69 million page views

Monotheism's structural intolerance

Reader comment on item: Britain's Encounter with Islamic Law
in response to reader comment: Ianus: Hellenism is not only reflected in modern Judeo-Christian ideology, it was preserved by it.

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Mar 12, 2008 at 15:09

Dear Friend,

I hesitated to answer your post for a few days. As you will see perhaps I shouldn't have written it at all. I do respect you and your beliefs and I have not the slightest doubts as to your noble intentions and I admit I am a bit flattered by your all too kind words about me. And above all I am aware that both you and I and many others like us are sitting in the same trenches in this war on barbarian Islam.

We are fighting shoulder in shoulder daily this implacable enemy of both me and you. For these reasons I find it highly unadvisable to bring in anything that might produce quarrels, disputes, feuds, disrupt our common front, lead to mutinies and thus objectively assist the Moslem hordes at this critical moment in humanity's history. Yet still on second thoughts Aristotle's phrase came to my mind : 'Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas'.

So let me just point to a few issues that I deem are not duly elucidated or touched upon by you and then add something more. First, I don't understand how you or anyone else can reconcile the contradiction between monotheism and polytheism which is in principle an irreconcilable antithesis? You can't ride simulatneously both of these horses try as you may. You either believe in (Hellenic) gods or in the egoistic solipsist Jehova who tolerates no other gods.

A third possibility is not given. A ‘pagan' used to say "There are many gods and so accepting one more makes no difference. There is enough room in the pantheon for many a Jehova or even many a Jesus". A Judaeo-Christian used to reply angrily: "There is only Jehova =Jesus. No other gods exist or even have a right to exist next to him". Or why did Moses massacre the Jewish worshippers of the ‘golden calf' after descending from Mount Sinai? Out of tolerance? Let me quote Schopenhauer : "Indeed, intolerance is essential only to monotheism; an only God is by nature a jealous God who will not allow another to live.

On the other hand, polytheistic gods are naturally tolerant; they live and let live. ... Thus it is only the monotheistic religions that furnish us with the spectacle of religious wars, religious persecutions, courts for trying heretics, and also with that of iconoclasm, the destruction of the images of foreign gods, the demolition of Indian temples and Egyptian colossi that had looked at the sun for three thousand years. ... " (On religion) This is a fatal, yet inescapable structural flaw of all monotheism.

From what you have written I have concluded that you try to circumvent it instead of formulating it explicitly. Circumventing a problem , popular as it nowadays is, produces however only more problems leaving besides a feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction in those affected by the problem. I know it's hard for a modern man to admit that in the conflict between monotheism and polytheism there are just two solutions - the elimination of either polytheism (as so successfully carried out in the later Roman Empire and Medieval Europe by Christian monotheism) or of monotheism. Atheism as the elimination of both would be a third radical solution. Definitely, it wouldn't reconcile the two. Again , does ‘Modern Judeo-Christian thought' amount to monotheism?

If it doesn't, then it is no longer Judeo-Christian (=monotheistic). And if does, then your statement is logically inconsistent, as Hellenism is by nature polytheistic. Or can you image the miracle of Greek mythology revolving around Jehova the solipsist God? Shall I repeat why I read the Bible as such a tedious and unimaginative book? It's because of its monomania, its obsession with the ‘only god' who makes everything in his (primitive and dull) image.

I also see it as the main reason why the ancient Jews were incapapble of creating any science and philosophy. The poison of monotheism distorted their minds and their culture that had sunk to the level of barren unverifiable dogmatism and horrifying fanatism which eventually gave rise to Christianity and later to that heidous monster called Islam – a Frankensteinian hybrid between Jewish monotheism and Arab tribalism.

The same grave logical problems are raised by your statement: < I'd even go so far as to state that modern Judeo-Christian thought incorporates echoes of the Rig Veda, and the Upanishads, and Hellenism, and Sumerism, and the Scottish Kirks, and many other valuable and distinctly non-Biblical ways of believing and understanding, and that this eclecticism has been continuously evolving since long before the time of Jesus of Nazareth.> One might ask cynically: "What use do Hinduism, Hellenism, ancient Sumerian mythology have for Christianity at all? Would they or could they ever treat Christianity as they were treated by Christianity ?"

Most important spiritual things were invented long before Christianity and they do stand on their own legs without those crutches willingly provided by the Christians. And what is worse, reading those things through the Christian mirror badly distorts them as they do not stem from where Christianity comes from - monotheism.

And again, how can one believe in ‘the only god'(Jehova) and be sincere about incorporating all those polytheisms into one's thought ? What principles do you apply? Yours or the polytheists'? Isn't it as if a Christian master employed servants of different denominations to prove Schopenhauer was wrong about monotheism's structural intolerance? These things do occur. However, if you want to preserve the identity of Judaeo-Christian monotheism, you can't sensefully borrow at will. The principle of contradiction is a powerful obstacle that checks and entangles you. < I also believe that there can be an independent or parallel evolution of the same ideas, ideas that pop up here and there in time/space, even though there is no apparent connection that can be traced historically, and this is encouraged or discouraged to different extents by different religions.> Sure, these things do happen. You will be surprised to see in ancient India and China similar philosophical doctrines and schools evolved – scepticism, empiricism, materialism, hedonism, atheism etc. etc..

The only problem is that these schools never gained any social ackonwledgement due either to the tyranny of the Brahmin caste in one case or the hyperbureaucracy and its cult of the ancestors in the other. Only in Greece they were given a fair chance and as long as their environment wasn't poisoned by Oriental monotheism and its structural intolerance things were operating in favour of human progress. Science and philosophy were invented and developed. Athens was the intellectual capital of the world ...until Justinian decided in 529 to shut down the last intellectual refuge of free thought to impose his monopolistic enterprise of dogmatism in Constantinople on everybody.

The end of the Platonic Academy is for me one of the most decisive turning points in the history of Europe, perhaps even more decisive than the fall of the Western part of the empire some 50 years before. Christianity did something worse than that, dear friend. It actually exterminated Hellenism when it was still alive. Then it villified its dead victim. Do you know that for a thousand years "Hellene" meant in Byzantine Greek "pagan" and "Hellenism"was a term of abuse meaning "paganism", "heathen enormity". It was only in the 14th century when this Christian empire was experiencing an accelerated decline and the monstrosity of Turkish Islam that the Greeks realized where they had really come from. They restored the modern meaning of this word.

The greatest intellectual of that time Georgos Gemistos Plethon at the end of his life wrote a book called "nomwn syngrafi" "The composition of laws" where he drew the logical conclusion from Christianity's allegedly glorious and really inglorious history. To regain their former power he proposed the Greeks should reject Christianity for ever as a harmful and un-Hellenic doctrine and a cause of their spiritual and political decline and adopt again the ancient Olympian gods and Platonic ethics...Do I have to add that his book was duly burnt by the ‘meek' followers of Jesus Christ ? Finally, let me briefly outline how Christianity dealt with its benefactor – polytheism which paved intolerant Christianity the way to its spiritual dictatorship over the Roman Empire. Christianity needed just 300 years to evolve from a religion of the persecuted group into the religion of the worst persecutors.

Paganism over millenia had not experienced such an evolution. Christianity has lamented and wailed over few and disconnected ‘Christian persecutions" by bad pagans but it is eloquently silent on the brutal and uninterrupted persecutions it conducted to eradicate polytheism once it came to power. And where the alleged inhumane and all-powerful "pagans" (another monstrous word of abuse invented by the self-righteous Christians to denigrate their adversaries without giving them any fair chance to defend themselves) somewhow bungled and failed, the ‘meek and weak' Christians within a few generations did an incredibly successful job of exterminanting a world-view which needed millenia to form and which directly contributed to the greatest achievements in the history of human mind.

It all started with an inncoent decree of Milan issued in 313 by Constantine I and Licinius guaranteeing in fact equality of worship to all(!). But it soon turned out that one form of worship was somehow more equal than all others. So Constantine's successors on pain of death forbade pagan sacrifices and worship of statues and decreed forced closure of temples. The properties of the temples were confiscated , the cult places were systematically harassed, desecrated and destroyed or taken by the Christians and various laws invented to make life for ‘pagans' impossible. A pagan couldn't have Christian servants, a pagan cenurio couldn't command Christian soldiers, a pagan could hold no public office. In case of a conflict between a pagan and a Christian , euqality of law didn't apply at all. Codex Thodosianus and Codex Iustinianus abound in ingenious laws aimed at exterminating the ‘pagan enormity' ... on moral grounds of course.

The ‘pagans' were invariably described as ‘evil', ‘hateful', ‘wicked', ‘conceited', ‘insane' etc. etc. etc. The ancient ‘pagan' religion had divination at its core, so continued prohibitions, systematic terror and trials against ‘magicians' served to effectively paralise ‘paganism'. Emperor Gratian withdrew all public subsidies for the Roman cult costs, cancelled the immunity of pagan priests and confiscated the revenues of pagan temples, among them the revenues of the Vestal Virgins.

With the arch-Christian Emperor Theodsius I came the prolonged agony for badly persecuted and defenceless ‘paganism'. All polytheistic practices were strictly banned and prohibitions were meant for universal application. Whoever didn't obey the Jesus-inspired laws was tortured and put to death. The magistrates that showed too little zeal were punished as equally guilty as well. At the same time severe laws were issued to discourge apostates – persons disappointed with Christians' self-proclaimed excellency and their daily dirty tricks and reverted to old ‘paganism'.

Who knows what Christianity's history would have looked like if those people, courageous enough to speak their mind and act, had not been brutally silenced, intimidated, denigrated publically and executed, their property confiscated their family driven to poverty by those too powerful fanatics in Constantinople instigated by a clique of cunning ‘saints' and all other preachers of the ‘true religion' in its 'true sect' ? At the end to just illustrate what sort of enemy paganism faced on its death bed let me quote from Codex Theodosianus . 3.8 "De iudaeis, samaritanis, haereticis et paganis. http://ancientrome.ru/ius/library/novella/theod.htm#3 "Hence our clemency perceives the need of keeping watch over the pagans and their heathen enormities, since by natural depravity and stubborn lawlessness, they forsake the path of true religion .

They disdain it in any way to perform the nefarious rites of sacrifice and persevere in the false errors of their baleful superstition by some means or other in the hidden solitudes, unless their crimes are made public by the profession of their crimes to insult divine majesty and to show scorn to our age. Not the thousand terrors of laws already promulgated nor the penalty of exile pronounced upon them deter these men, whereby, if they cannot reform, at least they might learn to abstain from the mass of their crimes and the multitude of their sacrifices. But their insane audacity transgresses constinually; our patience is exhausted by their wicked behaviour so that even if we desired to forget them, we could not disregard them. Although in view of that our beloved religion can never be quite secure, although the pagan insanity requires the utmost severity of all possible tortures and punishments, yet bearing in mind our innate clemency we have decreed that whoever - polluted and depraved by dirty thoughts - is caught performing pagan rituals in whatever place, will pay with his blood and his confiscated property for the wrath he has provoked in us. It is much better to sacrifice such a victim than risk the peace of the altar of Christianity ."

With best regards, Ianus


Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

Comment on this item

Mark my comment as a response to Monotheism's structural intolerance by Ianus

Email me if someone replies to my comment

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

See recent outstanding comments.

Follow Daniel Pipes

Facebook   Twitter   RSS   Join Mailing List
eXTReMe Tracker

All materials by Daniel Pipes on this site: © 1968-2020 Daniel Pipes. daniel.pipes@gmail.com and @DanielPipes

Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum.Daniel J. Pipes

(The MEF is a publicly supported, nonprofit organization under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Contributions are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. Tax-ID 23-774-9796, approved Apr. 27, 1998.

For more information, view our IRS letter of determination.)