#15 – City Of God
May 11, 2018
#17 – Hypatia of Alexandria
June 1, 2018

#16 – Jesus, Violence, Love

How St Augustine provided the ultimate Christian justification for acts of violence – Jesus did it first and it’s okay as long as you do it with love.
* Still talking about Augustine and his “City Of God”
* Last time we looked his theory that God knowing certain women deserved to be raped.
* But the majority of the book is his way of saying “Look, Rome was a horrible place with lots of problems BEFORE we became 100% Christian, so you cant blame it on us.”
* But I have to hand it to him – dude could write.
* He knew his history and mythology.
* His arguments are quite lame.
* But he sells them with full conviction.
* And he mentions all of our old friends – Caesar, Augustus, Cicero, Sulla, Marius, the Gracchi
* Speaking of Cicero, one of the last known surviving copies of Cicero’s De Re Publica, was written over by Augustine.
* Meaning he or someone scraped the ink off the original text and then wrote something new over the top of it.
* Augustine himself once declared to a congregation in Carthage that ‘that all superstition of pagans and heathens should be annihilated is what God wants, God commands, God proclaims!’
* He got wild applause, and this speech was possibly the cause of religious riots resulting in sixty deaths.
* It is estimated that pagans still made up half of the Empire’s population.
* Augustine called this religious violence against the pagans “merciful savagery”.
* “Where there is terror, there is salvation. Oh, merciful savagery.”
* One of Augustine’s other contributions to the dark ages was how he managed to balance the ideas of “turn the other cheek” and killing your enemies.
* He came to the conclusion that as long as you LOVED your enemies while you killed them, then that was the Christian thing to do and got the Jesus tick of approval.
* If you shoot someone in the head but you tell them you love them, then it’s all going to be okay.
* In COG he justifies the idea of a just war: “But, say they, the wise man will wage Just Wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars.”
* So the term “just war” comes from Augustine.
* Although the concept goes back to Cicero.
* He later justifies having the Emperor using force against the Donatists, who were still around
* Remember they were the Christians from North Africa who thought the Christians who gave up the holy books during the persecutions shouldn’t be let back into the fold
* Their property was to be confiscated, their services forbidden and their clergy exiled.
* Augustine ejected the Donatists from Hippo and, taking over their churches and posting his own anti-Donatist texts on the walls.
* He came to the position ‘that the thing to be considered when any one is coerced, is not the mere fact of the coercion, but the nature of that to which he is coerced”
* So if you think the thing you are forcing someone to do is the right thing – like, accept your religious views – then it’s okay to use force.
* From his “A Treatise Concerning the Correction of the Donatists”.
* He actually makes the point that Jesus used violence against Paul – blinding him – and then, after Paul believed in him, Jesus was nice.
* So – “Why, therefore, should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return, if the lost sons compelled others to their destruction?”
* But, he says, it’s all okay, because “they congratulate themselves that these most wholesome laws were brought to bear against them”.
* In his earlier works Augustine was reluctant to condone the compelling of outsiders into the church.
   * “Words should be our instruments, arguments our weapons, reason our means of conquest [sic] and we should avoid making enforced Catholics out of those whom we had known as open heretics.”
* There was no support from New Testament texts for persecution
* in fact, the Donatists were to taunt Augustine with Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . .”
* But his tolerant views changed over time.
* He began with the argument that Donatism intimidated many ordinary Christians and it was the duty of the “true” church to release them from such coercion.
* And his experience of ordinary former Donatists was that most became excellent Christians when forced to do so.
* Therefore, compulsion was permissible.
* Just as God could punish in the exercise of his love, so could the church
* It was saving sinners from everlasting hell fire.
* And boy, didn’t THAT idea catch on over the next 1500 years.
* In the thirteenth century a papal legate reported on the extermination of the Cathars, a sect which preached a return to the ascetic ideals of early Christianity: “Nearly twenty thousand of the citizens were put to the sword regardless of age and sex. The workings of divine vengeance have been wondrous.”
* Augustine’s two books were highly influential across Christendom, partly because he was very smart and very educated and could write like a motherfucker.
* Which was rare in Catholic circles in those days.
* But he also pushed a model of thinking that helped usher in the dark ages.
* Augustine, like Paul, his inspiration, eventually came to teach that science and reason and philosophy were dumb.
* The only thing that mattered was faith in Jesus.
* In his Confessions Augustine makes twice as many references to Paul’s letters as he does to the four Gospels
* And early christians were criticized for this by critics.
* Celsus, a 2nd-century Greek philosopher, who wrote a book around 175 CE attacking Christianity, “On The True Doctrine”,  claimed that Christians were able “to convince only the foolish, dishonourable and stupid and only slaves, women and little children.”
* The physician Galen of Pergamon, who influenced the development of anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, and neurology, as well as philosophy and logic, and died around 200 CE, criticized Christians for their adherence to faith rather than reason and for relying on “undemonstrated laws.”
* Augustine took Paul’s major issues with Greek philosophy and sexuality and ran with them.
*  And attacks on these now became central to the Christian mission to eliminate paganism.
* You can’t have people THINKING and FUCKING!
* Augustine is also made huge contributions to Christian thought about free will and original sin.
* INXS ORIGINAL SIN
* He held that, because human beings begin with original sin and are therefore inherently evil – which was the single idea that drove me away from Christianity when I was a kid.
* Early on in his writings he seems not to have believed in free will.
* Everything was predestined by God.
* But then he starts to believe in free will.
* At least a bit.
* By the end of his life, he seems to take the position that Adam had free will – but when he ate the forbidden fruit, he became imbued with sin and the rest of humanity was fucked as a result.
* BTW, have I talked about that before? The nature of the fruit?
* The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
* Which probably meant “everything”.
* So wanting to know everything was forbidden.
* God wanted to keep man dumb.
* Like the story of Prometheus giving humans fire.
* God’s a cunt.
* Early on, Augustine took the view that the Biblical text should not be interpreted literally if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason (e.g. he believed that God created the world simultaneously and that the seven-day creation recorded in the Bible merely represents a logical framework, rather than the passage of time in a physical way).
* In his earliest writings from the 380s Augustine appears to have accepted the importance of reason in finding truth.
* But later on he comes to the conclusion that some things just are beyond human reason and need to be taken on faith.
* And by faith he means “faith in what the scriptures tell you”.
* For Augustine the root of sin lies in pride, and this includes pride in one’s own intelligence.
* He also started out not believing in miracles in his own day, suggesting they were fabricated, but later in life he claimed to see them everywhere.
* He saw people raised from the dead through the use of magic water.
* So he leaves reason well behind.
* Augustine believed that every other form of learning had to be subordinated to the scriptures, so in De Doctrina Christiana, his major work on the exegesis of scripture, worked on throughout his later life, secular knowledge, whether provided by mathematicians, scientists or philosophers, is said to be valid only in so far as it leads to an understanding of scripture.
* One scholar called Augustine: “the man who fused Christianity together with hatred of sex and pleasure into a systematic unity,”
* He believed that even sex within marriage was evil.
* But not because of the physical act of fucking, because of the LUST
* Lust is evil.
* As he gradually gave up reason to faith and authority, he did a lot to undermine the classical tradition of rational thought.
* The City of God, finally completed just four years before he died, in 426.
* Augustine lived in a disintegrating world; the first sack of Rome by (Homoean Christian) Gothic invaders in 410 sent a shock wave through the empire.
* Refugees scattered even as far as Africa.
* Many Christians had claimed that the empire had been instituted by God so that Christianity could flourish; now, in the west at least, it was collapsing around them.
* Other Christians saw the fall of Rome as the beginning of the last times so vividly forecast in the Book of Revelation.
* Pagans claimed that it was precisely because their gods had been abandoned through the coming of Christianity that the city had fallen.
* There’s a strong sense in Augustine’s writings that he has an underlying pessimism and guilt that permeates his theology.
* Perhaps somewhere deep in his psyche there was irreparable damage that distorted his view of humans.
* He sees people as inherently evil and damaged.
* Unlike Paul, who had no reason to expect his writings to last, Augustine expected his to become the orthodoxy.
* Part of the tragic side of Augustinianism is that his work was received uncritically for so long .
* He was the Catholic authority.
*  his views were canonized as authoritative proof-texts rather than as starting points for more impartial investigations.
* His intellectual stature earned him a place at the top of Christian theology for 1000 years.
* And as such he provided a working template for the dark ages.

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