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Day By Day© by Chris Muir.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Witchvox Article: Another Pointless Exercise in Christian-Bashing?

I came upon the article at witchvox, entitled Christianity vs. Paganism: Why?. I was hoping to read something that broke away from the normal Christian-bashing demagoguery that so often is published by pagan media. I was wrong.

I fail to understand why so many pagans feel the need to waste so much energy speaking out against that religion. What I fail to understand even more is the need by some to use bad history and out-of-context "facts" to do it. Consider these observations and arguments made by this author:

Many churches teach that the destruction of any belief that isn’t their own is “God’s Will.” If you don’t believe me, look into the undertones of the war in Iraq. It was the Crusades all over again. “Christian” country attacking and wiping out those who fought against them, those who happened to be devout Muslims.
Now whether churches "seek the destruction of other beliefs" depends on what church you are talking about, because like the many traditions of modern neo-paganism, not every church thinks alike, and some Christians are more permissive than others. That said, his claim that the Iraq war is a repeat of the Crusades is dead wrong.

In Iraq the aim is to rid the country of a brutal despot, and set-up a self-governing body that will bring it's people (and hopefully the rest of the Islamic world) into the 21st century. In the first Crusade, however, was in an entirely different context:

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt—once the most heavily Christian areas in the world—quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
The Witchvox article goes on:


When the Christians started spreading throughout the world and gaining power worldwide, they destroyed anything and anyone who opposed them. Considering that the majority of the world, primarily Europe at the time, was some form of Paganism, much of their ancient history and sacred works were piled up and burned in the name of “God.”
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it a pagan by the name of Julius Caesar who defeated and enslaved the Gauls and Celtic Europe? Wasn't it the Pagan barbarians of Europe that sacked Rome?

Fact is that many pagan societies had oral traditions that were not written down, those traditions died with them, often at the hands of another pagan.

Furthermore:

One thing that everyone thinks they know about early Christians is that they went around and burnt down libraries and anything else they felt threatened by. For a 'fact' that is so widely believed, there is remarkably little evidence around. When challenged the best that most people can do is mention the Christians who destroyed the Great Library of Alexandria but as I have established in this article, that is itself a myth. That has not stopped authors like Carl Sagan in Cosmos and others who really ought to know better, from recycling it to make anti-Christian points.

After finding the example most commonly given was untrue, I decided to launch an in-depth inquiry into the two related questions of what has happened to the majority of the corpus of ancient writing and whether the Christian contribution to their preservation has been positive or negative. This survey only covers the early church and the period through the Dark Ages so it does not examine the work of medieval inquisitors or later church authorities. I hope to look at these areas at a later date but for the moment my conclusions are as follows:

-Indiscriminate destruction of ancient literature by institutional Christianity never occurred;
-There was no attempt to suppress pagan writing per se;
-On a few occasions, pagan tracts specifically targeted against Christianity were condemned but others have been preserved;
-Suppression of heretical Christian writing was widespread;
-Magical and esoteric works were treated in exactly the same way as they were under the pagan Emperors which was not very sympathetic;
-With some exceptions, respect for pagan learning was widespread among Christians;
-Survival of classical literature is almost entirely due to the efforts of Christian monks laboriously copying out texts by hand.
Remember that some ancient texts still survive today, and are printed en masse, Illiad anyone? Beowulf? Aristotle?


Third, incompatible beliefs that make it impossible to coexist without conflict. Pagans come from an entirely different point of view than Christians. Most Pagans are not monotheists, but rather polytheists or suitheists (believing in self to attain deity status). This makes it quite hard for both sides to agree on anything, even to agree to disagree. Also, the morals and ethics of both sides can and often do contradict each other, making what little common ground they may share shaky at best.
There is some truth to this, but remember that some ancient Pagans still had moral guidelines that were more specific than "Harm None". Modern neo-paganism has been largely influenced by the political/cultural counter-movement of the last 40 years, and likely would not have found favor with ancient pagans.

Now the points he makes in the fourth and fifth arguments could be easily said of pagans. Some of us are close-minded, stubborn and/or looking to make a buck selling books and "teen witch kits". Go to any of the pagan message boards out there and say something positive about Christians, President Bush, or conservatism, and see what reaction you get. Recently, I was banned from a Pagan Yahoo! Group for posting information that challenged what another had said (who happened to be a moderator) about a political activist group. If what one believes is truth, then they do not need to fear
debate.

Now I realize that the author may have been attempting to find a middle-ground between the two faiths, but one must look first at the history and current attitudes of their own religion first. Simply stating the perceived faults of the other side - while fluffing up the positives of our side - will not bring real reconciliation.

Our religion should be about what fulfills us and makes us grow to be better people, not about being the opposite of another religion. If pagans cared less about what the Christians think and do, and more about our religion in our day-to-day life, then there wouldn't be any problem to fix.