C. G. Estabrook
carl at newsfromneptune.com
Sat Aug 14 11:56:40 MDT 2010
But neither of the "two essentially different concepts" is an account of the
Abrahamic (Judeo-Xn-Islamic) notion of deity.
The Roman attitude to religion was classically, so to speak, summed up by
Gibbon: "The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned
religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and
by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes
of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by
the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the
magistrate, as equally useful."
But the Christian publicly (and the Jew, largely privately) said of these
various modes of worship, "I do not believe and I will not serve." You're
precisely right that it was a political crime, as illustrated in Pliny. (And
you're also right to note that it didn't all change under Constantine, as
liberal mythology has it.)
On 8/13/10 10:28 PM, Shane Mage wrote:
> On Aug 13, 2010, at 10:24 PM, C. G. Estabrook wrote:
>> That sort of god - a Zeus, or demiurge - is rather far from the
>> Judeo-Christian notion (as elaborated in the West by Augustine and
> A Zeus and a Demiurge are two essentially different concepts. A "Demiurge"
> is an artisan, the shaper of an ordered world out of chaos, the lawgiver to a
> lawfully unfolding cosmos. That is the "God" of Genesis. "Zeus,"
> (especially as Jupiter) is impersonal energy, symbolized as the thunderbolt
> (the planetary connection is here particularly à propos) and participating in
> the life process in the "do ut des" fashion--invoked through ritual
> sacrifices. That is the "God" of popular religion--Allah, Jesus, Adonai.
> For the philosophers, though, the impersonality of the cosmic energy flow is
> what counts: "It consents and does not consent to be called
>> Christians were prosecuted (correctly) during the Roman principate for
>> atheism - for not believing in any such god.
> Not so. Their *belief* was never at issue, and every sort of *belief* was
> current and tolerated in the Republic, Principate, and Dominate until the
> Christians, progressively from Constantine to Theodosius, outlawed and
> persecuted every form of belief (including dissident Christian) that deviated
> from their orthodoxy. What was prosecuted in Roman law was seditious
> conduct--that of a secret society systematically subverting the *do ut des*
> cosmic relationship of the Republic with the "gods" it invoked through public
> sacrificial ceremonies. (Pliny the Younger's letters express that distinction
> very well).
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