Sunday, January 3, 2016

MISSIONARIES


I have been reviewing the history of Europe from 500 CE to 1000 CE, one of my ongoing interests. I am delighted to find the reassessment by academic historians of that era, obscured by the deceptive descriptive, Middle Ages. There was nothing middling about the period. 

Christian power-brokers had captured the remains of the Italian Roman Empire. The Catholic Church in its early development had fused with political power. Literacy was its weapon. The one unifying written and spoken language of that age, like English today, was Roman Latin. That vestige of empire determined much of the history of Europe as English, the vestige of another great empire, determines much of today's history-in-the-making. Some day the same may be said of Chinese.

The Roman Church deprived the masses of literacy with determination. They sold literacy to aristocrats in exchange for money, power and land. They used Latin to pull down the Roman Empire and to rebuild a Christian Empire, ruled from behind thrones with whispers and promises of absolution for atrocities against the people. There are parallels to today's technology class and its relationship with power. 

The Eurocentric history of the 19th and 20th centuries portrays the spread of Christianity across Europe as a positive civilizing force. Christian missionaries are portrayed as wise, saintly men and women, often associated with converted aristocracy in opposition to another heathen aristocracy. These missionaries are portrayed as passive, peaceful men and women, often killed in the line of duty, whereupon they became beatified martyrs. 

Nothing could be further from the true history which is gradually seeing the light of day. Many of these so-called saints were political operatives within the inner circles of power. They manipulated aristocrats to wage brutal wars against their opponents for the acquisition of vast amounts of acreage. They used their literacy to write their own history and then taught this to the children of the aristocracy. They established vast monastic estates, wherein scribes worked like galley slaves producing these histories. Many of these monasteries had accompanying convents, where women were used for manual labor and occasionally for sex.

A great example of the warlike nature of the early Church were the pre-Crusades incursions into Denmark from Germany. Charlemagne, a sanctified hero of the French and German historians of earlier times, was actually a war criminal who massacred 4,500 non-Christian Saxons at the border between Germany and Scandinavia after they had surrendered to his army. He did this at the urging of his Christian advisers. 

It is now thought that this massacre at Verden in October of 782 began the subsequent era of Viking raids into Europe, the British Isles and Russia. Rather than being ruthless maniacs, the Scandinavians can now be seen as reactionary defenders of their native cultures against fundamentalist Christian incursion and massacre. Christianity's "civilizing influence" in Scandinavia was to first unify the Scandinavians who understandably feared it.

Missionary zeal stemming from any dogmatic ideology has been shown throughout history to create more suffering than progress. Today, secularists have been struggling with this propensity of some, like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, to bring the message of non-religion under a banner of us against them. The key word of any dysfunctional situation is "against". Being non-religious could be the antithesis of being for or against anything. In other words, ignoring religion in pursuit of advancement individually and socially.

There is no need for atheist or interfaith missionaries to convince an educated mind of anything. The best way to defeat the corruption of religion is to be truly and intelligently non-religious. 




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