Christianity famously started its long and fascinating history as one of many persecuted minority faiths in the lands of the Roman Imperial state. That this religion based around the words and (supposed) deeds of an itinerant preacher and son of a carpenter came to partner with and eventually usurp the power of the Roman authorities that hemmed them in at every turn was no surprise to the true believers. But it must have been a truly terrifying and earth shattering turn of events for all those unfortunate enough to not be washed in the blood of the savior. Those who hoped that this new religion based on the philosophy of a millenarian pacifist would be any less violent and imperialist than the last set of theocratic rulers would soon find that this hope was sorely misplaced. Of course there were the occasional beneficent Francis of Assisi’s and monks who vouchsafed reason against the all encompassing tide of faith and fear, but for the most part the powerful or wannabe powerful used the Christian religion as the Romans had used their Pagan beliefs: as a hammer to crush the bodies and minds of those who stood in the way of their authority. The Pax Romana gave way to a Pax Christiana, and to those who wished to live their lives free from coercion or absolutist terror there was hardly a difference to be seen between the two.
As chaos spread in the Roman world the official practice of pagan belief grew ever more important and the persecution of unsanctioned (and therefore dangerous) minorities religions kicked into high gear. Christians bore the brunt of this fear and fury but soon they found themselves beneficiaries of the pragmatism of the fearful and desperate Roman elite. It was either oblivion and a collapse of aristocratic authority, or the cross. The choice was easy and fateful for the entire world. Using the mechanisms and tradeways of the Roman state Christianity was able to spread from West Asia to Europe, Northern Africa, Southern Asia and beyond. The faith of the cross became the faith of the sword and thousands of cultures and millions of people were consigned to the flames in its ever expanding wake.
A Pax Christiana demands a clean slate, the casting away of all other beliefs and modes of thought. Where the Roman pagans allowed other faiths to flourish if only they paid homage to the basic idea of Roman superiority, Christianity would broker no disagreement, no alternative but the cross and the blood of Christ. When the faith spread to the New World a cataclysm the likes of which had not been seen and would not be seen again until the 20th century battlefield of political ideologies was unleashed. 100 million or more died in the name of Christ, and hundreds of proud and vibrant cultures were sacrificed to appease the followers of the most meek and mild Christ. The Taiano, The Aztec, The Maya, The Navajo, The Pueblo, The Sioux, The tribes of the Eastern Seaboard…this is but a short list of the victims of the Christian disease. While these cultures were far from ideal or even enlightened in many senses, the Christian Empire would take the failings of mankind and amplify them into persistent and established systems that would carry on into the modern age. Slavery, sexual repression, patriarchy, institutionalized cover-up of the sexual abuse of children, hatred of secular thought and philosophy, unfettered capitalism and material exploitation, everything was justified in that name of the Lord, as long as it was the servants of the Lord who profited. Morality became dependent upon belief, the blood of Christ cleansing the guilt and the culpability of even the most craven and evil of men and women.
The Empire that preserved and expanded the Pax Christiana was an empire of the mind as much as of the body and the earth; every man, woman and child was a slave of the redeemer, even if they did not yet know it. Thought crime, the most vicious of all methods of control and abuse, came into being and proliferated all over the world. It is not as though Christians invented vice or excuses for it but never before has a religion been based on the notion that all mortal trespasses can be forgiven with the trespasser going without punishment in the secular realm. The ultimate judge is God so there is no need for earthly justice, at least not for those entrusted with the authority to interpret the word of God and to bestow upon the huddled and worthless mass of humanity his graces and his favor. Christianity was not a religion localized in one culture or dependent upon certain systems of governance and control. Christianity was adaptable in a way paganism, Judaism, and Hellenism never were. It behaved like a pathogen that bore itself into the body politic and the body cultural of a given society and usurped and reshaped its shared morality and truth claims. Good was now only good within the auspices of Christian ontology and law, evil was only evil if in opposition to Christian dogma and authority, truth was only truth if it was bathed in the corrosive and transformative blood of the lamb. Christianity was a pathogen that could and did spread all over the world in a way that no other religion had or has. Islam could conquer, Judaism could influence, and paganism could inspire, but Christianity could subsume. Giordano Bruno, Galileo, Capernicus, and countless thousands of artists, free thinkers, writers and scientific thinkers and philosophers have suffered direct persecution at the hands of Christian authorities or the thugs and soulless technocrats they give aid, comfort and moral absolution.
Freedom fighters and hard working men and women in the exploited and enslaved regions of the world from the Philippines to Indonesia to Congo to Mexico to India have felt the combined might of Christian morality in the form of “civilizing” missionaries and imperial officials who sought to introduce shame of self and hatred of culture and the human body. There is no room for individual expression or cultural pride in a Christian world. There are only the servants of the lord and their humble and simple minded slaves. Thousands of years of thought, creativity cultural exploration and imagination have been erased or subsumed by the tired, morose and shaming Christian moral mythology. There is no room for creativity or radical reinterpretations of theology or cultural heritage when only one belief is valid and all the rest is made a postiori profane.
Billions of women have been made to feel less than human and have been condemned to a status in society that ignores their intellectual and moral potential. The patriarchal world upheld and nourished by Christian patriarchy denied us the talents of Maria Anna Mozart, and countless other unknown women who could have joined the ranks of the great and the celebrated. Christianity, while cultivating some forms of education and limited philosophical inquiry, has also retarded the biological and human sciences and also vilified and combated philosophies of social progress like Marxism, Utilitarianism, existentialism and humanism. The world is seen as the domain of men who would exploit and consume it, and if in the end the earth is ravaged beyond repair there is at least heaven to look forward to for the twisted and sickly remnants of humanity that cling to life on the barren rock that is the legacy of Christian supported capitalist exploitation.
And this creed, this imperial system, has not yet reached its apogee.
The potential for total power comes when the potential for the dissolution of the established contemporary order is at its greatest. Christianity faces that existential threat in the form of enlightened philosophy and scientific reasoning. Ever since the first monks began to read and record the all but destroyed heritage of Hellenic Greece, Ancient Rome, and The Islamic Renaissance, there has been an outpost of freedom in every educated mind. This was and remains the greatest threat to complete Christian hegemony.
[To be Continued in Part II]