Saturday, December 21, 2013

Heresy and the Big Break-Up

Council of ClermontThe Story Thus Far: The Christian “Reconquista” movement against the Moorish occupation of the Iberian Peninsula and “Mad” Caliph al-Hakim bin-Amr Allah’s 1009 destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Islam-controlled Jerusalem finally directed the attention of mostly Christian Western Europe to the now-mostly Muslim Middle East 
The still-more-or-less-united Orthodox Church didn’t act immediately against the “infidel,” since it still had to convert and/or deal with non-Christians and “wrong” Christians, often violently. In Toulouse in 1022, it executed members of an originally Eastern European sect that had first appeared in the Limousinprovince of France between 1012 and 1020, a sect later popular enough to lead the 1028 Synod of Charroux (Vienne) to condemn it as heretical. They appear to have referred to themselves as the “pure ones” in Greek, a term later translated to “Cathars.”
However, a huge crisis was brewing between Rome, still capital (although basically in name only) of the mostly-defunct Western Roman Empire, and Constantinople, the capital of the surviving Eastern Roman Empire. I liken it to a marriage in which disagreements that had been boiling beneath the surface finally burst into the open. The irreconcilable doctrinal differences cited on both sides included the Filioque Controversy, East vs. West jurisdictional disputes, and dissent over liturgical practices like unleavened bread (originally a Jewish custom) at theEucharist.
As in an estranged marriage, the final blow-out fight began in 1053, when the Normans took and held Pope Leo IX prisoner in Benevento; under his influence, they started incorporating Latin/Western practices like the unleavened bread mentioned above. In retaliation, Patriarch Cerularius of Constantinople ordered the Latin churches in his city to follow Eastern/Byzantine practices; when they refused, he closed them down and issued a scathing letter to all Western bishops decrying these practices as “Judaistic” (too Jewish-y, basically).
The Western Archbishop Humbert of Mourmoutiers of Silva Candida carried the letter to Leo IX, who immediately ordered a reply responding to each charge and confirming Roman papal supremacy. He sent it with Humbert and two other papal legates to Constantinople in April 1054, where unhappy with their reception by Patriarch Cerularius, all three stormed out. Noting with rising anger that the legates had unsealed, tampered with, and replaced the pope’s letter with an earlier, less polite Greek draft for everyone to read, he let them cool their heels in the Byzantine capital, barely acknowledging their presence.
Even though Leo died on April 19 and with him the legates’ papal authority, on July 16 they laid abull of excommunication against the patriarch on the altar of the Hagia Sophia at high Mass and split for Rome two days later, leaving behind a city near chaos. Popular support heavily favored Cerularius, and so the bull was burnt and the three legates anathematized. Two separate Christian churches remained standing when the smoke from the Big Break-Up (theGreat or East-West Schism to historians) finally cleared: the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.
I can only imagine what a blow this must have been to those church leaders who had a vision of a world united under a single Christian banner (Eastern or Roman, take your pick). I wonder if the trauma of this religious divorce is what exacerbated the already-existent intolerance toward dissenting views within Christendom, because the Catholic Church in particular focused even more strongly on suppressing heresy. And there were those Muslims occupying its Holy Land to focus its frustration on as well…
The 1056 Synod of Toulouse further condemned the Cathar doctrine, and preachers flocked to the region to denounce it. In 1057, Norman Christian Robert Guiscard conquered and held traditionally Byzantine Calabria against the Sicilian Muslims. Roman Catholic Pope Alexander II took the time in 1063 to openly and officially bless the Iberian Christians in their “Reconquista.” And at 1071’s Battle of Manzikert the Byzantines lost most of Asia Minor to the Muslim Seljuqs.
This loss to Christendom in general may have prompted Byzantine Emperor Michael VII Ducas/Parapinakes to ask Pope Gregory VII for help against the Muslims in 1074. However, the Investiture Controversy intervened in 1075 to command Greg’s attention, and Europe found itself preoccupied with the issue of whether only the pope had the authority to appoint church officials, a right that secular leaders had been claiming for centuries past. This controversy lasted for several decades and eventually led to 50 years’ worth of civil war in Germany.
Islam once again commanded Europe’s attention in 1085, when the Christian kingdom of Leon in Spain seized the city of Toledo from the Moors, and ten years later in 1095, when Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus requested Pope Urban II’s aid in fighting the Muslims. The time had finally come for action against the unbelievers; at the Council of Clermont, before an assembly of clergy and secular leaders, Urban II called all Christians to a “holy war” vs. Islam:
Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor.
He concluded his call to action with the battle cry: “Deus vult (God wills it)!”
And the First Crusade was on.

Freedom of religion and speech is for everyone!

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Many of my readers will recognize the above words from the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. For those of you interested in reading an in depth analysis of this amendment in particular and its applicability to U.S. law and government there is some great information about it here. Note that this article refers particularly to the church in the U.S. only. I am not familiar with other countries and the extent of their religious oppression and suppression. 

One of the many things that I find quite disconcerting to the point of annoyance is the modern Christian movement claiming persecution in the U.S. by atheists. I am annoyed about this matter because I am an atheist and as a nonbeliever I think that theists as they often tend to do are misconstruing the facts. They are claiming that atheists have declared war on Christianity, that we are trying to eradicate their right to practice their religion and share their beliefs openly. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems that for the most part here in the U.S. theists believe as always under false assumptions, that this country was founded on Christian principles. Of course it was not, but it is because of this belief that theists claim the higher ground against any religion that is not Christian or any group that does not espouse and promote their beliefs. Christianity has often been defined as one of if not the most intolerant religion in the world. Their long and awful history obviously supports this claim. But they cannot be blamed entirely because they get these views from the Bible itself which supports an us against the world mentality. 

15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:15

4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. James 4:4

Finally, the apostle Paul speaking specifically to the church in Galatia in response to having heard that some had begun to stray from the beliefs that they had been taught by him alluded to the fact that there is no other gospel! 

8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Galatians 1:8-9

As you can see the church has always claimed to be the one and only absolute truth and God revealed religion from its inception. Today's theists are just carrying on the tradition by espousing the beliefs of their religions founders as outlined in their so called sacred text the Bible. These verses and many others clearly explain the us against them mentality inherent in those who espouse these beliefs. The various inquisitions and wars which the church later defined as pagan religions are the direct result of religious intolerance. The very accusations that the church makes against atheists is more fitting and true about them.

They want us to believe that atheists have nothing better to do than to attack their beliefs and false assumptions about this country's foundations. They call anyone who presents a belief contrary to theirs false and Satan inspired. They claim the right to freedom of speech and religion in this country for themselves, but they forget that these rights pertain to everyone. The first amendment was not speaking exclusively about Christianity. It was speaking about all religions and this includes the right to freedom from religion.

Religious beliefs and practices are a matter of ones personal acceptance of whatever beliefs  they choose to believe and follow. Religious beliefs are not meant to be forced down peoples throats nor using or implementing their majority status in a country as leverage to influence politics and legislation. We've already seen what happened when Rome made Christianity the state religion and it later became a theocracy. The founding fathers have learned from history and this is why the U.S. Constitution alludes to the separation of church and state. 

Contrary to what theists believe atheists have the right to defend their rights to freedom from religion. That is what we are defending and nothing more. We could care less if you believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But when you begin to force your beliefs on us and demand that we teach creationism in our tax supported public schools, allow for prayer in schools, make abortions illegal, ban stem cell research, ban gay marriage claiming that marriage is a Christian institution (another false assumption), then we have the right to oppose you. If anything, anyone who is not a Christian are the ones being persecuted and I mean by this everyone! 

Christians attack evolution, equality of rights for all, our own rights of freedom from religion and speech. Atheists are not the ones going door to door with pamphlets, or handing out tracts in every public street corner in America, or "preaching" our non-beliefs in public. Although if we did do any of these things, like believers we are within our constitutional rights to do so and are just as protected by that same first amendment in our Bill of Rights. 

The problem with Christianity is that they believe that since they are the largest religious organization in the world especially in the U.S. that they have the right to dictate what our states laws should be, who should be allowed to speak, and what religions should be accepted or denied. Anyone who tries to defend their right to practice another religion or as in the case of atheism no religion at all is declaring war on Christianity. In reality, this is nothing more than that same arrogant spirit of superiority that the church has had since its beginnings. But as of late they have changed their tactics to make them out to be the victims; every ones target of attack.

The Bible and fundamentalism itself are the cause of the churches ignorance of its own history or history in general. When it comes to their beliefs they practice cognitive dissonance better than anyone else. They ignore any facts that shed light on their primitive and outdated beliefs and take this as a direct attack on their institution! Unfortunately for them this is a country with laws and a melting pot of religions, cultures, and creeds. Although they may be the majority, it does not mean that they can ignore the Constitution and try to manipulate and influence our government to implement laws that will favor their beliefs. 

It's funny how Christians oppose government actions that do not favor their beliefs knowing full well that the Bible even demands that they submit and obey those same authorities and in fact pay taxes. It claims that those authorities are place there by God himself but I guess this is one of those passages that they choose to blatantly ignore. Like I always say Christians are for the most part nothing more than hypocrites.

1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Romans 13:1-7

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures. All other sources have been linked to in the text.