A while back , I was invited to join a bible study group at my apartment building. I courteously declined the invitation with the comment that I had already read that book.                           …

A while back , I was invited to join a bible study group at my apartment building. I courteously declined the invitation with the comment that I had already read that book.                                      For me to be expected to accept as fact statements made from it is like someone reading to me from a comic book to prove the existence of Superman.  I have read biographies on the founder of Xianity - Emperor Constantine, at Nicaea, 325CE. He convened it, he dominated it & he called for an accord of all the folklore, mythology fables & fairy tales from all over the Middle East & India, spanning over five centuries. His plan was for a new god under which he could unite his sprawling, decaying Empire. He instructed his council : Make it to astonish.  Didn't save his empire, but he did succeed in creating a new religion which is only now beginning to crumble. What a pity they don't teach it's ORIGINS. There is nothing new in xinsanity, it's just a sloppy compilation / mish-mash of mythology. One has to wonder how they got it off the ground, given it's absurdities & contradictiions.

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Comment by William C. Walker on January 12, 2011 at 1:12pm
Kenneth, if i recall correctly there were over 20 Roman & Greek historians of the first century.Wouldn't you think that most - if not all of them would have recorded the wondrous events imputed to Jesus ? Even today, a person raising people from the dead would generate news stories by the score. Even a relatively minor miracle like changing water into wine would certainly raise a few eyebrows, even without the existence of a liquor control board. ( Just a tad of levity there.)   The early church fathers you mention i give no more credence to than i give today's televangelists.  The historians are a far,  far more credible source of information regarding events of that time in history. The very LACK of their recording all of the Xian fables speaks volumes. Here I can only repeat what I said previously - Believe what YOU choose to believe. Opinions are like anal orifices - we all have one.
Comment by William C. Walker on January 12, 2011 at 4:16pm
Jarrod, Few christians impute much, if any,  importance to Emperor Constantine in the development of Xianity in the western world. Not all that many have even read the omnipresent bibles which the Gideons have been 'pushing'  for over a century, let alone read Roman history as adults. Nearly all libraries have at least some books on Roman history. Only a tiny fraction of the many hundreds of books on religion that you will find in virtually every library in the country.The latter are donated by all of the various church groups in commemoration of a church member. They remain mostly unread for many decades on the shelves. You can tell when a book has been read much, or at all.  :-)
Comment by Kenneth Montville D.D. on January 12, 2011 at 10:14pm

William, once again, I am not a believer. I am not arguing the divinity of Jesus, nor am I arguing about the bible being undisputed truth. I am beginning to wonder if you even read my posts or if you skim them and then respond knowing only that I hold a contrary view.

 

I am not arguing that Jesus was divine or worked miracles, I am simply making the point that Christianity was fairly successful in the first few centuries. I show that we know this by both Christian writers like the Church Fathers and pagan writers like Celsus, Apion, Pliny the Younger, and Porphyry of Tyre. Even Ignatius' letter to the Smyrnarans mentions the Catholic church (referring to the already on the rise proto-orthodoxy) despite the fact that it was written in 110. I show how the church was fairly popular by the fact that Constantine gathered some 300 bishops for the Council of Nicaea (that's a lot!).

 

You say that you give no more credence to the early Church Fathers than you give today's televangelists which would be fine if I was debating the finer points of theology but unfortunately we aren't. Making this a boldly ignorant comment considering what we are debating, the existence and popularity of Christianity in the first few centuries CE. The fact that the writers I named existed is undisputed, the fact that they wrote prolifically is undisputed, so what do you lack giving credence to again?

 

It's not just Christians who hold a critical lens to the historical stories or in this case details from Greco-Roman biographies which tend to be notoriously inaccurate by nature. For people who don't know the difference between biography and history let me quote Plutarch from his Lives, Volume 3, The Life of Alexander:

We are not writing History, but Biography: and the evidence of a virtuous or of a vicious disposition is not always and absolutely to be found in a man's most conspicuous deeds. Often some. slight incident, some spoken word, some jest, portrays the character more truly than do successes in bloody fights, in the mightiest of pitched battles, or in the beleaguering of cities. Just as painters catch the likeness from the feature and from the expression of the face, in which the character is displayed, and pay the very slightest attention to the rest of the person; so we must be allowed to dwell more particularly upon those points which interpret the inner workings of the soul, and, guided by these, to draw our picture of each man's life, leaving to others the relation of mighty deeds and combats.

Comment by Jarrod Payne on January 12, 2011 at 11:42pm
@William I agree that the vast majority of christians have read very little of the texts that they believe or claim as truth. I do agree with Kenneth though. This discussion is about the formalisation of christianity and the role of constantine in that process. I have always been under the impression that as you say constantine was the driving force here, and i still think that he is given the strenght of rome at the time. It is interesting that other players were involved though.
Comment by William C. Walker on January 13, 2011 at 2:38pm
Hi Jarrod, Having 'departed' Xianity after reading the whole bible over 65 years ago, I have long since given up any hope of the vast majority of American Xians doing likewise, including relatives. I LOVE history & biographies. My 'take' on its development has been awe that it has had the success in the western world that it has enjoyed. A creator who drowns all & everything because of their wickedness, & starts all over for 'openers' is hard to swallow. Who conspires to have his own son tortured & killed for the 'sins' of people who weren't even BORN yet, is enough to gag a maggot. I confess that I have little regard for all of the absurdities of Xianity. And I still think it would never have attained the power of life & death over the west if not for Constantine's having given it the imprimatur that he did. Rightly or not, I blame HIM for inflicting Xinsanity on the west.
Comment by Kenneth Montville D.D. on January 13, 2011 at 11:10pm

I won't fight with you one bit about the atrocious nature of what is spelled out in the Bible. No objection here haha. I first read the bible 18 years ago, far from your 65 but still a long time. Despite abhorring the themes and general message I have always been fascinated with mythology, which turned into a love of debating theology as I became an adult. The fact that people believe the shit that is in the bible floors me to this day.

 

All that aside, two things that helped Christianity really take off were the fact that the Roman Empire, like the Hellenistic kingdoms before it, was religiously syncretic, if you walked into a temple in Corinth you could worship Baal, Zeus (hell even Woden in the case of some Galatians who lived in the area) all at the same shrine. YHVH was seen as nothing more than the Jews interpretation of the head of the pagan pantheon. This meant that Christianity was generally accepted as being plausible by many people when they heard about it. Second, is that Christianity was very philosophical. It was one of only two bookish religions at the time (Christianity and Judaism) making it much more like a philosophy than the religious cults and mysteries which were more common. This led to a lot of back and forth debates between early theologians/apologists with Greek philosophers, thus spreading Christianity's notoriety.

 

The problem with understanding this in our modern context is that our interpretation of how the pagans and early Christians interacted is horribly anachronistic. Christianity is no longer as philosophical (especially the Protestants), and even if it was the people in today's society by-and-large have little interest for philosophical debate. More over, our society is not at all religiously syncretic, people no longer view all religions as simply being cultural and regional expressions of the same spiritual truth with the exception of the occasional New-Age loony.

Comment by William C. Walker on January 14, 2011 at 12:20am
So here we are Kenneth, two millenia later & not much has changed. Most people who call themselves Xians never even read the goddam book on which their 'faith' is based.  Mark Twain said that reading the bible was the best cure for Xianity.  A person can use that dumb book to make ANY CASE they care to - it's in there, somewhere. But what can you expect of a book put together at the early iron age by a bunch of ignorant men voting on hearsay, mythology, folklore & fairy tales ? ( Rhetorical question- ignore it.)  Thank Zeus, it is BEGINNING to lose the immense POWER it once had, even in this hotbed of Xinsanity. two - three centuries from now it will be considered quaint by most people, even here in America.
Comment by Jarrod Payne on January 14, 2011 at 12:42am
This is my hope as well. I dream of a world where everybody goes "well that was just all a bit silly wasn't it? How could they believe in magical bearded men in the sky!"
Comment by Kenneth Montville D.D. on January 14, 2011 at 8:46am

True. Though, even then most people never read it and after the fall of Rome the church made sure no one read it. It wasn't until the printing press that it started getting read and even then not until 1611 and the writing of the KJV that it was commonly read in English.

 

I was 10 or 11 when I first read the bible in its entirety and just as Twain said, it cured me of belief in Christianity. My only hope is that it doesn't take 2 - 3 centuries but rather 2 - 3 generations for others to catch on. But I am hopeful, in the past 20 years the number of Christians in the US has dropped by more than 10% while the irreligious has doubled from 8% to 16% of the population.

Comment by William C. Walker on January 14, 2011 at 9:17am
There are en estimated 350,000 churches in the United States. The one I attended as a child was one of four Catholic churches all within a couple miles of each other in Pittsburgh. We had 3 priests at ours. Now, one church serves the four parishes. There are presently about half as many priests in the U.S. as there were when the total population was 135 million.  All of the pedophile priests have cost mother church dearly. The flock has diminished by up to 30 percent, I'm told. I'd love to read reputable statistics on Protestant churches. Of course, today we have televangelists & mega-churches springing up like weeds. Haven't a clue as to what - if anything is going on with the Southern Baptists. They seem as VOCAL as ever. Anyone have hard data on this stuff ?

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