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How God created the West As religion ebbs, interest in how Christianity shaped us is growing

Faith revolutionised how humans think. Credit: Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images

Faith revolutionised how humans think. Credit: Dondi Tawatao/Getty Images


April 2, 2021   10 mins

Just before the virus shut down the world, we took a trip to Germany, so my children could listen to my fascinating lectures about kingship in the early Middle Ages. On our way there, we stopped at Reims cathedral to have a look around. As we approached, one of my daughters with great excitement asked if those were statues of Apollo and Zeus et al, and when I told her they were Christian saints the crushing disappointment was palpable. Oh, it’s the boring religion again. Church and hymns and things like that.

And, of course, she was right. I felt the same at her age, forced to endure the endless, boring ordeal of church; even the words “Mass has ended, go in peace…” still fires up a little dopamine rush in my head. Christianity lacks the glamour of the old gods, but then the world of the old gods was a brutal place and we often forget how strange our society now is.

Reims Cathedral played an important part in a story that began two thousand years ago one Friday, when the sun went down in an eastern province of the Roman Empire and the world was never the same again. A rabbi who had gathered a following in the troubled province of Judea had been condemned to death by crucifixion and suffered that agonising punishment reserved for the worst criminals.

On the Sunday, Jesus of Nazareth’s body had disappeared; soon his followers had, bizarrely, reported seeing him in the flesh and the cult grew and spread; official persecution, starting with the martyrdom of the Apostle Stephen, only made the group stronger.

Yet what might have remained one of many sects during this great period of religious fervour changed course two or three years after the death of Jesus when one of the men tasked with crushing the group, a Hellenised Jew called Saul, was struck blind while on the road to Damascus, and heard the voice: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

These dramatic events would transform the world like no other. Saul, renamed Paul, used his position as a Roman citizen and a Greek-speaker to spread the faith across the eastern Mediterranean.

The impact of the faith, and of the Roman Catholic Church in particular, would revolutionise the way humans think, and how they related to each other, in ways that evolutionary biologists and psychologists are only now beginning to explain.

Like with many things, it is only now that we are losing Christianity that we are starting to appreciate its importance. This century began with the New Atheism, an overtly anti-religious movement spurred by the events of September 11; an array of books in the 2000s made the argument that “religion poisons everything”, in the words of Christopher Hitchens. They won, which was largely why New Atheism disappeared. As America moves past the 400th anniversary of its founding by English Calvinists, its religious exceptionalism has finally ended. Atheism is making headway everywhere.

Yet paradoxically, as the sea of faith has retreated, more public intellectuals now take it seriously. In the field of political philosophy Larry Siedentop’s Inventing the Individual repopularised the 19thcentury French idea that Christianity was the wellspring of individualism, and that contrary to the belief that Enlightenment liberalism was a revolt against the medieval Church, it was a product of it.

Christianity’s revolutionary transformation of western society was then brilliantly laid out in Tom Holland’s Dominion. Holland told the story of how the new religion had upended our worldview, tamed the sexual prowess of powerful men, sanctified the weak and given the poor kudos and pity. The abolition of slavery, the emancipation of women, even gay marriage and the current political radicalism emanating from US campuses, all were products of the Christian revolution.

In the field of evolutionary psychology, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind explored the positive role that religion has on social bonding; Ara Norenzayan’s Big Gods looked at how deities became more moral and more universal as societies scaled up.

Joseph Henrich, the evolutionary biologist, is also interested in the way Christianity has affected and changed the western mind. When his The Weirdest People in the World came out last year, America was still in the grip of one of its periodic moments of moral convulsions. Tens of thousands of people were frenziedly protesting against the evil of racism, with some seen washing the feet of people they viewed as sanctified by race. It was an undeniably Christian event, even if its practitioners weren’t conscious of it; blessed are the meek, the first shall be last. George Floyd, another criminal put to death by the authorities, was transformed into a Christ-like figure on murals, along with the various taboos and blasphemies attached.

Over the centuries Christianity has become so dominant that we assume lots of things to be human nature when, as Henrich points out, they are very unusual in the greater scheme of human nature. Universal human rights are a western concept and to most societies completely unintelligible. “We think nepotism is wrong, and fetishize abstract principles over context, practicality, relationships and expediency,” he writes. People from countries ruled by the medieval Catholic Church, and countries founded by their offspring, are also “less inclined to distinguish in-groups from out-groups, more willing to help immigrants, and less firmly wedded to tradition and custom”.

At least since the mid-14th century, there has been an idea that medieval Christianity was a wrong turn for the West, that without monotheism polytheistic Greek-speakers might have sailed the stars, as Carl Sagan imagined. Yet as thrilling as ancient history is, and as remarkable as its achievements were, Roman society was very alien to us in a way that the medieval wasn’t.

A Roman father had total power of life and death over his children, and female infanticide was not unusual. Romans would happily watch an innocent man being torn to pieces by a wild animal for entertainment; slavery was ubiquitous and it was assumed that a man would sexually abuse his female slave; charitable giving outside the family was rare, and those who reached rock bottom in the imperial city would be left to literally die in the gutter.

This was Tom Holland’s realisation: that, although as a classicist he was fascinated by the Greeks and Romans, he couldn’t help but feel a revulsion about their worldview, one which almost completely lacked any pity for the weak. That was because he was a child of the great revolution that began on that Friday in Judea.

Like Holland, I previously imagined Christianity as being a fun-sucking succession of prohibitions, lacking the glamour and vitality of the ancient gods. I pictured ancient Valhalla as a sort of never-ending stag do, while the Christian Heaven appeared as an eerily quiet place where you sat having tea with some great-aunt who disapproved of everything. The Viking religion seemed like it was specifically designed by adolescent males, while Christianity was thought up by elderly women.

And there is a reason for that. Christ appeared that Sunday to his women followers, and, paradoxically for a religion that excluded women from senior roles, it was very female-dominated. Research from early Christian communities in Athens and Rome suggests that women may have outnumbered men by 5 or 6 to 1. The appeal of the new religion was that it domesticated men.

Men can be very idiotic creatures; our bodies start producing huge amounts of testosterone around the age of 14, which gives us the compulsive urge to fornicate or fight. Our brains don’t fully develop until 24 or 25 (and some of us don’t really grow up even after that). In that window between sexual and mental maturity the gender gap in every range of idiotic behaviour goes off the scale — car crashes, drink-related accidents, hospitalisation from violence.

Unlike the totalitarian quasi-religions of the modern era — including the one currently developing in America — Christianity had no naïve illusions about human nature. We are fallen creatures; young men in particular are barbarians who need to be tamed.

As Henrich notes, in bird species male testosterone rises as mating season begins and they prepare to fight other males. The world is cruel, and in both birds and mammals, males with higher testosterone levels tend to have more mates and offspring. Polygyny, the practice of a male having more than one mate, is also associated with higher testosterone, while monogamy comes with lower male testosterone — although in both cases the causal arrow goes both ways.

So while low-testosterone men are more likely to be monogamous, the state of monogamy lowers their testosterone. So does childcare. As men are drawn into family life their testosterone levels plummet faster than those of their single contemporaries; that’s why many middle-aged men become obsessed with exercise in order to naturally up their T-levels.

Divorce acts as a form of de facto polygyny if powerful men are able to produce offspring with multiple women. It was standard practice in Ancient Rome but Jesus of Nazareth forbade it, seeing it as desertion. His followers opposed infanticide, which was largely initiated by men against females; they also prohibited men from having sex with anyone but their wives. For women this had huge benefits; for low-status males it was an even bigger boon, producing a sort of sexual socialism, or at least sexual social democracy.

From the late second century, Rome was struck by a series of epidemics that fatally weakened the empire. The Plague of Cyprian in the 250s also had a huge cultural impact; all of a sudden Christianity, a minority religion practised by maybe 5% of the population, was everywhere. Traditionalists would have been stunned by the sudden arrival of Christian processions, of younger relatives adopting this strange new faith, worshipping a common criminal. It would have been popular among women in particular.

The western empire was already in ruins by the time that the fatal blow came with the Justinian Plague in the 6th century. That, combined with a war between the Goths and Byzantines and a freakish period of cold weather, left Rome a ruin of no more than 20,000 people and, like in many former Roman cities, the power vacuum had left the running of the city to the local bishop, who had long since adopted the title of Papa, Pope.

Catholic Christianity was not destined to conquer Europe; it might not even have triumphed over rival interpretations of the faith, such as Arianism. Its eventual dominance owed a lot to its adoption by one of the fiercest of the western tribes, the Franks. In 496 the Frankish leader Clovis, in the midst of a losing battle with a rival German tribe, the Alemanni, cried out to the Christian God who his wife followed; the battle turned in his favour, and in return Clovis was baptised in Reims Cathedral, along with his followers. And this was the fascinating tale I explained to my young children, who were obviously enthralled.

Clovis’s wife Clotilde was from Burgundy, and was already Catholic, but her husband her previously resisted her demands for him to adopt her religion. Now he was persuaded, and it began a close relationship for “the first daughter of the Church”, as France would become; Charles X would become the last of Clovis’s descendants to be crowned at Reims cathedral, in 1825.

Clovis’s conversion also set about a series of events that would transform Europe; in 800AD the Frankish king Charles came to the aide of the Pope in his conflict with yet another German tribe, the Lombards. When he arrived in Rome in triumph, the Pope placed a crown on his head and Charles the Great — Charlemagne — was named Emperor of the West. Victorian academic Sir James Bryce wrote of this event that “From that moment modern history begins”, but Charlemagne’s empire was less interesting for the usual violence than for the sex, or at least the lack of it.

As well as gathering around him a group of scholars who arguably rescued western Europe from the Dark Ages, Charlemagne’s greatest legacy was in enacting the Catholic Church’s marriage laws. No man was to have more than one wife, no one was to marry a relative. This would have a revolutionary impact on western society, setting us apart from 95% of global cultures. Without cousin marriage, clans grew weaker as people married out; they saw themselves less as members of a patrilinear line and more as wider members of society. Church rules on consent were also vital too; marriage was a sacred institution, and no one could now enter into it unwillingly.

Soon the almost unthinkable developed, the idea of marrying for love, a process known as the “Romeo and Juliet Revolution”. Adult sons and daughters were no longer subject to the patriarch but were individuals in their own rights; increasingly they would set up their own separate homes upon marriage. They were individuals.

These marriage rules were a way of taming men, in particular high-status men, and they brought huge benefits. Polygamous societies are racked by violence and turmoil, because large numbers of males are left without mates and inevitably cause trouble. The Vikings are the classic historical example, Scandinavia exporting its excess men to terrorise the British Isles, France and what is now Russia.

St Vladimir, who brought the Viking Rus into the faith, supposedly had 500 concubines before accepting Christianity and becoming an improbable saint. The Rus — the name probably means “rowers” — were Vikings who had sailed down the rivers leading to the Black Sea, creating a state that would eventually evolve into the world’s largest. The tenth century Arab chronicler Ibn Fadlan had spent some time with them, calling them “Allah’s filthiest creatures”, an adventure which ten centuries later would become one of the biggest box office bombs in history.

Ibn Fadlan recalled how at the funeral of one Rus warrior a slave woman was sacrificed, having first been drugged and forced to have sex with the dead man’s friends, passed around like meat before her murder. It was once thought that a lot of similar tales about the Vikings were Christian propaganda, but multiple examples of human sacrifice have now been uncovered in graves, including in the British Isles.

The Rus had been a nuisance in Constantinople — no more than 50 were allowed in at the same time, like a cornershop next to a troubled comprehensive — and it was left to the Byzantine princess Anna Porphyrogenita to convert them by marriage to Vladimir, a prospect which naturally horrified her.

Her barbarian husband had initially been attracted to Islam, which permitted polygamy — and had the future rulers of Russia been Muslim history would have been very different. It was said that he changed his mind when his ambassadors walked into the Hagia Sophia and felt they were in heaven; the alternative, and perhaps more plausible, explanation is that Vladimir then heard about Islam’s prohibition on alcohol, and lamented that the Rus could never live without drink (“Ivan, call those other guys back in”).

Some Vikings took longer to abandon the old ways; King Canute, whose grandfather Harold Bluetooth had adopted Christianity, still continued the old Danish tradition of a handfast, or second wife. But he was the last officially polygamous ruler of England.

Today we barely notice how unnatural our norms are in a world where traditionally powerful men behaved with the brutality of Caesar or the libidinousness of St Vladimir. That all changed one Friday on a hillside in Judea. I sometimes wonder, though, what we will lose as church attendance continues to slide and, like Romans of the 3rd century, we see our gods dying around us.

America has seen one of the most rapid de-Christianisations in the past two decades and the results so far are not good. What is left is not the rationalist paradise some naïve public philosophers were claiming at the start of the 21st century, but a sort of distilled Christianity, which without the supernatural elements is far less rational: and so what results is endless moral panics, a world seen in stark black and white between good and evil, competitive sanctimony and the sentimental glorification of victimhood in which everyone wants the glory of being on the Cross.


Ed West’s book Tory Boy is published by Constable

edwest

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Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago

I had heard of how the Chinese had a great deal of converts once the crime of Christianity conversion became lessened – as they believed Christian thinking, morals, philosophy, was what gave the Western societies such a huge edge in the world’s prosperity and advancement.

Christianity is the most intellectual of religions. Thousands of Monks hand copied tens of thousands of books of classics and Philosophy in monasteries across the Dark age lands so education could progress to the barbarians. 100 of the world’s most respected 120 philosophers are Christians as the chess like logic of philosophy is natural to Christianity thinking. The scientific Method its self was created by the scientist Priests, and all the Universities came from the Church’s natural inclination to educate and think deeply. A Priest was a remarkably educated man, multilingual, and basically a university degree in the ages no education was the norm

This coupled with the teaching of Christ on Morals, and ethics gave a religion unparalleled. Then the lines of communication spread from every big community to every other in all Europe and Middle East, the treaties, the trade this allowed, the roads kept open, this was the source of prosperity, The Church, and the common language of Latin allowed it.

The Far Eastern religions based on Confucianism supposed society was perfect, and thus any thinking which was outside the cannons was wrong at best, and apostasy at worse. 2500 years of his teachings set China and Japan in stone as thinking was limited to what was correct, nothing new, frozen.

Fatalist religions like in the East, Hinduism, Buddhism, missed that amazing Christian work ethic where one is put on the earth to work and produce as a societal and godly obligation, and not self contemplation, but duty, was the lot of man. ‘God helps those who help themselves’ ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop’.

Christianity gave the West, and thus the world, the intellectual basis – and the moral basis, for almost all which is good in the modern world. The problems is secular humanism has taken the intellectualism, but left out the morality, and thus what is wrong with the modern world.

Simric Yarrow
Simric Yarrow
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Good heavens. There’s an opinion straight out of Victorian Britain. Not a single mention of the centuries of Islamic intellectual dominance and brilliance during which the Christian West was an unlearned backwater, or the remotest real understanding of the multi faceted beliefs and nuanced philosophies of the East, of which Confucianism was merely the simplest form, adopted by most (but far from all) Chinese emperors for its straightforward philosophy. Emperors tend to prefer simple religions – without too much need for contemplation of life beyond this world, and Roman Catholicism with its black and white approach to good and evil fits the mould well. (Even, of course, denying from the 9th century that ordinary humans have a spiritual aspect to their being, so that the only way to achieve a pure state was through approaching a priest for this spiritual input, not through one’s own individual and hence “heretical” practice).

Armand L
Armand L
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

Simric, you’re understanding and knowledge of the Middle Ages is unfortunately weak. Progress was always around, always happening.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Armand L

Progress was not always around, it necessitates a few preconditions which in most cultures don’t exist. This is why many cultures still live as long time ago had they not been importing Western technology, and a few cultures still hunt and gather. You are taking progress for granted. Not that easy!
The great leap forward of the Christian world occurred because of the premises that God created the world with laws/constants and symmetry in structure. Those are the Laws of Nature and are predictable. This is why modern, systematic science developed in Christendom not outside of it.
Change always happen, progress, not!

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

Ah, the celebrated lack of “real understanding” which Simric of course possesses. As for “Emperors tend to prefer simple religions” this seems predicated on the belief that emperors have some sort of choice– as if choosing a religion were a bit like going into Starbucks, and the Emperor in front of you in the queue always goes for the espresso as the simplest choice. But in reality, most emperors don’t have the opportunity to select a religion which is, as it were, thrust upon them.
Nice to see Roman Catholicism selected as the punchbag of the thinking commentator again, although I’d certainly agree with Ed West that the recent manifestations of post Christianity are far more “black and white” than Catholicism ever was.

Last edited 3 years ago by Dave Weeden
Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

the centuries of Islamic intellectual dominance and brilliance

A myth. By brutal conquest Mohammed and his fellow murdering thugs conquered countries far more advanced than the primitive Arabs. For some years after the conquest, the civilising influence lingered, until stamped out by the curse of Islam Isam has produced nothing but violence and oppression for well over a thousand years.

Layla Kaylif
Layla Kaylif
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert
David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Layla Kaylif

Guide us to “Christian World Contributions…” or else except Katy’s point as valid.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Layla Kaylif

Wishful thinking Layla. Plus, wiki is not a reliable source. Better read the trusted work of Dario Fernando Moreira, “The Myth of Andalusian Paradise” and you will find document by document from Arab sources spilling out the truth. Or read Raymond Ibrahim, Sylvain Gouguenheim.
Islam doesn’t provide the prerequisite premises for the development of science. Islam had it’s Golden Age, from which it recovered, in contact with Christianity, where Islam was left alone, it’s just a tribal religion which doesn’t offer human or animal rights to its followers, let alone science!
Have you checked how many Muslim scientists won the Nobel prize?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

Kathy, you are wrong about Islam. It is one of the three Great Religions of the Book, and should not be disrespected.

Efraín Calderón
Efraín Calderón
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Sanford, Just in case you’re including Christianity as “a religion of the Book”, I would beg to differ. We follow Jesus of Nazareth, whom we believe to be the Word of God incarnate. Christianity is a religion of the Word. It was Muslims (who definitely are to be respected) who started defining us as “of the Book”, then many in the West followed suit. Big misunderstandimg.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago

God created mankind using words and communicates with mankind by His Word and through words which are written. Christianity is Jewish so if Judaism is a religion of the book then so it Christianity.

John Hilton
John Hilton
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Neither Judaism nor Catholicism are religions “of the book.” The phrase came from the assumption by Muslims that the Bible was what made Judaism and Christianity what they were. It isn’t. The Bible is *tau Biblia,* the Books – emphasis on the plural. 72 books. A library.

With the New Testament, there are the telltale signs of mnemonic structures. In the beginning was the *preaching*. Even the Old Testament writers are more often prophets bring written about by others.

Islam, with its claim to beginning with a book effectively dictated by God, is inspired by Judaism and Christianity, but is very different.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  John Hilton

Well said.

Andy Wright
Andy Wright
3 years ago
Reply to  John Hilton

Think there are 66 books in the Bible

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
3 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

As Efrain points out, for Christians Jesus Christ is the incarnate Word of God, and He is a person, not a book. For Muslims, the Quran, a book, is the equivalent incarnate Word. So Muslims are “people of the book” in that sense. The reason they designate Christians and Jews as fellow “people of the book” is because whole sections of the Quran consist of (oddly garbled) versions of selected parts of the Torah/Old Testament, plus a fragment of Luke’s Gospel (the Annunciation story, taken completely out of context). Other stories referred to in the Quran are taken from apocryphal Jewish texts and non-canonical Christian legends that were around in the 7th century, such as the infant Jesus speaking from his cradle, or the boy Jesus turning lumps of clay into birds. The Quran gives the same weight to these as to actual Biblical stories, and the writers probably thought they were included in the Bible. Those are just a few of Islam’s misperceptions of Christianity, and Judaism.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Hilary LW

You are such a learned and wise student of Islam, Hilary LW, what are your credentials and where did you study and what was the topic of your dissertation?

Or do you, like Jesus, speak on your own authority… ?

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago

It seems you are a christian, so why do you say that Muslims are definitely to be respected? Islam has no respect for christianity as it denies the basic tenet of christianity , that Jesus was the son of God. In other words, Islam denies christianity any legitimate basis. So why would you respect it?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  G Matthews

As Christ said:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

I shall love my neighbour, that doesn’t mean to love Islam and those who follow it. Don’t forget that Jesus said, “And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” also, “Be gentle as doves and wise as serpents”. He warned us to see through lies and stand for truth.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I beg to differ. The more I know about Islam, the least I respect it. Unless I don’t believe in human rights. I believe even in animal rights.

David Nebeský
David Nebeský
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

“The centuries of Islamic intellectual dominance” are the centuries immediately following the conquest of the intellectual centers of Western Christianity in North Africa by Islamic invaders. Pure coincidence, of course.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

Not to mention taking Byzantium.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Constantinople please! On Tuesday, May 29th, 1453, just before lunch.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Which the Western church refused to assist in because they wanted to see the end of the pesky Eastern church.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

All civilisations, except the very first, build on previous ones. The Islamic Umayyad and Abbassid Caliphates were very enlightened by the standards of their day, and certainly much more open to Ancient Greek and Hellenistic thought that Christian Europe at the same time.

It was only later than I believe that Islamic scholars or jurists declared that, as I think, ‘the gates of itjihad’ to be closed, and Islamic tradition, Quran and hadith etc to be supreme over any other form of wisdom or knowledge.

It is certainly true that the Ottomans, who though they were more ‘tolerant’ by a long way than Christian nations of the same period, were notably uninterested in intellectual endeavour. Vastly fewer book titles were published by comparison even after printing’s eventual introduction in Turkey.

David Owsley
David Owsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I think the point is that there is no equivalence of ‘Christian’ scholars etc. They were scholars, as are those that happened to be scholars etc when Islam was dominating. They should not be called “Islamic Scholars” (or whatever)…unless of course they are Scholars of Islam 🙂

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Not sure where do you take this opinion? Because if we put it to the test, you fail…..

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

They were not tolerant, but extremely greedy and ignorant. They conquered East European territories and then demanded the rulers to pay the jizya, enslaved young women and boys. He turned the girls into servants or wives, and the boys into janissaries. A Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran wrote that there was no empire more impotent than the Ottoman. The conquered nations fought teeth and nail to reconquer their lands from the hands of the Turks. I could list you many battles to regain freedom. The West believes a lot of baloneys about the Islamic sophistication, art loving and other wishful thinking nice things.

John Hilton
John Hilton
3 years ago
Reply to  David Nebeský

Less coincidence than you imagine.

In the so-called dark ages, the study of classical philosophy had been abandoned. It had long since been put into distillations in compiled textbooks like the Sentences of Peter Lombard. People no longer had access to things like Galen or Aristotle.

When Islam was young, it prided itself on fearlessness. Imams engaged priests in debate – and got their asses handed to them. Included in those textbooks was a solid introduction to logic!

So every Islamic lord started sponsoring expeditions to seek works of classical philosophy. The resulting translation movement was a massive boon to the Arab world.

After encountering the Arab world in the Crusades, Europeans engaged in their own translation movement. At first, they translated from Arabic: then they got access to (and training in) Greek. By the twelfth century, Europems like Thomas Aquinas and Robert Grosseteste were translation from the original.

By the way:

Twelfth century Europeans liked to say they were dwarves on the shoulders, but they were lying to themselves. They were Titans on the shoulder of giants. They invented fundamental technologies the Romans never imagined. The crank – seriously – is a twelfth century European invention. So were iron ploughs – we were scratching with sticks before – three crop rotation, horse harnesses for agriculture, stirrups, and power technology. This is what let the West explode over Germany bottomland and found thousands of new cities in that century. Islam never imagined such progress: it was a Western Christian thing.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

Most of those highly intellectual Muslim scholars were Greeks, Armenians, and not really the Arabs. But yes, Islam had its Renaissance, only there is a huge difference between the religions. First is Islam is secular and religious law. The Koran covers every act from how to eat, wash, brush your teeth, all social laws (which is why law courts are religious in Islam as secular law is an outside invention.). When Christ was asked if eating pork was allowed he replied ‘It is what comes out of your mouth, not which goes in, that can offend God’.

Christ said secular law was the legitimate law of the land “Show Me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 ‘Whose imige is this, and whose inscription?’ 21“Caesar’s,” they answered. So Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.””

Islam is a religion of initiates, say like the Masons, where the secrets are only known to those high enough in understanding to learn them. I really recommend Burton’s Biography where he became an actual high spiritual leader in Hinduism, Seikism, and Islam (and the first Westerner to go on Haj) To hear first hand the fundamental differences between these religions. And this is why Islam always is exceedingly Hierarchical, it is a religion of authority, one which remains in feudal philosophy, and so their Renaissance did not grow like the Christian one did. It does not promote pure intellectualism and equality, which Christianity does.

Simric Yarrow
Simric Yarrow
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Sanford, I admire your passionate defence of your favoured religion. The Sufis I know would rather disagree with you. (Sufism derives of course from the term Faylasufs, the intellectual philosophers who were praised in early Islam, as the caliphate did indeed gather books and people together from all their territories to make a cultural and philosophical melting pot, as well as beyond, such as their well known taking of decimal numbers and trigonometric tables from Hindu mathematicians). One commenter above suggests I denied progress always happened. I don’t, I enjoyed this article, and I certainly understand Christianity to have had many facets even in the millennium of Catholic dominance in the West, after Justinian closed the last schools of “pagan philosophy.” But you will find that there are official hierarchies of power in all the big religions, trying to impose a preferred set of beliefs usually favouring those holding the reins, and there are distinct, usually more interesting, challenges to those hierarchies. A fatalistic view in Hinduism, for example, which appealed to Northern Indian Brahmins in the 19th century who had the ear of their new British rulers, was rioted against extensively by Southerners who had at the time a very different set of more egalitarian beliefs, but the Empire imposed them as they were far more convenient for comfortable British rule.
Medieval Catholicism made a spectacular attempt to crush alternative perspectives which is indeed an obvious thing to attack (it wasn’t, of course, terribly successful at doing that, which is why I have more time for it than some of the hardline modern sects) and certainly aspects of modern Islam and modern atheistic/communistic/fascist ideologies have attempted the same.

Last edited 3 years ago by Simric Yarrow
Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Surely in some major respects Islam is a great deal LESS hierarchical than Christianity. Islam has no pope or bishopry to pronounce and rule on doctrinal orthodoxy.

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

That’s only catholicism…not biblical christianity

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

What ever that means to you….

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Not a strong perspective! In Islam there is no separation of powers, therefore, the imams have great power as in Iran, or S Arabia, and they dictate what and how! They mean it with the sword. Not to mention that the same religion consider Muslims superior just for the fact that they are Muslims, and demean those who are infidels considering them lower than apes and pigs. On the other hand, Christianity teaches that we are precious just for the fact that we are God’s creation – this is the common denominator for all humans.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

No they were indeed not really Arabs and the west really doesn’t use Arabic numerals and doesn’t use words like all-jibr (algebra) … right ? Am I right?

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

Those are Hindu numerals and the overrated Arab invention of algebra was practiced by Greeks as Diophantine numbers.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

Yeah, not a lot of familiarity with the intellectual strain of Said’s “Orientalism” here …

Graeme Caldwell
Graeme Caldwell
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

during which the Christian West was an unlearned backwater

Not so backward as you might think, but you are neglecting that there was a large, advanced, Christian civilization in the period you refer to, the Byzantine Empire. It would make more sense to compare China to Byzantium than to the “unlearned backwater” of the West.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

And as I read Dario Fernando Moreira’s book, “The Myth of Andalusian Paradise”, the Spaniards and the Visigoth kings were much more civilized, but unfortunately the Moorish conquest meant the destruction of numerous cathedrals, artefacts and their lifestyle. It was a great loss for Europe. If it wasn’t for Charles Martel, later Pelayo, Isabella of Castile and Fernand of Aragon, Spain would look like Morocco or Algier.
The ‘Mustard Seed’ that Liberated Christian Spain from Islamic Rule (raymondibrahim.com)

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

I guess the question that immediately comes to mind is, what has happened to that great Islamic intellectual tradition? Looking around Islamic nations today it’s hard to see one that’s in any way progressive or tolerant, not to mention prosperous.

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

As Andrew Fisher mentioned above, the rise in “clerical” power and the closing of the gates of interpretation seems to be where the intellectual decline set in.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul N

The Quran doesn’t allow interpretation. It is considered the word of God, end of discussion. The rest is blasphemy.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

The Quran doesn’t allow freedom of though but submission. And that has consequences.

Μαργαρίτα Τάντση
Μαργαρίτα Τάντση
3 years ago
Reply to  Simric Yarrow

I don’t know if you deliberately ignore the christianity of the Byzantine empire that co-existed the one you call “Islamic intellectual dominance”. A great civilization was developed there which in 1453 was forcely moved to the west (when Ottomans conquered Constantinople) contributing to “Enlightement”. The Arabs highly interacted with Byzantium. Christianity is not all about the European west.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

I’m not sure if we define “enlightenment” in the same way.

Fintan Power
Fintan Power
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well said

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I wonder why present day China still persecutes Christians as managed properly they could be beneficial like Britain’s Quaker community in 18th and 19th century, in helping their economic miracle.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Marxists were and are Christophobes. Marxist don’t like competition.

Richard Long
Richard Long
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Christianity is not the most intellectual of religions, that is very presumptuous and arrogant.
Religions are only based on a fear of death, but most intellectual religions avoid contractual promises which somehow gaurentee life after death but only if you behave and read the bible regularly or stand every Sunday in a freezer called a church.

And one small matter that bothers me is the possibility that I could be good, kind, sin free and a really great guy for all my life, but when I die a spiritual dude called Peter could tell me , ‘Sorry Guv, you’ve been really great but choose the wrong god, so off you go and burn ‘.
I really don’t think so!!!!

So what’s my point, well if you looked at all religions and tried not to judge them, they are all about life after death, so when you get up there don’t be surprised if god turns out to be a goat, or possibly a rabbit or even a fish, after all we are all gods creatures, OR ARE WE???

RICHARD,
PAGAN

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Long

Good thinking. But what if the god “up there” turned about to be anti-christian, and then all the christians were sent of to burn after arriving at the gates?

Paul N
Paul N
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Long

Thanks for an entertaining account of the god you don’t believe in. You may be pleased to know that many Christians share your disbelief in the god you describe.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Long

I am not sure if you read the article above which contradicts you big time.
In fact, religions deal very well with fear, better than atheism which offers nothing. But, we should never put all religions in the same basket because their fundamental tenets are very different.
Christianity created a strong frame in which the unruly human temperament was tamed – with all the beneficial consequences described above (if you haven’t noticed: marriage, monogamy, rights for women and children).

Otto Christensen
Otto Christensen
3 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

The problem Sanford, with interpreting from a singular perspective is that such texts inevitably read like advertisements to persuade the reader of the authors authority within their cabal; non believers are expelled thereby welcoming us back to the middle ages and witch burning. I would rather encounter an intelligent being than a moral idiot.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

The Middle Age was not dark, dark was the mind of atheist, anti-Christian “enlightened” French philosophers who created chaos in France during the revolution and far more deaths than the witch hunt, and perpetrated calumny against Christ.
The Witch Hunt – was overexaggerated by those who dislike Christianity in general and Catholicism in special. A Romanian religion historian I P Couliano actually studied the archives and concluded that the Inquisition convicted far less people than it was believed. But big lies die slow.

Last edited 3 years ago by Chris Sirb
Peter LR
Peter LR
3 years ago

Yes, I heard John Favreau remark that the new atheists thought they would get rid of God, but didn’t realise that you can’t get rid of religion.
The present ’woke’ self-righteousness denunciations and blasphemies which separate the ‘called’ from the ‘damned’ is nothing less than fundamentalist religious fervour.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Except that while fundamentalists want to go back to some original truth or other, wokeists reject the past as fundamentally flawed and oppressive.

Efraín Calderón
Efraín Calderón
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

They’re fundamentalists of the future! Their foundational myth is “the unreality god”. This is really dangerous, because one is justified to destroy everything in the name of a non-existent future.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

And, they become as powerful as gods.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

they have the psychology of fundamentalists, but their beliefs comprise of a shifting web of consumer identity fashions, rather than any solid foundations, as in religious fundamentalism. A weird, sometimes farcical concoction.

Sidney Eschenbach
Sidney Eschenbach
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Wrong. Basically the author just described the history of the first and still biggest woke movement… the Christian church, as it slowly ‘cancelled’ slavery, wanton cruelty, polygamy, infidelity, etc. Get it?
.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

Yes, but wokeists seem determined to bring this back.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

Christianity a woke movement? Really?

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

That doesn’t make religion bad, but the ideologies who follow fundamentalist fervour.

Gary Baxter
Gary Baxter
3 years ago

A great article! Thank you. But I find it disturbingly vague to refer to George Floyd as ‘another criminal put to death by the authorities’. To me he was a career criminal killed by excess police force.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Baxter

But the force applied by the police was force that the police had been taught/instructed to use in such situations. And nobody complained when people like Timothy Timper died in the same way, because Timothy Timper was white.
The trial is not going well for Floyd. His chief witness has ‘taken the fifth’ and it seems that the (allegedly) fake $20 note was being used in a drug deal. We have also known for some time that Floyd said ‘I can’t breathe’ before he was put on the ground. Indeed, he asked to be put on the ground, having fought his way out of the police car.
However, as Tim Pool said yesterday, the jury may well find Chavin guilty anyway, for a variety of cultural and political reasons, or simply out of fear for their lives and/or fear of the rioting, killing, burning and looting that will follow.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

the force applied by the police was force that the police had been taught/instructed to use in such situations.
I thought that was still very much up for debate. For instance, one of the witnesses, Chauvin’s own supervising officer, retired Minneapolis Police Sergeant David Pleoger, said Chauvin’s knee should have come off Floyd’s neck when he ceased resisting, when Floyd was handcuffed and on the ground, not after nearly ten minutes. And now, Minneapolis police lieutenant Richard Zimmerman has told the jury that it was not an acceptable use of force for Chauvin to press his knee to the neck of a prone suspect. Asked why, he responded, “If you kneel on a person’s neck, that can kill them.”

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Well, yes, to the extent that I am familiar with the details you are probably correct to say the Chauvin should have removed his knee sooner. And I am aware of the fact that Chauvin himself had a dubious past and was, shall we say, still fortunate to have been on the force. But the fact is that Floyd was on all manner of drugs, had done all manner of very bad things, had all manner of medical issues, and had not taken kindly to his arrest. Something like this was going to happen to him sooner or later.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Same with Jesus , eh? Something like that was going to happen to him sooner or later, right?

Out of the mouths of Annas, Caiphas and the most fascist members of the Sanhedrin, right?

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

Nothing happened to Jesus. The character “Jesus” you are talking about didn’t exist.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Reed Howe

You just woke up and thought to enlighten us.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Reed Howe

There is more documentary evidence that he existed than there is for Julius Caesar. Wishful thinking on your part perhaps!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Also the autopsy shows that whatever it looks like the pressure on Floyd’s neck wasn’t the cause of death.Christianity concerns the truth,hence the swearing in in courts. It is the new secularism that is subjective & if this continues might as well get rid justice system & have summary justice-at least it will be cheaper.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Yes, ten minutes sounds too long. Apparently training protocols adivsed that there was a risk of asphyxiation holding someone down on their chest for too long, so not sure if the officer was following his training properly.
Still, I don’t know if there is a provable causal connection between this, and heart-attack of someone on drugs.
A lot of hysteria surrounding this case, which muddies the waters obviously

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Well his family and lawyers have ‘ trousered’
the incredible sum of $ 27 million.
“So all’s well that ends well”.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

Source?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Minneapolis Civil Court Award! Madness!

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

Yes it did sound too long, maybe eight snd a half would be a good middle ground?

Are you fookin’ insane ?!

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

Are you fookin’ insane?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

What about the toxicology report? Or was he just full of Lucozade?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

When UK police mistook Stephen Waldorf for a wanted criminal and nearly killed him, the fact that he had illegal drugs in his system was brought up too.
Are you suggesting police should anticipate the results of toxicology reports and adjust their use of force accordingly?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Waldorf was shot five times by the Police at point blank range! In fact they had fired about twelve shots, but such was their pathetic marksmanship at least seven shots missed.
Had he died,as he very nearly did, the toxicology report would have been irrelevant.

This is in complete contrast to Floyd where the toxicology report is likely to prove that he died of ‘substance abuse’, and not throttling by a policeman.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

Had he died,as he very nearly did, the toxicology report would have been irrelevant.
Are you suggesting it was of any relevance? I couldn’t see any, beyond an insinuation by the police that even if they had shot the wrong person, at least he was a bad person. If that was not the relevance, then what was?
And it remains to be seen whether the court will decide Floyd’s toxicology report proves Chauvin had nothing to do with his death.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

No off course not, it was a gross slur by the Met, who as you may recall we used to describe as “The Best Police Money Can Buy!”.

In fact the two policeman were committed for trial and ultimately acquitted, but the taxpayer ended up paying £150K in compensation! (1985 prices).

However I can see no equivalence with the Floyd affair, which either way appears accidental.

In contrast the Waldorf affair was close to murder, particularly when you consider the choice language used by one of the policeman (unrepeatable on UnHerd off course!), in the final moments of that appalling incident.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

I don’t think Floyd’s death is equivalent, though there are parallels.
However, his death appears far from accidental to me. Chauvin did not seem to accidentally place his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. For the last few minutes, he was limp and unresponsive. And bystanders pointed out again and again that Chauvin was killing him.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Well I’m afraid we shall have differ on this and await the Jury’s verdict.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

A video shot from another angle shows that Chauvin was kneeling on his shoulder – which one of the police officers admitted in court (watch Ben Shapiro’s video on this), and that GF had so much drugs that could have kill a horse – which also affects breathing. Do facts matter?

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

Likely? Are you Jesus? Or a fortune teller?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Neither, but you are spot on in describing Jesus as a ‘fortune teller’ to put it politely.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Toxicology reports are irrelevant here except as slander and liable against the victim and justifying the crucifiers …

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

So what does that have to do with a police knee in your neck for ten minutes?!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

It doesn’t kill you! But opiate abuse does.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

Lt. Zimmerman testified that, “If your knee is on a person’s neck, that can kill him.” As head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide division, he might know a thing or two about such matters.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

A doctor’s professional opinion matters more than a police officer’s, in this matter.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

There was a video from another angle which showed that Chauvin’s knee was on GF’s shoulder not neck, and GF complained that he cannot breath in the car when there was no one around him.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

“We know where you live,” is a threat the jurors will take very seriously. A win by the prosecution, which is facing a panoply of high-profile gadflies in the woke bench, would confirm the left in its seeksorrow exploitation of minorities.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Thou shalt not bear false witness … and a sin against the Holy Spirit is the only sin not forgivable. You be going to hell or the purg for a long, long time, bro …

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

And your evidence for your claims is? And when you have given us the evidence, you can show us what logic is contained within your statements.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

Don’t play God, because you aren’t. First of all, you need to place the facts into the right verses. Otherwise is just plain fraud.

Richard Pearse
Richard Pearse
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Baxter

Let’s not forget that (on this day, God Friday, according to the Gospel of John) Pilate said to the Chief Priests “Take ye him: for I find no fault in him”, not exactly the same type of criminal as George Floyd, and not the same type of group crucifying him. So it’s dubious at best to refer to Jesus as a criminal (which Holland and now West do)

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Pearse

Richard you just Pearsed the side of Jesus as the top of the spearse

robert scheetz
robert scheetz
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Baxter

I think the point is that absent the Xtian belief (i.e., the metaphysical belief in the human being as a temple of god), killing a junkie is a not unreasonable act (if, as appears from the absence of any particular motive, was Officer Chauvin’s thought process).

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

Of course! Only Christians can value human life!

Tired old nonsense.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Christians value human life as being unique, irreplaceable, and as an intrinsic value because we are all created in God’s image and likeness.
Other religions may value human life, but this is what characterizes Christianity.
No need to be so upset!

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago
Reply to  robert scheetz

non-Christians are not the temple of god, as god will cast them down the waste chute of the after life.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Gary Baxter

Pure White Male Racist Christian White Fascist Supremacism.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

And what might you be? And what gives you the right to spew neo-Marxist Newspeak empty words?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

I have read Tom Holland’s book on this subject, and attended one of his interviews/lectures to promote the book. I sometimes find the arguments tenuous, and I don’t find him to be a good writer.
I can, however, just about accept that the West was shaped largely by Christianity. I cannot accept his argument that the woke/progressive movement is informed by Christianity, largely because it contains no mercy or forgiveness. Here I am much more aligned with Ken Wilber and his Integral Theory i.e. that the woke/progressive movement that began in the 1960s is the first movement that does not incorporate and build on any of the positive elements of the movements that brought us this far. Instead, it throws them all aside and insists that we start again. The disasters of this can increasingly be seen. Wilber labels this the Green Stage or something like that (not in an environmental sense).
As Ed says, the West has been unique in human history in that we have been the first societies not to have been governed on the strong man principle. However, perhaps owing to the collapse of Christianity and/or the increasing influence of what Ken Wilber calls the Green Stage, we are now ruled by incompetent, stupid, self-regarding fools who are even worse than strong men, some of whom have been and are at least competent.
One sees this most starkly in the form of Putin, a strong man who is deeply unpleasant and corrupt but manifestly competent relative to the delusional, corrupt and self-regarding twerps who run the EU and all western European countries.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fraser Bailey
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Greece and Rome shaped the West, Christianity was an afterthought.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

My perfectly mild response to your post is ‘Waiting for Godot’, so to speak.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Sadly my innocuous reply has been censored!
UnHerd is worse than
the Spanish Inquisition!

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

12.56 BST: The Censor has relented.! Hallelujah!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

As a Polytheistic society you could ‘worship’ who or you what liked. The only caveat for Religion’ was that you didn’t kill people and you didn’t expect the State to fund you.

By say the first century most ‘worshiped’ In the Arena, the Circus, Theatre or Baths!

Slavery was on its way out as not a worthwhile economic model. ‘Hire & Fire’ was much better.
The rise of Christianity and the contemporary Barbarian invasions paradoxically helped to preserve Slavery.

The Church only became ‘excited about Slavery in the late 18th century, fourteen hundred years after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire.

Graeme Caldwell
Graeme Caldwell
3 years ago

As a Polytheistic society you could ‘worship’ who or you what liked. 

Tell that to the Jews, the Druids, and the Manicheans, all of which were repressed by polytheistic Rome. Not to mention, of course, Christians, who were burned, crucified, and fed to wild animals by the thousands.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Oh dear. The Jews were not ‘persecuted’ because of their religion. Why do you think Pilate was kind enough how to crucify the Nazarene on a Friday, at the request of the Jewish hierarchy?

The Druids, were said to perform human sacrifice, but crucially were the core of the Britons resistance to Roman conquest.

The Manichaeans were seen as pernicious Sassanian Persian sect, and persecuted accordingly.

It has long been acknowledged that the persecution of the Christians had been grossly exaggerated for all too obvious reasons. Even the ‘great’ persecution of Diocletian has been described by Robin Lane Fox as “too little too late”

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

I thought the very idea of the West went back to the ancient Greeks and their wars with Persia, or the East. Which isn’t to deny that Christianity has shaped the West since.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

The West is built on revelation (Jerusalem), and reason (Athens).

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Wokeness is what you get if you take the Christ out of Christianity, especially if your Christianity was in the Calvinist tradition to start with. In that light it is easy to see the “Woke” viewing themselves as the Elect, and the rest of us as the damned.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  David Brown

Yup.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Woke is not liberal, not progressive, not socialist, not Left and social justice warriors are the equivalent of the rift wing fascist John Birch Society. So only in that sense are you correct about it haven arisen in the 1960s.

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

Christianity is not progressive.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Reed Howe

Christianity is truly progressive, but progressives have distorted so much language that words don’t mean anymore what they use to mean.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

You made a claim, but reality contradicts you. You’re not a fan of truth do you?

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
3 years ago

George Floyd, another criminal put to death by the authorities,

The trial is ongoing. It has not yet been proved that Floyd was killed, let alone “put to death”, as opposed to dying of a self-inflicted drug overdose.

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

Exactly. It is most disappointing that some many writers, who really should know better given their position in forming opinion, are disregarding the fact that a trial is in progress.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

I can’t help wondering if your attitude, and that of some other commenters, would be the same if video had surfaced of Floyd kneeling on someone’s neck for nearly ten minutes, after which that someone was found to have died.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

IF Floyd was a policeman on duty trying to restrain a drugged-out criminal refusing arrest, then your wondering may present a valid question.
But he wasn’t.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago

If Chauvin had been trying to restrain Floyd, your comment might have some validity. Surveillance video from a nearby restaurant casts severe doubt on police claims that Floyd was resisting arrest, and for the last few minutes of his life, he was prone, handcuffed, and totally flaccid. Whatever Chauvin was trying to do, it didn’t look like restraint.

Last edited 3 years ago by Ian Perkins
Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Excellent! Floyd kneeling in Chauvinist’s neck for ten minutes, mebbe?

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago
Reply to  Katy Hibbert

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. A writer who writes well but doesn’t really understand what he’s writing about….but many will read this and think he does and that his comparisons are correct…I’m not sure the writer even thinks these comparisons are correct. It’s just a fluf article that he can link to the history of this weekend to somehow give the fluf weight.

Ian Burns
Ian Burns
3 years ago

Bravo, you encapsulate the much needed revisionist view perfectly. The trope of Christianity as solely vehicle of patriarchal oppression need to be done away with. Else, Christianity will be seen as irredeemably sexist racist etc. When in fact it did more to saves us, from those horrors than anything else and we owe it, and Judaism, a profound debt of gratitude,

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Burns

The Inwuisition and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Curia thank you . Mussolini thanks you. Franco thanks you. Hitler, a Roman Catholic, thanks you.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

There is a lot of chaos in your thinking. Word sausage is not reasoning.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
3 years ago

George Floyd, another criminal put to death by the authorities,
why even bother with the trial when the judge sits among us.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

This article illustrates how the beautiful aroma of Christ’s teaching and influence has blessed the world for 2,000 years. I’m particularly interested in the history of Christian Revivals. It is very significant how a period of revival can transform a community and nation for the better. But it doesn’t last because subsequent generations do not have the same passion and conviction of the Revival generation – until the next Revival springs up.
So Ed when you write about “losing Christianity” and “the sea of faith has retreated” and “rapid de-Christianization” you do not take this into account. You’re not alone. You, some of your fellow columnists and some commenters do not understand that Christianity has a supernatural source of power which can bring it back to life in the face of apparent terminal illness and indeed death. Resurrection power is at the heart of the Church’s life. Rumours of the Church’s demise are greatly exaggerated because we have Someone in charge who rose from the dead and pours out His Life giving Spirit upon His people.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

Christianity is a desert weed — it does not flourish among the comfortable, much less the respectable.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

My comment about another desert religion has been removed thereby proving my point.It is interesting that the protestant version of Christianity is growing fast in South America-Protestant version helped the growth of capitalism-claiming personal relationship in prayer and bringing translation Bible like St James’ but eventually meant people had to provide their own social services ,so brought about secularism as people no longer needed religion to provide schools and hospitals.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

You should be interested in Christian Massacres … that is, the genicides committed by Roman Catholic Christians the world over … and those committed by Protestant Christians like the English and the Dutch snd the Germans the world over. Such Blessings!!!

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago

Religion does get caught up in politics and bad things happen in its name as a result. But that should not blind us to the overall benefits which Christianity has brought to the world.

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago

People aren’t christian or catholic or muslim because they come from a country that claims to be so..

wasn’t it jesus who said “by their fruit you will know them”. You will know who christians really are by what they do…..and it wasn’t by doing evil…but good…

This is theory obviously…as all of this is..

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

Christ’s aromatic teaching stinks.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
3 years ago
Reply to  Reed Howe

Why do you think that?

Simon Cooper
Simon Cooper
3 years ago

It’s always interesting to hear about religion from the point of view of people who don’t believe in the supernatural side of it. This happened that happened, usually with some statement quantified with an adjective like ‘incredibly’ or ‘amazingly’.
That criminal crucified on the hillside, according to at least one Roman eye witness, “was the son of God”.
So perhaps it was less of a surprise when he wasn’t in the tomb on the third day.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Cooper

The resurrection had to happen.

Margaret Donaldson
Margaret Donaldson
3 years ago

Thanks Mr West. A most interesting article especially about the Vikings the admiration for whom has always eluded me especially after finding out about their treatment of slaves. Christianity WAS revolutionary in its moral teachings. Those of you who are unsure, read Galatians and reflect on what Paul is saying about equality in the eyes of God. Imagine how the Christian listeners would have reacted to the reading of that letter – and the pagans too…….

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

Yes Galatians us a fine book. Paul crested Christianity with it.

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

Christianity teaches (as do all semitic doctrines) that the world is divided up into two groups of people. “Our gang”, the favoured, and the others beneath consideration who do not have “our” superior insight in to the true nature of the world.
Semitic doctrines are fundamentally racist.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Reed Howe

You are confusing Christianity with Gnosticism, Manicheism, Islam. In Christianity people have equal dignity, it also teaches that we are unique and valued as such.

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

How does Paul know how “God” sees equality?
According to Christian myth, the only “way to god” is through Christ. Does that “God” see Christians and non-Christians as equal? As a non-Christian, it doesn’t seem very likely to me. I see it more as a victim of racism would see racism.

Armand L
Armand L
3 years ago

This was a very good read from a rarely seen perspective today, thank you Ed!

kweene1941
kweene1941
3 years ago

The last paragraph, of this otherwise brilliant revision of church history, leaves me dismayed. Had the author considered the true roots of the Inquisition and the meaning of the Cather movement and had he grown up in transcendental New England, he might have reached a more sanguine view of the change taking place in America. To do that, however, he would necessarily have to realize that history is not just the singularities but also the process. He would have to recognize that the lens through which we look matters and that his is uniquely Euro-centric and cast in Catholicism. There are certainly other ways we can look at the events of this world.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  kweene1941

Well said

Mavka Rusalka
Mavka Rusalka
3 years ago

Interesting argument flawed by superficial history. The history of Rus was centered in Kyiv, not Moscow. It was Kyivan prelates who taught Muscovy Christianity. Please don’t go along with modern Russia stealing history the same was it steals land from other countries. Russia never traced its history to Rus until the modern age. It was called Muscovy, not “Russia” for centuries. Please make that clear.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Mavka Rusalka

You mean the way the English Spanish and Portuguese stole land?

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

And the way the muslims invaded and stole land, and then subdued, exploited and abused the people, all with the (surprise, surprise) of their god _allah

john dann
john dann
3 years ago

It is always surprising and unsettling to me when intelligent, articulate people such as the author glibly and unquestioningly take for granted conventional narrative and cultural dogma.
Religion is powerful, scary in a way. We have convinced ourselves that we cannot question it, that supernatural beliefs must be respected, even to the detriment of others. So people with antithetical beliefs and absurd dogmas are able to establish cultural footholds in societies which claim to see diversity only as a desirable social component, whereas the very people they tolerate do not accept diversity of thought in their own restricted thinking. Religion is the obvious, but not the only collective to cultivate restrictive thinking. But we give religion such a pass that it is frowned upon, if not possibly dangerous to say to a Jew, that Moses never existed, to a Muslim that Abraham did not, or to a Christian that Jesus only came into fictitious existence some 50 years after his supposed death. This gets people riled. There is little tolerance for diversity of thought, as one’s identity is so caught up in the fiction.
In this article the conventionally assumptions about the Jesus figure and the origins and progress of Christianity, though numerous (dare I say legion) are accepted by many as fact, never to be disputed or subject to intellectual inquiry. So inviolable is religious dogma to legitimate question.
This article, while well written and even amusing, is nothing but Christian apologia.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  john dann

Attacked in the comments by the most devout of the devout lol !

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
3 years ago

“The impact of the faith, and of the Roman Catholic Church in particular, would revolutionise the way humans think, and how they related to each other, in ways that evolutionary biologists and psychologists are only now beginning to explain.”
It depends on the time frame in question. Jordan Peterson’s synthesis Maps of Meaning came out in 1999, 22 years ago.
In my view it is surprising a nod was not made to Peterson’s contribution.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

I read that work long before Peterson’s fame, and it is good, but let’s not get carried away about its influence, shall we?

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

Ayn Rand? Mein Kampf?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

Mr West, your ancestor Walter Leaf would be very disappointed!
Presumably you are one of those who believe that Galleys were rowed by slaves, a la Ben Hur?

The entire matrix of the Western World was developed in Ancient Greece centuries before the ‘Immaculate Conception’ and the arrival of the Nazarene. Politics, Philosophy, Science, Literature,
Art, Rhetoric, Poetry, competitive Sport, all the result of that intellectual phenomena known as Ancient Greece. Additionally the Romans would toss in Law, superb Architecture, and that almost unique ability to exercise Imperium (to Rule).

What could Christianity bring to such a Party? Sentimentality and an a denial of the finality of death, plus until recently, merciless persecution rather similar in to its ‘cousin’ Islam.

Incidentally Tom Holland took a double first in the English Tripos at Cambridge.

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

Since graduating, to my knowledge, Tom Holland has not made a direct contribution to the economic well-being of the citizens of the UK.

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

A double first in the English Tripos is a poor substitute for training in a hard and logically based discipline.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Reed Howe

As with nearly all Arts & Humanity degrees, interesting but ultimately ephemeral.
Science like its brother War, is “ the father of all things”.

Eamonn Toland
Eamonn Toland
3 years ago

Interesting article. Arguably Christianity was a cultural solution to the excesses of agricultural societies which developed spectacular inequalities. Nomadic hunter-gatherer societies tend to be much more egalitarian, at least serially monogamous, and less stratified in rank or kinship.

Joe Lynn
Joe Lynn
3 years ago

21st century and we still haven’t educated people out of religion. Depressing.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago
Reply to  Joe Lynn

What should take its place?

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Self actualization, self awareness, compassion, conscience, empathy and mutual benefit and peaceful solidarity not requiring a Zeus or Brahma

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

All the structures of religion but without God. Easier to accept a concept of God and live by that, surely?

Spencer Andrew
Spencer Andrew
3 years ago

Ed you’re one of my favourite writers in the whole wide world.

Lana H
Lana H
3 years ago

It’s obvious to see Christianity as the evolution from ‘eye for an eye’ to ‘turn the other cheek’ and the domino effect of that, but not so easy for people to get a grasp of what we do with the inevitable leadership vacuum that results after a revolution. Are we simply not evolved enough to be self-governing? It’s a question that has taken up a lot of my brain. Thanks for a lovely article.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Lana H

I wonder the same thing. Reading the comments here provides more evidence that we are not …

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago

Today we barely notice how unnatural our norms are in a world where traditionally powerful men behaved with the brutality of Caesar or the libidinousness of St Vladimir. That all changed one Friday on a hillside in Judea. 
Oh please. As if there weren’t hundreds of brutal, libidinous Christian kings. All those put upon ladies-in-waiting probably would have been much better off as 12th wives.

K Joynes
K Joynes
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

What teachings of Jesus did these “Christian” kings use to justify their libidinous brutality?

Dave H
Dave H
3 years ago
Reply to  K Joynes

That’s the point though isn’t it, their Christianity didn’t stop them.

Jimbob Jaimeson
Jimbob Jaimeson
3 years ago
Reply to  Dave H

Then I would have to say that biblicly they weren’t christian….btw I’m not a believer..

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago

Christianity is a belief system. A Christian is someone who holds that belief system to be true. . A Christian can do wrong, while at the same time as he still holds that belief. He still a Christian.
btw, I am not a believer.

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago
Reply to  K Joynes

No true Scotsman eh?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  K Joynes

I’d imagine their justification was some variant of render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.

Craig Brown
Craig Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

All that brutality and licentiousness is now readily available to all via the miracle of television and cinema. Only the venues have changed since Roman times.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

This is irrelevant, Christianity has never claimed people won’t be brutal and libidinous. The point is how that brutality was understood, not as a strength but a failing, and one that it might be possible to overcome.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

Oh puh-lease! You are making me blush !

M Spahn
M Spahn
3 years ago

Of course it is relevant. The author explicitly claims “traditionally powerful men behaved with the brutality of Caesar or the libidinousness of St Vladimir” and then “that all changed” when Christ came along. To which I responded, no . .it didn’t.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  M Spahn

It created a counter current which ended up creating the West. You cannot expect to change humans fast. It required hundreds of years to cut the hedonistic nature, unfortunately, Marxism brought that back because they like to play with human weaknesses.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

Not too many surprises here — after all “the West” was called “Christendom”

I will note that the author left off the first and possibly most impactful “martial conversion” — Constantine and the Battle of the Milvian Bridge

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Colin Haller

It was Constantine’s mother, Helena who was the real problem.
Rather like something out of that epic film “The Life of Brian” (1972).

Last edited 3 years ago by Charles Stanhope
Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

What problem?

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
3 years ago

I wonder about China which has never been Christian (or Muslim or Jewish). Also India – at least the Hind part. Should they still be eating babies (at least female ones)?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

The First Crusaders are said to have eaten babies, mistakenly believing them to be Muslims’.

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Are said to have … like Jesus us said to have … ?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

That must have been a problem given the practical/ religious prohibition of eating pork in the Levantine.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

It’s a pity that beheading is not prohibited.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

“Are said” by whom?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

Haven’t the Chinese substituted Dogs for female babies over the past few years?
I gather it counts towards their much heralded ‘rise out of poverty’.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

Just Buddhist

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

Without the evil British colonialism they would still burn alive their wives.

ed adams
ed adams
3 years ago

Has either Ed West or Tom Holland addressed the reasons why the Christian mytheme no longer has the attractive power it once had?
As the author points out, “the New Atheists have won.” But they were merely piling on a mythological tradition which has been slowly dying for several centuries.
When myths stop gripping, you can’t blame the people who are no longer moved by them. It means the myths have been played out.
The status of Christianity now reminds one of Plutarch’s lament over the abandonment of the ancient oracles as he hears the cries of a dying Pan–a perception of the passing of one mythological tradition and the start of a new one.
Jung offered a fierce critique of Christianity saying that it was not psychologically tenable. He cited its overvaluation of the masculine vs the feminine, the spirit vs. the body, light vs. darkness, perfectionism vs. completeness. And its God is psychologically inadequate because he has to split off his own evil onto an external shadow figure–the devil. His only hope for Christianity’s future was if it could transform the male trinity into a quaternity by an inclusion of the feminine as divine and its god could own up to his own evil instead of projecting it onto a shadow figure. Obviously Christianity has been able to do neither, and is languishing.
That’s why for healing Jung and his followers turned for psychological healing to Eastern religions as well as reanimating the ancient pagan gods who still lurk in the collective unconscious, where they have been banished by Christianity.
An offshoot of Tom Holland’s thesis may be that now because of Christianity’s emphasis on love and mercy and the dignity of the individual, we can now see the horrid barbarity at the heart of the Christian mytheme–where non-believers are sentenced to either an eternal torture or annihilation. And a second coming is longed for where the enemies of Christ will find eternal destruction in a lake of fire while Christ’s followers will enjoy an eternity of reward. Most modern people find that notion quite repulsive.
Add to Christian eliminationist fantasies, the central features of Christianity–human blood sacrifice, sado-masochistic pleasure, scapegoating, ritualized cannibalism and you have pretty abhorrent core of beliefs, however ornate and perfumed the wrapping.
Have I missed it or have these people like West or Holland, who are in a phase of overzealously praising Christianity, offered a critique of the Christian myth itself and its inadequacies? Have they given an explanation of why it no longer stirs the hearts of people in the industrialized West, other than that Christianity’s effects have been largely integrated?

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  ed adams

Well-said!: Jung offered a fierce critique of Christianity saying that it was not psychologically tenable. He cited its overvaluation of the masculine vs the feminine, the spirit vs. the body, light vs. darkness, perfectionism vs. completeness. And its God is psychologically inadequate because he has to split off his own evil onto an external shadow figure–the devil. His only hope for Christianity’s future was if it could transform the male trinity into a quaternity by an inclusion of the feminine as divine and its god could own up to his own evil instead of projecting it onto a shadow figure. Obviously Christianity has been able to do neither, and is languishing.
That’s why for healing Jung and his followers turned for psychological healing to Eastern religions as well as reanimating the ancient pagan gods who still lurk in the collective unconscious, where they have been banished by Christianity.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 years ago

The Ancient Roman ‘trinity’ of Jupiter,Juno & Minerva, was very practical solution.

However as Christianity is a misogynistic Semitic cult, we are unlikely to see a female Pope, or Mama for sometime!

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

Yet the UK has had several Queens and two female Prime Ministers, and the Queen is both Monarch and Head of the Church. So it’s some kinds of Christianity that lead to the things you mention.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

Beside the practical solutions, the fact that slavery was the norm, children had no rights, women were objects for pleasure, polygamy widespread, slaves were teared up by wild animals, etc. does that matter to you?

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

Paganism is a regress of mankind. It meant human and child sacrifice, tribalism, dire poverty, no technology but stare at the moon, cannibalism, illiteracy – is this how you envisage the bright future? eventually we can go back and live in the (Plato’s) cave.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago

God is not evil, the Devil was created by God and chose another path, he had free will.
The feminine is the figure of Mary.
What we needed (religiously speaking) is redemption not feminine-masculine archetypes.
Jesus paid our debt by his sacrifice.
You are projecting Jungian mish mash on a different ontological realm therefore your conclusions are as valid as you premises: none.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  ed adams

An offshoot of Tom Holland’s thesis may be that now because of Christianity’s emphasis on love and mercy and the dignity of the individual, we can now see the horrid barbarity at the heart of the Christian mytheme–where non-believers are sentenced to either an eternal torture or annihilation. “
Imagine a world in which many people have committed horrible things and they would enjoy heaven just as those who lived a moral, decent life. It is not tenable.
It is justice not barbarity. This world is predicated on laws, and those who trespass those laws will endure the consequences. Responsibility is a major attitude of a mature person.
By the way, punishment for sinful behaviour is not taught solely by Christianity. Why singling it out?

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago

The church has stood, a rock colossus of bigotry, in the path of ten thousand proposed reforms. Sane efforts to legalize birth control information, the manufacture of proper birth control appliances, appliances for the inhibition of the spread of venereal disease, public instruction in sex hygiene, free clinics for the treatment of venereal disease, the inspection and treatment of prostitutes, controlled prostitution itself, the publication of psychological and physical sex information, aid for unwed mothers—myriad attempts by sane men acting sanely on real problems — have been fought down by church-frightened legislatures and church-dominated courts. — Philip Wylie

Jeremy Cavanagh
Jeremy Cavanagh
3 years ago

Ermmmm, uhmmmm, when you say ‘the church’ do you mean those other Christians who accept birth control, or are they off your targetting system? As to the rest of your scatter shot, are you claiming that no Christian, those programmed into your targetting system and those apparently not, has ever supported the items on this list of yours? Quite a mighty claim to make.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
3 years ago

God, eh? Well Rome and Rus sound remarkably like modern societies where a later version of that very same ‘god’ is worshipped. Anything to say about why he changes his mind and his message so drastically?

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
3 years ago

Once Ed West described as brilliant a book by that arch hagiographer Tom Holland my level of scepticism rose dramatically. Before I was half way through the article irritation was added to my scepticism.
The entire article is narrow minded and provincially Western. It makes the absurd claim that almost all human progress was down to Christianity. I would argue that the brutality of Western colonialism – much of it justified by spreading the ‘Word of the Lord’ and ‘civilisation’ was demonstrably no better for the colonised than what went before in many instances. The highly selective examples of where Christianity did, indeed, contribute to human progress (while omitting the sheer awfulness of clerical ‘terrorism’ over centuries) are used simply to distort the overall picture. This is mere hagiography dressed up as erudite history.
Probably the worst article I’ve ever read in UnHerd.

john dann
john dann
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

There is a creeping conservatism on UnHerd which is unsettling, but it is very British…God and Queen, these traditions fog up the brain a good deal.

Reed Howe
Reed Howe
3 years ago
Reply to  john dann

Utopian socialism in all its variants fog up the brain even more.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  john dann

Do you prefer unscientific socialism and opiniology?

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

Actually, Western colonialism was less brutal than Marxists teach it nowadays, and it had many good sides: built schools, hospitals, infrastructure, brought modern mentality to lands where tribalism was the norm and fatalism. And it is important to know that many things taught in schools nowadays is propaganda concocted in the Soviet Union. I know it because I read east European sources. The Soviet Union didn’t have a strong economy, neither a strong army, the only thing they excelled in was disinformation. That included to forge documents and twist historical facts so Christianity looked as a terrible religion and Western Civilization was the worst.
There were inventions in other parts of the world, but systematic science and the invention of modern technology is a product of Christian thought. If you don’t like that’s fine, you don’t have to.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
3 years ago

Ah, it is all so deceptively complex, the more i have read today on UnHerd the more I am not so sure the Old Norse concept of Ragnarok isn`t the true way after all…(or should that be deceptively simple?)…

Mark Lilly
Mark Lilly
3 years ago

Chritianity brought about gay marriage and women’s emancipation? What have you been smoking?

ed adams
ed adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Lilly

In this new simplistic Christ-osculating narrative, everything that happened after Christianity appeared is due to Christian beliefs.
Makes thinking about history a lot easier, right?

Thomas Prentice
Thomas Prentice
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Lilly

Christianity fiercely opposes gay marriage and feminism.

Arnold Grutt
Arnold Grutt
3 years ago

So what? In the UK, at least, the Head of the Church is not a politician. By the way, she’s also female. You might want to distinguish different kinds of ‘Christianity’ which is not, and never has been, ‘one thing’. Church membership is optional, and voluntary.

Last edited 3 years ago by Arnold Grutt
Jeremy Cavanagh
Jeremy Cavanagh
3 years ago

I guess you have never come across feminist theology.

john dann
john dann
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Lilly

I think the author is able to ignore the intolerance of Christian orthodoxy to sexual ‘deviance’ for two thousand years by concentrating on the very noble concepts included in Paul’s letters, like ‘God is love, if you love you live in God and God lives in you” (paraphrase). Such precepts are not exclusive to Christianity, but they are almost impossible to realize in the flow of daily existence, especially when God is hovering over you and watching everything, ready to criticize as in a dominating relationship. Ekhart Tolle’s idea of living in the NOW can give one a similar high of tolerance and acceptance. The trouble is that individual love, or awareness cannot be institutionalized. Christianity did empower the individual, however it also brought along for the ride Judaic traditions. It is, iff effect, a Jewish sect, which combined Judaism with the saviour cult, which was very popular at the time in the Roman world.
Tolerance of human sexuality is not the result of Christian tolerance. It has far more to do with the Enlightenment and our increased respect for science and ratiocination.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

This is a tremendous article, wonderfully well written and very thought provoking.

It’s a great pity that many of the comments are so partisan and “shoot from the hip”. This piece deserves very careful inner consideration. It is one of those writings that really lead one to a repositioning of what one believes.

Thank you, Ed

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
3 years ago

All of this cultural baggage and history is fascinating, and it certainly explains a lot about how we arrived at this present scenario.
But forget not, Ed, the victory of one very special man over death itself. That conquest has a quite unique drawing power for any individual.
Jesus was the only human in all of history to suffer a criminal death and then live to tell about.
Victory over death is a state of being that has significant drawing power for any person who is willing to believe it.
The alternative is just a dark hole, the other side of which nobody knows.
I’ll remain with the One who returned from the dark side and then issued a worldwide invitation to join him on the other side.
Not only that, but marriage to one woman has its benefits, which I have been enjoying for 41 years. Our three grown offspring still approve of us.

G Matthews
G Matthews
3 years ago