Thursday, June 16, 2016

Christianity, Islam, and Paganism

Elsewhere, in response to this post [link], the following exchange took place:

Hypatia: I'd argue that the USA is a nice place to live mostly because of our anti-authoritarian traditions, not our Christian population.

Ex-Army: Many would say, me among them, that our anti-authoritarian traditions are rooted in Christianity.

Matt Bailey: They are mostly rooted in the unique character of Western civilization. Socrates and Aristotle were questioning authority long before Jesus Christ was born. Germanic tribesman had their right/duty to arms and their say in council before Jesus. Northern European women enjoyed a degree of freedom and status almost unique on the planet when Polybius was writing. I could go on, but it will suffice to say that Christianity didn't create the Western tradition of rationalism and tolerance, Westerm people made the imported Middle Eastern religion of Christianity more rational and tolerant.
This has to be one of our rare disagreements. Islam had violent barbarism encoded in its DNA in a way the religion of peaceful Jesus simply does not. It is hard to see how Islam is equal to, let alone superior to the pagan religions that all mankind followed before universalism. Shinto is a good example of what such religions would look today like if cultures had retained them.

Hypatia:"Many would say, me among them, that our anti-authoritarian traditions are rooted in Christianity."
Those people obviously either don't know what "authoritarian" means or have never seen the inside of a Bible.

Ex-Army:(to Hypatia) Not the Bible so much as the sort of thing Matt mentions, which got incorporated into Xianity over the years. Also, the old notion that no man is above God's laws. Plus the notion that there ARE laws, and finally because of the separation of church and state that evolved in Europe, again, over centueris.

Ex-Army: (to Matt Bailey) We probably don't really disagree on any of that. I want to print most of what you said here in some form BTW. I always figured that Islam was a cut above what the Arabs were into before Muhammed, but I could be wrong about that. I consider it a cut above because it prohibits cannibalism, limits polygamy to 4 wives, apes Christianity in some good ways, etc. I agree that Xianity is its clear superior, for the reasons you're given. I do tend to perversely jump to the defense of Islam, not because I think it's a good religion for everybody, but because I don't think it's the worst religion ever, which I believe some people have come to regard it as. No, I don't want anybody to convert to Islam. I, like Ann Coulter, want people to convert to Christianity. For that matter, there are some Christian denominations that I immensely prefer to others.
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And now that I've thought about it some more, I believe Matt's right on this one, as he usually is. To expand on my own thinking, I always figured that Islam was an improvement over the primitive religions in Black Africa, many of which did indeed approve of cannibalism, and called for murdering various classes of people, like twins and albinos. But in the places where Islam replaced Christianity, the net result was less civilization and more savagery, despite Prince Feisal's speech about the vanished gardens of Cordova in Lawrence of Arabia.

Is Matt right about the paganism that Islam replaced? Hard to tell. If you regard Buddhism as pagan, it's definitely a step backwards to convert Buddhists to Islam. But where Islam replaces religions that accepted human sacrifice, certainly large-scale human sacrifice, that had to be a net improvement. I believe Islam has the same story about God preventing the sacrifice of Isaac. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong. I do know that Greek mythology had somewhat the same story, substituting Artemis, Agamemnon, and  Iphigeneia for Jehovah, Abraham, and Isaac. The big question in my mind is was there very much human sacrifice among the European pagans, mostly the Italic, Greek, Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic people. And who were the sacrifices? I struggled through Grimm's Teutonic Mythology forty-some years ago. and I remember reading that the Teutons sacrificed convicted criminals, not the most popular people around, for what that's worth.

And, for that matter, Muslims at their worst don't formally sacrifice people, but murder them anyway for other reasons, like heresy or refusal, which some might say is worse.

At any rate, there's no doubt in my mind that Christianity, for all its flaws, is light-years ahead of Islam in practically every way. And European Christianity in particular. As Matt says, the paganism of Europe already had many of the good characteristics that we associate with Christianity, and as he says, the borrowing seems to have gone the other way. An examination of versions of Christianity here and there in the Third World minimally influenced by European Christianity, as in Ethiopia or Karela, would no doubt be illuminating concerning this question. And, as an aside, if you're at all familiar with the writings of C. S. Lewis, you'll understant that he, like Matt, was well aware of the virtues of Euopean paganism

But Christianity is what it is, and we have it in the West, and for whatever historical reasons, it calls for a set of morals and ethics and rules of behavior that I generally approve of, and you probably do, too. This is not the case with Islam, which in many cases calls for, and even insists on, behavior that you and I would definitely disapprove of, such as murdering 49 people because they're homosexuals.
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Quibcags: I don't know if she is or not, but Astrid from How to Train Your Dragon sure looks like a pre-Christian European pagan. As for the second, Amy of Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet (翠星のガルガンティア Suisei no Garugantia) reminds us about the difficulties of assimilating Muslims here in the West.

4 comments:

  1. I don't think Northern Europe made Christianity more tolerant, but it may have exposed it.
    In the Gospels, Jesus talked to women and first appeared to them after the Resurrection. As we've absorbed it we think it normal, but it would be quite radical and shocking to any contemporary Jew and most Gentiles.

    But there is a more important distinction.

    The only authority possible must be rooted in the true and good. Socrates, Aristotle, and Jesus (and the OT prophets) were pointing out the "authority" was deviating from that - they inverted things so that instead of proclaiming truth with their word, they insisted at their word, the universe would change to make whatever they said true.

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  2. I tend to think Western Civilization has at least a basic supporting column in Christianity. Maybe Torah, Christianity and Socrates are the three feet of the chair.

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  3. Whiteness is rooted in whiteness alone and not in any religion White folks have ever taken up and practiced: e.g. Paganism, Christianity, etc.

    Of course Whites act White is just a boring tautology like survival of the fittest but it's true.

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  4. I think what Christianity did was it preserved the traditions and values of white people in a way far more effective than paganism. Argue all you like but no one can argue about the preservational power of Christianity.

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