Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Foundations of Christianity

This post is not for or against Christianity or religion. It is a historical and dialectical materialist analysis of the class forces that caused its creation.

Written by John Pickard
Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Many of us know that the origins of Christianity have nothing to do with silent nights or wise men. So what are its true origins? John Pickard looks at the reality of how this religion came about - from the standpoint of class forces and the material developments of society, rather than by the pious fictions fed from church pulpits.

Read the rest here



Holiday Greetings


RENEGADE EYE

16 comments:

The Pagan Temple said...

Interesting article, but it misses a major point when it addresses the question as to why did Christianity become so popular and widespread.

You have to understand that, in Rome, if you wanted to belong to one of the major cults (as well as most of the minor ones) it wasn't a simple matter. You didn't just walk in and join in the service and walk up at the end and say you wanted to join.

Not only did you have to pay a usually significant fee, you also had to have a sponsor, or patron, to recommend you, and you had to pass through a period of being a neophyte, and if all went well you became a full-fledged member after some time. Once you became a member, you had to continue paying periodic dues.

It was more like joining a country club than a church.

When Christianity came along, it was open to anybody, of any race and any class, and you were not expected to pay anything more than what you could afford to pay. If you could afford nothing, that was fine too.

What is significant about that was that, in addition to the poor working stiffs and slaves, it also attracted a significant number of "Freedmen".

Anybody who is at all familiar with ancient Rome will tell you that these Freedmen were the people who actually made the Empire functional. They were more than mere former slaves or descendants of slaves who had worked their way to freedom. In a great many cases these were people who actually exercised power over the Empire. They were tutors, doctors, civil servants, and even lawyers.

Yet, for the most part, by law and tradition, they were not allowed to join most of the major cults, any more than they were for the most part not allowed to marry into the upper classes.

Christianity opened a spiritual door to them and met a need that had previously been closed to them.

From there, it was only a matter of natural progression of events that lead to Christianity being the dominant, and then the sole religion of ancient Rome.

When Christianity won over the Freedmen, it won over the heart and soul of the Empire.

tony said...

Very Interesting.Thank You Ren( & Pagan T. for the equally interesting & informative comment above).
Have A Pleasant Few Days.Best Wishes
Tony.

FJ said...

Merry Christmas, Ren, and all to all my Left Wing friends, have a prosperous New Year!

Nevin said...

A very interesting article and equally interesting comments by The Pagan Temple.

I am personally atheist and have all my life attended atheist schools where religion was not part of the curriculum. Therefore, I have little to no knowledge of religious history. But one thing is pretty obvious whether one knows about religious history or not is that by an large religion(s) have caused some sort of a division and (oppositely) unity among various groups of people. So for some it has been a source of happiness and for others it has been a source of pain and suffering. This goes on even in our current times....

The author wrote "Books and heretics were burnt. Theological history was re-written. Myths were piled upon myths, century after century. So much so that today even so-called ‘scholars’ treat the New Testament like a true historical narrative and not as they should as a story, no more true than ‘The Iliad’ or ‘Beowulf’."

I believe this is where I have a problem with all religions. Somehow, history is re-written to the advantage of the established religious order, with myths, lies, exaggerations, misrepresentations and for the most part, fictitious stories that never happened....

I am not sure ending Capitalism will get rid of such behavior or thinking.... Because I believe humans are "programmed" to be followers of someone or something stronger then themselves to find comfort in a confusing world. There will always be those who rule and those who will be ruled....

Happy Holidays everyone. :)

The Sentinel said...

Christianity is indeed a curious entity; it has been the most prolific thief and chameleon over the years stealing and assimilating masses of Pagan, Babylonian, and Ancient Egyptian (amongst many others) significant dates, stories and even dress.

Its leaders have been a responsible for a vast and bloody repression of freedom since its first firm grip and have held back science for countless years.

Its leaders and officers exercised complete control and authority with impunity in the more fanatical countries such as Ireland, and as we all now know, that absolute power corrupted absolutely with the clergy treating the children of Ireland as its own personal harem and the people in general as a contemptible cash cow as well as fanning the flames of sectarian hatred and violence.

In modern times, churches like the COE have virtually abandoned their core text and basis for faith and adopted a PC creed alien to every recognisable tenet of their religion and seem determined to implode in a frenzy of self righteous political dogma.

Christianity, as with most religions, has been a vile curse and scourge on mankind: The opiate of the masses. The ultimate control device: Obey and submit totally or suffer eternity in domination and hell.

It is rivalled today by the new religion of man-made climate change and its new ultimate threat of the malicious and wilful global destruction of all for the “deniers” and those who do not submit totally. As with Christianity, get ready for reams of guilt, lashings of control, public examples of heretics and taxes aplenty.

The only thing that hasn’t changed with Christians is that they always seem to need a new roof for their church and someone else’s money to pay for it!

That said:

Merry Christmas all!

CB said...

There are lot's of myths about Jesus and the Christian tradition.

He wasn't born in a "manger" he was born in a cave.
There were likely dozens if not more "wise men."
The inn was probably a house.
He wasn't born December 25th, he was probably born in the spring. Shepherds wouldn't have been out at any other time of year "keeping watch over their flock."
Jesus was a Jew and kept the 7th day sabbath holy. His disciples were Jews who also worshipped on sabbath.

There is no myth about the fact that He was divinity that clothed himself in humanity, that he wants a saving relationship with every one of us, even those who deny his existence.

Oh, anyway, Merry Christmas!

The Sentinel said...

And of course he wasn’t even called Jesus, that being a transliteration; his real name would have been Yĕhōšuă‘ or Joshua.

That is if he even existed at all.

Certainly there isn’t a single scrap of physical evidence that he did, merely hearsay and all after the fact at that.

Oh well. We cant prove Santa’s existence but we all still believe in him.

The Pagan Temple said...

The number of wise men isn't mentioned, but it's been generally inferred from the gifts presented-gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If it really happened, they were probably expatriate Jews from Babylon. There was still a large community of Jews there, as in Egypt.

Actually, his name could have literally been Jesus, if his parents were Hellenized Jews. Unlikely, but still slightly possible. There were a considerable number of Jews in Alexandria, Egypt, where Jesus might have lived for up to two years as an infant and toddler, and large numbers of them were in fact Hellenized Jews. They were the ones in fact who translated the Septuagint into Greek.

The whole census story doesn't pass the smell test to me. The last thing Herod would want would be for such a disruption as people traveling all over the country during these times, when people staged rebellions at the drop of a hat anyway, and where banditry was commonplace.

Augustus would not have devised such a strategy for a census for this reason. He and Herod were friends with a lot of mutual respect for each other, and Augustus would have adhered to his advice. Things were chaotic enough as it was. Such a process would have been a disaster waiting to happen.

I guess it's slightly possible that people could have had stand-ins to verify they owned property, like land managers and such, as most people who lived in areas other than their birth areas would have been landowners who could have hired managers and what not. Joseph might have been one of the very few unfortunates who had to pack it up for the long trip. The story still doesn't make a lot of sense, and I'm going to have to hear a better explanation than "because that's what the Bible says" before I can buy it.

Plus, Quirinius wasn't the governor of Syria until well after Herod died. Whoops.

No record of the Massacre of The Innocents either. That's explainable though. There might not have been that many kids in such a small town that met the criterion, and with everything else going on it might have seemed to pale in insignificance and been largely forgotten.

Matthew, as a tax collector and likely son of one who might have worked with his father learning the trade, might have spoken from more or less first hand knowledge. That would explain why he's the only one who wrote about it, I guess.

By and large, it's a great story, but there's just too much there that don't add up to be taken as literal fact.

Still, it does raise an interesting point. What if somebody survived such a massacre, and was raised to believe that a whole bunch of innocent babies were massacred in an attempt to kill him, yet he was the lone survivor?

Would that instill in such a person a kind of survivors guilt that might later manifest in a obsessive-compulsive desire to "atone" by committing the ultimate act of self-sacrifice, taking on the punishment of all mankind as a subconscious way of making up for what happened?

Most of us might just consider ourselves lucky and let it go at that, but maybe there's a few who might get it in their heads that they were saved in order to carry out some great destiny like that. Who knows?

Renegade Eye said...

I’d like to wish you a very pleasant/merry/happy/wonderful/safe Amaterasu; Ashurall; Beiwe; Choimus; Christmas; Dazh Boh; Dongzhi; Goru; Hanukkah; Hogmanay; Junkanoo; Karachun; Koleda; Lenæa; Meán Geimhridh; Modranicht; New Years; Ras as-Sana; Rozhanitsa Feast; Şeva Zistanê; shōgatsu; Summer Solstice [if you're in the Southern Hemisphere]; Sviatki; Vánoce; Winter solstice [if you're in the Northern Hemisphere]; Yalda; Yule-tide; Ziemassvētki; and Коляда! Stolen from a comment on Tony's blog.

Pagan: Your first comment compliments the post, with the additional info.

The second comment was interesting, but more speculative than the first.

Most likely he wasn't named Jesus.

Are Christians taught their history at all?

Tony: I agree.

FJ: Same to my rightist friends.

Nevin: A friend of mine, wrote an article about religion in general. I'll send it to you.

CB: Over the years, I've tried to maintain, that religion is not a battle of ideas, as some think.

Sentinel: That Santa remark, I might use on Facebook.

The Pagan Temple said...

Ren-

Most are probably just taught from the perspective of the New Testament, that Christians were persecuted by the Romans and eventually became the main and then only religion. I don't think they pay a lot of attention to the overall mechanics of how it happened, they just accept it as something that was destined as part of God's plan and let it go at that.

They've been given a bad rap in a way, that freedom of religion was taken away from the masses and Christianity was imposed on them against their will.

Which, there is some truth to that, but it's also not nearly that simple. The simple fact is, Christianity was growing like wildfire.

Rome's ruling classes simply noticed the trend, and jumped on board, would be the short explanation, expropriating the more popular pagan holidays in the process.

After it became the official religion, then yes all others were suppressed, which was unfortunate. I think this was probably done to encourage unity and cohesiveness within the empire.

The client kings and chiefs, particularly in Europe, to a great extent adopted the religion and encouraged their people to follow suit, which they pretty much did. It wasn't the great disruption as many like to portray it.

Most of the persecutions weren't aimed at pagans so much as they were aimed at rival, so-called "heretical" sects within Christianity itself.

By the way, that was a mouthful of holiday greetings there. I didn't realize there were so many different ones just for this period.

Nevin said...

Ren : Please do! thanks...

Renegade Eye said...

Pagan: Later the life after, became the selling point.

Nevin: I added it to comments at your blog.

Gregory A. Butler said...

Please explain this statement

"This post is not for or against Christianity or religion. It is a historical and dialectical materialist analysis of the class forces that caused its creation."

I've been a communist for 29 years - since I was 12 years old - and it was always clear to me that communists are atheists

Period.

So, by definition, communists have to be "against Christianity or religion" - unless, of course, we're in the business of popular frontist pandering.

Tragedy101 said...

Gegory,

Renegade Eye is presenting "a historical and dialectical materialist analysis of class forces that caused" the creation of Christianity. The purpose is to inform, not to convince. It does not argue for or against; it states a position.

The post is neither for, nor against Christianity. The stated position however...

white rabbit said...

Just a couple of points: The Magi (and whethjer they literally existed and showed up is neither here or there) are unlikely to have been Jewish. The symbolism (and we are dealing with Gospel writers who were steeped in the tradition of making points through allegory) is that the witnesses are foreigner and non-Jews (the Magi) and the ritually unclean (shepherds whose occupation meant that they were unable to follow the hygeine laws. This symbolism is loaded with meaning.
Jesus is just a Greek-ification (as it were) of Joshua or Yehoshua. No big deal there.

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