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CELTIC-L  May 1999

CELTIC-L May 1999

Subject:

Re: Onward Christian? soldiers

From:

"Mag.phil. Raimund Karl" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Mag.phil. Raimund Karl

Date:

Fri, 21 May 1999 10:08:04 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (404 lines)

Graeme Bailey wrote:

> Before fantasising on the fairies, Stonehenge, old poems, and dancing
> in the moonlight, my understanding is mixed with some caution
> that there is on record in these Celtic lands centuries of strife,
> mind-boggling years of war, cold, conquest, oppression, slavery,
> and the sheer harshness of man's inhumanity to man...

Which is, however, nothing exceptional in human history, christian or
not.

<snipped>
> This is the spread of Christianity among the pagans
> while the church was still young, before Constantine and his
> questionable life and methods, before the long philosophical
> speculations about how many Gods were involved, one or three...
> before the great schism... and the slide into the 'dark ages'

And how can you separate the chuirch before and after that periods? In
fact, the early christians were blamed by the Roman authorities to
sacrifice children, stir up revolution and so on... - all of this sounds
not so peaceful at all. Of course, you can claim that that's been only
propaganda by it's enemies, but why might not the same be true for pagan
cults, about which almost all we have is propaganda by their enemies?

<snipped>
> or before the church in Europe became involved in the politics
> of Europe or the messy and bloody business of keeping the
> moslems, Huns, Avars, Mongols etc out of *Ireland*

Actually you seem to have a pretty wrong picture about most of those
peoples, again taken from accounts of their enemies. Actually, as far as
one can say from the available material, in fact all those people and
religious groups you mention were, at the time of their advances into
europe, quite tolerant and openminded, as long as those they tried to
conquer didn't defend themselves. All of them, even the Muslims, allowed
their subjects to follow almost any religion they liked and killed only
those who offered resistance - christians, on the other hand, have a
long history of killing those they conquered because they had a
different religion or even only because they looked different, going as
far as that during the crusades they killed <emphasis> all <end
emphasis> the inhabitants of Jerusalem, christians, Jews and Arabs
alike, because the christians would go to heaven anyways, and the others
would burn in hell.
In the evidence we have, is the absolute fact that most of
Europe for one reason or another become Christian,
and the early stories show that mostly the conversion was
a peaceful process, in contrast to the moslem conquest...

> From the early church we have most of our evidence for
> what the pagans believed. Cutting down sacred Oaks,
> destroying idols, stopping animal and human sacrifices...

Actually, we have much more evidence what the various kinds of pagans
believed than what you present us here, even though most is from early
christian sources in fact. And these present us with much more than cut
down sacred trees, destroyed idols and stopped animal and human
sacrifices.

And, even more, what is bad in sacred oaks, idols of gods (you will find
plenty in all catholic churches, for instance!) or even animal or human
sacrifices? Today, a basically christian country like the United States
still commits criminals to capital punishment - which is nothing than
human sacrifice, to bring the criminal to a higher court, namely gods,
who will condemn the criminal, supposedly, to burn in hell eternally -
else it would be no punishment at all! So if the Celts did the same with
criminals, what's worse with that practive than the very christian
capital punishment of even today?

> It seems hard to separate the known history of the Gaels
> from the mostly Christian chroniclers and influences?
> Is it possible?

To a good deal, yes. And what we find out is that actually there's
little indication of mass human sacrifices in most pagan religions.

> Come on Raimund :-)
> I just meant that Christianity is just about *everywhere* on Earth...
> it has proven to be satisfying, logical and acceptable
> to most races, tribes and cultures, historical and contemporary...

I'm sorry, I don't get what that argument should say - the same is true
for all the world religions, and apparently, given the upsurge of
esoteric and neopagan belief system in most of the western world during
the last century or so, seems also to be quite true for those. So, do
you want to say that all religions, given the possibility to expand,
expand over most of the world and proove to be satisfying, logical and
acceptable to most people or what?

> If you read my messages, I have tried to explain coherently?
> that I believe it is the *written* word that keeps 'checks and balances'
> on religion...

I'm sorry, but absolutly the same is claimed by Jehova's witnesses, with
some of which I often have very interesting discussions about their
belief system, as it is by the Catholics, the Protestants, the Orthodox
christians and actually almost any other christian splitoff.

> ie renewed interest in the original greek manuscripts
> after the fall of Constantinople in 1452 led to 'protestantism'
> a good example of how the written word
> influenced people to action after realising
> that 'worldliness' has crept into the original doctrine...

Sorry, but this is a very doubtable analysis. And even more, if you look
at the early protestants, you will see that Calvin himself was
responsible for the first trial and burning of heretics in "his"
Protestant sect - hardly an indication that these groups are less prone
to killing for religious motives.

>>> Is this true? Do people kill as part of true Christian doctrine,
>>> or in spite of it?
>>
>> Depends upon what variant of christianity you follow. The crusaders
>> killed as part of the true christian doctrine at their time.
>
> Killing was *never* a part of 'true Christian Doctrine'.

As I said, this depends on what variant of christianity you follow. And
as the Old Testament is part of almost every christian group's bible,
killing <emphasis> is actually part of true christian doctrine <end
emphasis>. See the nice little stories in the old testament about
stoning people to death for various "crimes", as already quoted in my
other mail.

> Maybe you don't know?

I know pretty well. I have grown up as a catholic, have served as an
altar boy for over 15 years, was a good part of my early life very
active in the church and learned a lot there. Since I left church (and
with good reasons, you can believe me), I have been participating in a
religious discussion group where we have members of many faiths,
including Jehova's Witnesses, Catholics, Protestants, Muslim's,
Scientologists, Buddhists, practicing Magicians in the Crowley
Tradition, Neo-Pagans, Taoists, and some Agnostics like me. I'm
wellversed with what they tell about their respective belief systems,
and have read a lot of literature about it.

> Perhaps you should read all this stuff again with an open mind... ?

I've read that some times, in some differing translations, and with a
quite open mind. Actually, a lot of what's in it is quite nice, but you
can as easily find the opposite!

> You need to be fair in your criticism of Christianity...

I am fair, I am judging it by the fruits it has produced, and what I see
is mass murder, destruction, imperialism and opression for more than
1000 years! Tell me, what more should I need? I don't want to say that
the ideas of the person named Christ were a bad thing, but what has come
of it speaks a language of its own. Of course it is possible to corrupt
every ideology, but only few pagan ideologies seem to have produced such
violent and merciless results.

> I am not justifying the behaviour of the crusaders,
> but think of the moslem armed conquests, the invasion of Europe
> stopped by a confederation of tribes under Charles the Hammer in Southern
> France,the centuries of armed resistance in Spain and the Balkans,
> the devastation of North Africa and the Middle East,
> the invasion of Sicily and lower Italy,

Actually, at the times of that conquest, it probably was better to live
as a christian under Muslim rule (which was absolutely possible) than to
live in christian Europe. The Muslims commited much less atrocities and
had a much more tolerant worldview than it's contemporary christian
counterparts!

> even the sack of Rome by the Moslems,
> the slaughter of those whose refused to convert to Islam..

Sorry, when did this happen? You seem to be dreaming!

> In spite of all these things, I don't have anything but love
> for *all* people, moslems, Hindu or animist, as God himself does...
> it's what they *do* that can and must be judged right or wrong...

But why against Christian standards, why not against their own? This
implies an inherent superiority of christian ethics, which as such isn't
true if you don't subscribe to a christian belief system.

>> As much or not as those in christianity. There's no reason to assume
>> that one is superior to the other.
>
> I don't follow this reasoning... you are saying that paganism is
> not superior to Christianity, or vice versa?

Yes, you've got it!

> ie that they are morally the same?.

No, but that they operate under different moral systems, which however
cannot be classified as superior or not to one another. To classify
them, you would need to make moral judgements, that would nesessiate a
universally superior moral system, and this simply doesn't exist, or, to
put it that way, there exists no indication that such a universally
superior moral system exists.

> Surely then the extra benefits of Christianity should tip the balance
> in Christianity's favour?

Which extra benefits? I see none!

> ie some percentage of a nominally Christian population
> should actually hold to its principles, ie actually believe it and be
> a blessing to both friend and foe, ie perform good works, work
> for peace and harmony, literacy and education etc etc

Whereas Celtic population would try to uphold the social system, work
for the common good, keep up peace and order inside and keep up
education etc etc etc. There are not many differences in this, actually,
and actually, as history seems to document, the Celtic system worked
better, at least in regard to producing less violence on a grand scale.

Of course, all of this is still underlying a value judgement based on
your own (christian) moral concepts, if we would look at this applying a
pagan Celtic moral concept to it, it would as much tip the scales in
favour of Celtic paganism as Christian moral concepts do tip the scales
in favour of Christianity. This is nothing other than applying your own
bias to the material, not an openminded approach.
>
>> They were definitly neither secret nor shameful, at least if we can
>> reconstruct anything at least partly correct of pagan Celtic religion -
>> which we actually can.
>
> Didn't Caesar say that the Druids didn't put their religious beliefs
> down in writing?

So what? So seemingly they preferredoral tradition, what's the problem
with it?

> Weren't ceremonies held in dark groves and involved blood and death?

Weren't early christian ceremonies held in secret places and allegedly
involved blood and death? So early christian beliefs were shameful, I
suppose?

Even more, who says that blood and death are something bad per se? We
all feed on death, even strict vegetarians do so, so why should it be
bad to offer dead things or animals, or even humans (especially if they
are condemned criminals), to the gods? Only by applying biblical moral
concepts to this this is bad, but not a priori!

>> Didn't 'Runes' mean 'secret'?

Runes aren't Celtic!

> What of these 'gods'?
> Badb *war* goddess (In Gaul Cauth Bodva 'War fury')
<snipped a lot about wargods and similar>

So the Christian god does not strike down the enemies of his people? He
does not drown thousands of Egyptians in the Sea? He does not aid David
in his fight with Goliath? So ain't the Christian god a god of war as
well? Aren't, even today, the weapons of christian armies blessed by the
christian priests of the respective country?

> 'the Head of Bran' the decapitated 'wonderful' head of Bran...etc

Jesus Christ, who was killed and returned from the dead three days
after, stayed with his followers for a while and then was raised to
heaven?

Bran the Blessed, who had his comrades decapitate him after he had been
poisoned with deadly poison, the severed head which continued to live
and entertained his comrades for a while until he finally was buried in
teh middle of Britain to ward off all it's enemies?

Where is the great difference?

> I understood these Gods were placated with sacrifices?

Waht means they were placated? Does not the biblical God strike his own
people with death, plague, horrible enemies that attack them if they do
not placate him by presenting the correct sacrifices (bread and wine and
communion in christianity, varius offers in Judaism)? I'm sorry, but
where is the difference, except in the form of the offer?

>>> and that at an early time,before most of the written evidence, there was a
>>> distinct history of Christianity as a force opposing the Celtic idolatry...
>>> We have written evidence of this ...
>>
>> Do we?
>
> this quote from Patrick is an example of
> Patrick's Christian love opposed to paganism....
<snipped the quote>

But what does this tell us, other than that christianity worked activly
to destroy the pagan religion of Ireland? It still isn't superior
therefore, it only is different!

>> And why not, actually? If it is adopted for the modern situation, what's
>> wrong in praying to Lugh or the Dagda or the Morrigan or Boand? As long
>> as modern pagans don't sacrifice humans?
>
> Don't you see the dangers in awakening active participation in
> demonology?

What is demonology in it? What are demons? If you only for a second look
beyond your christian bias, why should the adoration of pagan gods be
demonology? Even more, are the other world religions demonology as well?

> At its worst, he people at Carthage
> ritually killed their own children at somewhere between 1 and 10 per week
> for a thousand years... the description we have was the children's
> head's were stroked to comfort them before throwing them in the fire...

a) what has Carthargo to do with Celtic paganism, and b) what sources do
you have that show that the above claim is right. I know nothing that
could be interpreted that way from the excavations at Carthargo!

> It's at least comforting that you don't agree that the modern
> 'pagan' should go that far, ie that these practices were evil and wrong?

No, I don't think that this practices were evil and wrong per se. I
personally am opposed to killing people, because I think that we have
better ways to solve our disputes, but if somebody tries to kill me I
still will defend myself and if necessary kill the attacker without
having any moral problems with it.

I also oppose capital punishment, but if a nation decides to allow it,
so be it, and if it is allowed, why not sacrificing those condemned
criminals to the gods instead of simply killing them? I see no
difference!

>> If they are happy with it, whyshould this be wrong?
>
> Raimund!!!!????

What's your problem with it?

>>> What of the documentary evidence that the Roman pagans wrote:
>>> that the Christians were shaming them by doing good works, looking after
>>> widows, feeding the poor, and burying the dead  etc...
>>
>> This would interest me, too. I've never heard of anything like this. In
>> what sources is this in?
<snipped the quotes>
And are these Christian sources or idependent sources?

>> Like which? I know of not a single pagan group that did what you
>> describe here.
>
> Black Huns? White Huns? Avars? Magyars? Petchenegs? Cumans?
> Hsiung Nu? Genghis Khan? Timur Leng?

I'm sorry, but no. None of them did destroy those for of love for
destruction as far as we can say, or even less because they were
commanded to do this by their religion, but as acts of war. The same and
much worse things apply to wars fought by christians. As such, if you do
ascibe these acts to their pagan religion, you have to do the same for
Christianity with the atrocities commited by it's followers, in the case
of christianity even in it's name!

> Talking about wholesale murder, Julius Caesar did a pretty good
> job of genocide when he felt like it (the Veneti for example? )
> And the Vandals got themselves a lasting reputation :-)

Yes, but again, he did not do this because his pagan religion or it's
clerus commanded him to do so, but for practical political reasons. As
such, Casear is a pretty good example as to why Christianity seems to
have behaved much worse in that regard than pagan religions usually have
done!

And actually, the Vandals did nothing especially bad - read some serious
literature about them and don't believe the horror stories ascribed to
them!

>> So why do you think that the atrocities commited by pagans were
>> requirements of their religious systems? That they did not commit such
>> atrocities in spite of their religions, like you claim to be true for
>> the christian faith? I really don't see the logic behind your argument!
><...>
>
> My point was that most pagan societies *glorified* war,
> whereas Christianity is a force for love, peace and forgiveness...

Actually, there's little indication that most pagan societies glorified
war - it rather seems as if to most pagan societies, war was seen as
something that happened sometimes, a force not uncommon in the human
world, and therefore had a deity or deities covering that aspect of
human life. They glorified it no more or less than Christianity did
during most of it's history, from at least the Dark Ages onwards up to
the last or even this century. Thus, again, I can see little if any
difference!

RAY
________________________________________________________________________

RAY - Mag.phil. Raimund KARL
Universität Wien, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte
A-1190 Wien, Franz Klein Gasse 1
E-Mail: <[log in to unmask]>
Internet: <http://www.unet.univie.ac.at/~a8700035>
________________________________________________________________________

Visit the Celtic-L Resources Page at
<http://www.unet.univie.ac.at/~a8700035/celtrese.html>
________________________________________________________________________

Privat: A-1120 Wien, Hasenhutgasse 7-11/9/4
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