- Published on Thursday, 29 October 2009 01:29
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 4097
Up until around 300 AD, the Christian Religion was just another religion - it vied with Zoroastrianism and others - but then along came Roman Emperor Constantine who decided that this fit very well with his ambitions. So he made sure the books about it fit with what he wanted, burned all the other books and killed anyone who disagreed (see this article for more).
What a start! Free speech and democracy had not yet been invented. And not even the printing press was around to make spreading the truth possible. So for centuries, the Christian Church killed anyone how spoke up or even questioned them - after all heretics might convince others and we can't have that now can we? Not only did they kill, but they tortured, destroyed libraries and "pagan" churches, continued with their propaganda, exterminated opponents and generally acted absolutely nothing like they said Jesus taught them to behave.
Along the way, the Church became a political force with a large army and significant control over territory. The way people were converted was by conquering the country, forcing the incumbent king to "convert" under pain of torture or death or both, or installed a new king who already conveniently believed. Of course everyone "believed" - if you didn't you'd be dead!
Not only were you forced to follow the "party line", the Church also cracked down hard (really hard) on anyone daring to think rationally. To show just how ferocious the cruelty and irrationality was, one example was the murder of Hypatia of Alexandria, the first female mathematician known to history. A Hellenized (adopted Greek ways) Egyptian she was a Neoplatonist (See Wikipedia) mathematician, astronomer, and teacher, one of the foremost intellects of her time. During an anti-pagan riot in 415, a Christian mob pulled Hypatia from her carriage and dragged her through the streets to a church. She was stripped naked, and the flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells and broken tiles. After tearing her body to pieces, the mob burned her mutilated remains. A sterling example of the Christian belief in love of one's neighbour! And of course no one was punished or reprimanded. Makes the current Muslim behaviour look angelic.
This kind of behaviour continued as the "Holy" Roman Empire was formed and did not start to unwind until the Reformation which used the printing press to disseminate ideas. Unfortunately, there was still a long way to go because the first step was Luther (~1500) who said that the bible should be taken literally. Some fundamentalists are still doing that but it at least allowed some degree of discussion. But you still had to be careful about straying too far or you could be burnt at the stake as a witch or imprisoned for heresy like Galileo.
Some rebels along the way - like Henry the 8th - did not disagree with the dogma, just the power of the Pope who had strayed far from Religious issues and into civil things like taxes and control of land which was the power base in Feudal times.
So when we wonder how the Church has lasted so long, it's not because "God was with them" but because of violent, vicious control of the people in the name of suppressing heresy - which today we'd call free speech.