Christianism ("Christianity"), Etc.

How the Irish Saved Civilization


from: How the Irish Saved Civilization The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe, Thomas Cahill, Doubleday, 1995.

"Thomas Cahill studied at New York's Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University, and Fordham University with some of America's most distinguished literary and biblical scholars. He founded The Cahill and Company Catalogue, much beloved by book readers, and is now director of religious publishing at Doubleday."
[dust jacket].

'Though his effete contemporaries compared Ausonius [c. 310 - c. 395] to Virgil [70 - 19 B.C.E.] and Cicero [106 - 43 B.C.E.], practically all others have found themselves in agreement with the robust opinion of Gibbon [1737 - 1794]: "The poetical fame of Ausonius condemns the taste of his age."

How could a grown man have spent so much time so foolishly? Well, it's what everyone else was doing. This is a static world. Civilized life, like the cultivation of Ausonius's magnificent Bordeaux vineyards, lies in doing well what has been done before. Doing the expected is the highest value--and the second highest is like it: receiving the appropriate admiration of one's peers for doing it.

Though Ausonius is a Christian convert, as his "Oratio" shows, HIS CHRISTIANITY IS A CLOAK TO BE DONNED AND REMOVED, AS NEEDED. IT WAS, no doubt, WHAT EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING.' [21].

[Comment: CHRISTIANISM ("CHRISTIANITY") (WAS) IS COMMONLY (much more importantly than the piety) SITUATIONAL POLITICS ["EXISTENTIAL CANNIBALISM", ETC.!]! "A CLOAK TO BE DONNED AND REMOVED, AS NEEDED."]. [See: #2, 29 ("duplicity"; "feigners"), 36 ("complicity"); #7, 190 ("Imperialism"); etc.].

"Cicero [106 - 43 B.C.E.], born in the century before Christ, exercised his techniques when republican Rome, in all its vigor, welcomed public men. Augustine [354 - 430] loved Cicero [see #2, 19], as did the whole Latin world, which placed the Roman orator just below Virgil on the divinity charts. (Jerome [c. 342 - 420], the cantankerous translator of the Latin Bible, awoke one night in a frenzied sweat: he had dreamed that Christ had condemned him to hell for being more a Ciceronian than a Christian.) The ancients held the practical use of words in much higher regard than we do, probably because they were much closer to the oral customs of prehistoric village life--so clearly reflected in Nestor's speech to the Greek chieftains in the Illiad [ascribed to Homer (8th century B.C.E.)] and in Mark Antony's [c. 83 - 30 B.C.E.] speech over Julius Caesar's [100 or 102 - 44 B.C.E.] body--in which the fate of an entire race may hang on one man's words." [47].

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"Though it would be cynical and ahistorical to conclude that conversions to Christianity in late antiquity were made only for the sake of political advancement or social convenience, it would be naive to imagine that Christianity swept the empire only because of its evident spiritual superiority. Certainly, the [those!] Christians of the first three centuries, whose adherence to Christianity could easily prove their death warrant, were devout and extraordinary. But FROM THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE [Emperor 306 (312) - 337], THE VAST MAJORITY OF CHRISTIAN CONVERTS WERE FAIRLY SUPERFICIAL PEOPLE. Despite Augustine's enormous influence on subsequent history, the bland, detached, calculating Ausonius was a far more typical Christian of the late empire than was the earnest bishop of Hippo [Augustine]." [125-126].

'The first three public libraries had been established at Rome under the reign of Augustus [1st Roman Emperor: 27 B.C.E. - 14 C.E. (63 B.C.E. - 14 C.E.)], and by the time of Constantine there were twenty-eight. By the end of the fourth century, if we are to believe one writer, Ammianus Marcellinus [c. 330 - 395], who may be indulging in hyperbole, "Bibliotecis sepulcrorum ritu in perpetuum clausis" ("The libraries, like tombs, were closed forever"). By the end of the fifth century, at any rate, the profession of copyist had pretty much disappeared, and what books were copied were copied personally by the last literate nobles for their own dwindling libraries. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory established a kind of library at Rome. Gregory, the most towering continental figure of his time and rightly called "the Great," took as dim a view of the pagan classics as Aldhelm [c. 639 - 709 (West Saxon abbot of Malmesbury)], and could read no Greek. His library was a poor one. Even so, the RESENTFUL; illiterate mob tried to destroy its few books during a famine, for by now the Catholic bishops had become like islands in a barbarian sea....' [181-183].

'The casual Roman attitude toward well illustrated by the famous anecdote about Pope Gregory the Great's [c. 540 - 604 (Pope 590 - 604)] first encounter with Englishmen. He notices them on sale while passing through the Roman market and, taken by their blond beauty, asks what manner of men they are. "Angli" (Angles or Englishmen), comes the reply. Witty Gregory indulges himself in a pun, saying they are aptly named for they look like angeli, angels. He goes on to make two more puns and resolves to see that the English are evangelized. But he leaves the captives to be sold.' [199].

    Excursus: from: UCSF [University of California, San Francisco] Magazine, April 1999, a history of Mission Bay [now, an area of San Francisco, California] walking on water, by Nancy Olmsted, 26:

    [drawing of 5 Indians] 'In 1816, when world traveler Louis Chorls drew these Mission converts, he wrote, "I have never seen one laugh. I have never seen one look one in the face. They look as though they are interested in nothing." By 1816 this was true.'

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    '....At this place [now, Mission Bay area, San Francisco, California] among the violets and manzanita, the Spanish padres built their Mission Dolores in 1775. They came to teach these village [indigenous] people to weave blankets, grow maize and be SAVED FROM THE FIRES OF HELL. Mission baptismal certificates list, 6,316 converts in the first decade, but by 1826 only 200 individuals had survived the white man's diseases. [see: Appendix III, 717]

    In 1850 Pedro Alcantara, born in 1786, spoke of his people, "I am a Christian Indian, I am all that is left...I am alone. I do not complain, the antelope falls with the arrow."'

    "Historical photos, illustrations and maps courtesy of the Bancroft Library"

    [Comment: classic story (a native speaking): "When you came, we had the land, and you had the Bible! Now, you have the land, and we have the Bible!"]. [source?].

'As we, the people of the First World, the Romans of the twentieth century, look out across our Earth, we see some signs for hope, many more for despair. Technology proceeds apace, delivering the marvels that knit our world together--the conquering of diseases that plagued every age but ours and the consequent lowering of mortality rates, revolutions in crop yields that continue to feed expanding populations, the contemplated "information highway" that will soon enable all of us to retrieve information and communicate with one another in ways so instant and complete that they would dazzle those who built the Roman roads, the first great information system.

But that road system became impassable rubble, as the empire was overwhelmed by POPULATION EXPLOSIONS beyond its borders. So will ours. Rome's demise instructs us in what inevitably happens when impoverished and rapidly expanding populations, whose ways and values are only dimly understood, press up against a rich and ordered society. More than a billion people in our world today survive on less than $370 a year, while Americans, who constitute five percent of the world's population, purchase fifty percent of its cocaine. IF THE WORLD'S POPULATION, WHICH HAS DOUBLED IN OUR LIFETIME, DOUBLES AGAIN BY THE MIDDLE OF THE NEXT CENTURY, HOW COULD ANYONE HOPE TO ESCAPE THE CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES--THE WRATH TO COME? But we turn our backs on such unpleasantness and contemplate the happier prospects of our technological dreams....' [216-217].

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