I had some idea about the history of Christianity before joining A N. I had heard of the crusades, inquisitions and the witch hunt but I had no idea that these things were driving people to atheism and that the atheists strongly hated bible, Jesus and Christianity. Although I am an atheist, I did not and do not feel any hate for religion and god. I always read that Jesus was peace loving and that was my impression of him. After joining AN, I noticed the strong dislikes of the atheists and that set me thinking.
The Crusades were religiously sanctioned military campaigns, about 1000 years after Christ. The First Crusade was launched with the approval of Pope Urban II to help the Byzantine emperor, with the latent purpose of restoring Christian control of the Holy Land of Jerusalem from Muslim rule. Thirty five years before this, Pope Alexander II had given his blessing to Christians to start wars against the Muslims by granting a papal standard and an indulgence to those who were killed in the war. A crusader received a cross from the hands of the pope or his delegate, and was considered a "soldier of the Church". The crusaders were assured of remission of sin and were told that by retaking Jerusalem they would go straight to heaven after death.
Muslims were the other part of these wars and were no less brutal than the Christians. Both religions were interested in Jerusalem and in prosylytisation and the target for prosylytisation for each of them were the Jews. This created a serious conflict of interests. In reality, both the Christians and the Muslims were two mobs of savages, who were further intoxicated by religion. They would have anyway fought each other for historical or political reasons even if there was no mention of any violence in the Bible. The religious establishments of both the religions also played a great part by instigating their respective followers. If Islam had not come into existence, there would not have been any conflict of interests and no crusades. The same thing can be said of Christianity also.
The Muslims held Jerusalem at the start and even after the crusades ended 200 years after and their sentiments were almost a mirror image of those of the Christians.
The Inquisitions started in early 13th century and continued till the last half of 19th century. Pope John XXII had authorized the Inquisition to prosecute sorcerers in 1320.
Belief in witch-craft existed since ancient times and it was always hated by ordinary people. It is said that in Rome, in the year 331 BC, 170 women were executed as witches. In 184 BC, about 2,000 people were executed for witchcraft and in 182-180 BC another 3,000 were executed for witchcraft. Biblical thoughts about witches were only the result of this age old belief.
So, these atrocious incidents started about 1100 years after Jesus and continued for about 800 years after that. Now the question that comes to my mind is ‘who should be blamed for these barbaric incidents? God, Bible, Jesus or the savages of the time?’ To get an answer, I ask myself: ‘why do we despise that kind of human behavior today? Has god advised us better? Has a new prophet arrived? The answer to these all question is “NO!” Time and experience has helped us to mature our thoughts. The barbarians of that time did not have this advantage. They have given it to us at their cost! I therefore look up on these stories as a part of cultural evolution of human beings, and nothing else. I can not blame god for this, the poor chap never existed and was a human invention, I do not blame the bible because it is also created by humans, who apparently were also savages. So, whom do you blame for cultural evolution? Whom do we blame because apes were our ancestors?
Jesus never took to the sword. He accepted a barbaric death peacefully. Eleven of his disciples also accepted death in his name and in peace and even St. Peter’s wife was executed. This tells me that it was not only Christians and the Muslims that were savages, but others that were there before them too were so.
Thinking further, I realize that the Christian mob started repenting and reforming and not the other mob. The Christians realized that combining religious and political power together was the worst ill. So eventually they discovered the idea of secularism. Yes, they were Christians even then. It is they, who, against all bigoted opposition developed modern science. It is they that evolved the modern liberal thought and gave it to the world (including India). Had science and technology not evolved, a far larger proportion of the population of the world would be dying hungry. All these thoughts had created such strong respect for Christianity in my mind, that I used to frequently say that since I do not believe in religion, I stay as I am, or else I would have become a Christian.
Now, the question I would like my atheist friends, “Is it necessary to hate or denigrate something to acquire a new thought or a new vision?” I do not feel good when one atheist sees Christ in a very ugly place and when another says that Christianity is f****d! MIND YOU, I AM STILL AN ATHEIST!
Please correct if and where I may be wrong. I have placed my views in a very rational way and expect you to do the same.
Thank you Madhukar Kulkarini.
I do not comment often on AN. Too often I find Atheists ceding the high ground, which should be theirs, by devolving into hatred against religious thought and theism. Despite the fact that I am an atheist, I value the good things religion helped bring us.I do not let them off for the bad things they have done, but I am willing to give credit where it has been earned.
People like you are willing to look at others and see the good and the bad. Too often that is not the case. I applaud you and your vision (which is alas too rare in this world). People like you are the future.
Thanks again for your well thought out comments. I agree with 90% of what you said, and what I didn't agree with isn't worth critiquing.
At this time of year I like to reflect on the good things in the world, and you have made my task easier. Best wishes to you and yours.
How about www.jesusneverexisted.com? I followed you ok until you mentioned peter's wife! give me a break Madhukar...when have you rebuked religious people for child mutilation or of stoning people to death lately?...Because god dosen't exist its our fault for the attrocities carried out in the name of religion? that seems to be your logic. Although there's nothing wrong with what you say and you are entitled to your own opinion...but I don't like what you have to say...you sound like your quite happy to live peacefully with people who believe in ghosts and would have this pervade every area of society!
Just a suggestion: how about using BCE and CE ("before the common era" and "common era" for dating rather than BC ("before Christ") and AD ("anno domini" which translates out to "the year of our lord", when he really ISN'T our lord!!). I find BC and AD kind of offensive, because it assumes that nothing is important unless related to the time of Jesus.
Second, well, you noted some "highlights" of Christian history, but don't begin to purge the true depths of it. Christians were murderous, stealing and coercive during their whole history with the sanctions of the church solidly behind them. Priests used to incite mobs of followers on Easter, telling them that the Jews killed Jesus, so why don't they go out and kill a few Jews? Not to speak of expelling them when they were believed to be spreading the Black Death, or you really wanted to steal their assets. I'm not going to go into the whole ugly story of Christian persecution of Jews and Gypsies in Europe, except to say that Hitler was only the last and "greatest" of the line of killers.
About Jesus, he didn't say anything that was not current in mainstream Jewish thinking at his time; the twisting of Judaism was accomplished by Paul and Luke, who sought to make Judaism more attractive to Pagans; and the way they twisted it was not a good way. Jesus was no better nor more admirable than hundreds of other men who were running around the land at the time railing at the Roman government by hiding their thoughts in stories of the "end of days" so that the Romans wouldn't know what they were talking about. And much of what the New Testament says about the crucifixion is demonstrably false.
The development of science and technology started out in SPITE of Christianity, not because of it. Remember Galileo? The Renaissance and Enlightenment were a great flowering of knowledge, and it's not coincidental that secularism was popular during both of those ages, although people were careful to try not to offend the church. Christianity has been nothing but backward-looking for its whole existence. It deserves no credit for the development of science and technology -- remember it was the Greeks, and then the Muslims who carried forward the development of science and technology before the Renaissance. And don't forget the science and technology that came from India and China, which were decidedly NOT Christian!
I don't hate Christians who derive comfort from their religion, and strive to be good human beings. But I have no respect for Christianity when used as a system of belief, or philosophy that seeks to restrict the individual rights or freedoms of those who don't believe in it.
I like your reply because, no matter we agree or not, you have tried to answer me as logically as possible, without loosing balance.
I have made a distinction between Christian religious establishment and the general Christian public. I myself have said that scientific development came despite bigoted religious opposition. Gallelio and almost all Christian scientists had not renounced Christianity. Therefore, please understand that outsider observers would consider them to be Christians only.
In the same way, when we think of secularism and George Holyoke, we do think of him as a Christian. Thomas Paine, George Washington or Thomas Jefferson also had not renounced christianity and become atheists. Hence I use the word Christianity in a wider sense, as distinct from the Christian priesthood.
When British were ruling India, not long ago, we all saw them as Christians. Before them we had Islamic rulers who were savages and we look upon the British Christian rulers as far more civilised compared to the muslims. As a result Indians have an aversion for Muslims but not for Christians. So, when I use the word Christians, I do not do so in the atheist sense but as we Indians saw and still see it. Similarly I want to make a distinction between the savages of the distant past and the liberals of the recent past. You may therefore disagree with my terminology but not with my meaning.
Yes, Madhukar, I do understand and agree with what you are saying. To expand a little further, I make a distinction between GOOD Christians, of which I know many, and CRAZY Christians, which I will now call Christianists, on the model of Islamists, who are trying to destroy our fundamental freedoms in the US, and would really like to take over the world. Islamists are pretty much up to the same thing.
Another thing I wanted to note is that self-definition as a Christian is a very imprecise thing. I believe Thomas Jefferson, and other founding fathers identified themselves as deists, not Christians, and I accept their self definition. Perhaps I see it through my own lens -- I was raised Jewish, and have never renounced Judaism for cultural and ethnic reasons, but I certainly do not believe literally in the god of the Tanach (Jewish writings) or Talmud (not to mention hundreds of other books). So I joined this site because I consider myself agnostic, but don't deny my Jewish roots. Most of my moral and ethical stances are indeed based on how I was raised (reform Judaism), but I continue to follow them because I think they make sense, not because some god commanded them (my favorite one is the requirement to repair the world -- our world is in much need of repair!). So, in this light, I am sure that there are many people whom you might consider Christian who really aren't, or who participate as they choose in Christianity, like celebrating Christmas, without necessarily being truly faithful. I participate in Judaism the same way, although my preference is philosophical. Perhaps the line between Christian and "something else" (which includes agnosticism and atheism) might be blurrier than you think?
Here is a lengthy essay I wrote years ago on the origins of the Bible and of Christianity - with all the ideological axe-grinding taken out, and relying on secular sources:
Scott, WOW. 'Bout all I can say. Your research and explanations are impressive and , far as I can tell, spot on. Very very good.
Most of what you write esp. about the Torah syncs with my favorite book on the subject, "The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts" by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. So I assume you are familiar with it?
The only thing missing in your essay, for me, is reference to Cyrus I. Scofield and his important contribution to the zionist myth with his "Scofield Bible". Scofield was housed, financed and tasked by Samuel Untermeyer and the Logos Club in NYC around 1906 to create the zionist myth, along with publicizing the Rapture and other dispensationalist nonsense in a new version of the King James "with notes" around 1908. There is a good book about Scofield, "The Incredible Scofield and His Book" by Joseph M. Canfield. I believe a paragraph or two about this scoundrel and his zionist overlords in your section: The King James Version - 1604 to the present would be enlightening and worth the effort.
Bible Unearthed is one of the sources I used for that essay. You will find it in the bibliography.
No, I am not familiar with Scofield and his work, but frankly, there were so many scoundrels involved in the creation of Zionism and its mythology that it would be hard to include them all. I made a stab at that in my essay on Zionism, which took three months to research and now runs to about 50 pages, but Scofield was not one of the people I encountered in that research, which was primarily from scholarly sources. But it sounds intriguing, so I will look into it.
Think you'll be enlightened. I started noticing Scofield when conversing with radical Evangelicals. They all call their bible, their 'true' bible, "The Scofield Bible". If you talk to them, I think you'd notice it. I looked into this and was surprised to learn that the King James Version had been radically changed in 1907 to conform with the wishes of Scofield's zionist overlords - mainly Samuel Untermeyer, a powerful NYC lawyer at the time, and Whitelaw Reid, the then-editor of the New York Tribune and an absolutely whack zionist.
It's all in Canfield's book.
So tell me what you mean by the zionist myth?
Thanks, Scott. I was expecting a biased screed (sorry!) but it's really not. I appreciate your not falling for the extremist fallacies of either side, and you do appear to understand that it's a complicated, and bitter situation, with no easy answers.
I do disagree with your assertion that Diaspora Jews are the descendants of Moroccan Berbers or European Khazars -- there is too much genetic evidence of relationship to the Arabs and to each other, in spite of undeniable mixing with non-Jewish populations during the Diaspora. Two examples I can think of are the fact that Cohens (the priestly caste) have a very high incidence of a Y-chromosome mutation (or mutations) that are shared by all Jewish groups, and would not be there if the Ashkenazi had such a different origin from the Sephardi and Mizrahi populations. The second is the increased incidence of specific breast cancer mutations that have been found in both Ashkenazi and Sephardi women, including conversos who moved to Mexico and then New Mexico in the 16th century. These mutations apparently occurred during the Babylonian exile, well before the time of the Roman Empire. There are other genetic indications that, indeed, the Jews originated where they say they did. And the archaeological evidence combined with the preservation of the Hebrew language, clearly Semitic, and Jewish customs support that.
At this point, no one can change history, but I am VERY interested in finding a solution, which will no doubt be extremely difficult, because of biased bigots on both sides.
One of my simple minded ideas is that, if the Palestinians signed a document that said that they would respect Israel's right to exist, JUST THAT, that it would put Israel on the hot seat, because that is the only thing that Israel MUST have. The simple acknowledgment of a desire to live in peace and the willingness to enforce that peace on the part of the Palestinians leaves Israel no out, other than to negotiate seriously. It's like 2 brothers fighting over an inheritance -- neither one can have everything they want, and they have to find a way to share/split the inheritance. I'm sure that some Palestinians and Israelis understand that, but it seems that a large percentage, including the leadership on both sides, do not. :-(
Too bad the world refuses to live according to MY utopia, LOL!!! :-)