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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII - Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rodney Stark: 'Cities of God'. Another excellent book.

'The real story of 'How Christianity became an urban movement and conquered Rome.'

by StFerdIII

 




Mr. Stark is a sociology professor at Baylor, and a Baptist. He is also an able social historian and commentator. Any one of his numerous books are worth the read. He is an expert on medieval Christianity, general theology, and the various aspects which differentiate a religion from a cult. Of critical importance are his writings on how the modern method, rationality and reason developed from medieval Christian Europe – a theme much at odds with what is taught, or what one finds in the mainstream culture and media.

Early Christianity was primarily an urban movement. The original meaning of the word pagan (paganus) was 'rural person'....after Christianity had triumphed in the cities, most of the rural people remained unconverted.

Of course since Stark is a Christian he is immediately set upon by detractors and those who hate the modern world, named as an immoderate and 'extremist' in his support of Christianity. For many of the modern sophisticates Christianity is a country hick philosophy prima inter pares. In reality the historical development of the faith makes this assertion patently false. It was the Roman elite, the educated female, and the ranging trader who first accepted and than proselytized the new and simplified form on mono-deity worship.

As Stark overwhelmingly proves, the main attraction of Christianity in the post-Christ era, was its simplification of complicated and quite arcane Jewish ritualization. The 'path' or way of Christ demanded no temples. No corrupt and overbearing church structure. No cumbrous rituals. Private prayer. An individualist approach to your own conception of God:

What Christianity offered the world was monotheism stripped of ethnic encumbrances.”

Stark maintains with good reason and many sources that single-god worship is the only method to establish a vibrant, outwardly focused movement of evangelical proselytism. Pagan pantheistic cults do not inspire the same energy and devotion to 'spread the word'. This is undoubtedly true:

Only monotheism can generate the level of commitment to a particular faith sufficient to mobilize the rank and file and to engage in missionizing activities.”

One reason why monotheistic Judaism did not 'conquer' Rome, was that it was ethnically based; full of rituals including circumcision [even of adult males who converted to Judaism]; and it separated men from women. Christianity dispensed with all of this and 'streamlined' the process of single-God worship. Along with this more rational approach to spiritual development the Christian church demanded stricter forms of behavior and social interaction, replacing the wild immorality of Greek and Roman pantheism, with a moral code that appealed to many who wanted to right the wrongs of life and develop a higher purpose:

Worse the Roman gods set bad examples of individual morality: they lied, stole, raped, committed adultery, betrayed, and tortured....The same applied to Greek religion...In contrast the 'oriental' religions stressed individual morality and offered various means of atonement...required acts of self-denial and privation, sometimes even physical suffering...”

The moral code – and that of social peace – was thus much improved by Christianity. It was also the only philosophy in man's history to develop rationality. Christianity demands reason through faith  – especially in its earliest forms. One reason why the Greek and Roman elite could embrace Christianity was that it was entirely compatible with both Greek and Roman forms of thought and reason:

Christianity was explicitly compatible with Greek philosophy – with its form, with its celebration of reason, and with much of its content.”

Along with this appeal to reason the Christ-church also demanded a more emotional and fully spiritual life. This must have appealed to people living in a world such as the Roman empire, so beset by iniquity, injustice and inequality of both opportunity and legal protection.

This is partially to do with the intense emotions rendered unto the believer, by the monotheistic program. It demanded participation, some level of conformity and energy. As Stark says, the 'oriental' or Eastern Mediterranean theologies were of 'high intensity'. Graeco-Romano cults were decidedly of the fickle and low-intensity variety: “Traditional Roman religions mainly involved tepid civic ceremonies....In contrast the new 'oriental' faiths stressed celebration, joy, ecstasy and passion.”

Emotional liturgies generally do appeal to people who desire something 'spiritual'.

Along with these emotive ideals, Christianity also was easy to access, and understand. It developed a coherent and vibrant moral code centered around the Book of Matthew and the Golden Rule. It demanded that the individual help his or her fellow human, attend to the poor, aid the suffering, and develop in essence a welfare state:

The truly revolutionary aspect of Christianity lay in moral imperatives such as 'Love one's neighbor as oneself', 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you', 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'....these were not just slogans. Members did nurse the sick, even during epidemics; they did support orphans, widows, the elderly, and the poor; they did concern themselves with the lot of slaves. In short Christians created 'a miniature welfare state' in an empire which for the most part lacked social services.”

There is much which is attractive in such a program. As the Christian message spread, and as more of the privileged adopted the theological constructs of Christ; so too did word of mouth advertising generate an expansive diaspora of believers, converts and missionaries:

...conversion is primarily about bringing one's religious behavior into alignment with that of one's friends and relatives, not about encountering attractive doctrines.”

If all your friends, business relations, family and visitors are Christian, it is highly likely that you will join the same group.  Cultural dynamics were certainly at work in the spread of the early Christian church.

Stark also conclusively proves that Christianity first spread to the port cities of the Roman empire. Contrary to myth Roman roads were bad; there were few bridges and carts did not have brakes or axles making passage up and down hilly or mountainous terrain for such vehicles impossible. Trade, commerce and war were largely ship borne. Thus the church spread rapidly into urban centers situated along the coastal areas of the Mediterranean; especially amongst the Jewish diaspora who were in the main, the first large group to convert to a simplified version of what they already knew and worshipped.

The spread of the message of Christ was constant, gradual and determined. On page 67 Stark shows a table listing the number of Christians in relationship to the empire's total population. In year 40 AD there were maybe 1.000 followers of Christ's message. By 350 AD the number was 32 million or 52% of the Roman Empire's total population. This is an increase of 3.4% per year. A gradual and almost remorseless advance.

Stark is not a general apologist for Christianity. The Christian church did of course mutate and greatly change over time. Stark in this book and elsewhere in his writings, brings to light the demerits and disadvantages of certain periods and episodes of Christianity, even highlighting the polytheistic nature of this monotheism. There is no doubt however, that Christianity has been one of the great blessings of man's development. The direct link between medieval Christianity and the modern world is clear to anyone with an open enough mind to view the facts, including the obvious rise of Europe to dominate world affairs. Something was different in Europe than in any other so-named 'civilization'.  It is rather clear that without Christianity, Europe's ascension to world domination would never have occurred.

In our disfigured politically-correct world we are told that apparently only celestial cults like Islamism, or proponents of statism including its variants Marxism and Fascism are 'moderates', sophisticated, or those who impart the critical aspects of the modern world – not Christianity or Western legacies. This is mental bunk and a form of cognitive derangement. Reading this book will help any and all who possess an open mind to come to the opposite conclusions accepted by the mainstream 'as facts'. In any event, this book is a very 'moderate', important and true depiction of how Christianity rose from being a small theological-back-to-basics Jewish sect, to control and then replace the Roman empire.

 


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