Alright, I know that this might be a bit of a serious topic to discuss around the "water cooler", but bear with me. I'm a bit of a history nut, and a big pet peeve of mine are the pseudo-historical myths we think we all "know" about history but usually end up being totally wrong (like "People in the Middle Ages didn't wash" or "People used to not get older than 40 or 50."). There's a number of mechanisms that keep myths like these around in the public consciousness, but one of the most prominent tends to be Hollywood.
Now, we all love to pretend that we are far above getting much of our historical ideas from movies, but the fact is that we all do it sometimes. We all get pissed when we see Christians banging on about Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ, but I challenge everyone of you to cast the first stone. When I ask you to imagine a Roman city or army, who doesn't visualize Gladiator or I, Claudius? Who wasn't at least slightly convinced that the movie King Arthur was based on actual research about a Roman general? And don't get me started on those of you who think crap like The Patriot presents historical merit.

Now why am I saying this? Because several days ago the film Agora was released in the States. For those of you who don't know, Agora tells the story about Hypatia: she lives in Alexandria in the Fourth Century AD; she is a female scientist, an atheist and a defender of reason. She protects the remnants of the Library of Alexandria, until they are destroyed by an angry Christian mob. Ultimately she doen't pander enough to the whims of the Christian leaders, and she gets lynched. The emphasis of the film is on Christianity's incompatibility with reason and its zeal to destroy knowledge, with Hypatia is one of the last and ultimately unsuccesful guardians of reason and science.
I can almost feel some of you getting excited at this great plot. But wait, doesn't it sound a little too black-and-white to be true? Well, that's because it is. Most of the story is based on absolutely nothing, and the movie (which is actually not a Hollywood production, by the way) is a fictional story set in an aesthetically accurate Alexandria even though it purports to be based on historical facts.

Despite this, I already hear friends from the US and elsewhere (who acquired the film by... ahem... other means) telling me that it's one of those film that "an atheist has to see!!". They swallowed everything hook, line and sinker.
We might laugh at the people who take Passion of the Christ as to be a beautiful and accurate representation of Christ's crucifixion, but somehow I get the feeling that many atheists (even here) will watch Hypatia and get out of the theatre strengthened in their convictions that religion and science were and are incompatible. 
And undoubtedly there will be atheist feminists who will come out feeling justified in the (remarkably common) idea that paganism was somehow kinder to women than Christianity. 
As it turns out, we're not all that different from Christians if we don't pay attention.

I think we should train ourselves to look at history sceptically and rationally, and accept its conclusions even if they're not always the way we'd like them to be. The truth is always far more complex than a cartoon version. That's why I present you with a review by an amateur historian of Agora, where he details the circumstances wherein Hypatia really died, what the motives were, what her science and her gender had to do with it (if anything), how the Library of Alexandria gradually decayed instead of being destroyed, etcetera.

So if you plan on seeing (or have seen) the movie, it's probably a good idea to read this review before you start internalising it as how you see the ancient world.
You can find the review here:
And for a more thorough discussion:
It's written by an atheist with a Masters in medieval history. Basically, he explains historical topics (usually relevant to either atheism, science, or Christianity) very accessibly, but he dispells plenty of myths on both sides as he goes along. He also has plenty of articles detailing how Early Christians (and Christians in the Middle Ages) viewed reason and knowledge. The results might not be what you expect, but you'll learn a lot. Highly recommended.

My rant ends here. Cheers ;)

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I am familiar with the library of Alexander and it burning. But I was totaly unaware of this woman or this movie or any of the discussions on any of this.

So thanx for the heads up on all this.

"to deny the fact that this was a time when Christianity not only suppressed all other religions, but philosophy itself, is to deny reality"

Really? So why Augustine have this to say on the use of "pagan" philosphy and science:

Just as the Egyptians had not only idols and grave burdens which the people of Israel detested and avoided, so also they had vases and ornaments of gold and silver and clothing which the Israelites took with them secretly when they fled, as if to put them to a better use. They did not do this on their own authority but at God's commandment, while the Egyptians unwittingly supplied them with things which they themselves did not use well. In the same way all the teachings of the pagans contain not only simulated and superstitious imaginings and grave burdens of unnecessary labor, which each one of us leaving the society of pagans under the leadership of Christ ought to abominate and avoid, but also liberal disciplines more suited to the uses of truth, and some most useful precepts concerning morals. Even some truths concerning the worship of one God are discovered among them. (De Doctrina Christiana, XL, 60)

This was called the "Gold of the Egyptians" argument and it was the basis for the preservation and use of "pagan" philosophy for centuries to come.  Your claim that Christianity "suppressed philosophy" is complete garbage.  On the contrary, working on the basis of what Augustine argues here and what others had argued long before him, they saw that philosophy as a gift from the Greeks to them that should be gratefully accepted.  This is why if you have ever read any work by any Greek philosopher you have a Christian scribe to thank for the privilege.

I get the feeling that you and the author of the site you link to, both have this as an agenda, even while claiming at every opportunity to be atheists yourselves.

I don't "claim" to be an atheist - I am one.  And have been one for over 27 years now. My only "agenda" is the objective study of history and that includes correcting errors by people whose grasp of the material is weak or, worse, skewed by ideological bias and emotion.  That goes for those whose bias is driven by religious ideology and those whose bias is driven by antipathy for religion.  Bias is bias and non-objective emotional skewing leads to junk analysis regardless of the ideology.  I stick to rational and sober analysis of the evidence.  That's how history is studied.

I read a couple of the reviews on the site you link to, and the author seems to have an open hostility to atheists, demeaning them at every opportunity

Complete garbage.  I have open hostility to idiots, particularly the ones who are claiming to be analysing history while actually projecting emotional nonsense.  Look at my review of Rodney Stark's God's Battalions and you'll see my "hostility" is even handed - biased Christian idiots get as much of it as biased atheist idiots.  It's the biased idiots I have a problem with.

The most powerful institution in the land, and who controls the application of literacy, acknowledges as truth only those things which are to be found or interpreted from a single book

This is the kind of blunder that bias leads to.  They did not say truth came only from one book.  See Augustine's quote above.  They said that all truth ultimately came from God and that the universe was the rational product of the mind of God.  Therefore it could be apprehended by reason and believed that the pagan Greeks had been given a special gift by God for doing so.  A gift that they felt they should take and use.

This is why they preserved Greek learning and valued it highly.  Gerard of Cremona crossed half the known world on the merest rumour that he might find some lost works of Greek scholarship in Muslim Spain.  He then devoted his life to translating the ones he found into Latin so he could bring these precious works back to the rest of Europe.  How does that fit into your weird cartoon version of history?

You don't seem to have the faintest idea what you're talking about but seem very happy to rant nonetheless.  Go and learn.

Wow.  There's so much wrong with that hysterical screed above it's hard to know where to begin.  In order ...

You give me one quote from Augustine to prove Christians did not suppress philosophy

Actually, I gave you a quote and then illustrated it with evidence that showed you your claim they "suppressed philosophy" is garbage.  Again, if you have read a work by a Greek philosopher, you have a Christian scribe to thank.  In fact, you have a long succession of them, working down the centuries.  So if they were "suppressing" this philosophy why were they ... preserving it?  That's a rather strange way of "suppressing" something, don't you think? 

Since you seem ignorant of the history of western thought and want to convince yourself that Augustine's position on the benefit of Greek learning was not typical, here is Clement of Alexandria on the same theme:

We shall not err in alleging that all things necessary and profitable for life came to us from God, and that philosophy more especially was given to the Greeks, as a covenant peculiar to them -- being, as it is, a stepping-stone to the philosophy which is according to Christ (Stromata, VIII)

And we have John Damascene saying exactly the same thing:

I shall set forth the best contributions of the philosophers of the Greeks, because whatever there is of good has been given to men from above by God, since 'every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights' (Kephálaia philosophiká)

And we have similar statements by Origen, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil of Caesarea and Justin Martyr - all of them stating that true knowledge comes from God and so all wisdom should be embraced, even if it comes from "pagan" writer.  As Clement argues above, it was believed that just as the Jews had been given a special gift for revelation, so the pagan Greeks had been given a special gift for reason.  And they thought both should be embraced by Christians as gifts from God.

So the idea that they did not suppress philosophy but embraced it is not to "deny reality" at all.  It is fact.  This is why they preserved these philosophical works.  This is why if you can read them today you have a long line of Christian scribes who believed in the arguments quoted above to thank for the privilege.

It helps to actually have a grasp of the relevant material and scholarship and work from there.  Starting with your conclusions and then ranting doesn't work as well.

you don't even include the most interesting first part of the quote  .... Yes of course, anything that fit the Christian view was fine, But of course what is at issue here are things that don't fit the Christian view.

Given that there wasn't much in the Greek philosophy that didn't fit the Christian view, this was not much of a problem.  Contrary to your rather clumsy grasp of things, they did not believe that truth only came from the Bible.  They did believe that all truth was ultimately compatible with the Bible but, because they weren't Biblical literalists, they were actually quite happy to adjust their interpretation of the Bible to ensure it didn't contradict the findings of science and reason.  Here's Augustine again:

Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of  the stars and even their sizes and distances,...  and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn. (De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim)

So while a few less educated early Christians tried to argue the Bible said the earth was flat, this was scorned by more educated types who said those scriptural texts were figurative and that that rational analysis of the world shows that the earth is spherical.

Contrary to your attempt at a claim above, very little in Greek philosophy was contrary to Christian doctrine, because given that both the Bible and these Greek "authorities" were seen as conduits of God's truth, the general impulse was to reconcile and harmonise them, not to totally reject the philosophers.  There was only a few points on which this was impossible - eg Aristotle's belief that the universe was eternal and had no beginning in time - and there they simply said "on this point the philosopher was in error".

And what is especially interesting is that you give a single incomplete quote as proof of their tolerance, while ignoring the actual events happening on the ground during and around the same time period, which were anything but.

None of those examples of their (to us) intolerance of other things is relevant here.  They closed temples and banned the (already pretty much dying) public pagan cults?  Sure.  So?  As I've detailed above and as every scholar and historian of the period knows, this does not mean they also suppressed pagan philosophy.  I've explained how and why they preserved the thought of the philosophers who happened to be pagans while shutting down the last remnants of the religious superstitions that made up pagan religion.  Pagan religion and pagan philosophy had very little to do with each other anyway - the philosophers were pretty scornful of painted priests shaking rattles and waving incense at idols and considered all that to be a bit of circus for the stupid and uneducated.

So really Tim, I just have to ask you. Are you joking?

Perhaps if you cracked open a book on the subject of the interplay between ancient pagan and early Christian thought and how philosophy was accommodated within Christianity in the period from the Second to the Sixth Century you would see that I'm not "joking", I'm simply telling you what happened.  It seems you don't have any grasp of what scholars on the subject have to say.  Or much interest, from the sounds of things.  You seem to have made up your mind in much the way fundamentalists always do.

Yes, they valued Greek learning so highly that many Greek authors, like Aristotle, disappeared entirely in the west until recovered from Muslims during the Crusades.

Oh dear.  There are so many errors of fact in that one sentence that it will take a bit of time to unpack them all.  Aristotle's works disappeared entirely in the west?  Ummm, no.  The sharp decline of Greek literacy in the western half of the Roman Empire from the Third Century onwards meant that the number of copies of works like those of Aristotle sunk to a very low ebb from that point (there were never very many in the first place) which is why some of his work was lost in the west when the Roman Empire collapsed or in the chaos that followed.  But your claim that his work "disappeared entirely" is another of your clumsy blunders.

Several key works of his were preserved, largely thanks to a deliberate campaign of translation into Latin by - you guessed it - a Christian scholar.  Boethius set out to preserve as many works as he could, starting with the logical works of Aristotle and commentaries on them.  So the Categories, On Interpretation, Sophistical Refutations, Prior Analytics and Topics - the key works on logic in the Greek philosophical canon - were all preserved and studied in the early Middle Ages while much else was lost.  This was along with key logical commentaries such as that on Porphyry's Isagoge, on the Categories, on On Interpretation and on Cicero's Topics.

So your claim is wrong - not only did all of Aristotle not "disappear entirely" but the preservation of these key works enshrined Greek logic at the heart of the medieval educational curriculum - a student at any cathedral school or the schools that later developed into the first universities, studied the logica vetus embodied in these Aristotelian works first, before tackling any other subject.  And the reason they sought out works of logic and other works by Aristotle when it became known they were preserved in Arabic was the fact they were revered and venerated as the ultimate in learning.  So how does that fit with your weird little cartoon about them being "suppressed"?

And yes, these keen students of the surviving venerated works of Aristotle and other Greek philosophers did seek them out from Muslim scholars in Spain and Sicily (though not "during the Crusades" - this began before then and had zero to do with those campaigns).  And where do you think the Muslims got these works that had been lost in the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west?  Do you think they fell from the sky into Muslim scholars' laps?

They got them from - you guessed it - Christian scholars.  The Arabic translations that the western Christians absorbed so eagerly in the Twelfth Century Renaissance had been made from Greek editions that the Arabs got from Byzantine scholars or from Syriac translations made by Nestorian Christian scholars in the great scriptoria of the monks of Nisibis (now in Turkey) and Jundishapur (now in Iran) - centres of scholarship and philosophy for hundreds of years.  So how does all this fit in with your strange ideas about these Christians "suppressing" philosophy again?

Take off the blinders Tim

Oh, the irony.  Someone here certainly needs to take the blinders off, but it ain't me.  Try reading a book for a change.  Preferably something by an actual professional scholar of these subjects.  But it should be pretty clear to everyone by now who here is working from an objective analysis of the evidence and who is a ranting ideologue scrabbling around in some scraps and misconceptions.  Go educate yourself, please.  You might embarrass yourself a little less if you actually got a clue.

First of all I must notice again your complete lack of appreciation for any and all evidence of the intolerance of the early Christian Church.

Since I'm much more familiar with the period in question than you are, I'm very clear on their intolerance thanks.  They did suppress the remnants of the state sponsored pagan cults.  They also suppressed rival "heretical" sects within their own faith as well as competing doctrinal positions.  Your confusion here is that this has zero relevance to what is under discussion.  As I've already explained to you, suppressing the public practice of pagan cults has got nothing to do with their attitude to pre-Christian philosophy. 

This is partly because many of those philosophers didn't have much time for mysticism and rituals either and partly because Christian thinkers valued the "truths' they felt these philosophers had discovered regardless of their pre-Christian origins.  As my multiple references (all news to you apparently) have clearly demonstrated.

So I don't need you to tell me about Christian intolerance of rival faiths and sects, I know all about that.  This actually undermines your crumbling position still further.  Want to see what actual Christian repression of ideas looks like?  Okay, go find a copy of an Ebionite text.  No luck?  Okay, how a copy of Arius' Thalia?  Can't find one?  How about any of the extensive works of Appollinaris the Younger?  Can't find any of those?

Of course you can't.  That's what it looks like when these intolerant early Christians actually suppressed something. 

Some texts have come down to us ONLY through archaeological sites like the Villa of the Papyri.

Sites "like" the Villa at Herculaneum?  You mean there are other such sites?  Please tell us where these are, as there are thousands of papyrologists who will be amazed at your remarkable new discoveries.  Or is this another example of your clumsy bungles?  Yes, thought so.  The Herculaneum papyri are the sole exception to the rule, so sorry but that one chance find doesn't invalidate my point.

The texts of Epicurus' "On Natrure" is just one example.

And pretty much the only one.  If Christians wanted to suppress the ideas of Epicurus, however, they did a pretty bad job of it.  The exposition of his philosophical position in the Epicurean poem De Rerum Natura by Lucretius is known to us thanks to a number of copies by medieval Christian scribes.  Did they not get the memo regarding how they were meant to be suppressing Epicurean philosophy?

The second and more important problem is that you simply can't know what was discarded in the process. If I burned a mountain of books but kept a few that were not overtly hostile to my own view would you consider me the savior of literature?

So now is the time for you to do better than wave this crappy little "maybe" around and produce evidence that this is what happened.  The masses of evidence that Christian scholars preserved vast amounts of Greek learning (ie the entire surviving corpus of it) and the repeated expressions by leading early Christian thinkers on why it should be preserved undermines your nonsense about how it was all suppressed.  And the fact that works which were entirely contrary to Christian thought in fundamental ways, such as that overtly Epicurean poem by Lucretius I just mentioned, were also preserved by Christians undermines your nonsense about how they only preserved works they found agreeable.  That is evidence that your fantasy about them destroying a "mountain" of lost works while preserving others (ie our entire corpus of Greek and Roman literature!) is more garbage from you.

The Romans were quite tolerant of other gods

Not that it's very relevant, but the Romans were tolerant of other gods so long as they conformed to the Romans' ideas of what religion should be like.  They weren't tolerant of "new" religions - which they condemned as "superstitions".  This was their main beef with Christianity.  They were also not at all tolerant of other faiths that didn't fit their ideas of "proper" religion.  Which is why they persecuted the Manichaeans and wiped out the Bacchanals and the druids.

I specifically used the term West in relation to the disappearance of Aristotle. Did you miss that?

And did you miss the part where I educated you about how Aristotle didn't "disappear" in the west and how those horrible Christians preserved what they could of his works, laying the foundations for the later revival via the Arabs?  Are you even reading what I'm saying?  You can't keep claiming things that I have already demonstrated are dead wrong.

In fact, you've been proven wrong at every turn.  Largely because you don't have a sufficient knowledge of the material and are working from assumptions which are total garbage.  You seem to be an example of the Dunning Kruger effect personified.

I was including religious philosophy, such as pagan cults and heretical sects, under the philosophical banner, while you were excluding them,

What bumble-footed muddling of irrelevant things you might have been doing is of little interest to me.  The fact remains that they could be entirely intolerant of pagan religions and have no problem with using philosophy that was produced by non-Christians.  And this is what happened.

1. Christianity is intolerant of views that contradict it's dogma, and will use it's power to suppress such views.

2. This world view is ultra conservative, and is hostile to free expression and learning, and is therefore detrimental to human progress.

If we can agree on those two statements, I think we can call it a day.

You're now trying to change the subject to find an excuse to wriggle away.  Whether or not the Christians were tolerant of rival sects and faiths is not the issue and never has been.  Whether they suppressed "philosophy itself" into the bargain is.  Here's a reminder of your original nonsense:

"to deny the fact that this was a time when Christianity not only suppressed all other religions, but philosophy itself, is to deny reality"

And that is garbage.  They didn't not suppress "philosophy itself" - they made use of it.  They "carried off the gold of the Egyptians".  They, "like David, took up the sword of Goliath".  They had several metaphors for it because it was such a common idea - they used philosophy as a gift given by God.

Your "suppression" nonsense is a fantasy, which is why every single attempt at proving it has blown up in your face.  You are simply WRONG.  Get that through your skull and then we can "call it a day".  Not before.

@ Mark Beronte

We could argue that point all day long, but the fact is you cannot prove it

Utter gibberish.  Newflash - what I'm saying is not some little theory of mine that I have to "prove".  It's standard, accepted historical fact.  Read any academic history of ancient and medieval thought and you'll find them saying exactly what I'm saying. 

Don't believe me?  Okay, try this.  As modern leading historians of science in this period go, they don't get much more eminent than David C. Lindberg.  He is the Hilldale Professor Emeritus of History of Science and Past Director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  His The Beginnings of Western Science, 600 B.C. to A.D. 1450 (1992) is the primary single volume monograph on ancient and medieval science.  And if we see what he says on the subject, guess what we find?

[T]he logical tools developed within Greek philosophy proved indispensible.  Furthermore, aspects of Platonic philosophy seemed to correlate nicely with, and therefore support Christian teaching. .... Thus in the second and third centuries we find a series of Christian apologists putting Greek philosophy, especially Platonism, to good use. (p. 150)

Lindberg goes on to note that some Christian writers, notably Tertullian, did not like this acceptance of and use of "pagan" philosophy by Christians, but he goes on:

[A] more typical attitude was that of Augustine ..., another north African, who accepted Greek philosophy as a useful, if not perfectly reliable, instrument.  Philosophy, in Augustine's influential view, was to be the handmaiden of religion - not to be stamped out, but to be cultivated, disciplined, put to use.  .... And in his own works, including his theological works, Augustine displayed a sophisticated knowledge of Greek natural philosophy. (pp 150-151)

Another leading scholar of ancient and medieval though is Edward Grant.  Grant is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, Bloomington and the author of several key works of scholarship on the ancient philosophical foundations of medieval Christian thought as well as the roots of modern science in the ancient and medieval worlds.  In God and Reason in the Middle Ages (2001), Grant details how early Christianity moved from its initial distrust of philosophy as "pagan" to accepting it as coming ultimately from God and so worthy of preservation and even reverence.  He traces the "Gold of the Egyptians" argument from Clement of Alexandria through Origen, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil of Caesarea and Justin Martyr to the point where its championing by Augustine made it the accepted position (p. 32-37).  In The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages (1996) he summarises this process again, concluding:

The handmaiden concept of Greek learning was widely adopted and became the standard Christian attitude toward secular learning.  .... With the total triumph of Christianity at the end of the fourth century, the Church might have reacted against pagan learning in general, and Greek philosophy in particular, finding much in the latter that was unacceptable or perhaps even offensive.  They might have launched a major effort to suppress pagan learning as a danger to the Church and its doctrines.  But they did not. (p. 4)

Or we can turn to Michael Haren, lecturer in Medieval History at University College Dublin and author of Medieval Thought: The Western Intellectual Tradition from Antiquity to the Thirteenth Century (1993):

One of the great contributions of Saint Augustine to Latin Christianity was his justification of the role of secular learning for the theologian.  His own world view, which he bequeathed to the early middle ages, as well as his spiritual progress toward Christian belief, were heavily indebted to ancient philosophy. (p. 37)

These guys are amongst THE leading scholars in this field.  These books are the ones any student of ancient and medieval thought turn to when they research this subject.  This position is standard, basic, accepted, uncontroversial and unquestioned.

And yet you say I can't "prove" it?! Do you have any idea how utterly ignorant that makes you sound?  You don't have the faintest clue and your pathetic scratching around for anything at all to prop up your high school level cartoon version of history (eg that quote from McMullen, who fully accepts what I'm saying, if you'd bothered to read any of his stuff -since he isn't an idiot) shows that you have no idea exactly how out of your depth you are.

Again - Dunning Kruger Effect.  Look it up.

We are not just talking about Plato here Tim, nor just Greek philosophers, We are talking about all Greek and Roman works

Yes, those works that you can read thanks to lots of Christian scribes preserving them.  Please try to focus: initially Christians rejected Greek philosophy because it was "pagan", then they found neo-Platonism actually fitted their theology quite well and logic was useful, then they developed the "Gold of the Egyptians"/handmaiden argument saying philosophy should be preserved because it contained truths from God, then they happily preserved a whole swathe of philosophy and other works on this basis, including stuff that actually contradicted their religion.  Have you got it now, because explaining this to you is getting a bit like trying to teach a pig to sing?

Therefore the philosophy of Pagans would naturally be viewed by many Christians as associated with their paganism, and therefore heretical.

Wrong.  Just. wrong. Completely wrong.  Again, you can read stuff like Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, despite it containing stuff that contradicted Christianity, because a long successio of Christian scribes considered it worth preserving regardless of it being "heretical".  Because they valued the inherent worth of philosophy and felt it worthy of preserving.  This is FACT and you trying to pretend something else happened and your whole fantasy about them suppressing these works and not preserving them is contradicted by this FACT.  If that were true, you wouldn't be able to read that work or thousands like it.  How long do I have to keep rubbing your stupid nose in this reality before you realise your fantasy is total bullshit?  They didn't suppress this stuff.  They preserved and used it.  "Gold of the Egyptians". "David used Goliath's sword".  Try to understand before we all die of old age, laughing at how dumb you are.

And we are not just talking of ancient Greek texts, we are talking of Roman literature all the way up to the fall of the west, much of it extremely hostile to Christianity blaming it for the decline of the empire, yet almost nothing from these writing survive today.

Yes, I was in a university library yesterday in the classics section.  I was looking at shelves and shelves of that "almost nothing".  If they were trying to suppress that Greek philosophy and its Roman successors they did a really bad job of it.  They didn't preserve pagan works attacking them?  Gosh, what a surprise.  Does this mean they suppressed all "pagan" philosophy?  No it doesn't, as those shelves and shelves of works preserved by Christian scribes because of that "Gold of the Egyptians" principle that I keep explaining to you shows.  As David C. Lindberg also says.  And as Edward Grant says.  And as Michael Haren says.  And as every single scholarly expert on ancient and medieval thought says.  How long do I have to keep showing you that you're wrong before it finally sinks in?  Exactly how dumb are you?

As Ramsay MacMullen writes in "Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries"

"Cicero was sponged out from the vellum to make room for the hundredth copy of
Augustine's meditation on the psalms."

Yes, this is why we have no works by Cicero.  Oh wait, hang on ... we have over eighty of them.  How can this be?  Didn't the long succession of Christian scribes who are responsible for preserving those works get the memo about how they were meant to be "sponging out" Cicero to copy Augustine's meditations on the psalms?  Could it be possible that you are indulging in moronic quote mining to prop up a totally erroneous position that is complete and utter bullshit?

Other examples are the Archimedes Palimpsest, which originally contained several works by Archimedes, including the only known copy of "The Method" , overwritten by religious text in 1229.

And, right on cue, we get the inevitable reference to the Archimedes palimpsest - something morons-without-a-clue all wheel out at around this point in their public humiliation.  How does the fact that the text that was overwritten was one copied by a Christian scribe a couple of centuries earlier fit with your little fantasy?  Was that scribe yet another one of the thousands that didn't get the memo about how he shouldn't be copying Archimedes but should actually have been sponging his work out?  The other day I was looking at a facsimile of another palimpsest.  This one was a Fourteenth Century alchemical text which had been written over a Twelfth Century prayer book.  Does this mean (a) Christian scribes in the Fourteenth Century hated prayer books and suppressed prayer, preferring alchemy to all forms of religion or (b) old parchment got recycled because making new parchment was expensive and time consuming?

Try to use your brain.

is it your claim that libraries in ancient Rome were never burned by Christians?

We know various ancient libraries got burned before Christianity.  Is it your claim that this is evidence pagans hated philosophy and wanted to suppress it?

is it your claim that new converts to Christianity were not encouraged to burn their pagan libraries? Is it your claim that the home of known pagans were not looted by Christians and their libraries burned?

Is it your claim that because some Christians at one point did these things, this shows that all Christians hated pagan learning and destroyed it all?  If so, how do you explain those stacks of books of ancient literature and philosophy that I was walking through at the university of Sydney yesterday?  Did copies of those works fall from heaven?

you are continuing to claim the Christians preserved all of it

Garbage.  What I am trying to explain to you, in an effort that is increasingly similar to talking to a tree, is that they didn't suppress all of it.  In fact, they didn't suppress it at all (though, as Grant notes, they could have).  They preserved as much of it as they could.  Some of it was still lost, but that's true of many ancient works, including many ancient Christian works.  In the Ninth Century the Greek patriarch wrote his Bibliotheca - a collection of 279 reviews of books he had read.  The majority of them were Christian works.  And the majority of those are now lost.  Does this mean the wicked Christians were suppressing their own books or does it mean something else?

Again, try to use your brain.

And you base your claims on a few selective quotes

Bullshit.  They are not "selective quotes" they are key texts from the most influential thinkers of the time which shaped the attitudes of those who came after them.  As evidenced by those stacks of ancient Greek and Roman works I was walking through yesterday.  Or did the centuries worth of thousands upon thousands of Christian scribes who preserved those works also not get the memo that they were meant to be "sponging them out"?  Did they only pay attention to my "selective quotes" as well?    And have I used mind-control rays to warp the perspective of the leading scholars in the field who I quoted in my last post, making them agree with me?  Should I go to every university on the planet where what I am saying is taught and tell them that they should stop because a random bigoted internet clown without a clue thinks they are all working from "selective quotes"?

You can't help being dumb Mark, but being obstinate in the face of clear evidence you are wrong is increasingly pathetic.  Give up.  You've lost.

And while I'm on the subject of your stupidity:

Also I now know what Christians mean when they talk of conversations with obnoxious, arrogant, asshole atheists who use insult as an argument.

Yes, because I only use insults and haven't used detailed reference to relevant source material, arguments based on 25+ years of academic study in this field and quotes and references to the leading experts in the world on this subject.  Just insults.  I find that clowns like you resort to this pathetic whine when are are pretty much whipped.  Looks like we're there.  Go away you pathetic irrational fundamentalist moron.

I had already invalidated your "point" with my single example

Oh please.  We have parts of four books of Epicurus' On Nature from those papyri.  We have literally hundreds of thousands of other works thanks to Christian scribes.  You would have to be on some strong delusion-inducing drugs to somehow believe the former "invalidates" the fact of the latter.  Are you actively trying to embarrass yourself?

have you never heard of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri Tim? It's essentially an Egyptian garbage dump in which thousands more classical Greek and Roman texts were found?

Yes Mark, I have.  Tell me, how many works of philosophy that we don't have from other sources ie those silly old Christian scribes (you know, the stuff that is relevant here) were amongst them?  What's that?  None?  Gosh.


Admittedly most are not strictly philosophical in nature, being mostly history, poetry, comedy and literary works, but some are

None of them are unknown to us from other copies - made by those silly Christian scribes.  Try to concentrate because pointing out your drooling blunders is getting tedious.

and all of these types of works can have philosophical implications

God, that is just pathetic.  You must realise how ridiculous this kind of desperate scrabbling for relevance looks.  PS Some of the Oxyrhynchus are Christian texts we have no other sources for?  What does that tell you?

I am interesting in talking about the mountain range of all texts that existed prior to Christianity, and how much was destroyed

Your whole fantasy is undermined by the fact that, as Grant says, they could have suppressed ALL pagan philosophy, but they didn't.  For your claims to work we need to have NO pagan philosophy or just chance finds like the Herculanean material.  The fact we have hundreds of thousands of works preserved by these scribes proves your claims to be babbling gibberish. 

Give up.  Seriously, you're just humiliating yourself.

The blundering hilarity continues ....

You truly have the defensive nature of someone that hasn't completed middle school, and I am growing a bit tired of it.

There is nothing "defensive" about it.  And I make no apologies with treating an ignorant self-deluded bumbling idiot who is so deluded he's actually pompous into the bargain with total scorn and derision.  So suck it up princess.

The second point is that knowing facts about history, and being able to process all those facts into reasonable assessments about what they say about the causes and repercussions of certain events are two completely different skill sets ... you seem completely unable to draw reasonable conclusions from those facts.

Is that so, you fatuous little wanker?  And how about Professor David C. Lindberg? Is the Hilldale Professor Emeritus of History of Science and past Director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities also incapable of drawing reasonable conclusions from the facts?  Because the conclusions he draws are the same as mine.  How about Dr Michael Haren?  Is the lecturer in Medieval History at University College Dublin and author of Medieval Thought: The Western Intellectual Tradition from Antiquity to the Thirteenth Century similarly unable to draw reasonable conclusions from the facts?  Because the conclusions he draws are the same as mine.  Or what about Professor Edward Grant?  Is the Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, also unable to draw these reasonable conclusions? Because the conclusions he draws are the same as mine.  Here's that quote from Grant again for you:

With the total triumph of Christianity at the end of the fourth century, the Church might have reacted against pagan learning in general, and Greek philosophy in particular, finding much in the latter that was unacceptable or perhaps even offensive.  They might have launched a major effort to suppress pagan learning as a danger to the Church and its doctrines.  But they did not.

They did NOT.  Keep reading that sentence Mark. It's amazing how these leading scholars and every single professional scholar in the field are wrong (since I'm simply presenting you with the consensus of scholarship) but random internet boob, bumblin' Mark Beronte, is right.  Someone notify the George Sarton Medal committee.  Tell them we have a new winner.

No one is saying Christians were hostile to ALL pagan philosophy

Well, no-one except the clown who wrote this:

to deny the fact that this was a time when Christianity not only suppressed all other religions, BUT PHILOSOPHY ITSELF, is to deny reality

Recognise that quote Mark?

Of course, you've been forced to retreat from that stupid statement and now admit that Christians didn't suppress "philosophy itself" but actually preserved vast amounts of it. So now you've fallen back to a lesser claim that there was a supposed "mountain range" of other philosophy that they didn't preserve and actively destroyed.

This is what you need to prove.  So far you've utterly failed to do so.  Anyone with a clue will know why, but it's funny to watch you thrashing around trying to prove something that simply isn't true.  Thus your bungled attempt at referring to the Archimedes palimpsest (Bzzzt!  Wrong!) and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Bzzzt!  Wrong again!)

The Dunning-Kruger is strong with this one.  Keep thrashing around Mark - it's funny to watch an idiot who has no idea how wrong they are.

If I had meant ALL philosophy, I would have wrote ALL philosophy Tim.

So if you meant "SOME philosophy" why didn't you write "SOME philosophy Mark?  You wrote "Christianity not only suppressed all other religions, BUT PHILOSOPHY ITSELF".  I realise that the masses of evidence that I've presented has shown how ridiculous this statement is and that you're now deperately looking for a back-hatch to wriggle out of, but please don't pretend I or anyone here is so stupid that we can't see what you originally meant by "PHILOSOPHY ITSELF".

They did not suppress PHILOSOPHY ITSELF" it in any sense.  They didn't even suppress "SOME philosophy".  They didn't suppress philosophy at all.

This is why every time you've been challenged to produce any evidence they did, you've come up with nothing but bluster, spluttering and hand waving.  You've produced nothing except irrelevant stuff about temples being closed and (public) pagan cults being banned.  So why not anything about (some) philosophy being banned as well?  It's not like Christian emperors, Church fathers or bishops were shy about passing laws to ban things or declaring stuff they didn't like to be anathema.  So where are the bans on "(some) philosophy"?

You can't produce them because they don't exist.  Because, as I've explained to you and as the quotes I've given from Lindberg, Grant and Haren have detailed, the guys who presented the "Gold of the Egyptians"/handmaiden idea won the day and philosophy was preserved to be used, not suppressed or destroyed.

Which is why your feeble admission that "certain works of ancient Greek philosophy survived the ages in Monasteries" is so monumentally pathetic.  No Mark, virtually every single work of ancient Greek and Roman science and philosophy that we have, along with almost every poem, play, satire or letter we have from the ancient world - a vast corpus of hundreds of thousands of texts - survived in those monasteries.  Downplaying that in a feeble attempt at salvaging something from the wreckage your arguments have been reduced to is simply sad.

As is your continued snivelling about what a big meanie I am for not being patient with a fatuous, obstinate idiot.  And the final little bit of straw-manning where you burble some bullshit about how I'm on a "mission of convincing the world that Christianity is a tolerant and knowledge loving institution who all alone, saved the written works of a culture they despised". Twisted words aside, the historical facts are they did save the most significant written works of the ancient world.  Your ludicrous little hissy fit at the end of your rant about how I'm going to usher in a theocracy by merely saying what every historian on the planet acknowledges shows how far off into la-la land you've danced.

But I will be saving this exchange as yet another exhibit in my growing collection of examples of how emotional clinging to pseudo historical myths and fables can make so-called "rationalists" into doctrinaire fanatical idiots that would put the stupidity of Creationists to shame.

Hey Mark,

Sorry, but to anyone who's been following the conversation (as I've been doing from the beginning) it's fairly obvious which of you two is way out of depth and has been forced to resort to some rather high-pitched whining about tone.

When the religious whine about the "tone" of the New Atheists, it already sounds pretty pathetic. To hear it from someone who purports to be rationalists, it's just sad.

So next time: don't make knee-jerk assertions without checking your facts. Good luck.

"And this is only going 3 posts back"

Before you get too worked up with your little lessons in politeness, Mark, how about you go all the way back to your first post.  You know, the one where you smeared my simple presentation of the accepted scholarship on these matters as me peddling some kind of "agenda".  And where you slandered me as having "an open hostility to atheists .... while at the same time claiming to be one".  I was supposed to respond to this ridiculous slander with, what, joy and scrupulous politeness?

That was how you started things.  Then as I demolished your silly caricature of history and exposed your lack of understanding of the period and relevant source material, all you could think of doing was responding with obstinate bluster and fatuous, blundering attempts at pretending you actually had a grasp of this subject.  Not exactly something that endears people who are clearly out of their depth to those who actually know their stuff.

So spare me the weak little whimpering sermons, sunshine.  I give back the level of respect that I get - you started off giving none and therefore you got none back. So don't whine to me if I gave you a lesson in real scholarship and didn't sprinkle you with flower petals and chocolates while I did so.  You got what you deserved.  Get a clue before trying to discuss history again.


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