“we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
no matter how
In my Politics class, we sit and have a rather tedious discussion most weeks. There is a bin in the corner, about 3 metres from where I sit. I sit with a bottle of water most weeks and finish it by the time the class is over. I wonder if I throw the empty bottle in the direction of the bin, if I will get it on target. I position myself by swinging slightly backward on my chair. I always decide against it. It is tedious because there is no control over the class. People talk on one table about subjects that are absolutely nothing to do with the original topic of debate. Others frequently don’t understand the point of the arguments made by specific political philosophers, and end up rambling on for a moment or two about nothing. They would say more, if they didn’t speak. The day previous, at the gym, in the changing room, a man was in the toilet cubicle. He obviously thought no one was in the toilet and randomly said “Oh fuck it’s a big one!!!!” I am not sure how to respond to that. It’s obviously a sentence of genius. Do I edge slowly toward the door and leave quietly? Or do I bow down in front of the cubicle and worship this legend as he comes out of his castle? Two Christian girls in our class, during a rather slow discussion on Nietzsche attempted to link the entire concept of democracy (not just modern democracy, democracy in general) to Christianity. Christians often narrow mindedly take credit for concepts they simply didn’t create; usually in the subject of art, as if without Christianity there would never have been a Leonardo. But I’ve never seen such a terrible argument presented as to why democracy is a loving gift bestowed upon the World by that beacon of democracy; Christianity.
I pointed out that forms of democracy (quite different to democracy today, I accept) appeared long before Christianity stamped its ugly, overbearing foot on the progress of humanity. One of the two girls looked at me as if I was an utter idiot. She told me, in a naturally patronising voice that democracy came long after Christianity and was a product of it. I mentioned Rome to her, and the election of Tribunes of the People’s assembly, the Senate, and that after around 300bc the lower classes were allowed to stand for office, and that although Rome’s democracy was massively flawed; it was still democratic by the standards of that particular time. The Roman people idolised their Republic. They were scared of absolute power. The Ancient Greeks, long before Jesus Christ wasn’t born, invented Constitutions and in some respects, invented Democracy. She said “no“.
Then more talking ensued…
One person talking louder to make themselves known after the last person. About eight different conversations in the same small room is too much even for my confidence and ego to try to fight over. I dropped my argument. I stared around the room and out of the window. My Kindle holds thousands of books. I have downloaded at least 200 so far, and have only started reading one. Tony Blair’s most recent book. It’s very self serving and has an air of utter arrogance about it. He describes himself as a rebel at heart. He was certainly a great statesman and I have a lot of time for much of what he achieved. But the fact remains, his “modernising” turned the Labour Party into a Tory-Lite Party, capitulating to the excessive power of finance capital. I am reading poems by Bukowski too. As you can tell by the start of this blog. I wish I had more time, and a quiet room. That way, I would have spent the next thirty minutes destroying the argument of massively misinformed, delusional Christians. I get a kind of sadistic enjoyment out of it. I don’t respect or understand their view, when their view is ridiculous, and just outright bullshit.
Democracy, previous to Rome can be traced back as far as pre-historic civilisation. Tribes working as a unit would presume to work together far more democratically, for the common good, than any system forced upon humanity during Christianities harsh hold over Europe. In fact, Christian Europe resembled a system far closer to the that advocated in the Old Testament. The first Pope, in the Bible, says:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
-1 Peter 2:13-17
I think that’s pretty conclusive. Firstly, I take issue with ‘live as God’s slaves’. No. The Christian God disgusts me. I cannot think of anyone worse, to be the ‘slave’ of. Secondly, it is evident that the first Catholic Pope demanded that his contempories submit to the sovereign authority, whom at the time, was an Emperor, far removed from any democratic principles. St Peter’s role in the Church spanned four Roman Emperors; Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and eventually being crucified under the despotic lunatic Nero. We don’t know who he was writing about when he demanded we all submit to Caesar. I doubt it was Nero, given that Nero really didn’t like Christians. But even if St Peter had demanded that the Caligula, Claudius or Tiberius were to be submitted to entirely, the nature of those first three Emperors after Augustus should be examined. Perhaps they were deep down, democratic?
Tiberius was massively disliked, especially before he died. He spent far more money on the Imperial palaces than on the people. Although the area that St Peter would have lived for much of his life; Israel, has a town named “Tiberias” after the Emperor………. created by…….. King Herod. Executions for small crime went up under Tiberius. He was a bit of a maniac. In fact, he was so anti-democratic, he had his main opponent in the Senate; Gaius Asinius, executed for treason, simply for opposing the Emperor. Why would a loving God desire his faithful subjects to give themselves up to such tyranny? Why didn’t he demand the overthrow of such evil, for a far more democratic model? Why wasn’t that God preaching democratic values, if democracy truly is the product of Christian logic?
Caligula was no better. He had absolutely every Senator who opposed the Emperor investigated, and if he deemed it necessary, executed. This sent a stark warning to the Senate and the final remnant of the old Republic; submit entirely to the Emperor, or die. He then started dressing as a God in public, he called himself Jupiter in documents, and he made Senators who he distrusted, run by the side of his chariot to show their inferiority. Two temples were created and funded by Caligula, for the sake of worshipping…. Caligula. Perhaps this is the beacon of democracy and rule by the people that St Peter was obviously referring to when he demanded people ‘honor the emperor’.
Claudius, likewise, was not elected by popular democratic means. He was the grandson of the sister of Augustus; Octavia. So he believed, through his bloodline, that he was entitled to the Imperial throne. Inherited public power is about as far removed from democracy as it is possible to get. He pronounced himself the Judge and Jury in many trials during his reign. Absolutely less democratic than even the hardly democratic Republican era of Rome.
So, that leaves us with the notion that St Peter, when asking his people to submit as slaves to God and as subject to Caesar, did not care one bit for democracy, or for personal and intellectual freedom, or the plight of the Imperial subjects and the injustices within the Empire. And so we must conclude, that early Christianity has more in common with its Middle Ages history, than it does with a couple of Christian students’ warped interpretation of democratic history.
Christianity during the Middle Ages was most certainly responsible for the most cruel period of human history in Europe. It was also used as the basis for Monarchy. Kings and Queens did not use Christianity in a manipulative sense just to hold on to power, they genuinely believed, as did their subjects, that they had a divine right to rule, laid out by God. They had inherited the throne of David. That was the justification for Monarchy ruled by ruthless, violent Christianity. Henry VIII was so worried about how he was to be viewed as a King by God, that he divorced Catherine of Aragon, on the pretence that God had punished him by giving him no male heir with Catherine, because she was his dead brother’s wife first.
The Pope arguably had the most power in Europe during the Middle Ages. English people did not consider themselves English first. They considered themselves loyal to the Pope. They did not elect the Pope and they had no say over the policies coming out of Rome. They merely had to accept what the Vatican was telling them. Thomas More (who, quite comically, is now a Saint) advocated the burning to death of anyone who dared to own a Bible in English. Catholics believed only the Vatican and those who were scholarly and rich enough to read Latin, should have the right to interpret the Bible for the rest of the Catholic World. That couldn’t be less democratic if it tried. It wasn’t until Henry broke with Rome in 1534, that England as a culture and a united people started to take some shape. But even then, the despotic power of Rome was merely transfered to the despotic power of the King. No form of democracy was created. The beginnings of Protestantism were not democratic. Americas beginnings were not democratic. The Athens system in the centuries preceding the apparent birth of Jesus included a system that did not allow women or slaves the right to vote. America, similarly started off, for a very long time actually, not allowing women or slaves or anyone whose skin colour was slightly darker than their own, the right to vote.
Skip a couple of Centuries to America, and some would argue that Christianity was responsible for the birth of the nation. Not true. The historian Robert T Handy argues that:
“No more than 10 percent– probably less– of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations.”
Most of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons and Deists. They were, as was America, products of the Enlightenment. Freemasonry and the thinking of the Enlightenment, the moving away from strict Christian dogma, is far more important to the development of early America. George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, and the man who was essentially the pillar on which the early Republic stood and managed to survive the early years, was a devout Freemason from the early 1750s, until the day he died. He became a master mason at the end of the 1590s.
Thomas Jefferson famously despised the dogma of organised religion, stating:
“Question with boldness even the existence of a god.”
Jefferson received a letter from the third President, John Adams, stating:
“I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”
It is thus evident that the United States was not the product of some new found Christian love and appreciation for democratic principles. The Constitution specifically states that there shall be no religious oppression. It does not mention the wondrous contribution Christianity has made to the onset of democracy.
Democracy, like Capitalism, like falls of Kingdoms and Republics and Empires is the result of social evolution and the collective cultural mind of a population rebelling to meet the challenges of major shifts in consciousness and technology and economics. It is not the result of Christian dogma.
The historical reality is almost always, on every issue, entirely at odds with Christian delusion. They never accept it. They invent history. Just like the two girls invented history, and invented their own special brand of logic in my politics class. It was however, one of the only times that my mind hasn’t wandered in that class. Usually we talk about one particular philosopher and it just gets too crowded with the sounds of unrecognisable voices blurred together. It all just sounds like a constant irritating ringing in my ear. There was a man sat out a chip shop in Leicester yesterday. It was 11am. The chip shop must have only just opened. He had a huge bowl of chips. He had his legs wide open, to accommodate the mass of draping fat that swung down below his knees as he sat. At that point, wouldn’t you just accept you may have been wrong all those years? Wouldn’t you just eat a salad?