the Christian assault on learning: surely you see the irony. For I thought what we were committed to here was the radical idea that Goddess "thealogy" (I see!) preceded all other religions, you know, matriarchy precedes patriarchy? Isn't it odd that you turn to the great pre-Socratic men and their discoveries to prove Christianity's dark arts against the free mind?

(Yes, Aristotle is revered among Christians, though I believe it was Islam who gave him to the West.)

Peace to you,

BG

lept said...

I'm not sure of his credentials but ever since I came accross him, his writings have made intuitive sense to me: so I went searching and found this by Arthur Evans in 'Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture':
"In one important way, however, Christianity differed from the other asthetic religions: it strongly emphasised corporate organization. Asthetic movements that were non-christian were never well organized, nor were they generally intolerant of other religions. The Christians, on the other hand, were totally intolerant of any religion but their own and were very effectively organized. In fact, it was because of their fanaticism and zeal for organizing that the Christians were originally perceived as a threat by the Roman establishment. Consequently they were sporadically persecuted in the first and second centuries."

Athana said...

contratimes, sorry if I don't answer all your questions. There's so much in your comments that it'd take me a week and a ream of paper to comment on everything I'd like to.

I don't think either Morgaine nor I think all historians are liars or unable to see "truth." I do think, however, that there's a growing crisis in the world re: trust in relation to "knowledge" and knowledge-givers. How does anyone tell who's telling the intellectual truth these days? How does one know who's able accurately to sort through the oceans of information thrown in all our faces everyday, to come up with something "true" or useful or right.

What with post modernism and the current tendency of academics seemingly always on the lookout for ways to blacken the next guy's academic reputation, the rest of us, I think, sometimes feel as if there's nothing solid to hold on to.

As for the anti-intellectual nature of part of the Christian church, that's another story entirely.

Athana said...

Yeah, Lept, it sounds as if Evans is onto this too. And you can imagine that if the Christians went around burning, looting and violently disrupting everyone else's Sunday Church Service, then someone would have to do something about them.

Walker also says that the early Christians were, to a great extent, the Roman poor and the criminal class. One Roman even went so far as to say, in effect, "What -- if I'm not poor or a thief, I can't join your church?"

I can see I'm going to have to post Walker's argument on how and why the early Christians were the force that threw Europe into the Dark Ages.

contratimes said...

Athana,

Thank you for your graciousness. I know that you and I disagree perhaps about everything, but we are in an agreement here: There is much to distrust; skepticism is healthy, particularly at this point in history.

I think your comments speak to what life is about: it is about leaps of faith. For instance, assuming that you have formed an opinion about me based on what I've written here, you would surely have to make a faith-move of some kind should I beg you to accept me not only as trustworthy, but as a friend and a good guy. If I were to insist that I am a Christian who disbelieves in the Goddess but not in femininity; that I believe in the power of the female and her powerful role in history and redemption; should I assert that Christianity has elevated the feminine from the pantheistic idolatry of the ancients and placed it in the hallowed halls of the reasoned sacred; you would probably need a dose of faith to trust that I am not a patriarchal whack-job. If I shared my conviction that there is indeed a sacramental female essence to creation, and that as such there is a corresponding male sacramental essence as well, neither of which is equal to the other; or if I insisted like Simone de Beauvoir that male represents transcendence and female represents immanence; or if I shared that I believe that Christianity represents the beautiful balance between the Creator and the Created, the transcendent and the immanent, the Groom and Bride; you no doubt would have to have faith that I am not a misogynist: that my life, in fact, is one committed to elevating women; to returning the status of womanhood to its proper place. I believe both "maleness" and "femaleness" are out of whack; and I believe that it is a mistake for feminists to believe that the answer, particularly for female spirituality, is to be found in a really patriarchal act, namely, to create the godhead in the image of one's own sexuality.

I am sad at the gulf between people; I am sad at the prejudices people express against one another; I am saddened by the presumptions that are articulated against people who hold, flailingly, to my kind of religious faith. I am even sad by the invective and the snark thrown my way, based not on who I am or what I've even written, but for what people think they see between the lines.

And I confess my own guilt to you for similar crimes against humanity.

There is enough hate, don't you think, without elite-minded gnostics suggesting, from on high, that they see everything more clearly than the lost souls damned to a life in the Church?

Peace and mirth,

Bill Gnade