The discussion of religion has come back around recently, with two posts making some rather faulty arguments. First, we had a post from JLK, which suggested that the concept of the soul was a "Judeo-Christian" one that had been foisted upon Whites. Then Cui Pertinebit sets JLK straight: far from being a Jewish idea, the concept of a soul which exists beyond the body is not only much older than Judaism or Christianity but is more or less universal.
Cui Pertinebit explains that the pre-Christian traditions of the Germans, the Greeks, the Indians, and numerous other peoples had an understanding of the soul, and that the Church appropriated such an understanding from the Classical tradition of the Greco-Roman world. This is entirely correct.
But this is not his only argument. He goes on to explain that the Church united the factually correct narrative about God which comes from the Jews with the more philosophically intelligent narrative of the Greeks. Thus the Christian faith is the synthesis of Hebrew revelation and Hellenic philosophy. The former results from God having chosen the Jews, not because of their virtue but—quite the contrary—because He wished to make His Grace that much more evident; the latter results from His having wanted to offer the gentiles a praeparatio evangelica, a preparation for the Gospel.
This is a typical view, in my experience, among well-read Christians: the Church took the best of both Jewish monotheism and European paganism, forming the optimal combination for both saving souls and bringing Europe into a new stage in its development of civilization. Unfortunately, this viewdepends on the denial or ignorance of some very important parts of Christian history.
It's easy now to look back and figure that our pagan ancestors must have gotten a few things right; after all, the Church did make use of Plato and Aristotle—and hey, maybe their temples were kinda cool. But when Christianity was first being adopted by gentiles, the prevailing attitude was quite different. Firmicus Maternus, writing in 346, gives us a good picture of the mood that was in the air at the time. Ramsay MacMullen quotes him in Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries:
"Abolish! abolish in confidence, most holy emperors, the ornaments of temples. . . . Upon You, most holy emperors, necessity enjoins the avenging and punishing of this evil, . . . so that Your Severities persecute root and branch, omnifariam, the crime of idol worship. Harken and impress upon Your sacred minds what God commands us regarding this crime" (and he goes on to work up Deut. 13.6-9, "If thy brother, son, daughter, or wife entice thee secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods,' . . . thou shal[t] surely kill" them).
This is by no means atypical. A supposed saint, Benedict, in 529 (the same year Justinian forcibly closed the Athenian school of philosophy), demolished a temple of Apollo on Monte Cassino and made it into a monastery. According to G.G. Coulton in Five Centuries of Religion, Vol. 1, he "shattered the idol, cast down the altar, and burned down the sacred grove in which the people had 'sweated in their sacrilegious sacrifices' from time immemorial."
So much for tradition. Ram Swarup, in his Hindu-Buddhist Rejoinder to Pope John Paul II on Eastern Religions and Yoga, cites yet another example:
Nine hundred years after [Benedict], St. Xavier, Apostle of the East, is doing the same in India. He tells us how he "ordered that everywhere the temples of the false gods be pulled down and idols broken", and when it was done, he "knows not how to describe the joy" he feels at this spectacle.
But what about the philosophers? The Church at least had respect for the wisdom such men had, right? Here's Augustine in On Christian Doctrine, Book II, Chapter 40, talking about the Church's appropriation of pagan philosophy:
Moreover, if those who are called philosophers, and especially the Platonists, have said aught that is true and in harmony with our faith, we are not only not to shrink from it, but to claim it for our own use from those who have unlawful possession of it. For, as the Egyptians had not only the idols and heavy burdens which the people of Israel hated and fled from, but also vessels and ornaments of gold and silver, and garments, which the same people when going out of Egypt appropriated to themselves, designing them for a better use, not doing this on their own authority, but by the command of God, the Egyptians themselves, in their ignorance, providing them with things which they themselves were not making a good use of[.]
That's right: not only did the Jews have the right to steal Egyptian silverware, but Christians have the right to make use of pagan philosophy while denying any validity to the religious narratives and communities that gave it birth. This, because the pagans are "in unlawful possession" of their own sacred knowledge. Does this sound like a holy man, or a hubristic liar who uses the supposed will of God to justify his lust for taking things that don't belong to him?
You will note that pre-Christian peoples did not go to war to completely exterminate each others' religious practices or condemn their gods as "false". Ancient peoples certainly made fun of each other's differences, and Rome notably banned certain cults for being potentially seditious. They also wiped out the Druids in their conquest of Gaul and Britain, an action I find personally revolting. But at no point, until the coming of Christianity, did they ever declare other peoples to be "apostates from the true god," seeking to annihilate their entire religion in the name of spreading a universal orthodoxy.
After centuries of this homicidal hatred, we now see a suicidal unwillingness to defend the Westerners who sustained the Church and spread its doctrines. Those who wish to go back to an "unpozzed" Christianity should take a good hard look at what the Islamic State has been doing in Palmyra and Nineveh. Was that honorable, godly behavior? or was it exemplary of just one more Jewish cult that couldn't abide the outside?
Now it should be said that this does nothing to diminish the uplifting quality of a good liturgy. If you go to Mass and that's your thing, I cannot in good conscience simply tell you to stop going. Whatever the intentions of its Jewish founders, Christianity today has indeed accumulated many native European elements, and for better or for worse, Europe was more or less synonymous with Christendom for over a thousand years. That part of our history is over, but we can't forget it, and we can't undo it. What we can do, however, is learn from it.