A beneficial consequence of studying ancient, medieval, and modern Greek history was my rethinking of Christianity, which ancient Greeks and Romans basically ignored for nearly 400 years.
Fear of the gods, deisidaimonia
The Greeks accused the Christians of deisidaimonia, superstition, because of their fear of the gods. Yet, in the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion.
Once in power, Christianity revealed its true colors. It set aside its public relations message of “love” and went straight for the jugular. It declared war against all non-Christian “pagans” and, especially, Greeks. With the support of the Roman government, it made the worship of the gods a crime punishable by death.
Destabilizing and destroying millennial traditions was the most revolutionary project in human history. It lasted for several centuries.
The first genocide in Europe
What the Christians did to the Greeks was the first genocide in European history. Their war against science included the burning of libraries, stopping of the Olympics, and wrecking of the material culture of Greece – smashing of hundreds of temples, government buildings, stadia, theaters and schools — precipitated the dark ages, turning off the lights of Greek learning and pushing humanity back by about 2,000 years.
Christianity forced on the Greeks soul-crushing, anti-Hellenic religious practices and way of life. It made Greeks palimpsests: scraping their Hellenic poetry, myths, philosophy, science and civilization and in their place inserting alien Judeo-Christian hymns and myths. Greeks found themselves foreigners in their own land.
Yet historians rarely if ever teach this barbaric and epoch-changing episode of European history. Writers either downplay the Christianization of Hellas or avoid it all together. In my medieval Greek history studies at the University of Illinois, my major professor, Deno Geanakoplos, spoke about a “smooth” transition from Hellenism to Christianity.
After graduate school, I dug into the original historical sources and discovered Christian terrorism and war, not smooth transition, undid the Greeks. This discovery weakened and severed my tenuous connections with Christianity. It did not bring me close to Judaism or Islam because they are made of the same cloth – monotheistic sister religions all.
Nature of one-god religions
These one-god faiths are still crusading against each other. On September 11, 2001, Moslem Saudis launched attacks against America. They became suicide bombers and drove highjacked airplanes against skyscrapers in New York and the Pentagon. President George W. Bush responded not by attacking Saudi Arabia, center of Islamic fanaticism against Christians and Jews, but by destroying Moslem Iraq that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks or the possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” as the State Department and CIA claimed. Bush said America was fighting “a war on terror.”
The continuing crusades of Islamic and Christian armies (largely American) are proof that monotheism is antithetical to human nature and life on Earth. Christianity and Islam, daughters of Judaism, are largely political forces of states acting like empires. The religions themselves and their state overlords want to conquer the world. Nothing else will satisfy them.
This imperial attitude is incompatible with freedom, democracy, and human and biological diversity.
Ceaseless wars go hand-in-hand with careless technologies and pollution. The broadest impact of this form of human development is the slow but steady warming of the planet.
Both wars and global warming are products of practitioners of capitalism — on steroids and monotheistic metaphysics.
In late 20thcentury, communist states changed heart and attached themselves to the ideology and application of capitalism.
The worshippers of capitalism are well aware of the destruction and suffering they cause. In fact, some of them among Christians (primarily in the United States), willfully are striving to end life on Earth because, they are under the delusion, such holocaust will trigger the second coming of Christ. These are fanatics that threaten America and the world.
Tax-free commercial religions
In the United States, Americans have “freedom of religion,” which gives tax-free status to all kinds of groups claiming belief in, usually, monotheistic sects. The Constitution also prohibits Congress from making laws on religion.
This is as it should be because state favoring one religion over another may trigger discrimination, violence, and genocide. However, this free-market capitalism on religion also converts each religion to profitable business.
The Catholic church
The Catholic church has probably been the largest non-profit business on the planet. It led crusades against Moslems and Christians, and tortured and killed heretics for centuries. It made and unmade states and civilizations.
Now, in the last century or so, the Catholic church has been made infamous by the sexual perversions of its priests and bishops. These celibate men think they are living Christ.
Catholic priests, however, are far from being better than other people, much less the fictional Jesus-like models of piety. They have been molesting children by the hundreds of thousands for several decades all over the world.
Despite the gravity of this chronic ecumenical crime, nearly nothing is being done because states are afraid to enforce the law within the Catholic church. They could be accused of religious bigotry. They also know their active intervention in a major religion like Catholicism could trigger religious war.
Just like his predecessors in the Vatican, Pope Francis looks the other way. He knows the history of Catholicism, but prefers silence to responsibility. He pretends he is angry with molesting priests, bishops and cardinals. But, in reality, he refuses to face up the ridiculous policy of the Catholic church: its obsession of enforcing unenforceable celibacy (“Standards of sexual continence that run contrary to human nature”) among its priesthood. So, Francis is covering up. In August 2018, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano accused him for tolerating sexual misconduct among Catholic clerics. He urged Francis to step down.
James Carroll, a former Catholic priest, calls Pope Francis a liar, but urges him to dismantle the priesthood in order to “save” the church. That is unlikely. Dismantling the priesthood will surely bring the dismantling of the Catholic church. Yet why does Carroll wish to save the church? After centuries of crimes, is it worth saving?
Another example of reigning superstition comes from the polygamist sect of Mormons in Utah. The Mormons claim Judaic and Christian origins. They insist they are the latest version of “saints” in Christianity and Judaism. They were persistent in their religious claims and the Internal Revenue Service granted them tax exemption.
The Mormon church was probably embarrassed by the habit of male Mormons having several wives – a characteristic of uncivilized people. The Mormon church prohibited polygamy, but to no avail. Some Mormon men keep reigning over several wives.
A group of these men, about 7,500 strong, are members of the Kingston clan. They have been living with several wives each – and specialize in crime. Each would sire dozens of children and then cheat the federal government, especially IRS and the US Department of Agriculture, of millions of dollars from food stamps and welfare payments. Meanwhile, they own several businesses and live in luxury like medieval landlords. They exercise feudal control over women whom they keep in the dark. They live in grand houses and drive sports cars.
Hierarchies of monotheism
These two stories of deception and fraud speak for the long-standing vulnerabilities of the one-god religions.
The hierarchies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are probably not that much different than the hierarchies of Catholicism and Polygamist Mormonism. They have been taking advantage of the millennial fears people have of the divine and the natural world and the cosmos. In addition, they exploit the privileged position they enjoy in their societies. They convert their religions into power, large and luxurious houses for themselves and for worship, and financial gain. They become the parties that are usually in bed with the governors of their countries or, like Saudi Arabia and Iran, they are the rulers.
The alternative to monotheism is polytheism. The Greek version of polytheism had no holy books, priesthood, and desires for crusades.
I returned to Greek polytheism because of what the Christians did to my ancestors. Second, Plato said the Earth was the oldest of the gods. Seeing the Earth as sacred and alive is essential for the survival of life. Polytheism is also democratic.
In addition, the creators of Greek civilization: poets, heroes, politicians, philosophers, artists, historians, soldiers and scientists (Herakles, Jason, Homer, Achilles, Odysseus, Hesiod, Thales, Anaximander, Herakleitos, Pythagoras, Parmenides, Aeschylus, Herodotus, Hippocrates, Pericles, Democritus, Sophocles, Polykleitos, Phidias, Euripides, Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Alexander the Great, Ktesibios, Aristarchos of Samos, Archimedes, Hipparchos, Galen and Ptolemaios) respected the gods and built magnificent temples in their honor. In fact, Ptolemaios, second-century astronomer, geographer, and mathematician of Alexandria, Egypt, said that though mortal, each time he studied the heavens, he no longer touched the Earth but he was near Zeus eating nectar.
That is good enough for me.