Taken from my blog at http://beinghuman.blogs.fi
The freedom on thinking and the general development of societies have always been following a common path. The Greece of antiquity reached unprecedented achievement in science and arts when their religion did not really stall the development of the free thought in this society.
When thinking became freer, there was an explosion of ideas and also a new kind of economic vitality that made the material improvement of this society possible.
This material wealth created situation where there was possible to create a new class of thinkers, artists and scientists. This phenomenon created an explosion in science and new thinking.
It must however be remembered that science and arts performed by the leisurely class were possible because of the work done by the slaves.
Besides the freedom of thought one very basic ingredient in the Greek success story was democracy. The centrally led neighboring states did not ever reach the same level of sophistication that was achieved in the communities of free Greek men.
I believe that this development towards democracy was in big part possible because the non-centralist religion and mentally very relaxed religion of the Greeks made possible the acceptance of non-centralistic system of rule.
This fact helped to kick-start this wonderful experiment with democracy that had been never before tried out anywhere else.
All one-god, one-truth, one-book religions are very fond of centralistic model of rule also in the society at large. They are always also the best friends of the centralistic and undemocratic feudal regimes.
I am suggesting that the freedom of thought was the one decisive factor that propelled the Greece of antiquity to a level of development that was after that not reached again for a millennium when the new religion forbade all original thinking and froze the development of societies for hundreds of years.
It must however be admitted that the real flowering of the Greek culture was already over when Christianity took over the Roman Empire in coup d’etat.
The development in Greece was stalled when the peasants from Macedonia took over Greece and later the Roman Empire swallowed also their lands. This new raw empire admired brutality and loved violence when the Greeks loved beauty and rational thinking.
The Colosseum -Wikpedia
The Roman religion was very different from the Olympian frolics of the Greeks. It was brutal, demanding and barbaric. When the Greeks were clever marketers and traders, the Romans were brutal and single minded builders of their militaristic empire.
The Romans had always one thing that was really sacred for them. This was the Empire and its power. They thought that Greeks were weak and feminine and the Greek values of individual freedom and pursuit of personal happiness were foreign for them.
The Roman democracy that was originally modelled after the Greek examples soon also became a centrally led tyranny.
The Roman religion was however a thing for the Romans only before the Christian came into the view. The Romans wanted only subjugation and money from the nations they had conquered.
Conquered Roman clients could worship their own gods as they liked, if only they honored the roman deities on the side as well. This moderate wish was incidentally too much to the one-god religion of Jews and later also for the Christians.
Roman Empire consisted of dozens of conquered nations and it offered a quite unique opportunity for the newfangled Christian religion. This rare religious plurality gave this new religion a rare opportunity to cross the language and cultural barriers normally hindering this kind of spreading of new religions.
Different religions fought for space for centuries in this great Empire. The Christians were for a time persecuted, which was undoubtedly caused also by their imminent and obvious intolerance towards all other religions.
A coup d-etat performed with help of the Roman emperors brought them to the power in the Roman Empire.
They could then start using its powerful machinery to their own ends. Their first goal was to swiftly suppress all other religions and end the religious tolerance that had brought the power to them in the first place.
Christian religion and church had been by that time been developed into a extremely centralized machinery. This machinery was wonderfully fitted to be used as a tool of government by the Roman emperors, who had been themselves been centrally involved hammering this new machinery together in the Christian synods of that time.
The Roman ruling elite saw that this new religion could be used as a tool to stitch together this vast empire consisting of countless different nations.
But the scheme did not work. On the contrary, the followers of this one single truth so alienated many of the traditional client nations of the Roman Empire giving it the military support it desperately needed in that time, that in the end the western part of the vast empire simply collapsed.
The great irony is that these alienated ‘barbarians’ were not pagans at all, but followers of other Christian traditions t. ex. Arianism, that was classified as an extremely dangerous heresy at that time by the Catholic church.
The Catholic Church remembers to this day this bloody and centrally lead empire with longing. The Greek tradition of individual freedom was however suppressed with heavy hand for centuries by the church.
It is no coincidence that there are only fragments left from the works of Epicurus and many other Greek thinkers. The same faith waited the thoughts of many Greek scientists and thinkers, as the Church destroyed without mercy all the knowledge that did not support its views of the world. Only those works were left untouched that could somehow be fitted to their own view of the world.
The Catholic Church hated the quest for earthly happiness and wisdom that was presented by Epicurus and other Greek thinkers. Instead of life one was now forced to love death and long for the new life waiting beyond the grave. The love of reason was buried for centuries.
Rome was loved so much be the church because the Roman greatness was based on a very similar single empire-building ideology as was that of the Church. The most important duty of every Roman was to love the state and work for its greatness.
This irrational system of beliefs could not be rationally analyzed or criticized. This is the very reason why so many roman thinkers were spared from the bonfires that awaited their Greek counterparts.
Romans loaned a lot of deities from the Greeks, as they loaned a greatest part of their culture from the much older Greek civilization. They did not however ever fall for the Greek notion of distant Gods that did not really bother with the affairs of men.
The angry and cruel Roman gods demanded human sacrifice and unquestioning loyalty. This religious tradition was the basis on which the Christian Church was built as a weapon of empire building.