One Faith To Rule Them All

Pagan & Christian Empire History

An essay on the radical problems of ‘one faith’ conservatism from Pagan Roman Empire to Christian Roman Catholic legacy which forms modern Capitalist Empire. 

 

When the world was mostly Pagan, conservative (fundamentalist) radicals persecuted minor cults like Christians; then when Christianity became dominant they treated all other religions the way that Romans treated rebel cults (Barbarian mercenaries had become Christianized, but still sacked Rome and killed in the name of the Roman Catholic Church), due to force dominance ‘might is right’ theory so prevalent in Patriarchy. Oligarchical conservatives in any culture feed hatred of ‘the other’ with ‘we are the best’ nationalism or dogma. It is therefore up to the main-stream led by radical liberals to deconstruct the ‘change is bad’ narrative perpetually as progress is made between cultures due to marriages, migration, trade, and tourism. The most popular changes tend to become the new cultural norms, social conventions, and eventually laws (this is why liberals tend to like democracy, and conservatives prefer oligarchy).

Little is known historically for sure about Jesus and Peter. Saint Peter is said to have helped to found the early basilica congregations in Rome, but fires destroyed most evidence and records. Unlike most religions in the Roman Empire, Christianity required its adherents to renounce all other gods, a practice adopted from Judaism. This radical ‘my god is the only one for everyone’ syndrome that unifies for hierarchical monopoly is baked into Judaism and Christianity doctrine, and is dominant rather than more peaceful Pagan unity which would be ‘some of our gods are so similar, we might share the same universe with different names for different aspects’. Christian refusal to join pagan celebrations meant they were unable to participate in much of public life, which caused non-Christians–including government authorities–to fear that the Christians were angering the gods and thereby threatening the peace and prosperity of the Empire. In addition, the peculiar intimacy of Christian society and its secrecy about its religious practices spawned rumors that Christians were guilty of incest and cannibalism; the resulting persecutions, although usually local and sporadic, were a defining feature of Christian self-understanding. Most of the fanatical dogmatic oligarchy of formal Christianity did not come from Jesus or Peter, but Saint Paul who was not even an original disciple apostle, but a Roman Jewish ‘ICE Agent’ who arrested and persecuted Jewish-Christians, who ‘saw the light’ and now wanted to tell everyone how to be a Christian, and for his radical sedition became a state criminal and spent years under arrest for civil disobedience, mainly trying to Romanize Christians to increase conversions by minimizing Jewish rituals like circumcision. Later Roman Christianity became more based on Paul than on the more communal aspects of Jesus and his original disciples, which were lost in translation to the main-stream audience who conformed to the conventions of empire more than helping the poor.

A series of more centrally organized persecutions of Christians emerged after the ‘Great Fire’ of 64 which Nero blamed on Christians, and continued into the late 3rd century, when emperors decreed that the Empire’s military, political, and economic crises were caused by gods angry at the evil Christians who denied the official state religious power (they chose to ‘take a knee’). All residents were ordered to give sacrifices or be punished. Jews were exempted as long as they paid the Jewish Tax. Estimates of the number of Christians who were executed ranges from a few hundred to 50,000. Many fled or renounced their beliefs. Disagreements over what role, if any, these apostates should have in the Church led to the Donatist and Novatianist schisms.

Christianity spread throughout the early Roman Empire, despite persecutions due to conflicts with the pagan state religion. Emperor Constantine legalized the practice of Christianity in 313 (Edict of Milan), and it became the state religion in 380. Many Germanic barbarians (400-500 AD) had previously adopted Arian Christianity as Roman Mercenaries, eventually adopted Catholicism to ally themselves with the papacy and monasteries. By the time of Constantine, the state of apocalyptic expectation must have worn rather thin (every year after Christ was to be Armageddon). The imminent coming of Christ, expectation of the Last Day on this mortal sinful earth constituted radical social danger. The spirit schism of the old Jewish law being so widely separated from new Christian mysticism (including all the gnostic cults), “was not so very different from the Roman spirit itself” (Weil), with all the Roman sects and cults within the Pagan pantheon and the Republic vs Empire schism. Rome could come to terms with the Jewish-Christian God, perhaps because it fit with the uncompromising empire model which was needed to maintain taxation obedience, if not martial law.

 One faith or state monopoly is too powerful for one entity to wield over all humanity, no matter how benevolent or wise they are. The artificial ‘ring’ of central authority must be broken, to allow for more democracy and at least better representation. The rebel fellowship that fights the power will be flawed, and when they take power in the vacuum of revolution, they must admit responsibility for the flaws and put themselves on trial by seeking council from those who want peace, love, and sharing the most.

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