Darkening Age, 10

In chapter seven of The Darkening Age: The Christian
Destruction of the Classical World
, Catherine Nixey wrote:

Constantine… demanded that the statues be taken from the temples. Christian officials, so it was said, travelled the empire, ordering the priests of the old religion to bring their statues out of the temples. From the 330s onwards some of the most sacred objects in the empire started to be removed. It is hard, today, to understand the enormity of Constantine’s order. If Michelangelo’s Pietà were taken from the Vatican and sold, it would be considered a terrible act of cultural vandalism—but it wouldn’t be sacrilege as the statue is not in itself sacred. Statues in Roman temples were. To remove them was a gross violation, and Constantine knew it…

The possibility that Jesus would triumph over all other gods would, at the time, have seemed almost preposterous. Constantine was faced with an intransigent population who insisted on worshipping idols at the expense of the risen Lord. He realized that conversion would be more ‘easily accomplished if he could get them to despise their temples and the images contained therein’. And what better way to teach wayward pagans the vanity of their gods than by cracking open their statues and showing that they were, quite literally, empty? Moreover, a religious system in which sacrifice was central would struggle to survive if there was nothing to sacrifice to. There was good biblical precedent for his actions. In Deuteronomy, God had commanded that His chosen people should overthrow altars, burn sacred groves and hew down the graven images of the gods. If Constantine attacked the temples then he was not being a vandal. He was doing God’s good work.

And so it began. The great Roman and Greek temples were— or so Eusebius said—broken open and their statues brought out, then mutilated…

Not all the temple statues were melted down. The ‘tyrant’ Constantine also had an eye for art and many objects were shipped back as prize baubles for the emperor’s new city, Constantinople (Constantine, like Alexander the Great, was not one for self-effacement). The Pythian Apollo was put up as ‘a contemptible spectacle’ in one square; the sacred tripods of Delphi turned up in Constantinople’s hippodrome, while the Muses of Helicon found themselves relocated to Constantine’s palace. The capital looked wonderful. The temples looked—were—desecrated. As his biographer wrote with satisfaction, Constantine ‘confuted the superstitious error of the heathen in all sorts of ways’.

And yet despite the horror of what Constantine was asking his subjects to do there was little resistance…

Christianity could have been tolerant: it was not pre­ordained that it would take this path. There were Christians who voiced hopes for tolerance, even ecumenicalism. But those hopes were dashed. For those who wish to be intolerant, monotheism provides very powerful weapons. There was ample biblical justification for the persecution of non-believers.

The Bible, as a generation of Christian authors declared, is very clear on the matter of idolatry. As the Christian author Firmicus Maternus reminded his rulers—perfectly correctly—there lay upon emperors an ‘imperative necessity to castigate and punish this evil’. Their ‘severity should be visited in every way on the crime’. And what precisely did God advise as a punishment for idolatry? Deuteronomy was clear: a person indulging in this should be stoned to death. And if an entire city fell into such sin? Again, the answer was clear: ‘destruction is decreed’.

The desecration continued for centuries. In the fifth century AD, the colossal statue of Athena, the sacred centrepiece of the Acropolis in Athens, and one of the most famous works of art in the empire, was torn down from where she had stood guard for almost a thousand years, and shipped off to Constantinople—a great coup for the Christian city and a great insult to the ‘pagans’…

Note of the Ed.: After the centuries, Europeans even forgot how the Greco-Roman sculptures that were destroyed looked like. My guess is that Constantine’s bishops were not Aryans. Destroying a representation of the beauty of the Aryan physique was part of the Semitic takeover of white society: Let’s destroy your self-image as a means to undermine your self-esteem. Something similar is happening today with the religion of Holocaustianity: Let’s undermine your self-image from a decent person to historic grievances so that you may accept masses of non-white immigrants.

History is written by the winners and the Christian victory was absolute. The Church dominated European thought for more than a millennium. Until 1871 the University of Oxford required that all students were members of the Church of England, while in most cases to be given a fellowship in an Oxford college one had to be ordained. Cambridge was a little freer—but not much.

This was not an atmosphere conducive to criticism of Christianity and indeed, in English histories, there was little. For centuries, the vast majority of historians unquestioningly took up the Christian cause and routinely and derogatorily referred to non-Christians as ‘pagans’, ‘heathens ‘ and ‘idolaters’. The practices and sufferings of these ‘pagans’ were routinely belittled, trivialized or—more often—entirely ignored. As one modern scholar has observed: ‘The story of early Christian history has been told almost wholly on the basis of Christian sources.’

Kriminalgeschichte, 67

Below, an abridged translation from the first volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums (Criminal History of Christianity). For a comprehensive text that explains the absolute need to destroy Judeo-Christianity, see here. In a nutshell, any white person who worships the god of the Jews is, ultimately, ethnosuicidal.

 
Augustine’s campaign against the Donatists

To the Donatists, whom the African had never mentioned before, he finally paid attention when he was already a priest. Since then he fought them year after year, with greater fury than other ‘heretics’; he threw his contempt to their faces and expelled them from Hippo, their episcopal city. Because the Donatists had committed ‘the crime of schism’ they were nothing but ‘weeds’, animals: ‘these frogs sit in their pond and croak: “we are the only Christians!” but they are heading to hell without knowing it’.

What was a Donatist for Augustine? An alternative that was not presented to him, because, when he was elected bishop, the schism was already 85 years old. It was a local African issue, relatively small, though not divided into ‘countless crumbs’ as he claimed. Catholicism, on the other hand, absorbed the peoples; it had the emperor on his side, the masses, as Augustine blurts out, ‘the unity of the whole world’. Frequently and without hesitation Augustine insists on such demonstration of the majority, incapable of making the reflection that Schiller will later formulate: ‘What is the majority? Most is nonsense; intelligence has always been only in the minority’.

The Donatist was convinced of being a member of a brotherhood. Throughout their tragic history, they collaborated with a religious-revolutionary peasant movement, which inflicted vexations on the landowners: the Circumcellions or Agonistici—temporary workers of the countryside and at the same time the left wing of this Church, who first enjoyed the support of Donatus of Bagai and later that of Gildo.

According to his adversary, Augustine, who characterized them with the psalm of ‘rapids are their feet to shed blood’, they robbed, looted, set fire to the basilicas, threw lime and vinegar in the eyes of Catholics, claimed promissory notes and started with threats his emancipation. Often led by clerics, including bishops, ‘captains of the saints’, these Agonistici or milites Christi (followers of martyrs, hobby pilgrims, terrorists) beat the landowners and Catholic clerics with decks called ‘israels’ under the war cry of ‘Praise be to God’ (laus deo), the ‘trumpets of the massacre’ (Augustine). The Catholics ‘depended to a great extent on the support of the Roman Empire and the landlords, who guaranteed them economic privileges and material protection’ (Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum). It was also not uncommon for the exploited to kill themselves in order to reach paradise. As the Donatists said, because of the persecution they jumped from rocks, as for example the cliffs of Ain Mlila, or to mighty rivers, which for Augustine was not more than ‘a part of their habitual behaviour’.

The centre of their offices was the cult to the martyrs. Excavations carried out in the centre of Algeria, which was the bulwark of the Donatists, have brought to light innumerable chapels dedicated to the adoration of the martyrs and which undoubtedly belonged to the schismatics. Many carried biblical quotes or their currency, Deo laudes.

A Donatist bishop boasted that he had reduced four churches to ashes with his own hand. They, as so often emphasized, even by Augustine, could not be martyrs ‘because they did not live the life of Christ’. The true background of the Donatist problem, which not only led to the religious wars of the years 340, 347 and 361-363 but caused the great uprisings of 372 and 397-398, Augustine failed to understand or did not want to understand. He thought he could explain through a theological discussion what was less a confessional than a social problem: the deep social contrasts within North African Christianity, the abyss between a rich upper class and those who owned nothing; that they were not in any way just the ‘bands of Circumcellions’, but also the slaves and the free masses who hated the dominant ones.

Augustine did not know or did not want to see this. He defended with all tenacity the interests of the possessing and dominant class. For him the Donatists were never right: they simply defamed and lied. He maintained that they were looking for a lie, that their lie ‘fills all Africa’. Initially, Augustine was not in favour of violence. He questioned any attempt to use it. ‘I have no intention of forcing anyone against their will to the religious community with anyone’. Of course, when he learned about the wickedness of the ‘heretics’ and saw that they could be improved with some force, which the Government already commissioned in an increasing way from the year 405, he changed his mind.

The faith of the Donatists, no matter how similar it was—even, essentially, identical—was nothing but error and violence. Catholics, on the other hand, only acted out of pure compassion, out of love. ‘Understand what happens to you! God does not want you to sink into a sacrilegious disunity, separated from your mother, the Catholic Church’.

As the Handbuch der Kirchengeschichte says, or more precisely, the Catholic Baus, ‘here speaks the voice of a man who was so driven and encouraged by the religious responsibility to bring back to an ecclesia the lost brothers in the error, that all the other considerations remained for him in the background’. How typical! He must exonerate Augustine, make his thoughts and actions understandable. Thus, over the course of two millennia, the great crimes of history have been constantly apologised and exalted; they have been glorified. Only in the name of God can they always allow and commit certain crimes, the most atrocious, as will be demonstrated more clearly each time throughout this criminal history.

With an extensive series of astute sentences, without missing those corresponding to the Old and New Testaments, the great lover now demands coercive measures against all those who ‘must be saved’ (corrigendi atque sanandi). The coercion, Augustine teaches now, is sometimes inevitable, because although the best ones can be handled with love, to the majority, unfortunately, it is necessary to force them with fear.

‘He who spares the rod hates his son’ he says, quoting the Bible. ‘A spoiled man is not corrected with words’. And did not Sara chase Hagar? And what did Elijah do with the priests of Baal? For many years Augustine had justified the brutalities of the Old Testament against the Manichaeans, from whom came that book of princes of darkness.

The New Testament could also be used. Did not Paul also give some people to Satan? ‘You know?’, Augustine says to bishop Vixens, explaining the Gospel—:

no one can be forced to justice when you read how the head of the family spoke to his servants: ‘Whoever finds them compels them to enter!’

—which Augustine translates most effectively as ‘force them’ (cogitere intrare). Resistance only demonstrates irrationality. Do not the feverish patients, in their delirium, also revolt against their doctors? Augustine calls tolerance (toleratio) ‘fruitless and vain’ (infructuosa et vana) and is excited by the conversion of many ‘through healthy coercion’ (terrore perculsi). It was nothing else than the program of Firmicus Maternus, ‘the program of a general declaration of war’ (Hoheisel), whether Augustine had read it or not.

‘Under extreme coercion’, the ‘professional speaker’ preaches, rich in tricks, ‘the inner will is realised’, referring to the Acts of the Apostles, 9,4, to John, 6,44, and finally, starting from the year 416-417, to Luke, 14, 23—the Gospel of love! In proceeding against his enemies, he gave the impression that he was also ‘sometimes a little nervous’ (Thomas), although what seemed to be persecution, in reality, was only love, ‘always only love and exclusively love’ (Marrou).

‘The Church presses them against their hearts and surrounds them with motherly tenderness to save them’—through forced labour, fustigations, confiscation of property, elimination of the right of inheritance. However, the only thing that Augustine wants again is to ‘impose’ on the Donatists ‘the advantages of peace, unity and love’:

That is why I have been presented to you as your enemy. You say you want to kill me, although I only tell you the truth and, as far as I’m concerned, I will not let you get lost. God would avenge from you and kill, in you, the error.

God would take revenge on you! The bishop does not consider himself by any means an inciter. But, yes, when it seemed appropriate, he demanded to apply the full weight of the law to the recalcitrant, not granting them ‘grace or forgiveness’. Better said, he authorized torture!

The most famous saint of the ancient Church, perhaps of the whole Church, a ‘so affable person’ (Hendrikx), the father of ‘infinite kindness’ (Grabmann) ‘and generosity ‘(Kotting), who against the Donatists ‘he constantly practiced the sweet behaviour’ (Espenberger), which against them does not formulate ‘any hurtful word’ (Baus), which tries to ‘preserve from the harsh penalties of Roman law’ even ‘the guilty’ (Hümmeler)—in short, the man who becomes spokesman of the mansuetudo catholica, of Catholic benevolence, allows torture…

The thing was not so bad after all! ‘Remember all the possible martyrdoms’, Augustine consoles us:

Compare them with hell and you can imagine everything easily. The torturer and the tortured are here ephemeral, eternal there… We have to fear those pains as we fear God. What the human being suffers here supposes a cure (emendatio) if it is corrected.

Catholics could thus abuse as much as they liked, it was unimportant compared to hell, with that horror that God would impose upon them for all eternity. The earthly torture was ‘light’, ‘transient’, just a ‘cure’!

A theologian is never disconcerted! That’s why he does not know shame either.

In the Christian Empire of those times there prevailed everything except liberality and personal freedom. What prevailed was slavery, children were chained instead of the parents, everywhere there was secret police, ‘and every day could be heard the cries of those whom the court tortured and could be seen the gates with the whimsically executed’ (Chadwick). The emperor’s assassins automatically liquidated the Donatists who had mutilated Catholic priests or who had destroyed churches. Augustine endorsed in practice the death penalty. ‘The greater the hardness with which the State acts, the more Augustine applauds’ (Aland).

Here we see the celebrated father of the Church in all its magnitude: as a desk author and hypocrite; as a bishop who not only exerted a terrible influence during his life, but who was the initiator of political Augustinism: the archetype of all the bloody inquisitors of so many centuries, of their cruelty, perfidy, prudishness, and a precursor of horror: of the medieval relations between Church and State. Augustine’s example allowed the ‘secular arm’ to throw millions of human beings, including children and the elderly, dying and disabled, to the cells of torture, to the night of the dungeons, to the flames of the fire—and then hypocritically ask the State to respect their lives! All the henchmen and ruffians, princes and monks, bishops and popes who from now on would hunt martyrs and burn ‘heretics’, could lean on Augustine, and in fact they did it; and also the reformers.

When in 420 the state minions persecuted the bishop of Ta-mugadi, Gaudentius, he fled to his beautiful basilica; fortified himself there and threatened to burn himself along with his community. The chief of the officials, a pious Christian, who nevertheless persecuted people of his own faith, did not know what party to take and consulted Augustine. The saint, inventor of the sui generis doctrine of predestination, replied:

But since God, according to secret but just will, has predestined some of them to eternal punishment, without a doubt it is better that, although some are lost in their own fire, the vastly greater majority is gathered and recovered from that pernicious division and dispersion, instead of all together be burned in the eternal fire deserved by the sacrilegious division.

Once again Augustine was himself, ‘of course the first theoretician of the Inquisition’, who wrote ‘the only complete justification in the history of the ancient Church’ about ‘the right of the State to repress non-Catholics’ (Brown). In the application of violence, the saint only saw a ‘process of debilitation’, a ‘conversion by oppression’ (per molestias eruditio), a ‘controlled catastrophe’ and compared it to a father ‘who punishes the son who loves’ and that every Saturday night, ‘as a precaution’ beats his family.

The ‘edict of the unit’ of 405 followed other state decrees in the years 407, 408, 409, 412 and 414. The obligatory withdrawal of the Donatists was ordered, their Church was relegated more or less to the underground and they started pogroms that would last several years. The Donatist Church was forbidden; its followers forced to convert to Catholicism. ‘The Lord has shattered the teeth of the lion’ (Augustine). Entire cities, hitherto convinced Donatists, became Catholic out of fear of sorrow and violence, such as the episcopal city of Augustine, where once the ovens could not bake bread for Catholics. Finally, he himself expelled the Donatists. However, when the State tolerated them temporarily during the invasion of Alaric and they returned, for the great saint they seemed ‘wolves to whom it would be necessary to kill with blows’. Only by chance did he escape from an ambush that the Circumcellions had laid out for him.

The masses of slaves and settlers, of whom only their labour force was of any use, were to be maintained within the Catholic Church, through forced labour and the lash of their lords, for the maintenance of ‘Catholic peace’. In the year 414 the Donatists were deprived of all their civil rights and the death penalty was threatened to those who celebrated their religious services. ‘Where there is love, there is peace’ (Augustine). Or as our bishop later declared triumphantly: Quodvult deus de Cartago: the viper has been crushed, or better still: it has been devoured.

After the year 418, the theme of the Donatists disappears for decades from the debates held in the synods of the North African bishops. In 420 it appears the last anti-Donatist writing of Augustine: Contra Gaudentium. In 429, with the invasion of the Vandals, the anti-Donatist imperial edicts also ended, which continued to call for annihilation. However, the schism lasted until the 6th century, although very weakened.

The sad remains that managed to escape the constant persecutions were destroyed a century later, along with Catholics, by Islam. African Christianity was undermined, bankrupt; finally, completely separated from Europe in the religious aspect, and escaped from its area of influence to fall into that of the Near East.

The most important ancient of the Christian churches, the only one in the Mediterranean, disappeared without a trace. There was nothing left of her. ‘But it was not due to Islam but to the persecutions against the Donatists, which made North Africa hate the Catholic Church so much that the Donatists received Islam as a liberation and converted to it’ (Kawerau).

______ 卐 ______

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Why Europeans must reject Christianity, 13

by Ferdinand Bardamu

 
Christianity: bringer of violence and bloodshed

Word of mouth is notoriously ineffective as a means of spreading religious propaganda. This explains why Christianity’s growth remained largely unspectacular until the early 4th century. Of course, the primary reason for the Christianization of the empire was the conversion of Constantine to the new religion. The influence of Christianity in the empire was continuously reinforced and strengthened by the imperially coercive legislation of his successors. Christianization also sanctioned acts of religious violence against pagans, which contributed significantly to the religion’s spectacular growth in numbers and influence. Christianity unleashed a wave of violence that nearly drowned Europe in an ocean of blood. Without Constantine, and the religious violence of his successors, Christianity would have remained just another competing religion in the provincial backwaters of the empire, like Mithraism or the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The imperial policy of Christianization was further aided by the religion’s intrinsic advantages over rival philosophical and religious belief systems, making it more palatable to the ignorant masses. This facilitated its rapid spread across the empire until, by the reign of Theodosius in the late 4th century, most urban areas were predominantly Christian. These advantages included the egalitarian ethos of the Christian church. Unlike Mithraism, which was elitist, Christianity accepted all potential recruits, regardless of ethno-linguistic or socio-economic difference. The Christians of the first three centuries practiced a form of primitive communism. This attracted the chronically indigent, as well as freeloaders. Another advantage was the child-like simplicity of Christian doctrine.

The Crisis of the 3rd century, where rival claimants fought each other for the title of Caesar, was an internecine conflict lasting for decades. It produced widespread economic instability and civil unrest. This disruption of daily life encouraged men and women to seek refuge in the mystery religions, but also Christianity, which offered easy answers in an increasingly chaotic and ugly world. The Christian religion promised life everlasting to those who successfully endured tribulation on earth.

Passage of the edict of Milan in 313 meant that Christians would go from being a persecuted minority to a persecuting majority. Although persecution of religious dissidents had occurred before Constantine, such events were comparatively rare. Roman “persecution” of Christianity was mild and sporadic. It was not even religious in nature, but political; Christians refused to swear loyalty to the state by offering the pinch of incense to the emperor’s genius. Christians were not so much persecuted as they were subjected to Roman police action for disobeying the laws of the land. In contrast, Christian persecution of pagans and heretics was entirely motivated by religious hatred. It combined the authoritarian anti-pagan legislation of the emperors with the bigotry of the clergy and the violence of the Christian mob.

The first repressive laws against paganism were passed by Constantine. In 331, he issued an edict that legalized the seizure of temple property. This was used to enrich church coffers and adorn his city of Constantinople. He redirected municipal funds from the curiae to the imperial treasury. The curiae used these funds for the construction and renovation of temples, as well as for pagan banquets, processions and festivals. The redirection of municipal funds significantly diminished the influence of paganism in the public sphere. Constantine also showed preference for Christians when considering prospective candidates for government posts. For the first time in the empire’s history, conversion to Christianity was considered an attractive proposition.

Pagan temples and statuary were first vandalized and destroyed under Constantine. Christians believed that this first wave of iconoclasm was in fulfillment of scriptural command: “Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves; . . . for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exod. 34.13f). The earliest Christian iconoclasm included the partial destruction of a Cilician temple of Asklepios and the destruction of temples to Aphrodite in Phoenicia (ca. 326 AD).

Constantine’s sons, Constans and Constantius II, followed in their father’s footsteps. In 341, Constans issued an edict banning animal sacrifice. In 346, Constans and Constantius II passed a law ordering the closure of all temples. These emperors were egged on by the Christian fanatic Firmicus Maternus who, in an exhortation addressed to both emperors in 346, called for the “annihilation of idolatry and the destruction of profane temples.” The fact that pagans continued to occupy important posts in the imperial administration made it difficult to legislate the active destruction of temples, statuary and inscriptions without alienating a large segment of the empire’s population. Nevertheless, Constantine’s sons turned a blind eye to private acts of Christian vandalism and desecration.

After the death of Constantius II, Julian was made emperor in 361. Having succumbed to the influence of pagan tutors in his youth, he developed a deep hatred for the “Galilean madness.” Accession to the throne allowed him to announce his conversion to Hellenism without fear of retribution. Julian set about reversing the anti-pagan legislation first enacted by his uncle. He re-opened the temples, restored their funding and returned confiscated goods; he renovated temples that had been damaged by Christian vandals; he repealed the laws against sacrifice and barred Christians from teaching the classics. Julian’s revival of pagan religious practice was cut short in 363, when he was killed in battle against the Persian Sassanids.

His successor Jovian revoked Julian’s edicts and re-established Christianity as most favored religion in the empire. The emperors who came after Jovian were too occupied with barbarian invasion to be concerned with internal religious squabbles; it was more expedient to simply uphold the toleration imposed on pagans and Christians alike by the Edict of Milan. Anti-pagan conflict again came to the forefront with Gratian. In 382 he angered pagans by removing the altar of Victory from the Senate. In the same year, Gratian issued a decree that ended all subsidies to the pagan cults, including priesthoods such as the Vestal Virgins. He further alienated pagans by repudiating the insignia of the pontifex maximus.

In 389, Theodosius began his all-out war on the old Roman state religion by abolishing the pagan holidays. According to the emperor’s decrees, paganism was a form of “natural insanity and stubborn insolence” difficult to root out, despite the terrors of the law and threats of exile. This was followed by more repressive legislation in 391, which re-instated the ban on sacrifice, banned visitation of pagan sanctuaries and temples, ended imperial subsidies to the pagan cults, disbanded the Vestal Virgins and criminalized apostasy. He refused to return the altar of Victory to the Senate house, in defiance of pagan demands. Anyone caught performing animal sacrifice or haruspicy was to be arrested and put to death. In the same year, the Serapeum, a massive temple complex housing the Great Library of Alexandria, was destroyed by a mob of Christian fanatics. This act of Christian vandalism was a great psychological blow to the pagan establishment.

Pagans, dissatisfied with the imperially-sponsored cultural revolution that threatened to annihilate Rome’s ancestral traditions, rallied around the usurper Eugenius. He was declared emperor by the Frankish warlord Arbogast in 392. A nominal Christian, Eugenius was sympathetic to the plight of pagans in the empire and harbored a certain nostalgia for pre-Christian Rome. He restored the imperial subsidies to the pagan cults and returned the altar of Victory to the Senate. This angered Theodosius, emperor in the east. In 394, Theodosius invaded the west and defeated Eugenius at the battle of Frigidus in Slovenia. This ended the last serious pagan challenge to the establishment of Christianity as official religion of the empire.

Apologists for Christianity argue that imperial anti-pagan legislation was more rhetoric than reality; their enforcement would have been difficult in the absence of a modern police state apparatus. This objection is contradicted by archaeological and epigraphic evidence. First, based on stratigraphic analysis of urban temples, cult activity had virtually ceased by the year 400, after passage of the Theodosian decrees. Second, temple construction and renovation declined significantly under the Christian emperors. In Africa and Cyrenaica, temple construction and renovation inscriptions are far more common under the first Tetrarchy than the Constantinian dynasty, when pagans still constituted a significant majority of the empire’s citizens. By the end of the 4th century, the authoritarian legislation of the Christian emperors had seriously undermined the strength and vitality of the old polytheistic cults.

The emperors did not stop with the closure of pagan religious sites. In 435 AD, a triumphant Theodosius II passed an edict ordering the destruction of all pagan shrines and temples across the empire. He even decreed the death penalty for Christian magistrates who failed to enforce the edict. The Code Justinian, issued between 529 to 534, prescribes the death penalty for public observance of Hellenic rites and rituals; known pagans were to seek instruction in the Christian faith or risk property confiscation; their children were to be seized by officials of the state and forcibly converted to the Christian religion.

Imperially mandated closure of all urban temples resulted in the privatization of polytheistic worship. This further exacerbated the decline of the pagan religious cults because of the object-dependent nature of ritual practice, which could not be fully realized in the absence of statuary, processions, festivals, lavish banquets and monumental building. In urban areas, imperial legislation was clearly effective. This was ruthlessly enforced by professional Christians and zealous magistrates, who used the additional muscle of the Roman army to get their own way, especially when preaching and public example failed.

Pagan rites and rituals were still observed at rural sanctuaries and temples for some time after the closure of urban centers of worship. These remained off the beaten track, so to speak, and were harder to shut down.

Churchmen like the fiery John Chrysostom, cognizant of this fact, exhorted the rich landowning class of the east to convert the heathen on their country estates. Those who allowed pagan worship on their rural properties were just as guilty of violating imperial anti-pagan legislation as the pagans themselves. Itinerant Christian evangelists, like Martin of Tours, fanned out across the countryside, winning souls for Christ through a campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence. In the end, aggressive evangelism, privatization of pagan religious practice and social marginalization ensured the death of paganism in rural areas.

Christianization of the empire was complete by 600 AD, although it is unclear to what extent Christ was considered just another deity to be worshipped alongside the old pagan gods.

Kriminalgeschichte, 37

Below, abridged translation from the first
volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte
des Christentums
(Criminal History of Christianity)

 
A father of the Church who preaches looting and killing

And it was time for Firmicus Maternus, who expressed with joy that ‘although in some regions the dying members of idolatry still revolt, the complete eradication of such a pernicious aberration in all the Christian provinces’ seems near, which served to launch this proclamation to the Christian emperors: ‘Out with all the pagan ornaments of the temples! To the mint and the crucible with the metal of the idolatrous statues, so that they melt in the heat of the flames!’

In the diatribe De errore profanarum religionum (“On the error of profane religions”), written about the year 347, Firmicus incites emperors Constans and Constantius, called ‘sacratissimi imperatores’ and ‘sacrosancti’ to the extermination, above all, of mystery cults: the most dangerous for Christianity. These were the cults of Isis, Osiris, Serapis, Cybele and Attis, Dionysus-Bacchus and Aphrodite, and the solar cult of Mithraism, the most powerful of the time, characterized by numerous and surprising parallels with the Christian religion.

Many Catholic authors still deny (despite having proved incontestably in 1897) that Firmicus was the author of those bloodthirsty diatribes, which are discredited by their fanatical style full of pleonasms, prototype of future Catholic rhetoric and pamphlets.

Christ, the father of the Church congratulates himself, ‘he has knocked down the column where the devil had his image’, which appears thus ‘almost defeated, turned into fire and ashes’. ‘Little is left now for the devil, totally overwhelmed by your laws, to be totally destroyed, putting an end to the disastrous contagion, once the worship of idols, that poison has been exterminated. Celebrate with jubilation the annihilation of paganism, sing in full voice the hallelujah, for you have won as soldiers of Christ’.

Not yet, however. The religiones profanae still existed, almost all the temples still stood and the pagans still came to their sanctuaries. For this reason, the agitator demands the confiscation of their property, the destruction of the centres of worship. ‘Melt the figures of the gods and mint your coins with them; incorporate the votive offerings into the imperial treasury. The Lord has called you to higher undertakings, when you have crowned the task of annihilating all the temples’.

The spread of Christianity was the highest enterprise, along with the eradication of the pernicious pagan doctrines. Of course, adepts of the Greco-Roman world did not think so, but the other way around. ‘The opinion that, with the irruption of Christianity in the world, it had begun a general decline of the human species’ (Friedlander) was gaining strength.

Always invoking the Yahweh of the Old Testament, as is logical, until then no Christian had claimed with so much emphasis heir to the biblical hecatombs, nor had he used the precedent so systematically to justify resorting to brutality and terror. God threatens even the family and children of the children, ‘lest the cursed seed survive, and there be no trace of the heathen generations’.

As soon as the Church found itself in a position of strength, it stopped rejecting violence in order to exercise it ‘by all means’, as the theologian Carl Schneider says. The old apologetics that spoke of freedom of cults is displaced by libel and diatribe; the ideology of martyrdom and the exemplary lives of the martyrs no longer matters, it is the hour of persecuting fanaticism, of ‘the powerful calls to the crusade’ by a Firmicus ‘denigrating non-Christian religions like no other before him’ (Hoheisel).

The emperors, certainly, were the ones who had the means to apply coercion and violence. But they were also Christians and many proofs will not be necessary to suppose that the book of Firmicus Maternus, dedicated to the emperors Constantius and Constans, would not fail to influence in some measure the anti-pagan policy of them; their prohibitions and their threats. And these, in turn, would determine the position of the author of that Christian pamphlet.

Kriminalgeschichte, 18

Below, abridged translation from the first volume of Karlheinz
Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte des Christentums

(Criminal History of Christianity)

 

Chapter 4: First attacks against paganism

‘And you, too, Holy Emperor, have the duty of holding and punishing, and it is your duty, by virtue of the first commandment of the Most High, to pursue with your severity and in all possible ways the abomination of idolatry’. —Firmicus Maternus, Father of the Church

‘Two measures interested Firmicus: the destruction of the temples, and the persecution to death of those who did not think like him’. —Karl Hoheisel

 

If from the first moment the Christians fought with ‘holy wrath’ the Jews and ‘heretics’, they showed some moderation before the heathen, called héllenes and éthne by the treatise writers of the 4th century. The concept of ‘paganism’, which was very complex and referred to both religious and intellectual life, excluded only Christians and Jews, and later Muslims. It is not, of course, a scientific notion, but rather theological, coming from the late New Testament period, with obvious negative connotations.

Translated into Latin it gives gentes (arma diaboli, according to St. Ambrose), and then, as the adherents of the old religion were being reduced to rural zones, pagani, pagan. In the meaning that designated non-Christians, this word appears for the first time in two Latin epigraphs of the beginning of the 4th century. In the ordinary sense it meant ‘peasants’ and can also be understood as antonym of ‘military’. For example, the ‘heathen’, that is, those who were not soldiers of Christ, were called in ancient Gothic thiudos, haithns, that in old high German gives heidan, haidano (modern German: Heiden), with the probable meaning of ‘wild’.

We said, then, that the initial treatment given by Christianity to these ‘savages’ was rather mild, a notable behaviour. It preludes the tactics used by the Church during the next long millennium and a half: against the majority, prudence, make oneself be tolerated to survive; then destroy that tactic as soon as possible. If we have the majority, no tolerance! Otherwise, we are in favour of it. That is classic Catholicism, to this day!

At first, the pagans only saw in Christianity a dissident sect of Judaism. This was in line with the negative opinion that the Jews generally deserved, all the more so because, in addition to having inherited the intolerance and religious exclusiveness of them, they did not even represent, like Jewry, a coherent nation. The ancient believers only found ‘impiety’ in those innumerable groups, which also took no part in public life, something that made them suspects of immorality.

In a word, they were despised and made responsible for epidemics and famines, so it was not surprising from time to time the cry of ‘Christians to lions!’ Hence the fathers of the pre-Constantinian period wrote ‘Tolerance’ with capital letters, making it a virtue. They were untiring in their demand for freedom of worship and respect for their beliefs, while making protests of detachment, of virtue, as if they lived on earth but were already walking in heaven; loving all and not hating anyone, not returning evil for evil, preferring to suffer injustices than to inflict them, nor sue anyone, nor steal, nor kill.

If almost all the pagan things seemed to them ‘infamous’, Christians considered themselves ‘righteous and holy’. By 177, Athenagoras explained to the pagan emperors that ‘every one should be allowed to have the gods he chooses’.

Towards the year 200, Tertullian is in favour of freedom of religion; that some pray to heaven and the others to altars; that these worship God and others Jupiter. ‘It is a human right and a natural liberty for all to worship what seems best to them, since with such cults no one harms or benefits others’. Origen still cited a long series of common points among the religion of the pagans and the Christian, to better emphasise the prestige of the latter, and does not want to allow blasphemy against gods of any kind, even in situations of flagrant injustice. It is possible that some Fathers of the Church expressed themselves by conviction; in others it would be nothing but calculation and opportunism.
 

The anti-pagan issue in Early Christianity

But as much as they postulated religious freedom, they attacked the pagans in the same way they did with the Jews and ‘heretics’. That controversy, sporadic or we could almost say casual at first, gained ground since the end of the 2nd century, that is, when they began to feel strong. From the time of Marcus Aurelius (161-180) we know the names of six Christian apologists and the texts of three pieces of apologetics (from Athenagoras, Tatian and Theophilus).

Arnobius of Sicca, who was Lactantius teacher, authored seven pathetically boring mammoths of polemics, Against the pagans, whose gods had sex ‘like dogs and pigs’, ‘shameful members that an honest mouth cannot even name’. He criticises their passions ‘in the manner of unclean animals’, ‘with a frantic desire to exchange the filth of coitus’.

Like many other writers, Arnobius recounts the Olympic loves of Jupiter with Ceres, or with humans such as Leda, Danae, Alcmena, Electra and thousands of maidens and women, not forgetting the Catamite ephebe. ‘Nothing displeases Jupiter, until finally it would be said that the unfortunate was only born to be a seed of crimes, target of insults and common place with all excrement of the sewers of the theatre’: the theatres that, according to Arnobius, deserve to be closed, as well as burned most of the writings and books.

An adulterous god is a thousand times worse than another who exterminates humanity by a flood! Christians judged as ridiculous legends the stories of gods that Homer and Hesiod tell. On the other hand, that the Holy Spirit could make a maiden pregnant without altering her virginity was a very serious thing, as one of the most famous Catholics of the ancient time, Ambrose, demonstrated. That pagans buried the figure of a god and dispensed it funeral honours, and then celebrated their resurrection with feasts, also seemed highly laughable to Christians, even taking as holy their own liturgy of Holy Week and Easter Resurrection.

Just as the superstitious pagans tainted with magical practices, from the first moment the Christians believed that idolatrous cults were of direct diabolical inspiration; some, like Tertullian, also include in that qualification the circus, the theatre, the amphitheatre and the stadium.

It is significant, however, that all these criticisms, these censures and ridicule were not manifested until later; in the beginning, when Christians were still a minority, they had no choice but putting on a brave face to the bad weather. The ancient world was almost entirely pagan and, in front of this supremacy, the Christians acted with prudence and even made compromises if necessary, in order to be able to end it when the time came.

This is also evident in the oldest Christian authors.