Both the Germanic
tribes and the Romans had a sense of criminality and justice.
Social transgressions had known consequences delivered by magistrates.
When it came to matters of religion, the individual who failed
to placate the gods and thus 'transgressed' would reap the consequences
of his action directly from the gods it required
no intervention by a priesthood. The gods took care of themselves.
philosophers of the ancient world had no notion of a "sin" nor
did any of the pantheistic systems. The Gnostics, although
their doctrines varied in detail, likewise had no notion of
sin. Even dualistic systems, like Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism,
which had two eternal principles, good and evil, at perpetual
war with each other, had no true notion of sin. For them, all
evil, and consequently sin, came from the principle of evil.
the Jews had a different idea ...
Jews had Sin ...
the world with Adam.
But of course
it never did because Adam never existed (the figure is an
archetypal man, symbolizing 'humanity'). Sin actually
entered the world in the perverted mind of priestly scribes. A
perfect God no doubt could have created a perfect world. But
God's priests had their deity create Sin. If God's creatures
did not sin how could this heavenly monster exercise his 'saving
compassion' through the intercession of the priesthood?!
and sinners appear in every book in the Bible, several hundred
times in fact. Sin is the very foundation of Judeo/Christian
religion. It is the dominant theme of the Torah and the Prophets.
is the author of all this "transgression of God's Law?" In
a theology which allows only a single god, there can be only
one answer:God himself!
the paramount Jewish sage, God tells us:
I am the LORD,
and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded
thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from
the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none
beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form
the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create
evil: I the LORD do all these things.
– Isaiah 45.5,7.
of course has an unresolved paradox because the sole deity has
to remain blameless, even if he is the ultimate author of all
that is evil.
is of faith that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and all good it
is difficult to account for sin in His creation. The
existence of evil is the underlying problem in all theology."
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV
In an attempt
to talk their way out of this corner, the priests pass the blame
for sin to mankind. Though Man is "God's perfect creature" he
is given the free will to choose various temptations which
are themselves on offer only because God allows them to be! Thus
the great god himself connives to entrap mankind in sin, with
such tasty fruits as the Tree of Knowledge and genitalia. When
Man's weak will succumbs the penalties are severe indeed. As
Ezekiel writes in 18:4, "The soul that sinneth, it shall
die." And don't think you can hide your sin either: "Be
sure your sin will find you out" Moses writes in Numbers
After its encounter
with Zaroastrianism, Judaism later acquired the notion of
an evil god (Satan), together with his demons, as a counterpoise
to the good god (Yahweh) but even then, Satan can only
exist because the "all-powerful" god allows it.
sins. The temptations are so appealing, contact with the
unclean and bodily discharges are so likely. The answer? The
come forward with the notion of repentance and atonement,
which surprise, surprise! involves obedience
of, and payments to, the priests: animal sacrifice will do
nicely, thank you.
specified a whole variety of offerings ("burnt", "peace", "guilt", "sin")
which required either "clean" animals (cattle, sheep,
goats, doves, pigeons), cereals, incense or wine (Leviticus 1.
3 ). The fat and inedible parts were burnt (that was God's
bit!); blood was smeared or sprinkled on the altar (a
bit of drama); the choice cuts and skins went to the priests. The
priests eat and the sin of others is atoned.
Should an individual
refuse to atone, the Torah requires that the sinner be expelled
(or killed) to protect the collective from divine retribution.
Solly: 'All Are Sinners'
Law obviously gave rabbi St Paul – or rather those
who wrote pseudepigraphically in his name – a problem. If the
Law was a perfect code of behaviour why was the salvation
of Christ necessary?
just a quibble to ask, If god didn't want sinners,
why were Jews alone given the Law?
Were the rest of
humanity always doomed?'
righteousness come by law, Christ is dead in vain."
– Galatians. 2:21
If the Almighty
had 'given up' on the misbehaving Jews why not just take the
Law to the gentiles? Paul's objective, however, was to fuse the
dying/rising sun-god of the pagans with Jewish scripture. In
a stunning short-circuiting of the theology Paul gave the answer: we
are all sinners.
God has consigned all people to disobedience, that he may
have mercy upon all"
have sinned and come short of the glory of God."
human race is already condemned!
makes us all sin so that he can save us! Paul's epistles refer
to sin almost a hundred times. According to the radical rabbi,
the atonement for all of humanity's sins past, present, future had
already been paid by the sacrificial death of the god-man Jesus.
Aren't we all "saved" then? Only with the intercession
of a priest, says Paul, who can bring the sinner to the "grace
of god". All the sinner had to do was "accept Jesus".
Paul offers "fast-track" salvation for the pagan multitude
... Says Paul:
wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting
life by Jesus Christ our Lord."
– Romans 6.23.
Paul's religion in common with all others creates
the 'problem' for which it then offers the solution submission
to the priesthood, of course! Much
of Paul's message is actually to do with collecting cash
"So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers
to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for
the generous gift you had promised ... Each man should
give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly
or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
– 2 Corinthians 9.5,7.
devise Bigger, Deadlier Sins ...
had had its sin but at least it allowed for the occasional appearance
of men of "righteousness". In the sacred mythology,
these paragons appeared from time to time to berate their fellow
went further. In the demented mind of the Christian theologians,
sin became more obnoxious than it had ever been. As Christianity
developed so too did sin. No longer was sin just an action (Romans
1:32); transgression could occur in word (e.g. Matthew
5.22), or thought (e.g. 1 John 3.15) "Thought
Crime" would accompany the arrival of Church totalitarianism.
self, with carnal instincts, had to be denied. The guilt that
any transgression engendered, even for the tiniest infraction,
fed the psychosis upon which Christianity flourished. Sins became cardinal or deadly.
Deliberate disobedience of the known will of God required the
harshest punishment death and the torments of hell. Rebellion
against Gods law was far worse than the calamitous behaviour
of princes that merely produced distress, sorrow and suffering.
the authority of the Roman state, the fanatics of Christ were
more proactive than Jewish scribes had ever been. It became their
sacred duty to hunt out and punish sinners.
old men define doctrine
Church fathers, of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, made allusions
to a doctrine of an "original sin." Tertullian, perhaps
influenced by stoicism and the belief in the essential unity
of matter and spirit, thought the soul to be physical, passed on by
parents in the act of procreation. (He gives an account of a
Montanist prophetess, who professed to have seen a soul and attempted
to describe its appearance!).
taught when a parent sinned, this physical taint of the
soul was passed on to children.
Origen, a more
speculative theorist, argued for a preexistence of the soul.
He felt sure all men had sinned and had fallen in this
former existence. Fallen man had been banished by God
into material bodies to be disciplined and purified. Origen,
like Augustine after him, supposed that there was an inherent
pollution and sinfulness in sexual union, the means by which
sin entered the world. A woman's pains in childbirth
were in themselves clear evidence of the sinfulness of the original
(known as the 'Great Sinner' after the candour of his Confessions)
was obsessed with the lust of procreation undoubtedly
a reflection of his own dysfunctional sexuality. Wildly promiscuous
in his early life, he had abandoned two mistresses, one with
his child, and the illicit affairs had filled him with guilt.
In later years, he did not trust himself to be left alone with
a woman. In his City of God, Augustine considers the conjecture
it is possible for humans to control the movement of soft
flesh (he instances their mouths and faces, and even knows
people who are able to wiggle an ear), it may have been
that, prior to the fall, Adam was able to have intercourse
without an erection. It is the involuntary movement
of the male member which so alarms him."
– Daphne Hampson, After Christianity, p188.
The most significant
feature of sex, said Augustine, was this "involuntariness" of
the male erection (sometimes absent when you want it; sometimes
present when you don't!). He concluded that the 'concupiscent'
impulse belonged to "nature" (natura vitiata),
not to the spirit. Painfully misogynistic, Augustine decided
that because male "nature" was uncontrollable it was
women who had to be constrained. In his Confessions IX,9
he praises his mother's complete subordination to her violent
is so powerful in drawing the spirit of man downwards
as the caress of a woman and that physical intercourse
which is part of marriage."
judgement and subsequently that of the Church sexual
desire and gratification ("lust") had to be controlled,
limited and confined. Libido was stigmatised as a sin, detracting
us from God. In contrast, celibacy, chastity and virginity were
lauded as being far closer to the perfection of god and were
to be the choices of preference. Centuries of misery sexual
and psychological were the consequence as millions became
celibates or fought their own nature. Since such precepts severely
threatened the continuance of the human race, passionless,
matrimonial intercourse solely for the procreation of children remained
permissible, though even this was a 'venial' sin. Premarital
and extramarital sex clearly were sins, as was sex during pregnancy
or after childbearing age. Even the harmless release of masturbation
became a grave sin, the crime of 'Onanism'.
Thanks to St
Augustine and the Church, guilt over the most natural of human
proclivities was inculcated into generation after generation
of humanity an irrational and morbid guilt no less present
among "believers" in
the twenty first century as it was in the second or third century.
running the asylum
Thomas of Aquino was an Italian "scholastic" of aristocratic descent. He studied at the university of Naples and taught in Cologne and Paris. His major work Summa Theologica sought to reconcile Greek philosophy, filtered through the Arab philosopher Averroës and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides, with Christian dogmas. His liberalism included defending the execution of heretics.
"Thomas Aquinas ... thought masturbation worse than rape (because 'unnatural',
in the sense of unable to lead to conception). Indeed
on this ground he considers rape, incest and
adultery lesser vices than masturbation, homosexuality,
anal and oral intercourse, and coitus interruptus.
he thought deviation from the 'missionary' position
in sexual intercourse a serious sin, believing as he did that this made
conception more difficult!"
Hampson, After Christianity, p189
the author of the disastrous Church doctrine
of original sin that would become orthodox
dogma for more than a thousand years.
Jewish scripture, Augustine said that the disobedience
of Adam was an inherited human trait, a
sin transmitted in the
act of procreation. He thus arrived at the
conclusion that all people are sinners from
birth. No longer was sin solely the result
of conscious individual choice.
pitiless fanaticism, Augustine extended the
guilt of Adam's transgression to every new
infants dying without baptism are damned
by virtue of their inherited guilt."
St Augustine (Newman, Manual of Church History, Vol. I, p. 366).
born babes were sinners like the rest of us!
There was no escape. Unbaptised babies would
burn in torment forever, said the wise
bishop. Moreover, the individual could not
remove sin by himself no matter how "righteous" he
might be; only within the embrace of Holy Mother
Church could he be "saved."
was just, that after our nature had sinned
... we should be born animal and carnal."
Augustine (R. Seeburg, History of Doctrine, I, p338)
Wages of Sin A
Very Wealthy Church
"The money from the guilt offerings
and sin offerings was not brought into the temple of the
LORD ; it belonged to the priests."
– 2 Kings 12.16.
on sin at synods in Rome and Carthage (251/252 AD), the Church
decided that no one could avoid venial sin, and therefore
all needed the intercession of the Church. But it also ruled
that "all sins were forgivable with sufficient penance."
are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are
– Romans 4.7
was a vast business in forgiveness But who had the
right to absolve sin?
clerics saw the opportunity and declared themselves to be "Confessors".
Filled, as they said, with the Holy Spirit, they claimed the
right to absolve sins (particularly the sin of apostatising during
the Decian persecution) and just as surely availed themselves
of recompense for their efforts.
of this rash of competitive charlatans set alarm bells ringing
among the bishops who responded by declaring their own exclusive
right to forgive sin. The lucrative sin business was being
parceled out among the operatives.
end of the 4th century Augustine made clear that it was only
the Catholic hierarchy that could forgive sin:
the days of Adam, all have sinned; only a few with 'God's
Grace' can rescue sinners."
– On Predestination.
a brutal campaign against the followers of Pelagius, a monk who
had the temerity to believe that man had an innate ability
to live by God's commands and could thereby avoid sin.
the late 6th century, Pope Gregory, an enthusiastic follower
of Augustine, codified sins into seven types, folding "vainglory" into
pride, "acedia" into sadness, and adding envy. His
ranking, from most serious to least was: pride, envy, anger,
sadness, avarice, gluttony, and lust. In the 17th century, the
Church replaced the vague sin of "sadness" with sloth.
list of sin crimes set the stage for centuries of ecclesiastical
extortion: the sale of remissions from sin!
Church had devised the most successful protection racket
just a quibble to ask, but:
What about the souls of those
born before Christ were they saved by the Saviour
they neither knew nor acknowledged or were they just too
unfortunate to have been born at the wrong time?
sins could be remitted by prayer, confession to the clergy,
contrition, fervent communion, and other 'pious works', all
of which required frequent attendance at Church and appropriate
service or recompense to the officiating clergy.
transformed even a Christian marriage bed into "whoredom" the Church
could extract its penance for every act of copulation that involved "lust".
Clerical abuse of the institution of "confession",
originally made at the feet of the priest, obliged the Church
to introduce the confessional box for decency's sake.
Augustine had also provided the dubious theology of purgatory,
a holding pen where even compliant Christians would find themselves
after death, a place where 'fire might wash them free of sin'.
Picking up the message, said Pope Gregory:
"As for certain
lesser faults, we must believe that before the final judgement,
there is a purifying fire (purgatorius ignis) ..."
– Dialogia !V, xli.3.
The popes were
subsequently to generate a vast income by selling indulgences
which would 'free souls from purgatory'. The living filled
with anxiety for their deceased relations could offer
prayer, service and payment to the Church, so that
those in purgatory could move more quickly through their chastisement!
The Criminal Clergy
More serious mortal
sins required even greater sacrifice on the part of the
sinner. What need had he of earthly goods when his immortal
soul was in peril?
to the demented theology (I Corinthians, 6.9; Matthew, 25.41;
Mark, 9.45, etc.), God insists that Sin must be atoned for, either
in this world or in the world to come. Punishment in the future
life would be proportionate to the sin committed in this life
but would also last forever a tad harsh from
a god of love and goodness! In the future life, warned the Church,
the penalty for sin would be the 'pain of loss' that
is, "privation of the beatific vision of God".
Worse yet, Torment in Hell awaited the sinner, and as
the centuries progressed that Christian Hell became an ever-nastier
Yet for all
the theorizing about the afterlife (and the consequent terror
it engendered in believers) opting for atonement in the
world to come was not an option in the Christian empire. A
merciful God had provided a remedy for sin in this life by
the institution of His Church!
Crime Syndicate – 'Purgatory Inc.'
the penny in the coffer rings, the soul from
weak and gullible were fleeced by papal agents – such
as Dominican friar Tetzel – who sold papal
releases for dead loved ones 'suffering the
century woodcut Jan Breu the Elder
With a blend
of 'eternal bliss' on the one hand and a 'satanic pit' on the
other the Church mercilessly exploited the fears, credulity and
hopes of humanity. Through centuries, the Church secured not
only almost limitless regal patronage but also endowments, estates,
and legacies from the wealthy, convinced that they were buying
a place in Heaven. From all and sundry the Church collected tithes,
indulgences and fees; it sequestered the property of heretics
and Jews; it seized the lands of the infidel.
did not soften the rapacity of the Church. The Council of
- 1563) reaffirmed that all mortal sins had to be confessed.
This included even the most intimate, secret thoughts because
more grievously wound the soul and are more dangerous than
sins which are openly committed".
of 'His law' and by the administration of 'His sacraments', Holy
Mother Church could adequately provide 'remedies' for sin and
ultimately ensure union for the repentant sinner with God in
Heaven. The Church had a Holy duty to save the sinner's soul
from eternal torment. The destruction of his body and the
expropriation of all that he possessed was a small price to pay
for that Divine Grace.
the early years of the 16th century Luther was to become the
mouthpiece for those having "dangerous thoughts". Luther reinterpreted
Paul's epistles and other key passages in the Bible to argue
for a "grace" that could be achieved by an individual's
own faith without acts of penance, the intercession of
saints and martyrs, holy pilgrimages, Letters of Pardon, etc. in
fact, without the whole paraphernalia of the ecclesiastic protection
Church had become (and remained) Europe's largest landowner,
its hierarchs the richest men on the planet, its pontiff a maker
and breaker of emperors. When the scions of wealthy Italian families
fought or bought their way onto the papal throne it was to control the
most successful criminal organisation in history.
Sexually Hung Up Christians
of Ancyra 313/6 AD
Ancyra, the intriguing class of Christians
who either had enjoyed or still enjoyed sex
with animals was broken down by age groups
and allotted long periods of penance.
offenders, if over fifty, were to receive
communion only at death.
the canon was translated into Latin, it was
taken to be a ruling against homosexuals,
and in the early medieval kingdoms, it was
persistently cited as an authority against
Lane Fox Pagans & Christians,
Evangelical Alliance, The Nature of Hell (Acute 2000)
Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Crucified Jew (Harper Collins,1992)
Henry Hart Milman, The History of the Jews (Everyman, 1939)
John Romer, Testament (Michael O'Mara, 1988)
B. Metzger, M.l Coogan (Eds) The Oxford Companion to the Bible (OUP, 1993)
Leslie Houlden (Ed.), Judaism & Christianity (Routledge, 1988)
Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History (Morningstar
& Lark, 1995)
Norman Cantor, The Sacred Chain - A History of the Jews (Harper
Richard Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe (Harper Collins, 1997)
The Catholic Encyclopedia
Some fifty articles are now available as a book.
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by Kenneth Humphreys.
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