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,