Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tacitus, regarding the persecution of Christians under Nero:

"But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the more exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed."

What I find most interesting is that the Christians were convicted for the crime of "hatred against mankind". Having taught the gospel (good news) that Jesus is our sacrifice for sin and we don't need to suffer eternal wrath from God, we are convicted of "hatred against mankind". Indeed, if we poke around the net awhile, we will find that this still seems to be the primary complaint.

11 comments:

Delirious said...

Isn't that the truth? The most common thing I hear is that religion is the cause of every war, and every injustice.

I wonder what our society would be like for Christians today if the law would allow people to do with us as they please.

Do you think we have brought any of this on ourselves?

Looney said...

Regarding how much of the blame goes to Christians, we typically are guilty of all of the same sins as non-Christians, thus, it is easy to point at something that indicates we are at fault. Indeed we also confess are condemnation for sins we have committed, thus, are need for salvation in the first place.

But the real answer is given in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 -

"For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of Life. And who is equal to such a task?"

Pvblivs said...

Delirious:

     Most wars are about some religion or other. All wars are about the power of the leaders.

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     Interestingly, if such persecutions had not taken place, christianity would be relegated to the scrap heap along with many other myths. The only objection I have with christians is that many try to get the religion passed into the law of the land.

Looney said...

Pvblivs, I just got through reading about a long list of wars from classical writers, which is the reason for the quote. Can you name a single religious war described by Tacitus, Polybius, or Herodotus? Frankly, none of them qualify as religious. Even the war by Titus on Israel was about taxes and political independence, not religion - as Josephus takes pains to point out. In a few decades of our modern era, atheists have slaughtered more people than all of the religious wars of history combined.

I have had people living under my care who survived the communist purges, but they are too wounded to respond forcefully to such nonsense. You really should reconsider this modernist libel that you are blindly parroting.

Pvblivs said...

Looney:

     I stand by my assessment (and it is an assessment) that most wars are about some religion. My assessment is based on the observation that most leaders consider their power to be justified by their religion. Their is also the secondary concern that revolutionaries sometimes use their religion as justification. A war can be about religion because someone is trying to enforce it or because someone is trying to supress it (or both.)
     You disagree with my assessment. (Ehh, I'll live.) We would likely disagree about whether individual wars were based on religion. That is just not that important to me. But I will give you some food for thought. Do you really think that Josephus would take pains to point out that a war was "not about religion" if people had not already decided that it was based on their own observations? That was an issue of image (whether or not he thought the war was about religion.)

Looney said...

Josephus wrote that the Romans had tried to avoid damaging the temple in Jerusalem, however, the Jewish partisans had made this into a fortress for their last stand and a position to attack the Romans. The Romans were, according to this account, compelled to storm the temple and a fire broke out which destroyed the building while the fighting was raging. Given that Josephus was a Jew, I don't see any wiggle room to make this into a religious war without depending entirely on the imagination.

I will accept that your conclusions are similarly grounded on imagination. That is your right.

I will stand by my assessment that more people have died in the name of atheism during the 20th century than all of the religious wars of history combined.

Pvblivs said...

     "I will stand by my assessment that more people have died in the name of atheism during the 20th century than all of the religious wars of history combined."
     In order for it to be "in the name of atheism," it has to be a case of attempting to suppress some religion. That still means it's about religion. For a war not to be about religion requires that the religion or lack of same is not a part of the motivation.
     I am not disputing what you say about the account. What I am saying is that if religion was not a factor in the attack, if no one was drawing a connection, why would he need to stress that it was not based on religion? Did he stress that it was not about how people cooked their eggs? Of course not, the thought would not cross anyone's mind. Furthermore, it would not matter if people thought that was the motivation. A denial suggests the presence of an accuser. (The accusation may still be incorrect.) There must have been someone of relative significance who thought it was about religion.

Looney said...

I think I understand now. If an atheist kills a Christian, then it is a religious war. Therefore, the killing is the fault of the Christian.

Pvblivs said...

     "I think I understand now. If an atheist kills a Christian, then it is a religious war. Therefore, the killing is the fault of the Christian."
     Not quite what I said. I said that most wars have been about religion. And that is quite true. I did not say they were necessarily the fault of religion (although organized religions tend to justify their acts of aggression -- much of the bible is along those lines -- secular despots invent their own excuses.)
     Incidentally, there have been wars about other religions that christianity. I don't automaticly blame christians. You are making a false charge against me; and defending your particular religion against an accusation I did not make. Who did? Perhaps you have gotten such an accusation before and simply expected it. Or, maybe, the accusation came from your own conscience. Ah, well, I can never know for sure.

The Professor said...

Might I suggest, Pvblivs, that there is a subtle, yet important twist to what you are writing:

Most wars have been about power, or the means to achieve/sustain/usurp it, and religion was often an excuse.

When I think back to the 20th century, I am astounded at the "non-religious" nature of some of the most egregious wars. WWI. (treaties on automatic) WWII, Hitler/Emperor/Mussolini powere grab, Russian/Chinese revolutions. Korea (Communist atheistic North wanting South.) Vietman (same) [both of these had Real Politick as our underlying rationale--stop communism and the dominos.)

Genocides in Cambodia and Rwanda. (just people killing other, different people.) Same in Kosovo and Lebanon where the ethnic reasons for killing were only culturally tied t o actual conviction of faith.

All sides, to get and maintain the popular support often necessary, may appeal to religion, but it is my suspicion that the leaders viewed religion as a tool and not a personal conviction.

Cb said...

I was going to comment here until I read the last comment by The Professor." I agree exactly with his assessment. Pvblivs, it may be that religion is invoked as justifications of many, perhaps even most, wars and certainly a (relative) wars have been fought specifically over religious issues, but it is simply false to say that most wars are "about religion."

Wars are about power. Sometimes religion is the power being fought over, sometimes religion is used as an excuse, but it is always about power. Blaming religion as the source of all or even most wars is to fall into the trap of Dawkins and Hitchens who conveniently rewrite history to meet their own polemic ends and have a few of humanity that is not in keeping with reality.