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Christian philosophy brought peace to Europe and America

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Celebaelin
1240834.  Wed Jun 28, 2017 12:17 pm Reply with quote

First of all I'd like to say that I couldn't give the thread the name I wanted because it was too long so the real name of the thread should be

Christian philosophy is directly or indirectly responsible for the transformation from a warlike to an agrarian/industrial culture in Europe and the Americas

Secondly I'd like to say that this is not universally a good thing, few things are, but if you accept the general premise then perhaps you might accept that any downside associated with the rise to power of the Catholic church was on balance better that a constant state of tribal turmoil and/or war and the countless deaths that resulted therefrom. It allowed the development of a stable economy and in turn (in combination with a limited supply of labour) to the rise of the mercantile so called middle class and greater economic egalitarianism (see Peasants Revolt).

And so to the posts by myself and dr. bob which lead to the polarisation of views or rather, as I'd like to interpret it, misunderstanding which necessitated this thread.

Celebaelin wrote:
People seem to fixate on the divisions caused by the gay marriage/gay clergy issue. This is probably because Christian philosophy was the force that tamed a violent (European and later American) world so death, bloodshed and martial skill were, by degrees over the centuries, less revered and that in itself is, in contemporary terms, described as being 'gay'.

The pivotal precepts of Christian faith are compassion, empathy and charity (in its religious sense) where to display affection for your fellows especially those with whom you do not agree* is in and of itself an act of worship because to do so is to love God and to understand God's love for us.

Quote:
In Christian theology charity is the greatest of the three theological virtues. Thomas Aquinas does not simply equate charity with "love", which he holds as a passion, not a virtue; rather, translators use the word "friendship", as stated above.

The phrase Deus caritas est from 1 John 4:8—or Θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν (Theos agapē estin) in the original Greek [5]—is in line with the translation from Douay-Rheims:

"God is charity" (1 John 4:8)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charity_(virtue)#Caritas:_altruistic_love

So whilst for a Christian charity is certainly an act of giving it is principally an act of giving of oneself, of opening ones heart, not merely bunging a couple of quids worth of conscience money at some random cause or supplicant.

Quote:
The noun form [of agapē] first occurs in the Septuagint [disputed], but the verb form goes as far back as Homer, translated literally as affection, as in "greet with affection" and "show affection for the dead". Other ancient authors have used forms of the word to denote love of a spouse or family, or affection for a particular activity, in contrast to philia (an affection that could denote friendship, brotherhood, or generally non-sexual affection) and eros (an affection of a sexual nature).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agape

* because obviously that is harder to do.

This is however getting a bit off topic.


dr.bob wrote:
Celebaelin wrote:
This is probably because Christian philosophy was the force that tamed a violent (European and later American) world


This is colossal rose-tinted revisionism. For sure, Europe 2,000 years ago was a pretty violent place. But so was Europe 1,000 years ago (or even 500 years ago), after Christianity had taken a firm hold.

No society is perfect, certainly not back then, but many aspects of ancient societies were much better pre-Christianisation. Women's rights, particularly in Scandinavia, were excellent. Women were allowed to live as independent people, they were allowed to inherit, and were generally respected as virtually equal to men. This was radically changed with the advent of Christianity which imposed a massively patriarchal society.

Roman society was inherently tolerant of other religions. Whenever they came into contact with a new religion, they would generally absorb the local gods into their own pantheon. Christianity, by contrast, set out to destroy all other gods. Even people who were nominally Christian, but followed very slightly different rules, like the Cathars, were brutally massacred.

Romans were also tolerant of gay and bisexual relationships. However, with the advent of Christian emperors like Valentinian II, Theodoisus and Arcadius, homosexuality was declared illegal and any people found guilty were burned alive.

To pretend that Christian philosophy somehow transformed the world into a peaceful place is to ignore vast swathes of history in a very blinkered view. Also, I'd suggest that you pop over to America and put on a series of lectures for First Nation peoples to explain how grateful they should be for the advent of Christianity with the European settlers and how it made their lives so much better. It'll be interesting to see if you make it out alive.

Celebaelin wrote:
so death, bloodshed and martial skill were, by degrees over the centuries, less revered and that in itself is, in contemporary terms, described as being 'gay'.


I have literally no idea what you're trying to say here. I'm discussing discrimination of gay people by the church, and you seem to be trying to redefine the word "gay". Not sure what point you're trying to make, or how this advances the discussion.

Celebaelin wrote:
The pivotal precepts of Christian faith are compassion, empathy and charity


That's nice in theory, but it's not borne out by the practices of billions of people who label themselves "Christian", even those senior people in charge of churches, as the decidedly uncompassionate and uncharitable treatment of gay people by the Catholic church proves.

suze wrote:
This is one of a number of reasons why it is that I do not call myself a Christian


Amen sister! ;-)


Celebaelin wrote:
*rolls eyes*

That's an aggressive little set of views you put forth there bob. Sadly they are for the most part unrelated to the point I was making.

Or rather points - as the last thing I noted was that this was getting OT.

I'll set up a new thread here to take this further and leave this thread to more conventional terror rather than continuing to pursue your loathing for anything and everything the Christian church was responsible for.


So, now that we're all caught up, on with the show...

dr.bob wrote:
This is colossal rose-tinted revisionism. For sure, Europe 2,000 years ago was a pretty violent place. But so was Europe 1,000 years ago (or even 500 years ago), after Christianity had taken a firm hold.

Not really true bob. The Church of Rome reintroduced the Pax Romana via a different agenda when it achieved ascendancy in an area but there were peoples outside the area of Christian influence who continued to raid for shits, giggles and monetary gain. In Britain these peoples were the Angles, the Saxons and latterly (in the pre-Norman days) the Danes. The Norman conquest backs your point somewhat but I didn't say Christianity prevented all wars I said it brought a halt to the constant tribal wars. OK, I didn't actually say that but it's what I meant.

dr.bob wrote:
...many aspects of ancient societies were much better pre-Christianisation. Women's rights, particularly in Scandinavia...

Also in Celtic society FWIW but I made no mention of social ills; I referenced
Celebaelin wrote:
...death, bloodshed and martial skill...

Also the Scandinavians and the Celts, in addition to their warlike activities, both practiced human sacrifice.

dr.bob wrote:
...the Cathars, were brutally massacred.

True, certainly - in 1216 another crusade within the context of the more familiar crusades.

Celebaelin wrote:
...and martial skill were, by degrees over the centuries, less revered...

My emphasis.

dr.bob wrote:
Romans were also tolerant of gay and bisexual relationships.

Not the Scandinavians however
Quote:
Those Scandinavians who attempted to avoid marriage because of their sexuality were penalized in law: a man who shunned marriage was termed fuđflogi (man who flees the female sex organ) while a woman who tried to avoid marriage was flannfluga (she who flees the male sex organ) (Jochens 65).

http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/gayvik.shtml

Quote:
The sagas in the Old Norse language include no stories of gay or lesbian relationships, nor direct reference to LGBT characters, but they do contain several instances of revenge enacted by men accused of being a passive partner in intercourse, which was considered "unmanly" behavior and thus a threat to a man's reputation as a leader or warrior.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_themes_in_mythology#Norse

nor the Celts

Quote:
In Celtic mythology, no direct representation of gay or lesbian relationships exist.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_themes_in_mythology#Celtic
and the Celts

Again however my point was about the transition from warlike to peaceful existence.

Quote:
"The whole race is fanatically fond of warfare. They are vociferous and act on impulse. When they are upset, they immediately gather together in groups in the open, to urge on to warfare, without the slightest preparation or reflection. They are therefore quite easily deceived and overpowered."
Strabo (63 BC - 21 AD) Geographia

http://www.ivargault.com/kelterne/celts.html

Quote:
These raids were part of an intensely masculine, warlike culture that emphasized battle as a way for a man to prove himself.
//
In any case, the modern conception of the term Viking comes from the written historical records of the time. Most literate people in that era were church officials. Vikings tended to attack churches for their wealth. Christians were especially horrified by these attacks, because they defiled the sanctity of such places. As a result, most of the surviving written records come from Christian accounts and depict Vikings in a particularly harsh light. That isn't to say that such a depiction isn't justified -- the Viking attacks on European towns and churches were brutal and terrifying

http://history.howstuffworks.com/historical-figures/viking1.htm

dr.bob wrote:
To pretend that Christian philosophy somehow transformed the world into a peaceful place is to ignore vast swathes of history in a very blinkered view.

Transformed? Magically overnight? No. Lead? Yes.

As for the 'blinkered' crack, well, lets just say that it isn't only Christians who can be hypocritical.

The American First Nation point is in principle no different to the conquest of Wales under the Normans except that the Welsh didn't have civilian settlers encroaching on their lands at the same time. As I said towards the top
Quote:
this is not universally a good thing
- particularly if you are a member of the group being 'introduced' to the technological advances. 12th century Wales may not be an exact analogy for 19th century USA but the motivations were similar and given more time I'd be happy to point out the full range of commonalities to you. Parallels also exist with Africa and South America but these were all at a point in history where tribal parochialism was considered a defunct system of governance for a potentially profitable area of land. These were not based on, or brought about by, Christian evangelism but in all cases were the product of opportunists justifying their gains* by referencing the benefits in standard of living brought about in Europe. Arguments that subsistence agriculture/hunter gatherer lifestyles are better/the right of individuals to choose don't really apply within the historical context.

dr.bob wrote:
Celebaelin wrote:
so death, bloodshed and martial skill were, by degrees over the centuries, less revered and that in itself is, in contemporary terms, described as being 'gay'.

I have literally no idea what you're trying to say here. I'm discussing discrimination of gay people by the church, and you seem to be trying to redefine the word "gay". Not sure what point you're trying to make, or how this advances the discussion.

I'm saying, to spell it out slowly and carefully for the hard of understanding, that Christians are 'a bit sensitive' on the whole issue of homosexuality because the tenets of their religion dictate what might be expressed in the simplest of terms as 'love for one's fellow man' and that is open to interpretation as homosexual love. Indeed there is nothing in the teachings of Jesus that I am aware of that precludes that for Christians but it is not the case for many people of the Christian faith and that puts them on the defensive. Geddit now?

* if they bothered to


Last edited by Celebaelin on Tue May 22, 2018 12:49 pm; edited 2 times in total

 
Jenny
1240838.  Wed Jun 28, 2017 12:57 pm Reply with quote

We are rather assuming here, though, that the only two modes available are 'warlike in the manner of Celts/Scandinavians' and 'slightly less warlike on account of the teachings of Jesus Christianity'.

As Matteo Ricci discovered, other approaches are available. He springs to mind because we've just been watching Michael Wood's fantastic series on Chinese history, which coincidentally talked about Matteo Ricci last night. Wood argues that in the end the Confucian approach essentially drew Ricci into itself, and indeed the Vatican eventually outlawed his approach.

My point is that the Chinese (and of course the Buddhists) discovered an approach that did not require either being warlike or believing in seven unlikely things before breakfast.

 
dr.bob
1240894.  Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:47 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
Christian philosophy is directly or indirectly responsible for the transformation from a warlike to an agrarian/industrial culture in Europe and the Americas


That's an interesting idea, but I've yet to see any evidence to support this. In particular, I think you would need to provide some evidence to prove that, in this case, correlation = causation.

It's undeniable that, over the last 2,000 years, european society has moved from a war-like collection of small tribes to a more peaceful and productive collection of large nations. It's also true that, during those 2,000 years, Christianity was the major religion of pretty much all of these nations.

However, one thing does not necessarily cause the other. The fact that other nations, such as China, managed the same transition (arguably more quickly) in the complete absence of Christianity implies to me that such progress is more a result of technology and education than any one particular philosophy. But if you have evidence of a causative link, I'd love to see it.

Celebaelin wrote:
The Church of Rome reintroduced the Pax Romana via a different agenda when it achieved ascendancy in an area but there were peoples outside the area of Christian influence who continued to raid for shits, giggles and monetary gain. In Britain these peoples were the Angles, the Saxons and latterly (in the pre-Norman days) the Danes. The Norman conquest backs your point somewhat but I didn't say Christianity prevented all wars I said it brought a halt to the constant tribal wars. OK, I didn't actually say that but it's what I meant.


This simply isn't borne out by historical fact.

Moving from the iron age into the medieval period and the renaissance, we simply see small war-like tribes transforming into larger, war-like city states. The presence of Christianity doesn't seem to have any effect on the amount of bloodshed.

Even in Italy, where the church of Rome was most influential, there seems to have been almost constant warfare. A quick google has provided me with a list of battles involving the City/Duchy of Florence. These include:

1260 - Battle of Montaperti (Florence v Siena)
1269 - Battle of Colle Val d'Elsa (Florence v Siena)
1289 - Battle of Campaldino (Florence v Arezzo)
1315 - Battle of Montecatini (Florence v Pisa)
1325 - Battle of Altopascio (Florence v Lucca)
1359 - Battle of Campo delle Mosche (Florence v Pisa)
1364 - Battle of Cascina (Florence v Pisa)
1402 - Battle of Casalecchio (Florence v Milan)
1424 - Battle of Zagonara (Florence v Milan)
1432 - Battle of San Romano (Florence v Siena)
1440 - Battle of Anghiari (Florence v Milan)
1467 - Battle of Molinella (Florence v Venice)
1482 - Battle of San Martino (Florence v Venice)

And those are just the battles involving one city state in a Europe full of similar power bases.

After 1482, a period of peace descended on the region. At least until 1494, when the first Italian War (or King Charles VIII's War) started. This ended in 1498, to be followed by the following:

Second Italian War or King Louis XII's War (1499–1504)
War of the League of Cambrai (1508–1516)
Italian War of 1521–26
War of the League of Cognac (1526–1530)
Italian War of 1536–38
Italian War of 1542–46
Italian War of 1551–59

The Papal states were a major player in these wars, so I fail to see how anyone can claim this to be a steady decrease in war-like activity under the influence of Christian doctrine.

Celebaelin wrote:
dr.bob wrote:
...the Cathars, were brutally massacred.

True, certainly - in 1216 another crusade within the context of the more familiar crusades.


Ah yes, the Crusades. Bloody warfare undertaken on the specific instructions of the Church. Or does that not count against your argument as they were busy killing non-Christians? Even if some, like the Cathars, thought of themselves as Christian, the Vatican declared the sufficiently heretical that they didn't really count and so should all be put to the sword.

Celebaelin wrote:
Transformed? Magically overnight? No. Lead? Yes.


I really can't see any evidence of that in the historical record. Maybe you can provide some. I've provided plenty of evidence above to the contrary.

Celebaelin wrote:
Indeed there is nothing in the teachings of Jesus that I am aware of that precludes that for Christians but it is not the case for many people of the Christian faith and that puts them on the defensive.


But what counts as the teachings of Jesus? We don't have any direct words from the man himself. All we have are second-hand accounts of what he said, mostly written decades after he died, so there is some question as to how reliable they are, particularly as they disagree on some of the finer details.

Are we to take the whole New Testament and Jesus's teachings, or just the stuff in the gospels? Many people who don't like the blatant anti-semitism and homophobia of some of Paul's writings tend to the latter, but what about the gospels that didn't make it into the Bible? The gospels of Thomas, Marcion, Basilides, Valentinian, Mary, Peter, and Judas were all written around the same time as the four that made it into the Bible, so surely they should be as reliable at telling us the words and thoughts of Jesus? However, these are not considered as the basis of the Christian faith simply because the men in charge of the early church decided that they didn't agree with their view of what the Church should be.

It seems to me that any Christian who has a problem with the machinations of the Church and the people who run it should extend a similar scepticism to their predecessors, which implies that a review of the non-canonical gospels would be necessary to try and discover the real teachings of Jesus.

 
PDR
1240899.  Thu Jun 29, 2017 10:55 am Reply with quote

I might suggest that in primitive societies religion evolved as a "filter" to shape, direct and/or restrict the behaviours of the massed population in directions that the majority "gut feel" might not otherwise go, by creating the "mystical big stick" as a source of power and authority for a "leader".

Whether this was a force for good or bad depended on the moral/ethical stance of the leader in question - thus while one such might use the mystical big stick to say "Don't kill people" and "Don't spread fake news", another might use it to induce his/her subjects to sieze the land, goods, chattels and daughters of evryone outside the tribe.

So I would suggest religious philosophies (all of them; not just judeo-christian, abrahamic or even animistic) are a means of control and influence which is equivocal (or even agnostic) on what that control & influence is used for; if anytheing they just reflect the character of whoever is the one in charge at the time.

€6.16 supplied,

PDR

 
ali
1240900.  Thu Jun 29, 2017 11:08 am Reply with quote

Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.

Well, that's one way to bring peace.

 
Celebaelin
1240926.  Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:36 pm Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
Celebaelin wrote:
Christian philosophy is directly or indirectly responsible for the transformation from a warlike to an agrarian/industrial culture in Europe and the Americas

That's an interesting idea, but I've yet to see any evidence to support this. In particular, I think you would need to provide some evidence to prove that, in this case, correlation = causation.

The concept of proof you have is inappropriate for this subject. Historical interpretations are exactly that – interpretations. The sort of absolutism you are striving for is unobtainable because the premises are not testable. Counter example is not a disproof because the notion may only apply under general or limited circumstances as it is not a physical law but a notion which seeks to explain how and why past events progressed.

The military power of ancient Rome forged an Empire which was then maintained largely by diplomacy. Note ‘largely’ because obviously Rome maintained an army (actually latterly they basically hired one) to protect their borders and maintain order but within the body of their empire peace predominated. Every so often some General would attempt to seize power and there would be a period of conflict while said General and his troops marched on Rome. This did not affect the peace of the majority of the Empire however.

When the Church assumed authority it was because the remnants of the once mighty Roman military had succumbed to ‘barbarians’. After assorted sacking and pillaging however normal life for the common people returned and with it the palliative effect of worship. As donations to the church rolled in across Europe the church became increasingly wealthy and powerful. Whilst kings and nobles sought to further their own power the serf in the fields went about his God-fearing existence largely violence-free providing the labour force that funded the wealth that built armies for Lords, Kings and occasionally Clerics.

dr.bob wrote:
Moving from the iron age into the medieval period and the renaissance, we simply see small war-like tribes transforming into larger, war-like city states. The presence of Christianity doesn't seem to have any effect on the amount of bloodshed.

I made no assertions about China if you recall but simply expressed an opinion that this process was facilitated in Europe and America by Christian philosophy (love thy neighbour, thou shalt not kill etc) as the ordinary people believed this to be a path to their eternal reward. Whilst the rich and powerful hired mercenaries and planned conquests the vast majority of people simply went about their lives of honest toil.

The Florentine conflicts you describe were fought between hired armies and were, between 1269 and 1482, isolated one-off battles sometimes as much as 38 years apart and seldom more than one in a decade.

The Italian Renaissance Wars (read Machiavelli for insights) occurred not in spite of the seat of power and wealth of the church being in Italy but because of that fact. Don’t forget that this is the time of Borgia and Medici Popes; the Borgias were crooks and the Medicis were bankers if you draw a distinction there, and to be fair because of Borgia excesses you probably should.

Quote:
Especially during the reign of Alexander VI, they were suspected of many crimes, including adultery, incest, simony, theft, bribery, and murder (especially murder by arsenic poisoning). Because of their grasping for power, they made enemies of the Medici, the Sforza, and the Dominican friar Savonarola, among others. They were also patrons of the arts who contributed to the Renaissance.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Borgia

dr.bob wrote:
The Papal states were a major player in these wars, so I fail to see how anyone can claim this to be a steady decrease in war-like activity under the influence of Christian doctrine.

For the majority of people bob. In truth The Wars of the Roses (1455-1485) were probably worse as I know for a fact that local peasants were conscripted from the fields to fight as militia in many if not all of the battles of those wars but in truth most people were unaffected by any one particular battle (19 in 30 years) albeit that the battles were particularly bloody when they did occur.

dr.bob wrote:
Ah yes, the Crusades. Bloody warfare undertaken on the specific instructions of the Church. Or does that not count against your argument as they were busy killing non-Christians?

No, it doesn’t apply to my assertion as it wasn’t in Europe. Except for the Cathars and when the Venetians sacked Constantinople essentially because they couldn’t be bothered to go any further. Urban II’s solution to the threat of Islamic conquest was not Christian in its philosophy but it did help preserve the Christian way of life for many throughout Europe. Without Urban’s urgings many would not have fought because it would have been sinful.

dr.bob wrote:
Celebaelin wrote:
Transformed? Magically overnight? No. Lead? Yes.

I really can't see any evidence of that in the historical record. Maybe you can provide some. I've provided plenty of evidence above to the contrary.

Alongside the economic benefits to the general populace that followed from the labour shortage after The Black Death came the religious standpoint of benevolence and there are a great many examples of Christian opposition to secular power (St. Augustine, Becket, Ken, Martin Luther, Sir Thomas Moore etc.) and it is secular power that fights wars (albeit that the crusades were fought at Papal instigation but not with Papal power)

dr.bob wrote:
Celebaelin wrote:
Indeed there is nothing in the teachings of Jesus that I am aware of that precludes that for Christians but it is not the case for many people of the Christian faith and that puts them on the defensive.

But what counts as the teachings of Jesus?

A silly point. In the absence of directly authored material we have only accounts and it must therefore be these accounts from which we draw our appreciation of the teachings of Jesus.

dr.bob wrote:
...but what about the gospels that didn't make it into the Bible? The gospels of Thomas, Marcion, Basilides, Valentinian, Mary, Peter, and Judas were all written around the same time as the four that made it into the Bible, so surely they should be as reliable at telling us the words and thoughts of Jesus? However, these are not considered as the basis of the Christian faith simply because the men in charge of the early church decided that they didn't agree with their view of what the Church should be.

I’ve not read those. Are you suggesting that they display a different interpretation of the teachings of Jesus? If so in what regard? If it does not involve a departure from the precepts of compassion, empathy and charity then this direction of argument is irrelevant to my assertion. Even more so because the majority of people whose lives have been influenced by Christian thought over the centuries are unlikely to have even heard of those books so they are irrelevant to my proposal if not to the nature of Christian thought as it might have been.

This direction is merely an aside which refers back to the inherent gayness or otherwise of Christianity but does not influence the main assertion in any way.


Last edited by Celebaelin on Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:33 am; edited 2 times in total

 
Jenny
1240947.  Thu Jun 29, 2017 5:24 pm Reply with quote

Bob is off on holiday to Wales at the moment Cele, so may not be around to answer these very interesting points.

At the moment, colour me unconvinced. Whether the contemporary non-European states (therefore non-Christian) were less warlike or more warlike than the states most heavily influenced by Christianity seems to me to be quite crucial to your argument.

Handily, Wiki has a list of Chinese wars and battles, and it seems to me to be quite comparable with those in mediaeval Europe in the same period. There is also a generic list of battles to compare it with.

I think the point bob brought up earlier is a valid one - religion generally has been used to control the population and to bring about peace within nations, though it has often been used to attempt to control other nations of a different religion. But that applies to any religion, not just Christianity.

 
Celebaelin
1240952.  Thu Jun 29, 2017 6:28 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
At the moment, colour me unconvinced. Whether the contemporary non-European states (therefore non-Christian) were less warlike or more warlike than the states most heavily influenced by Christianity seems to me to be quite crucial to your argument.

With the proviso of that being an inter-state analysis that seems reasonable but perhaps we have to be wary of not comparing like with like. When talking about China for example do we include the Mongol attacks/conquest? What about the conquest of Northern India and the majority of Eurasia up to and including the borders of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires? Was it in truth Buddhist philosophy (or lack of commonality in the more Western parts) in contrast with Christian religiosity that lead to the capitulation of the Orient right up to the fringes of Europe?

May I suggest that the Mongols are comparable to the ancient tribes of Europe except united (as happened under the Hungarian Celtic warlord Brennus circa 325BCE)? Their movement was continuous and so a record of occasional pitched battles has little meaning. I’d like to see a map of those battles and the distances between them.

Oooh look!

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00maplinks/medieval/mongols/map1259max.jpg
http://m.cdn.blog.hu/ma/maghon/image/euRoPa%20-%20PeJeR/Mongol_Invasion_of_Europe.jpg

The first map in particular covers mahooosive distances in small periods of time; the extent to which these areas were or were not occupied and/or resistant to Mongol advances is not recorded AFAIK.

China and Eastern (all?) Russia remained essentially feudal until the 20th century. I admit I cannot demonstrate historical cause and effect so individual assessment and opinion will have to suffice.

Jenny wrote:
I think the point bob brought up earlier is a valid one - religion generally has been used to control the population and to bring about peace within nations, though it has often been used to attempt to control other nations of a different religion. But that applies to any religion, not just Christianity.

When did bob mention that? PDR said something like it above as have I in the past. post 62024

I don’t disagree with it as it stands – particularly since it doesn’t conflict with my general assertion. I didn’t claim that Christianity was necessarily right or blameless; what I suggested was that the progress of events in the areas specified was lead by Christian philosophy/thought.

 
bobwilson
1240957.  Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:35 pm Reply with quote

dr bob wrote
Quote:
It's undeniable that, over the last 2,000 years, european society has moved from a war-like collection of small tribes to a more peaceful and productive collection of large nations.


Can I throw a spanner into the works here (in my usual disruptive way)……..I’d deny that is a true statement. European society over the past 2,000 years is a tad more complex than that.

Celebaelin wrote
Quote:
Christian philosophy is directly or indirectly responsible for the transformation from a warlike to an agrarian/industrial culture in Europe and the Americas


I would also have serious reservations about that statement.

I realise that the central thrust of this discussion is the significance (or otherwise) of Christianity but to discuss that significance (or otherwise) we really need to put everything in its’ proper place. What seems to be happening here is a very Anglo-centric world view.

That there are (famously) only two dates in English history, one of which is 55BC, and that this date very nearly coincides with the advent of Christianity, combined with the later merging of these two threads of English history, does tend to provoke a rather naďve worldview.

The reality is somewhat different.

In the 500 years between the establishment of the Roman republic and Julius Caesar’s sea-shell hunting expedition on the beaches of southern Britain, the Romans established themselves as the pre-eminent power in Europe and the Near East.

To describe the extant societies subsumed into this Pax Romana as “a war-like collection of small tribes” is simplistic at best. Undoubtedly there were conflicts between neighbours. If Channel 5 had existed at the time they’d easily have had enough material to fill their schedules.

Nonetheless, even if we accept (which I don’t) that Rome brought civilisation to the warring tribes of Europe – this all happened BEFORE Jesus was even a twinkle in Mary’s eye.

About 100 years after Caesar’s abortive attempt to conquer Britain a slightly more forceful character comes onto the scene and actually bothers to do the job properly. (We don’t tend to make a big deal about this in Britain – because we lost; and there wasn’t a convenient cigar waving drunkard around vowing to take on all-comers around which we could rally).

Meanwhile, a couple of thousand miles away, an insignificant sect is developing around the idea of people being nice to each other.

Over the following 3-400 years the inevitable happens. The existing Empire becomes a greater prize than any possible further expansion of that Empire. The general policy is to hang on to what’s already been achieved – and the height of ambition is to become the big cheese, rather than to expand.

In this period of general pacifity and introspection a whole host of conflicting views compete to wrest control of the Empire. The one that wins out in the end is that minor “let’s be nice to each other” sect – and it’s a total bloody disaster for the Empire. First the Empire splits into two, and not long after Rome is sacked.

The Pax Romana is at an end. Europe reverts to “barbarism”, or rather, to a non-centralised system where tribes become prevalent. This is a period commonly referred to as the “dark ages” – which is to say, there is relatively little known about it. There appear to be no major wars, or massacres. People (as far as we know) just got on with their lives. Sounds terrible doesn’t it?

Fortunately, this period of relative tranquility also allowed those adherents of that minor sect to hang on to their arcane wisdom undisturbed, and when the time was right to adhere themselves to the next strongmen to come along.

In short, it’s ridiculous to speak of “2000 years of European history”. There is a disjunction between the Pax Romana and the later episodes. Also, the Pax Romana owed nothing to Christianity as it pre-dated it.

And as for “European society has moved from a war-like collection of small tribes to a more peaceful and productive collection of large nations” – are you serious? Can I refer you to the endless documentaries about the wars of 1914-19 and 1939-45? I'm not sure how these have escaped your notice.

 
Celebaelin
1240992.  Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:41 am Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
Celebaelin wrote
Quote:
Christian philosophy is directly or indirectly responsible for the transformation from a warlike to an agrarian/industrial culture in Europe and the Americas

I would also have serious reservations about that statement.

This is the forum for contentious arguments is it not? Feel free to express your reservations and I shall attempt to justify my assertion.

bobwilson wrote:
I realise that the central thrust of this discussion is the significance (or otherwise) of Christianity but to discuss that significance (or otherwise) we really need to put everything in its’ proper place. What seems to be happening here is a very Anglo-centric world view.

I have had moments of doubt about this myself. Our island has its own distinct history but ultimately this is a matter of timescales. Unification through striving to re-establish the unity seen under Rome came into being here earlier than many other places but eventually it did arrive elsewhere (once borders were more or less determined). The French had dynastic disputes but with the exception of The Hundred Years War (against English Kings with claims in France and a fairly major exception) they were if not bloodless then at least without pitched battles. There were however religious wars (Catholic vs Protestant at about the same time as the feudal powers were unified ie early to mid 1500s). Germany is different again but AFAIK the rivalries pre-unification were non-violent. Spain had problems with the Moors but I’m wearying of this checking; the pattern does seem to be consistent with my general assertion of decreasing violence compared to pre-Roman times but I'll admit that this is an assumption of mine based on what sagas and legends we have and accounts of the tribes from classical authors.

If we compare and contrast with the development in China (which incidentally had the broadly ethically similar Buddhist philosophy to draw on) then there are commonalities. Commonalities which, as I mentioned earlier, do not include a transition from a feudal to a mercantile economy but do include conquest by a foreign power as a unifying force. In Europe the power in question was Rome (and the Holy Roman Empire latterly) and the philosophy hitched a ride; in China the Mongols and the philosophy reached the populace through different routes.

bobwilson wrote:
About 100 years after Caesar’s abortive attempt to conquer Britain a slightly more forceful character comes onto the scene and actually bothers to do the job properly. (We don’t tend to make a big deal about this in Britain – because we lost; and there wasn’t a convenient cigar waving drunkard around vowing to take on all-comers around which we could rally).

Baloney! Claudius bought his way in with gifts of technology and money (see Fishbourne Palace). The only tribe South of Yorkshire who opposed their advance were the Ordovices (N. Wales).

bobwilson wrote:
Meanwhile, a couple of thousand miles away
//
and not long after Rome is sacked.

Agreed.

bobwilson wrote:
Fortunately, this period of relative tranquility also allowed those adherents of that minor sect to hang on to their arcane wisdom undisturbed, and when the time was right to adhere themselves to the next strongmen to come along.

Chicken and egg as regards the period of peace?

bobwilson wrote:
There is a disjunction between the Pax Romana and the later episodes. Also, the Pax Romana owed nothing to Christianity as it pre-dated it.

The Pax Romana reflected the natural state of a mature economy largely invulnerable to outside influences be they economic or martial. This environment was an ideal one for the minor ‘let’s be nice to each other sect’ to rise in popularity. As peoples levels of prosperity had been enhanced by eg better granaries, roads, (medicine, fresh water system, public order, viniculture and public health ; ) there was no necessity to compete for food and there were existing channels of communication for trade so the peaceful religious belief continued to make sense even in the face of the encroachments of warlike tribes from outside the sphere of influence of the former empire.


bobwilson wrote:
And as for “European society has moved from a war-like collection of small tribes to a more peaceful and productive collection of large nations” – are you serious? Can I refer you to the endless documentaries about the wars of 1914-19 and 1939-45? I'm not sure how these have escaped your notice.

It may sound laughable to say it but those were brief periods of major conflict. Ten years out of the last 202 (I don’t count the Crimean War etc as major conflicts – although European perspectives regarding eg The Franco Prussian War may be different). Now of course we are very much into the era of Low Intensity Conflict – perhaps we should be grateful for small mercies?

Oh look – I got back on topic with the original thread!

 
Jenny
1240994.  Fri Jun 30, 2017 9:59 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
The Pax Romana reflected the natural state of a mature economy largely invulnerable to outside influences be they economic or martial. This environment was an ideal one for the minor ‘let’s be nice to each other sect’ to rise in popularity. As peoples levels of prosperity had been enhanced by eg better granaries, roads, (medicine, fresh water system, public order, viniculture and public health ; ) there was no necessity to compete for food and there were existing channels of communication for trade so the peaceful religious belief continued to make sense even in the face of the encroachments of warlike tribes from outside the sphere of influence of the former empire.


I think it could equally be argued that the increasing peacefulness within borders at least is more to do with a mature economy and the rise of democratic institutions than with the overarching hand of religion. In terms of the UK, I think it can readily be argued that we are a lot less religious than we were as a populace a century ago, and yet generally less violent (but I haven't searched for data yet...)

Ten years out of the last 202? Check out http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/timeline-of-20th-and-21st-century-wars

As the Imperial War Museum points out:

Quote:

Military conflict took place during every year of the 20th Century. There were only short periods of time that the world was free of war. The total number of deaths caused by war during the 20th Century has been estimated at 187 million and is probably higher.


And all this took place when the world was probably more religious rather than less.

 
Celebaelin
1241044.  Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:21 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
I think it could equally be argued...

It certainly can be - but that point of view is not my contention. It is a matter of what you perceive as being the better match for the observed history as we are aware of it at this point.

Jenny wrote:
Ten years out of the last 202? Check out http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/timeline-of-20th-and-21st-century-wars

In that it affected European/American civilians in a noticeably direct sense I'm inclined to stand by that: WWI + WWII deaths amount to 87 million - I'd be interested to hear where the rest of the estimate is derived from. Does it include the various genocidal and 'ethnic cleansing' activities for example?

Communism was a great, probably the greatest, 20th century experiment and that ideology was implacably opposed to religion but we might be looking at it from too close a perspective to be sure of the significance.

 
Jenny
1241106.  Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:46 pm Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:


Jenny wrote:
Ten years out of the last 202? Check out http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/timeline-of-20th-and-21st-century-wars

In that it affected European/American civilians in a noticeably direct sense I'm inclined to stand by that: WWI + WWII deaths amount to 87 million - I'd be interested to hear where the rest of the estimate is derived from. Does it include the various genocidal and 'ethnic cleansing' activities for example?


I think you'd need to check out the individual wars and conflicts for that. But if you take, for example, only the first two on the list after WW1, the Russian civil war alone is a record-breaker, according to Guinness World Records:
Quote:

The world's costliest civil war, in terms of the number of lives lost during combat and in events relating to the war, is the Russian Civil War of 1917-22. It is estimated that the former Soviet Union lost some 1.5 million combatants, and around 8 million civilians died following armed attacks, famine and disease.
Highest death toll from a civil war | Guinness World Records


The Irish death toll was far lower - about 1400, followed by another 2000 during the Irish civil war.

I'm not sure where you got your statistic of 87 million for WW1 and WW2 combined from. Admittedly Wiki is a source that needs to be treated carefully, but their estimate was 38 million in WW1 and up to 80 million (though acknowledging that estimates vary) in WW2.

 
Jenny
1241107.  Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:54 pm Reply with quote

I'm still not understanding why you seem so keen to restrict the discussion to European deaths though. If you want to restrict it because of the emphasis on Christian teachings - Christianity is widespread in other parts of the world, especially Africa, where they form 40% of the population, or almost half a billion people. Christianity has surely been the dominant religion in South America for a few centuries, to say nothing of North America.

Civil wars in Christian-dominant countries seem to have little to do with the teachings of religion, but have killed a lot of people.

https://ourworldindata.org/civil-wars/

 
bobwilson
1241139.  Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:19 pm Reply with quote

Chicken and Egg – does seem to be the central theme here.

The Pax Romana was not a religious movement (as we would understand it), and certainly not a Christian one. Christianity only appears (relatively late) once the PR was well-established – and even then is insignificant for the first couple of centuries.

It is the PR that sets the standard for peaceful co-existence allowing the development of settled societies over a wide area and (ultimately) experimentation with more complex industrial processes, education, and social systems (including the development of more inclusive religious philosophies).

In other words, in that initial phase – first comes the security, then the movement towards an agrarian/industrial culture, and following in the train come experiments in thought (amongst which is Christianity).

Empires (whether military, philosophical, economic or other bases that have not yet occurred), by their very nature, contain the seeds of their own destruction. Their pacifity and security ensure that the Empire itself becomes more of a prize than any possible expansion of that Empire. Competition among the ambitious and capable is limited to securing control of the existing rather than expanding to new lands/vistas whilst, paradoxically, promising to the “electorate” the restoration of former “glories” (ie further expansion on the past model).

Hence, Rome itself becomes the prize and ambitious eyes turn toward control of the existing Empire.

As I noted – the original PR was usurped by Christians – and shortly thereafter that Empire was dissolved. I would not claim that those two facts are causally related – as I say above, I believe the Roman Empire would have been dissolved irrespective of which particular faction had gained the upper hand, and on roughly the same timescale.

There then follows a period of history about which comparatively little is known but during which the Christians managed to hold on to certain privileges (the most important of which being that they were considered to be “untouchable” – I’m reminded of the scene in “The Man Who Would Be King” when battle is suspended due to a procession of monks passing throught the battlefield).

To claim that the later history of Europe holds a direct connection to the Pax Romana – despite the establishment of the “Holy Roman Empire” (which, as Voltaire said, was “neither Holy, nor Roman, nor even an Empire”) – is stretching things.

 

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