In the beginning, Christianity was a small eccentric and irritating Eastern cult, unfortunately, thanks to the Romans it didn’t stay that way. In Greek philosophy, faith was the lowest form of cognition and yet Christians celebrated ignorance and were proud of it.
We see the same stars, the sky is shared by all, the same world surrounds us. What does it matter what wisdom a person uses to seek for the truth? – Symmachus
Sadly the ideology of Christianity can’t handle the truth…
I’m reminded of The Time Machine by H G Wells, you know the part I mean, when he travels far forward into a future he expects to be full of leisure and time for reading and debate. What he finds are people so conditioned and mind numbed they have forgotten communication and literacy, it’s not quite the Utopia he was looking for. I’m sure to our early Christian preachers this would have been the culmination of their efforts to discredit literacy and freedom of thought.
There is an irony that the west is so shocked by the destruction of Palmyra by ISIS, the banning of music, books, etc is ironic as it happened in the earliest history of Christianity.
During the 4th and 5th centuries the Church destroyed, vandalised and melted down a staggering amount, we have lost so many works of art and literature and thus Christianity has held mankind back for centuries. Imagine the heights we would have climbed if we had had the complete works of Democritus, Galen, Hippo, Celsus, Protagoras, Anaxagoras, Zeno to name but a few.
Imagine if we had more works like ‘The History of the Peloponnesian War’ by Thucydides ( possibly the earliest surviving atheistic narrative of human history.) The amount of libraries and thousands upon thousands of books that have been lost to history could make me weep.
History is not the past… it is what is left in the sieve when the centuries have run through it – Hilary Mantel
Western philosophy began in Athens and may be said to have ended there in 529 AD.
One of the most influential church historians would describe the moment when Christianity took control as the moment at which all oppression ceased. He was wrong….
Oppression had only just begun and was at the beginning of the ‘march of christianity’. Suddenly the war was on between pagans and Christians.
The use of ‘pagan’ was a Christian innovation, before Christianity few people would have described themselves by their religion at all. After Christianity, the world became split for evermore, along religious boundaries, and appeared to highlight these divisions. The sacred scriptures from now on would be followed to the detriment of science and reason.
Sacred scripture is one of the major reasons why monotheism demands orthodoxy. Even as a physical artefact the sacred book is invioable, it should never be besmirched, let alone damaged. This concept is rooted in Middle Eastern traditions associating the written word with supernatural power.
In Egypt, the god Thoth is credited with the invention of literacy, In fact, they had a particular script known as ‘hieratic’ which was restricted to priests. Books in Egypt could be imagined to possess magical properties (the ultimate source of magical power – The Book of Thoth)
The process that led to the creation of the Hebrew bible as a ‘divine scripture’ reflects the same kind of belief in a sacred-magical power of the written word. The Jewish idea that the Torah embodied a divinity shaped the formation of the Christian New Testament and the Quran. From antiquity onward, the idea of a material book as the ultimate source of truth persisted…. to our detriment.
For the Ancient Greeks, by contrast, the idea of a text having magical properties was fundamentally alien. The Greeks had nothing comparable. What they had were Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey and Hesiod’s Theogony. These were the earliest poems written in the 7/8th BCE at he dawn of Greek literacy and the bedrock of their culture. Throughout antiquity, the Homeric poems in particular achieved a level of dissemination comparable to the bible in the 19th century. These were texts that school children read in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, the texts of Homer, Euripedes and Menander. The poems were not however used as theological or liturgical texts. They were not written as rules to be set in stone, there were no morality police.
In Ancient Greece there was no interest in generating religious orthodoxy. Priests were there to manage ritual and temple finance not to tell people what to believe and in any case there was no orthodoxy, no revealed truth, no sacred word.
Atheism was an integral part of the culture of Greece, it was not treated as an heretical position, it was seen as one of the many possible stances you could take on the question of gods.
The Greek ‘lack’ of sacred scripture was not a lack at all. It made possible the great cultural revolutions of the classical period, which saw theological explanations being replaced by naturalistic explanations.
To have a shared cultural reference point that could be debated, explored or rewritten without fear of execution or charges of blasphemy, was a luxury we would lose with the onset of Christianity. Greek myth was simply folk wisdom, the narrative glue that bonded communities together, not the hectoring of priests seeking to dictate how, what and why you should believe in gods. Myths first and foremost were stories.
THE MEDIUM OF PHILOSOPHY
As a rule Greek religion had very little to say about morality and the nature of the world. When Greeks pondered the nature of the world they did so through the medium of philosophy, not organised religion.
From the 5-6th BCE, over a period of 150 years a number of philosophers centrally interested in explaining the material nature of the world around us, replaced the traditional epic conceptions of a cosmos dominated by an ‘anthropoid deity’ with newer scientific models based on the properties of material substances.
The rise of philosophy signalled the start of a rejection of divinity. Homeric and Hesiodic ideas about the gods were attacked and dismissed. The rejected old ideas about gods creating our world and replaced it with physics.
These Pre-Socratic trailblazers began the journey that ultimately lead to what modern Atheist’s call ‘naturalism’: that the physical world is the sum of reality, that nature rather than divinity structures our existence. They led the way in the thought processes of philosophy, to celebrate critical thinking, the willingness to question received values.
Early Greek intellectual culture was fundamentally a response to the public competitive nature of society, which continually renews the need for new ideas that are innovative and accessible.
Sadly when Christianity arrived the decrees and edicts to espouse the persecution of all non followers of christianity began.
THE EDICT OF MILAN 313
This gave legal status to Christians and agreed to change policies towards Christians.
THE EDICT OF THESSALONICA 380AD
This made Nicene Christianity the state religion of The Roman Empire
DECREE OF THEODOSIUS, THE CHRISTIAN DESTRUCTION OF THE SERAPEUM IN 391 AD
Theodosian decrees (389–391) In a series of decrees called the “Theodosian decrees” he progressively declared that those pagan feasts that had not yet been rendered Christian ones were now to be workdays (in 389). Paganism was made illegal.
The surge of Christianity has in ways now abhorrent always been described in history as “a triumph of Christianity”. To the Romans a triumph was an annihilation and this is what the originators of Christianity were aiming for, the complete destruction of all older religions.
Christian apologist Tertullian said : Those who criticised Christianity were not speaking with a free mind! No the irony is not lost on me either…
In sermon after sermon delivered by a new generation of rigidly unbending preachers, the people’s choice was made clear. In deciding who to worship, congregations were not choosing between one god and another. they were choosing between good and evil; between god and satan. To allow someone to choose was not liberty; it was cruelty. Freedom to err was, Augustine would later vigorously argue, freedom from sin – and to sin was to risk the death of the soul. The possibility of sinning, as one Pope put it was not freedom but slavery. To allow another person to remain outside the christian faith was not to show tolerance, it was to damn them. Or so their self opinionated sky fairy fetish told them.
The above paragraph sums up the same indoctrination to this day. They espouse tolerance but they are empty words, their very religious texts tell them to force their fetish on others. Deuteronomy instructs them : ‘ and ye shall overthrow their alters, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fir; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.’
This was a war like the world has never seen before.
“Utter trash” the Greek intellectual’s consensus having evaluated the Old Testament
In fact Celsus found Christianity to be stupid, pernicious and vulgar and I have to say I agree with him. Im in good company 1500 years later so did Edward Gibbon in his “The History of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire” a book banned by the Catholic Church on its publication in February 1776.
Sadly no one took Celsus as seriously in his warnings of this Christian cult and 150 years after Celsus, Christianity grew apace.
- Forbidding the following of any other religion
- Forbidding anyone to dissent from what Celsus considered its idiotic teachings
One example of this would be in 386 AD, a law was passed that anyone arguing about said religion in a public place would be executed. (Not seeing much tolerance here)
Christian censorship began and Celsus works were banned. However, by a quirk of fate a christian apologist you may have heard of before ‘Origen; mounted a lengthy counter attack to the arguments put forth by Celsus and gave him his spotlight in history.
Concerning the gods I cannot know whether they exist or whether they do not, or what form they may have for there are many impediments to knowledge, including obscurity and the brevity of human life – ‘On The Gods’ by Protogoras
If there was no creator – if lightening, earthquakes and storms were not the actions of angry gods but simply moving particles of matter – then there was nothing to fear, nothing to propitiate and nothing to worship.
Augustine dislike Atomism, simply because it weakened mankind’s terror of divine punishment and hell.
All Democritus work has been lost. Carlo Rovelli recently wrote “The loss of the works of Democritus in their entirety is the greatest intellectual tragedy to ensue from the collapse of the old classical civilisations
Democritus Atomic theory did, however, come down to us, it was found in a single volume by Lucretius’ great poem, a gem in a German library, an intrepid book hunter would eventually find it and save it from extinction. That single volume became a literary sensation and returned atomism to European thought, it created an interest in pagan antiquity and influenced Newton, Galileo and Einstein.
One wonders if the christians had been a little more educated they would have read Ovid’s Metamorphoses. That epic tongue in cheek creation myth poem that was so similar to the biblical one that it could hardly fail to make such a reader question the supposed unique truth of Genesis.
The christian belief that their religion was unique and uniquely correct – frankly is preposterous.
The tragedy of religion is it separates humanity based on a shared myth. Religion convinces people they are sick and they need the cure of christianity, when in effect its selling a cure for an invisible illness.
Christianity is the delusion that no matter what happens in your life you await a better one after death… that’s some fucked up insurance policy people!
As one of my favourite philosophers stated on his grave:
Hippo’s Epitaph reads :
“this is the grave of Hippo whom fate made equal in death to the immortal gods”
In other words both are now dead