The Crusades

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The Crusades

Below is a post form a discussion Vastet and I were having in another thread which we were threatening to seriously derail.

vastet wrote:

totus_tuus wrote:
Yeah, you did.
Thanks for responding to my inquiry. I think I asked you to defend a statement that you made "off the cuff". I see you've already backed off that statement somewhat.

 

 

Indeed.

totus_tuus wrote:
"Mass murder" was the standard for ancient tribal warfare, much like the vendetta type gang warfare prevalent in Sicily in the 17th-early 20th century. The theory behind the two is remarkably similar. If you wipe out everybody of the opposing tribe, nobody's goning to survive to feel honor bound to come back and wipe out your people. This was the surest way of protecting yout tribe from the threat of constant warfare, and extinction at the hands of a resurgent enemy. A bit cruel to us "enlightened", modern folks, bu perfectly acceptable in its day. With the rise of Hellenic civilization and other city-states, man came to realize the economic value of opposing populations as slaves, which became more the fashion for defeated enemy populations. Even so, into and through Roman Imperial history, wholesale slaughter was still quite common in warfare. By this time though, slaughters of populations were usually conducted as a punishment or warning as opposed to being conducted a preventive step against revenge.

 

 

I can't disagree with what you're saying, but I can point out that these things came from god(ie, destruction of egypt), not man(at least according to the christians and the bible). Supposedly the ultimate authority of morality. Has gods morality changed in the last two thousand years like ours has? If so, then how can morality be absolute when it can change? Seems self contradictory to me. Even worse, one would think a supremely wise being would have made a book that would be equatable with all time periods, or at least help man on it's way to becoming more enlightened, not stick it in the dark ages to boil over.

totus_tuus wrote:
Oddly enough, and perhaps coincidentally (although I think not) it is with the acceptance and rise of Christian thought in Europe that a certain codification of warfare begins to take place. From the rise of chivalry and knighthood, through the promulgation of the just war theory by St Thomas Aquinas, through the customs of war in the 17th through 19th century (although with notable exceptions) the rights of non-combatants, prisoners, the sick and injured, were recognized more and more. In the early 20th century, these realizations reached theri zenith with the laws of war outlined in the Geneva and Hague Conventions.

 

 

Ah, but how do you know these things wouldn't have happened anyway? What proof is there that it's only because of the christian faith that these things came to pass? When I look at societal progress, I see movement towards such a state even without the christian religion. If I recall correctly, there were movements in Rome and Greece that had similar leanings long before christianity was widely established. Even as far away as China. Worse, as I recall, cultures in the Americas that never even saw christianity had come further than the christians did by the same time period.

totus_tuus wrote:
It is also interesting to note that, perhaps again coincidentally (but again I think not), as Christian thought wanes and is superseded by humanist philosophies in the West civilian populations once again find themselves the legitimate targets of war.

 

 

I think you're putting religion before politics here. Most of the problems in the middle east that the west is having to deal with now can be traced back to the cold war, and the unethical steps taken by both the United States and the Soviet Union at the time(exception being Israel and Palestine, which trace back a bit further to the conclusion of WWII). Now the US and Russia are reaping the seeds they sowed decades ago.

totus_tuus wrote:
I think I know what you mean here, but I must ask you to document this fierce opposition which Christianity mounted against its oppressors. Christians went to their deaths in droves for the sake of their faith and the religion not only survived, but continued to grow. I know of no Christian uprising that threatened the Roman Empire, or any province of it. I've read of no rebellion by Christians which forced the emperor to say "these Christians must be done away with before the destroy us". While I hesitate to use the word miraculous on an atheist website, the survival of Christianity through a period of persecution lasting nearly three hundred years, with no physical resistance on the part of the oppressed certainly is counter-intuitive to say the least.

 

 

Well the christians did seek to replace age old gods with one new god, which is the exactly kind of thing that fuels conflict. Even if one side is pacifist. There needs be no decree from an empire for the people of that empire to seek to preserve their own beliefs and culture in the face of claims that they are a lie.

I will note that I did not say the words fierce or oppression in the statement you are referring to here. Merely opposition, which I don't think you can deny in any way, even if it were not opposition in the form of violence.

totus_tuus wrote:
The second observation I would make is really a question. Would not the Christians, faced by such persecution, have been perfectly justified if they had taken arms against it?

 

 

That's a tricky question that would require me to have more knowledge of the time than I do to answer to my satisfaction. In a general sense, yes people are justified in taking arms for self defense. But are people justified for taking arms in self defense when they created the very scenario that they must defend against? If the U.S. creates economic havoc in Australia, then gets bombed by Australia because of it, is the US really morally justified in bombing them back after starting the whole thing in the first place? I don't think so. Starting conflicts just so you can declare you're defending yourself is immoral in my view. Now I'm no expert historian on the time period, I just have bits and pieces of knowledge of the day, so I may be misrepresenting the scenario a bit. But I don't think I'm off by all that much.

totus_tuus wrote:
An old Irish Republican motto goes "where there is oppression, there is resistance". Are not truly oppressed people justified in taking arms in their own defense?

 

 

Yes. But one must look at all sides of the equation.

totus_tuus wrote:
I mean, I have this picture in my head of Sam Adams and Benjamin Franklin sitting over a pitcher of some of Sam's fine brew in Boston having this conversation:
Sam: Boy, Ben, those Brits are really oppressive. This taxation without representation sure sucks.
Ben: You sure have that right.
Sam: It seems they'll stop at nothing.
Ben: Well...since they'll stop at nothing, perhaps we should do nothing, and they will stop.
Sam: Great idea, Ben. I knew there was a reason you're the foremost American thinker of our time.

 

 

Lol. This is a bit more complicated than presented though. It was after all the Brits that established the colony and supplied it in the first place(not to mention warring to keep it safe). According to the capitalist economy we live under, they were fully justified in taxing the colony to get their investment back. The Brits happened to go way overboard in the process, risking the very viability of the colonies with their overtaxation.

totus_tuus wrote:
vastet wrote:
I rather doubt I've answered you properly, but in all honesty I made that claim in the face of the implication that christianity being able to survive a few centuries of opposition lent it any credibility at all, which is rather ludicrous.

 

Ludicrous to you, miraculous proof to me and rather surprising, you must admit.

 

I don't find it all that surprising actually. Because we are a moral species, martyrs tend to get quite a bit of recognition and sympathy. No matter the time period. It would seem to me that the best way to go from a small regional cult or religion to a full fledged global religion would be to throw bunches of your followers into the face of death, keeping enough of them out of harms way to continue the teachings. That's basically what the muslims are doing today.

Apotheon wrote:
Vastet, I have to correct a few of your errors. First, where are Christians killing Jews and Muslims right now?

 

 

Iraq and Afghanistan come to mind as far as the muslims are concerned. And there are christian terrorist groups throughout the middle east that for some reason don't get as much attention as muslim and to a fair bit lesser extent jewish terrorists. There's a few of them in the States too, though they mostly concentrate on secular institutions and the "liberal threat" whatever that is supposed to be.

Apotheon wrote:
Second, when I said that the Russian Revolution was the greatest religious massacre in history, I wasn't making it up. Stalin, and the soviets are responsible for killing 60-100 million Russian Orthodox Christians. 80-90% of those soviet rules were Jews.

 

 

You're going to have to be a lot more specific for me to know what specifically you're talking about. I just spent an hour skimming through the history of all the Russian Revolutions from the late 1800's to the 1920's and found no mention of the christians being massacred in such numbers. So you're now going to have to prove that 60-100 million christians were killed in Russia in a massacre.

Apotheon wrote:
Third, Hitler was a Catholic in childhood, but he never personally embraced it. He forsook Catholicsm and dabbled in the Occult. Hitler himself was part Jew. This is documented in "Hitler: The Founder of Israel, by Kardel.

 

 

The title of that book is quite amusing, considering it was the UN who effectively founded the Israel of today after Hitler was already dead. Obviously it has little or no credibility.

totus_tuus wrote:
vastet wrote:
Which is nothing compared to what they've done to others, including the muslims, jews, pagans, and us atheists. I also call bullshit.

 

Maybe you atheists have brought it on yourself by opposing the opposition to your opposition.

 

I expected this. It's an interesting theory, except that atheism never made any attempts to spread until very recently. It was merely a personal viewpoint someone could hold, never an organization like christianity. Christians and other religions have forced atheism to organize for self defense, since individuals holding a lack of belief which needs no teaching to sustain have been singled out for millenia.

totus_tuus wrote:
vastet wrote:
Which they started, and take full blame for. They should never have started the crusades.

 

The Crusades were but one episode in an ongoing war started by the conquests carried out by Islam throughout the 7-11th centuries. Islamic expansion had, at one point even overrun the southern part of France. By the mid 11th century Islam retained only a toehold in southern Spain, Christendom resurgent, and having survived the Norse raids from Scandinavia, Mongol incursions from the east, now attempted to retake those areas lost to Islam in the Levant. The Crusades were nothing more than the Middle Ages' equivalent of the WWII Normandy landings without the happy ending.

 

You speak as if you are speaking fact, when you are not. I've never seen a single person before you claim that the crusades started because of muslim conquests centuries previous. Every scholar or history text I've ever read says the crusades started long after. Most of the muslim conquests didn't even ocurr against christian targets. I've seen plenty of christians try to shake off the most disgusting acts in christian history before, but never in this way. It does not make you any more successful than they were.

totus_tuus wrote:
Well, since he killed Jews, then killing Christians is alright, I guess. If you're gonna be a mass mmurderer, be an equal opportunity mass murderer. Although I think Apotheon figures are way too high. Estimates of deaths during Stalin's regime range from 20-30 million.

 

 

It was not my intention to imply that it's ok, merely that he was acting as if the christians were the only target of Soviet Russia, which is one of the more laughable claims in this topic.

totus_tuus wrote:
Who's your candidate for this honor?

 

 

The crusades. Not because of numbers, but because of ratios. 30 million people out of 2.3 billion(estimated global population in 1940) compared to 9 million people out of 432 million(upper estimate of global population of 1300). Translates to 1 out of 77 people on the planet killed in Russia compared to 1 out of 48 for the crusades. Approximately of course, and taking your upper estimate of christian casualties in Russia instead of your lower one. Which of course assumes even your numbers are accurate, and I haven't seen anything to indicate such is true.

"With its enduring appeal to the search for truth, philosophy has the great responsibility of forming thought and culture; and now it must strive resolutely to recover its original vocation." Pope John Paul II


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vastet wrote:Has gods

vastet wrote:
Has gods morality changed in the last two thousand years like ours has? If so, then how can morality be absolute when it can change? Seems self contradictory to me.

God's morals have not changed, but I think your question has the seeds of the answer to part of your dilemna.  Man's morals have changed, a change which I would attribute in part to the rise of Christian thought in the West.  Again, without getting too theological, and attempting to limit myself to merely the influence of Christian philosophy, modern Christianity holds that prior to the arrival of Jesus Christ man's understanding of the will of God was provisional and imperfect.  Christ's teaching made the will of God manifest to mankind.

vastet wrote:
Even worse, one would think a supremely wise being would have made a book that would be equatable with all time periods, or at least help man on it's way to becoming more enlightened, not stick it in the dark ages to boil over.

So do I, my friend, so do I.  Believe me, I struggle to recognize the God of my understanding in the God of the Old Testament all the time.  And based on discussions with my friends, I'm not alone.  Of this I am quite certain though, that even when approached as merely human teaching, not even as Divine Revelation, the message of Jesus Christ, especially his teachings on love between fellow men, ias an awesome philosophy.

vastet wrote:
Ah, but how do you know these things wouldn't have happened anyway? What proof is there that it's only because of the christian faith that these things came to pass? When I look at societal progress, I see movement towards such a state even without the christian religion. If I recall correctly, there were movements in Rome and Greece that had similar leanings long before christianity was widely established.

I don't know that these attitudes wouldn't have changed without th advent of Christianity, however I do find it more than coincidental that with the rise of Christian thought these ideas begin to flourish.  Notice medieval chivalry's close connection to the Church and emphasis (although adherence was often less than perfect on the part of knights) on individual participation in the Christian faith.  Notice where the outlines for medieval ideals of knighthood, and the behavior and responsibilities of nations in the arena of war are espoused - the great Christian minds of the Catholic Church - and particularly those of St Thomas Aquinas in hid magnum opus, the Summa Theologica.

I agree that there were indications of the early stirring of thought along the lines of "civilizing" warfare among Hellenistic and Roman cultures.  But I also think that close examination will show that Christianity, if not the driving force, was at the very least a strong catalyst promoting this thought.

vastet wrote:
Even as far away as China. Worse, as I recall, cultures in the Americas that never even saw christianity had come further than the christians did by the same time period. 

Unfortunately, my knowledge of Asian history of the period is sorely lacking, and I am unable to speak intelligently as to the state of thought in the matter of the conduct of war in Eastern traditions.

Modern archeological evidence about, and the observations of the Spanish who first encountered  the great Central and South American empires exisatent upon the discovery of the New World, however bear very different testimony about American cultures.  Warfare among the great empires which arose in the Americas was of such barbarity and ferocity, especially among the Aztecs, as to put the most outrageous Old World attrocities to shame.  Entire cultures were routinely put to the sword (or war club, or pointed stick, or whatever the hell they used) routinely.  I'm looking for an account of an Aztec celebration following a victory against an enemy .  The Aztecs themselves boasted that in one four day period in 1487 they sacrificed 80,400 prisoners to celebrate the re-dedication of a temple (modern scholars think this number is bragging and the actual count may have been a mere 10,000 prisoners).  I fail to see the same progress in native American cultures.

vastet wrote:
I think you're putting religion before politics here. Most of the problems in the middle east that the west is having to deal with now can be traced back to the cold war, and the unethical steps taken by both the United States and the Soviet Union at the time(exception being Israel and Palestine, which trace back a bit further to the conclusion of WWII). Now the US and Russia are reaping the seeds they sowed decades ago.

I think you misundertand me here.  I didn't here to refer to current friction existing between radical Islam and the West as being spawned by the decline of Western moral standards (although it is a view to which I somewhat incline).  I was refering primarily to conduct of war between modern nation states.  There was a tendency during the period from the 16th through the mid 19th century to limit the misery visited on non-combatants, ie civilians, prisoners, sick and wounded, and the rising realization that as persons not directly, or no longer directly involved in the waging of war, they were a class to whom special treatment was due.  These realizations eventually were codified in treaty form by the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

We've now reached a point in our development where we see the entire population of nations being held hostage to national policy.  From the declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare against neutral shipping in World War I, through the continued use in World War II of that policy, and the institution of air warfare against industrial targets in the same war, to the Cold War which witnessed huge masses of humanity standing with nuclear pistols pointed at their heads.  Do you really suppose it's coincidence that these "advancements" in the conduct of war are accompanied by the rise of humanism, materialism, reductionism, nihilism and the host of other "-isms" spawned by the "Enlightenment" and the decline of Christian philosophy?  Does this really seem like "progress"?

vastet wrote:

Well the christians did seek to replace age old gods with one new god, which is the exactly kind of thing that fuels conflict. Even if one side is pacifist. There needs be no decree from an empire for the people of that empire to seek to preserve their own beliefs and culture in the face of claims that they are a lie.

I will note that I did not say the words fierce or oppression in the statement you are referring to here. Merely opposition, which I don't think you can deny in any way, even if it were not opposition in the form of violence.

New religions were constantly being absorbed into the Empire, and as long as their adherents didn't raise hell, were tolerated.  Mithraism is one example that comes to mind right off the top  of my head.  In fact, the cult of Mithra gathered quite the following among Roman soldiers.

As far as resistance offered by Christians to Roman rule, I would argue that quite the opposite is the case based on written contemporary Christian teachings.  Take a look at the letters of St Paul.  He is constantly exhorting his readers to obedience to the civil authorities, even going so far as to remind slaves of their duty to their masters, and reminding soldiers to perform their duties honorably.  I can't cite chapter and verse right off the top of my head, but would be happy to do so if you'd like. 

Contrast this to the Jews, who survived for over 200 years as a constant thorn in the side of the Romans.  The Maccabean revolt against Roman rule, the Zealots (who carried on a form of ancient terrorism against Roman interestes in northern Judea) of the time of Christ, and the final uprising which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The Romans actually showed much more patience, with a much more recalcitrant people than they did woth most other nations which refused to submit willingly to Roman rule. 

So, this brings a question.  Why Christians in particular? 

vastet wrote:

That's a tricky question that would require me to have more knowledge of the time than I do to answer to my satisfaction. In a general sense, yes people are justified in taking arms for self defense. But are people justified for taking arms in self defense when they created the very scenario that they must defend against? If the U.S. creates economic havoc in Australia, then gets bombed by Australia because of it, is the US really morally justified in bombing them back after starting the whole thing in the first place? I don't think so. Starting conflicts just so you can declare you're defending yourself is immoral in my view. Now I'm no expert historian on the time period, I just have bits and pieces of knowledge of the day, so I may be misrepresenting the scenario a bit. But I don't think I'm off by all that much.

Again, I ask, in the light of the exhortations of contemporary Christian leaders to submission to civil government, and the lack of any evidence of a physical threat on the part of the Christians to the state, how is the Roman attempt at the supression of Christianity historically explicable?

vastet wrote:
 

Lol. This is a bit more complicated than presented though. It was after all the Brits that established the colony and supplied it in the first place(not to mention warring to keep it safe). According to the capitalist economy we live under, they were fully justified in taxing the colony to get their investment back. The Brits happened to go way overboard in the process, risking the very viability of the colonies with their overtaxation.

 I figured that at this point we needed to lighten up a bit.  I can't take crredit for the authorship of this exchange, I think I stole it from an old Peter Sellers movie (perhaps one of the Pink Panther series).

I agree that I've hugely oversimplified the matter and this point is probably not really worthy of consideration.  But you gotta admit, it was kinda fun.  LOL.

vastet wrote:

I don't find it all that surprising actually. Because we are a moral species, martyrs tend to get quite a bit of recognition and sympathy. No matter the time period. It would seem to me that the best way to go from a small regional cult or religion to a full fledged global religion would be to throw bunches of your followers into the face of death, keeping enough of them out of harms way to continue the teachings. That's basically what the muslims are doing today.

A agree with everything you say here, but examine the difference between ancient Christian martyrdom and the radical Islamic.  Modern Islamic martyrs are achieving their martyrdom with the help of plane loads of terrified civilians and suicide bomb vests aimed at crowded restaurants and busses.  The ancient Christians went unarmed and in some cases actually cheerfully to their demise.

This post is beginning to run a bit long.  I'll address your remaining points in a subsequent post.  I don't intend to dignify Apotheon's posts by rebutting your response to them, not so much because I agree with the points of view you express, rather because I have him shrill, and his arguments poorly grounded.

Tchuss.

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totus_tuus wrote: vastet

totus_tuus wrote:

vastet wrote:
Has gods morality changed in the last two thousand years like ours has? If so, then how can morality be absolute when it can change? Seems self contradictory to me.

God's morals have not changed, but I think your question has the seeds of the answer to part of your dilemna.  Man's morals have changed, a change which I would attribute in part to the rise of Christian thought in the West.  Again, without getting too theological, and attempting to limit myself to merely the influence of Christian philosophy, modern Christianity holds that prior to the arrival of Jesus Christ man's understanding of the will of God was provisional and imperfect.  Christ's teaching made the will of God manifest to mankind.

But many of mans morals are counter to the teachings of christ. Christians at the forefront of many of these changes were not following their own religion. I'm unable to go into depth with the bible as I've not studied it or considered it worth study, but I do know enough to say that many of the standard and accepted moral practices of today would be considered immoral by those who first put the bible together.

totus_tuus wrote:

vastet wrote:
Even worse, one would think a supremely wise being would have made a book that would be equatable with all time periods, or at least help man on it's way to becoming more enlightened, not stick it in the dark ages to boil over.

So do I, my friend, so do I.  Believe me, I struggle to recognize the God of my understanding in the God of the Old Testament all the time.  And based on discussions with my friends, I'm not alone.  Of this I am quite certain though, that even when approached as merely human teaching, not even as Divine Revelation, the message of Jesus Christ, especially his teachings on love between fellow men, ias an awesome philosophy.

Well that's fine and good, but it's no reason to worship an invisible god either. I've known christian atheists who followed christ's teachings in such regard without adding the belief or rules of the god who supposedly created him.

totus_tuus wrote:

vastet wrote:
Ah, but how do you know these things wouldn't have happened anyway? What proof is there that it's only because of the christian faith that these things came to pass? When I look at societal progress, I see movement towards such a state even without the christian religion. If I recall correctly, there were movements in Rome and Greece that had similar leanings long before christianity was widely established.

I don't know that these attitudes wouldn't have changed without th advent of Christianity, however I do find it more than coincidental that with the rise of Christian thought these ideas begin to flourish.  Notice medieval chivalry's close connection to the Church and emphasis (although adherence was often less than perfect on the part of knights) on individual participation in the Christian faith.  Notice where the outlines for medieval ideals of knighthood, and the behavior and responsibilities of nations in the arena of war are espoused - the great Christian minds of the Catholic Church - and particularly those of St Thomas Aquinas in hid magnum opus, the Summa Theologica.

I agree that there were indications of the early stirring of thought along the lines of "civilizing" warfare among Hellenistic and Roman cultures.  But I also think that close examination will show that Christianity, if not the driving force, was at the very least a strong catalyst promoting this thought.

But it very well could just be cooincidence. That mans philosophy and understanding was maturing in religion, warfare, community, and many other areas at the same time.

totus_tuus wrote:

Modern archeological evidence about, and the observations of the Spanish who first encountered  the great Central and South American empires exisatent upon the discovery of the New World, however bear very different testimony about American cultures.  Warfare among the great empires which arose in the Americas was of such barbarity and ferocity, especially among the Aztecs, as to put the most outrageous Old World attrocities to shame.  Entire cultures were routinely put to the sword (or war club, or pointed stick, or whatever the hell they used) routinely.  I'm looking for an account of an Aztec celebration following a victory against an enemy .  The Aztecs themselves boasted that in one four day period in 1487 they sacrificed 80,400 prisoners to celebrate the re-dedication of a temple (modern scholars think this number is bragging and the actual count may have been a mere 10,000 prisoners).  I fail to see the same progress in native American cultures.

Well as I said, I'm no historian, and could be mixing dates and shit up easily enough as regards to the America's. But I know that China had their own version of the "golden rule"(Confucius) a good 500 years before christs supposed birth, and had made much larger progress towards ethical standards of today than the christians had.

totus_tuus wrote:

I think you misundertand me here.  I didn't here to refer to current friction existing between radical Islam and the West as being spawned by the decline of Western moral standards (although it is a view to which I somewhat incline).  I was refering primarily to conduct of war between modern nation states.  There was a tendency during the period from the 16th through the mid 19th century to limit the misery visited on non-combatants, ie civilians, prisoners, sick and wounded, and the rising realization that as persons not directly, or no longer directly involved in the waging of war, they were a class to whom special treatment was due.  These realizations eventually were codified in treaty form by the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

We've now reached a point in our development where we see the entire population of nations being held hostage to national policy.  From the declaration of unrestricted submarine warfare against neutral shipping in World War I, through the continued use in World War II of that policy, and the institution of air warfare against industrial targets in the same war, to the Cold War which witnessed huge masses of humanity standing with nuclear pistols pointed at their heads.  Do you really suppose it's coincidence that these "advancements" in the conduct of war are accompanied by the rise of humanism, materialism, reductionism, nihilism and the host of other "-isms" spawned by the "Enlightenment" and the decline of Christian philosophy?  Does this really seem like "progress"?

I think that technological progress has been moving faster than societal progress for at least 130 years now. The very fact that the triggers for those nukes hasn't been pulled yet is testament to recent societal progress. After all, how many incidents in history can be pointed to where two sides had relatively equal weapons of mass devastation(from something as simple as an army all the way up to poisoning water supplies and such) and both used them? Had nuclear weaponry been available 200 years ago, the earth would be a glowing ball I think. Many of the concepts we know of today actually came from scientific research into the human psyche, not religious teachings. In WWI and II, people were executed for abandoning a post, their names torn from the pages of history. Only to have them reinstated 50 years later after the realization that some people just don't have the brain chemistry to go to war and deal with the circumstances within one. Vast numbers of people executed as traitors were not really traitors. They just couldn't handle the stress. They didn't know that in the 40's, but figured it out in the 80's and 90's. There's nothing about how fragile the human mind actually is in the bible. Fallibility is seen as the sole responsibility of the one who has fallen, even if the person who fell couldn't have done otherwise.

totus_tuus wrote:

New religions were constantly being absorbed into the Empire, and as long as their adherents didn't raise hell, were tolerated.  Mithraism is one example that comes to mind right off the top  of my head.  In fact, the cult of Mithra gathered quite the following among Roman soldiers.

As the very strength of the Roman Empire, the soldiers would have to be given relatively loose reign or risk a coupe. Not to mention that this religion was highly secretive. It was like the scientology of today. You can't learn much about it without being deep into it. It certainly didn't go around preaching to anyone who would listen, and it did not openly suggest that all mortal powers were secondary to one super power.

totus_tuus wrote:

As far as resistance offered by Christians to Roman rule, I would argue that quite the opposite is the case based on written contemporary Christian teachings.  Take a look at the letters of St Paul.  He is constantly exhorting his readers to obedience to the civil authorities, even going so far as to remind slaves of their duty to their masters, and reminding soldiers to perform their duties honorably.  I can't cite chapter and verse right off the top of my head, but would be happy to do so if you'd like. 

Unneccesary and irrelevant in my view. The resistance I spoke of was not to Roman rule, and not having anything to do with cooperation with secular authorities, but the restructuring of the theology of the empire. The resistance was resistance against zues and hara(yes, those are the Greek gods, but I can't think of the top of the food chain for the Romans at the moment). And it does not have to be violent to spark violent reaction. Merely the claim that one god has a higher authority than another sparks conflict.

totus_tuus wrote:

Contrast this to the Jews, who survived for over 200 years as a constant thorn in the side of the Romans.  The Maccabean revolt against Roman rule, the Zealots (who carried on a form of ancient terrorism against Roman interestes in northern Judea) of the time of Christ, and the final uprising which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The Romans actually showed much more patience, with a much more recalcitrant people than they did woth most other nations which refused to submit willingly to Roman rule. 

I don't know nearly enough of the period to address this.

totus_tuus wrote:

So, this brings a question.  Why Christians in particular? 

I don't know.

totus_tuus wrote:
Again, I ask, in the light of the exhortations of contemporary Christian leaders to submission to civil government, and the lack of any evidence of a physical threat on the part of the Christians to the state, how is the Roman attempt at the supression of Christianity historically explicable?

When contrast against other religions of the period I cannot give you an answer as I don't know enough of the period. When contrast alone I can explain it as theological incompatibility.

totus_tuus wrote:

A agree with everything you say here, but examine the difference between ancient Christian martyrdom and the radical Islamic.  Modern Islamic martyrs are achieving their martyrdom with the help of plane loads of terrified civilians and suicide bomb vests aimed at crowded restaurants and busses.

It's a very different time and with very different problems to be addressed. I doubt the two can be compared in any fashion. Especially in light of certain specific idealogical and political circumstances. The fact of the matter is that 99% of muslim terrorist bombings occurs against and/or within Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Anything that targets the populace of Israel is by definition assaulting a military target unless the target is children. This is really only the tip of the iceberg in the differences though. You could spend weeks pointing at this or that to show how disimilar they are. I also rather doubt that there were absolutely no christians who took up arms in the childhood of the religion.
Iraq and Afghanistan are too complicated to even consider going into.

totus_tuus wrote:
  The ancient Christians went unarmed and in some cases actually cheerfully to their demise.

All the time?

totus_tuus wrote:
This post is beginning to run a bit long.  I'll address your remaining points in a subsequent post.  I don't intend to dignify Apotheon's posts by rebutting your response to them, not so much because I agree with the points of view you express, rather because I have him shrill, and his arguments poorly grounded. Tchuss.

Sticking out tongue

Proud Canadian, Enlightened Atheist, Gaming God.