The First Christians – "Haters of the human race"?

Christianity – the triumph of perversity

Jesus Never Existed – The Christianizing of the Roman Empire

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Kenneth Humphreys

 


07.11.11

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" ... an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind."

– Tacitus, Annals, 15.44.

 

"Celsus says … converts [to Christianity] were deceived and accepted a doctrine harmful to the life of mankind."

– Origen, Contra Celsum 1.27.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adoration of a sexless Mother Goddess

The Christians neutered female sexuality by manufacturing a passive goddess who moved seamlessly from virginity to motherhood without the nasty business of sex in between.

 

The joyful temples of the pagans, which had served the mother goddess for millennia, were an early target of the Church fathers.

The wrecking crews were monks not barbarians.

 

 

 

 

* JC approves of polygamy!

In a famous, if ludicrous, parable about "virgins and their lamps" even the godman seems quite comfortable with the idea that 10 women are about to marry one bridegroom.

At midnight, 5 of the women go off to buy forgotten lamp oil – and miss out on their nuptials with the lucky polygamist.

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"And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut."
– Matthew 25.10.

Of course, the story is meant to convey a warning about "being ready for the kingdom."

But why on earth feature polygamy unless to give tacit endorsement?

Perhaps the authors of the tale were inspired by the adventures of King David's son Absolom who "went in unto" ten of his father's concubines "in the sight of all Israel." – 2 Samuel 16.22.

 

 

 

 

A Stoic view of desire

"To be pulled by the strings of desire belongs both to wild beasts and to men who have made themselves into women."

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 3.16.


For Roman Stoics like Marcus, sexual abstinence preserved the "vital heat" of manliness.

Christian ethics (as well as the utterances of their godman!) had less to do with any "apostolic tradition" than with the common Stoic and Platonic inheritance of the age.

 

 

 

 

"Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace …

Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind."

– Tacitus, Annals, 15.44.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Christ – descended from a whore!

According to the yarn in Joshua 2, the Canaanite prostitute Rahab saved her own skin by betraying the city of Jericho. She hid Joshua's spies, lied about it, and then aided their escape.

Rahab's reward was to be given to a Jew and to bear the line of David – which, of course, would lead to JC himself!

"And Salmon begat Booz of Rahab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; And Jesse begat David the king ...

And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ."

– Matthew, 1.5,16.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian sex attitudes?
"Like an angel"

"He who does not marry becomes like the angels in heaven."

– St Ambrose, Treatise on Chastity and Celibacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian sex attitudes?
"Morbid and unnatural"

Bertrand Russell, philosopher and Nobel prize winner:

"The worst feature of the Christian religion is its attitude toward sex - an attitude so morbid and so unnatural that it can be understood only when taken in relation to the sickness of the civilized world at the time the Roman Empire was decaying."

- Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?, 1930

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nudity - Natural or Shame?

A relaxed attitude towards nudity can teach children that the body is not a source of shame but rather is a source of beauty.

The point was not lost in the ancient world but the great monotheisms have cursed humanity with alienation from the body.

 

 

 

 

 

A nation of prudes

Shock! Horror!  Firm-breasted J. Jackson's right mammary outrages a Christian nation.

US Congress devotes 33 days to discussing Broadcast Indecency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Judaism, the enthusiasts of Christ derived the notion that the body was a source of shame and that women were an inferior breed. They agreed with the rabbis that the role of the priest was to license permissible sex and police the most intimate of human behaviour.

But the early Christians were also influenced by Hellenic ideas that the passions were inherently suspect, that sex was harmful to the soul, and that abstinence was the path of spiritual purity. The circumspection, disdain and outright condemnation of human sexuality in the dogmas of the church gave rise, for two millennia, not only to the most monumental hypocrisy but to all manner of sexual-emotional disorders.

 

Jesus on Sex: "No comment"

Jesus favours marriage (Matthew 5.27,28) but does not marry.

He even appears to favour castration (Matthew 19.12) though is not himself castrated.

In heaven, JC assures his listeners, there will be no marriage (Mark 12.25) but then, that's not the here and now.

As to issues of chastity, masturbation, nudity, pre-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion, polygamy*, etc., the sexless superhero has nothing to say at all.

Which of course leaves a great deal of scope for deciding yourself what Jesus "really meant."

 

Did Jesus favour female equality?

 

Why doesn't Jesus like sex?

"Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

– James 1.14,15.


The sexual mores of Christianity did not derive from any "Jesus", whose attributed words manage to avoid the subject almost entirely. Christianity's prejudices against the carnal emerged as the unhealthy amalgam of frustrated Jewish messianics, the traditions of Stoicism among Roman intellectuals, and plagiarised Hellenistic gnosticism. From each, orthodox Christianity derived a dysfunctional attitude to human sexuality.

Judaism was misogynistic, prescriptive and racist. It encumbered sexual behaviour with ritual and "Law". But in Judaism the misogyny which marginalised women was overshadowed by man's relationship with the Almighty. Clearly, under the Law, "God" approved of both gender differences and sexual intercourse.

"In the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

– Genesis 1,27.


Why else, but for sex, would the cosmic "designer" have created human genitals so artfully suited for that purpose? The Jews certainly saw things that way ("It was not good for the man to be alone" –  Genesis 2.18).

Yet Judaism distrusted and disparaged women, even as it used them to increase the stock of Jews. It was but a small step for fanatical radicals within Judaism to adopt celibacy as a surety of the righteous "purity" so precious to their heart. One such group were the Essenes, many (though by no means all) of whom lived in male-only communities. For them, women stirred up lust, jealousy and pitted men against each other.

"Jewish folk wisdom, like that of the pagans, stressed the seductive wiles of women, and the disruptive effect of the claims that women made upon men as bearers of their children and the sharers of their bed."

Brown,The Body and Society, p39.


The first Jewish-Christians, inheritors of the Essene tradition, would go further, castigating the carnal life and "earthly" enjoyments as an encumbrance upon the spirit and a distraction from God.

"Love of pleasure ... leadeth the young as a blind man to a pit and a beast to a precipice."

– Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.

"The hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins."

– Revelation 14.3,4


The Jews had cut off foreskins as a sign of their bond with God. Now the Christians would go further and deny their sexuality entirely.

 

The curse of women – the female "temptress"

"A large part of the history of celibacy is the story of the degradation of women and – an invariable consequence – frequent abortions and infanticide."

– Peter De Rosa, Vicars of Christ, p404.

 

  Sexual pleasure – the first and bitterest fruit of "original sin".

 



In the mind-set of the godly, it was sex which perpetuated "diabolic powers". Evil had entered the world through carnality and responsibility for the "fall of man" fell primarily upon the female sex. The misogynistic scribes of Catholicism made clear, in Eden it had been Eve, not Adam, who had first succumbed to the blandishment of Satan:

" And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."

– 1 Timothy 2.14.


Eve's sin – strictly speaking, disobedience – it seems, had been passed on to all future generations by the very act of sex itself. God had punished the mother of humanity with the pains of childbirth. In any event, woman was God's afterthought, merely "an help meet" for Adam, made from his rib and to be ruled by her husband (Genesis 3.16).

St Paul, or whoever wrote the epistles in his name, confessed to the torments of "concupiscence":

"For I know that in me , that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing ... I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

– Romans 7.18,24.


Like Eve with Adam, women were responsible for temptation and the moral corruption of men. Sex turned men aside from the pursuit of "spirituality" and God. It was imperative, therefore, that women, the weaker vessel, easily given over to lasciviousness, be kept in their place – and kept away from men of piety.

"This know also, that in the last days ... men shall ... creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts."

– 2 Timothy 3.1,7.

 

The Gnostic Challenge  – The Polluted Spirit

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul."

– 1 Peter 2.11.


Greek culture embraced and rejoiced in physicality but certain Hellenistic philosophies disdained "the passions" which distracted from intellectual pursuits, an attitude of mind which found a home in Roman Stoicism. Rome's educated elite found Stoicism admirably suited to the demands of empire: a self-disciplined sense of duty, detachment from "womanly" emotionalism, fortitude in adversity.

But by the Augustan age the Romano-Hellenic world had drawn into itself the diverse traditions of Egypt, Persia and India, and this polyglot culture included Zoroastrianism, Mithraism and the notion of a cosmic struggle of "good and evil". The earliest Hellenised Christians sought to combine Jewish fables with a universal dualism, and had particular difficulty with the blood-thirsty god of Jewish scripture. This violent, judgemental being had to be a lesser godthe demiurge (from Greek 'demiurgos', 'creator'). Though acknowledged to be the maker of the world and of the flawed human body, this god had to be subordinate to a higher, loving god of pure spirit. And this supreme god was female.

"To shape and manage her creation, Wisdom brought forth the demiurge, the creature God of Israel, as her agent."

– Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, p76


Although gnostic theology was far from homogenous (indeed, its leitmotif was the continuing elaboration of ever-more exotic revelation) its essential belief was that "matter" was base and the pollutant in which "spirit" had been cast, trapped or lured. Flesh was perverse and corrupt. The body would surely decay and putrefy, but salvation was through gnosis or knowledge of divine truths, which would allow the spirit to return to a heavenly realm of pure light.

Such speculations inevitably meant that gnosticism could not subscribe to the notion that God, the sublime spirit, would ever incarnate (or in some shades of opinion, reincarnate) as "flesh" or take human form. Nor could God suffer any kind of death. In the gnostic belief system (and in "gnostic Paul", Galatians 3.28), when the spirit ascends to union with the Lord, “neither male nor female” will exist. There will be no sex in heaven.

In this, the material world, marriage and procreation were the work of dark powers and principalities, "base matter" begetting more "base matter". The 2nd century followers of the gnostic Marcion, who wrote pseudonymously in the name of "Paul", made clear that, if possible, the godly should practice self-restraint:

"It is good for a man NOT to touch a woman ... I say therefore to the unmarried and widows. It is good for them if they abide even as I."

– 1 Corinthians 7.1,8.


"St Paul's" instruction was to
"mortify sinful flesh", that is deny the sexual appetites. Such detachment from carnality allowed the gnostics to accept an equality of the sexes quite radical for the ancient world.

Ironically, while gnosticism would be driven from the world stage by its Catholic enemies, it was gnosticism's negative view of the body which would underpin many of Catholicism's worst traits: a bleak asceticism, starvation fasting, flagellation, and the whole paraphernalia of mortification of the flesh. The early Church Fathers, including the authors of Paul's epistles, glorified the asceticism that had been a discipline of the gnostics. Martyrdom, the ultimate mortification of the body, became the epitome of spirituality, a fast-track to salvation.

 

Virgin purity: closer to God

"You should abstain from fornication ... Every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour. Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God ... For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness."

– 1 Thessalonians 4.3,7.


Throughout the 2nd century the orthodox fans of Christ were embellishing the skimpy story of their godman with a "history" set a hundred years earlier. Yet the very notion of a "man of divine status" was offensive to the Jews, who responded with a darkly humourous slur that the Christian holy man, in fact, had been a scurrilous character of dubious parentage, the offspring of an whorish hairdresser and a Roman trooper (Contra Celsum 1.28). The insult could hardly be bettered. Female virginity and racial purity were matters of great honour and mercantile importance among the Jews. Males, of course, were at liberty to be rampant stallions.

To meet the insult and underpin their hero's claim to divinity, the early Christians copied a motif common enough among the pagans. They gave JC a "virgin birth" (Matthew 1.18; Luke 1.27), a miraculous nativity which "proved" his godliness and gave him a pedigree equal to that of any pagan deity. The new god thus entered the world without the mess and inconvenience of sex. In the process, the sacred feminine, formerly the active element in procreation, was reduced to that of a passive receptacle, a "mother of god" rather than a goddess in her own right, done to rather than doing.

In time, as the sacred feminine was relentlessly subsumed into Catholicism, the virginity of the godman's mother would be extended through the birthing process (virginitas in partu) and on through the rest of her life (virginitas post partum). This created a theological conundrum because the sacred history had already given the godman four brothers and two sisters (Mark 6.3; Matthew 13.55,56)! But extra-biblical fabrication (‘Protevangelium of James’) would come to the rescue, making JC's siblings into step-brothers and step-sisters. Later, Jerome would downgrade the inconvenient siblings further, into mere "cousins". At the same time Catholicism acquired a transcendent, sexless and meek "queen of heaven", forever at the hierarchy's beck and call.

 

Lethal brew – Catholic Orthodoxy

"Resisting the gnostic view that Jesus was a spiritual being, the orthodox insisted that he, like the rest of humanity, was born, lived in a family, became hungry and tired, ate and drank wine, suffered and died. They even went so far as to insist that he rose bodily from the dead."

– Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels, p113.


Catholic orthodoxy – and its "historical" Jesus – emerged from and was a reaction against a number of rival christianities and saviour cults. The story of a cult founder called Jesus, who trod the earth and was crucified under Pilate, was a late appendage to a gnostic drama of a celestial Christ, existing in time eternal. This allegorical device, useful in popularising an otherwise esoteric philosophy, was debased into a "literal truth" by the pragmatists and politicians of orthodoxy.

Organised into cells and a command structure of bishops, priests and deacons, the Catholics outwitted and outmanoeuvred the heterogeneous and democratic communities of the gnostics. The gnostic leaders had charisma and intellect but their doctrines were complex and esoteric. Catholicism's "theology" was simple, reducible to a few chantable creeds, and its ceremonies were public pageants, open to all who had merely to "accept Christ" and "believe".

The gnostics were contemptuous of such easy and meaningless salvation. For them, neophytes had to train for months, even years, before entering the "inner mysteries"; they had to live as Christians and not merely profess the faith. In contrast, the Catholics adopted and adapted whatever was popular in the practices and traditions of the pagans in order to draw an indifferent population into the church. They forgave "sins" readily, including murder and sexual indiscretions. As disputes in north Africa were to show, even sacraments performed by heretics were deemed acceptable, if the correct formula had been followed. The "open door" of Catholicism prevailed against the "elect circle" of gnosticism.

 

Sex the enemy of holiness

" An ascetic movement grew up in the church in opposition to heresies with an anti-sex bias. Orthodoxy itself started disparaging marriage. Purity became identified with sexual abstinence; chastity replaced charity as the central virtue of the Gospel. Religion, as a consequence, became sombre and joyless."

– De Rosa, Vicars of Christ, p399.


With birth from a virgin a "glory", dogmatised as a central myth of the new faith, normal conception and childbearing, in contrast, were polluted and beast-like. The Jewish notion that birthing rendered a woman "unclean" passed into Christianity, confining the new mother to a month of seclusion which ended only with a ritual of purification or "churching".

The gnostics and Stoics had already declared "the passions" suspect. The apologist Justin, in the mid-years of the 2nd century, could boast that there were already old men "in Christ" who had maintained an "immaculate purity" their entire life (Apology I.2). Antipathy to the sex act became a cornerstone of the new religion. Church father Tertullian (160-220) feared that a man's soul was lost in the moment of ejaculation:

"In that last breaking wave of delight, do we not feel something of our very soul go out from us?"

– Tertullian, de anima, 27.5.


In nascent Catholicism, virginity became the badge of a dubious "purity" and was accorded an unmerited and unworldly respect as being "closer to God".
The virginal were somehow superior to the sexually active.

Part of the tragedy was that at a time when the empire of Rome desperately needed manpower, the Church fathers were encouraging chastity and continence, of men as well as women, as a path to "spirituality". A life devoted to God – that is, of service to the Church – demanded nothing less. The individual's glorious self-denial anticipated the coming kingdom of the Lord, a time of untainted spiritual purity. In the vain hope for the kingdom of virginity they sacrified civilization itself.

 

A shadow over marriage

Another Church father, Clement of Alexandria (?153-215), drew up a code of rules for the brethren, how they were to walk, sit, speak, etc. Whilst he accepted the necessity of marriage – had not most disciples been married, after all? – Clement insisted that Christian decorum must prevail in the bedroom as well as in the public meeting place. A lustful romp was "vulgar and plebeian":

"The silken threads of Christian deportment, woven so carefully around the person in the daylight hours, must not be torn apart at night."

– Paiedagogos, 2.10.


His successor Origen (182-251), a self-castrating fanatic, went further, maintaining that the soul became "polluted" in the act of sex. Origen deprecated marriage itself. God's conduit for joining with humanity had been a virgin body. It followed, therefore, that through virginity the body should be made "holy":

"The body ... was made that it should be a temple to the Lord ... the soul, as it were, a priest serving before the Holy Spirit. In this manner, Adam had a body in Paradise, but in Paradise he did not 'know' Eve."

–  Origen, fragment on I Corinthians.


Acceptance of sexual abstinence by women was not necessarily a reluctant decision. Pregnancy and childbirth were fraught with dangers and often caused the death of a young mother. Retaining one's virginity might mean staying alive. Male abstinence, on the other hand, might be embraced as a struggle with Satan, a torment to be exacerbated by self-flagellation and hair shirts, the chaste penitent identifying with the very suffering of Christ himself.

Indeed, many early Christians willingly adhered to a rigid asceticism which denied the value of other physical or "earthly" pleasures: adequate food and drink, comfortable shelter and clothing, the pleasures of a social existence. Attendance of the theatre and the circus were particularly abhorred.

"It was the first but arduous duty of a Christian to preserve himself pure and undefiled by the practice of idolatry ... The innumerable deities and rites of polytheism were closely interwoven with every circumstance of business or pleasure ...

The Christian, who with pious horror avoided the abomination of the circus or the theatre, found himself encompassed with snares in every convivial entertainment, as often as his friends, invoking the hospitable deities, poured out libations to each other's happiness."

– Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall, 15.


But of all the worldly temptations it was sinful sex which most engaged the Christian mind. The new religion, like an early-day Taliban, opposed life itself.

 

From India, an Alternative View

Sex as the highest expression of the divine!

Hindu Lord Shiva proudly sports an erection
(7th century. British Museum)

Don't call me Babe. Large breasted Durga – fierce consort of Shiva. Her eight arms represent the energy of all the gods.

 

Sources:
Cullen Murphy, The Word According to Eve (Allen Lane, 1998)
Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Bantam, 2006)
Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion (1927)
Sam Harris, The End of Faith (Free Press, 2005)
Paul Tabori, A Pictorial History of Love (Spring, 1968)
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (Phoenix, 1980)
Uta Ranke-Henemann, Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven (Penguin, 1993)
Peter Brown, The Body and Society (Colombia, 1990)
James Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty (Harper,2006)

 

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The Christianizing of the Americas
 

 

 

 



 

 

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