I wanted to address this comment from Javahaa.
Denise and readers, The two strains that began our nation were not ‘idealism’ and ‘religious zealoutry’. They were, in reverse order of importance, religion and capitalism. The earliest and larger settlements , like Jamestown, were capitalistic ventures, sponsored by specific British companies to seek new sources of revenue. Somehow, _that_ isn’t taught in elementary school. I’m no fan of religious zealoutry, but put blame where it is most due. By far, capitalism was the force behind slavery, not religion, and it was the force behind native genocide/displacement. Religion might have been used to buttress it (just as the money powers used it to dupe working/middle-class christians to start voting GOP in the 80s), but if it had not been an extremely profitable institution, it would have been dropped like a hot potato.
I have to say that you are both right and wrong in that of course capatilism and greed are the real motivators behind the evils we have visited on other people and cultures. However if you look at the history of the Christian religion, it is blood soaked. One of the greatest genocides of all time was perpetrated by the Catholic church against “witches” and/or “pagans,” (exchange heathen here) most of these women (which turned out to be aproximitely 25% of all european women) were murdered during the burning times. And lets take the middle ages and the Spanish Inquisition where indescribable torture was visited on “witches,” “pagans,” and “heretics.” Granted the church benefited greatly from stealing the land from wealthy women land owners once their husband’s died and they had no protection and were suddenly pronounced “witches,” but people, the vast majority of people who participated in these atrocities believed they were doing God’s work. So to clarify, the people up top maybe motivated by greed, but the masses who do their bidding are motivated by fear.
And yes, religious zealots are to blame for murdering the “heathen,” Indians. Many if not all were motivated by greed, but they used their religion as an excuse, so I ask you what difference this makes? If a religious idealogy can be warped into a weapon of torture and war, is it truly spiritual? Eastern religions have never been used this way, nor did the “heathen,” Indians, or “pagans,” or “witches,” or anyone before the 3 major western religions popped up. I don’t think this is mere coincidence despite arguing with people who were of those religious persuasions for years, there is something intrinsically wrong with a religion that can be used to defile, destroy, murder, rape and torture others. Here’s what it is: Intolerance.
Yes, that’s right. When one believes that they alone have the only answer and control the only freeway to the Almighty, then arrogance, hypocracy and perversion are born. In all other religions (excluding the 3 major western ones) there is a belief that “all Gods are one,” meaning it doesn’t matter what your God looks like or what your religious system is, it’s all the same at the core and should be respected. Heck, in ancient times it was common for people to incorporate other Gods into their pantheon after visiting foreign lands, hence we have Jesus brought to Rome which is the birth place of the New Testament put together by the Roman emperor Constantine who adopted Christianity for its belief in one God for political reasons.
At the time Rome was split in 2, there was Rome and Constantinople, Constantine wanted a religion that reflected his belief that the state should be one unified body and thus gathered together a group of scholars to look over the letters that different Christian sects used in their house gatherings were they would worship. Each group had a different set of letters and interpretations of Christ. Actually, most of the first home churches were started by women, but anyway, up until Constantine the Christians were considered freaks and persecuted for their belief in just one living God who they claimed was the only way to heaven.
Unusual that the Romans persecuted them because historically this new brand of righteous religious zealot willing to be martyred and eaten by lions for angering the ancient Gods was not done before monotheism was introduced into the culture. Also, there may have been a back lash against the Christians as this religion came up while Rome was going down and some may have felt the old Gods were abandoning them for tolerating this group of people who wanted not just to co-exist with the old ways, but to overthrow the old ways and eliminate the old Gods.
Anyway, Constantine’s scholars actually picked through the different writings attached to the house churches and put together the New Testament. Constantine of course ordered that the Christians stop being persecuted and publicly claimed to become a Christian although it is said that he never actually converted and was heard on his death bed calling to the old Gods. The people whom were closest to Constantine, his soldiers and advisors claimed he had stayed true to his original faith and had used monotheism as a justification for the unification of Rome. It wasn’t long after that Rome entirely fell apart.
In the 1980s papers from the original New Testament were carbon dated at between 50-300 years after the death of Christ. Most thought it closer to 300 years. Even the Catholic church acknowledges this fact. This is significant because even 50 years after His death much of what He did and said would have become legend rather than fact, like playing a really long game of telephone, some of his words and teachings could have been misconstrued, such as that He was the “only son of God,” even the King James version which some have suggested takes liberties with interpretations, He actually never calls himself anything, but the “son of man.”
Since Rome was in desperate need of a saviour and the idea of a living God was very much a part of the culture, this interpretation of Christ’s teachings could be very wrong. Imagine living in a world where the Emperor is a God. Well, some Jewish guy who has some great spiritual ideas really wouldn’t cut it, hence this weird paganization of Christ could have happened. He had to be a living God for that religion to take hold in Rome.
So he may have said he was the only son of God, his Jewish followers may have believed he was the Messiah or just an amazing prophet and wise man, we don’t know for sure because so much of the truth was lost by no one during his lifetime, not him or his immediate flock, writing anything down when it actually happened.
Hope that clarifies things a little.
Best wishes and many blessings,
6 thoughts on “Clarification, and History…”
I agree with the points that both Javahaaa and Denise are trying to make. Capitalism has been behind many of the evils of modern society, not just the U.S., but abroad as well. For example, the German intellectuals during the Weimar period rightly criticized Hitler’s involvement with major U.S. corporations, but what about how the Cathloic church stayed silent about the Holocaust (read Hitler’s Pope)? About how even the current pope has reinstated an English bishop who is a Holocaust denier? Getting to Denise’s point, a major suppressor of women and childen’s rights worldwide tends to be religion, not just capitalism. I can only speak from a Catholic perspective, but for those who want to do further reading try Uta Ranke-Heinemann’s “Putting Away Childish Things” or “Eunuchs for the Kingdom of God.” Also, anything by Elaine Pagels. And no, they are not atheists. Ranke-Heinemann is a prominent theologian and was a Catholic until she was excommunicated for questioning the myth of the virgin birth (try googling Horus and then ponder the similarity of his story to Jesus).
Your blog is always interesting, no doubt, Denise. There was one group who tried very hard to be kind to the Indians. This group was the Quakers. They really believed reservations were a good idea. I think they had the best of intentions. But you know what they say the road to hell is paved with…
Mainly, I agree with you, Denise. I think some groups really try to be good, at least at first, and then it all goes wrong, but they really do mean well just like the Quakers meant well with the reservations.
I am an atheist, so I have thrown out the relgion baby, but I can see where some people did try to do good and somehow it got all messed up. Usually, people were just greedy little jerks who wanted to rape, or kill, or steal and religion was the cover for their true desires they secretly held regardless of their theology.
A big component in all of these past travesities is sexual abuse and torture. The need to be a sexual deviant is not a spiritual virture in any religion I know of, however, relgion often provides a safe haven for this behavior. It was not just women who were raped and sexually tortured in these atrocities, it was also men and boys – even animals.
Sexual deviance cannot be counted out as a contributer as well. (My definition of sexual deviance is sex with an unwilling person or animal which results psychological, physical or emotional injury or death.)
Thanks for your interesting post, Denise. I am not well versed in European or ancient history, but I always enjoy learning more.
Speaking of people who started out with the best of intentions, but everything went wrong for them…
Here is more information from PBS “The American Experience” about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple:
This incident is really sad, worrying, and yet fasinating because the people really meant well. Not Jim Jones though I think. He’s one of those examples of religion being used as a cover for sexual deviance and power lust.
If you want to look at destruction, how about the way the Spanish conquistadors under orders from the church, totally destroyed the new world civilizations. Not just killing and enslaving the people, but destroying every written document or tablet they could find. Those they couldn’t destroy, they buried. As I understand it, this was not just for immediate profit (which of course they wanted) but for long term control. Apparently the written records went way back beyond when the church said the world was created and the Catholic Church didn’t want any of those records to challenge their control over the masses. I’m guessing that somewhere in the vast Vatican archives some of these records still exist, but no one is ever going to see them as long as the church has total control. Who knows what else they have in there. There have been some books written about some of the things hidden in the vaults, but I’m sure it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
It goes without saying that there have been numerous horrid episodes in the history of Xianity, such as Salem, Crusades, etc., just as there have in the other two major western religions. (I HIGHLY recommend Karen Armstrong’s “God: A History of fundamentalism” – the best book I have ever read on the last 2000 years of western history). Yet to reduce Xianity’s history to those periods and incidents is analogous to modern westerners reducing Islam to the Muslim Brotherhood (1928) and its current progeny (Quaeda, Hamas, etc.). Most small religious settlements in the New World, including the Quakers, mentioned above, did not participate in ‘witch burning’ and the like. I do not know much about the history of Eastern religions, yet those who do can undoubtedly mention periods of persecution of some sort or where it was used by those in power to subjugate the masses or control wealth.
However, I must address your assertion that Constantine put together the NT. I do not do this to start an argument, but because I think reasonable discussions should be based on fact. In my youth, before finance days, I was a scholar of early Xian history; I promise to only write on topics that I know something about, ie, not Eastern religions. Please feel free to google/wikipedea any unfamiliar terms.
From extant writings and fragments of letters from the ‘early church fathers’ (usually bishops), we know that various list of authoritative Xian writings, including mention of Pauline writings and the 3 synoptic gospels, circulated as early as 110AD. [modern scholars accept the Q source, 40-50AD, as an underpinning to the synoptics]. These bishops’ letters were meant for instruction to the churches they oversaw. Various lists by various church fathers floated for centuries afterwards, with lots of arguing between contemporaries or discourses to dispute earlier inclusion of this or that writing; in the first 200 years, particularly, they included dozens of ‘epistles’ and ‘gospels’ not part of the modern NT (citing another post, I also recommend Pagels). Important early 2ndC lists/mentions that included books we would recognize come from Ignatius and Polycarp; late 2nd C, Irenaus and Clement; turn of 3rd c, Tertullian and “Muratorian” canon (I mention all this just so you know I’m not making it up or regurgitating someone’s sermon). Most importantly, from Oregin,(c184-254), a list of the NT as we know it now, save for four minor epistles. Oregin is recognized for his scholarly method of determining the authority of early writings and whether or not they should be included in a ‘canon’. If these books were being written while he was alive, or in “300AD”, when he was dead, I don’t think he could have mentioned them.
Constantine’s 3 major contributions to Xianity were the Edict of Milan, 313ad, announcing tolerance of Xianity (he may not have been a convert by then), convening the council of Nicaea, 325ad, to address the ‘heresy’ of Arianism (not the canon – the “Nicene Creed”, meant to discredit Arian’s view of the Son’s origins, came from this council [how’s that for an obscure item??]), and his financial support of the Church. There were a lot of smaller things, some not very pretty [war against Donatist, etc.]. But by and large Constantine left church doctrine to church leaders. He certainly did NOT gather together lists from house churches all over the empire and put together the NT.
Actually, the “canon” was not declared by various Xian outfits until the _16th/17th centuries_!! council of Trent for RCs, ’39 articles’ for CofE, Westminster Confession, Synod of Jeruselem, etc.
Again, I don’t mention this to be argumentative, but to clarify, just as you wished to do. I will be happy to consider any information based on reasonably-accepted historical fact.
Thanks for reading-
Ooops – I did not put a smiley face in! That was “c 1928”