Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Papal Rome

Is religion bunk?  Case of Byzantium Empire; (Apr. 18, 2010)

I read a couple of days ago the history of the Byzantium Empire and the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

This historical account of the rise and demise of a “Christian” Empire got me into thinking about this ridiculous infighting based on religious dogma.

I learned that the emperors of the Byzantium Empire were relegated to vassals to the Ottoman Sultans since 1350.  The Byzantine Emperor paid tribute and could be summoned anytime to join the Ottoman Sultan in military campaigns against “Christian” regions and cities.

Many Byzantine Emperors travelled to Europe and extended their stay for years drumming up support for the Empire in the Orient and were turned down for discordance on religious dogmatic positions.

The Catholic Church based in Rome demanded first the unification of the Catholic and Orthodox sects before financial or military support are extended to Constantinople.   For example, the Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople came up with a consensus stating that the two natures of Christ share a common energy. Papal Rome refused this gimmick.

The Orthodox Church offered another alternative “The two natures of Christ share common will” and this proposition didn’t fly well.

The orthodox Church came back with this idea “The Holy Ghost emanates from God through his son Jesus“; Papal Rome insisted that this ghost emanates from the father And the son…

Irrelevant divergences that had nothing to do with religion but political power and dominion.  The two sects agreed on the message of Jesus and that he resurrected; then what is all this fuss about?

Actually, Constantinople was basically reduced to a City State since 1350: the Ottoman Sultans had conquered Serbia, Bulgaria, and Albania, and the northern regions of Greece.  Constantinople managed to survive and sustain 4 sieges simply because the Ottoman Sultans had not yet built a naval power to block the maritime entrance in the Golden Horn estuary for supplies.

The wealthy maritime powers of the City Republics of Venice and Genoa were at war most the 14th century: When Venice came to the rescue for a price, Genoa plotted to deprive Venice from any concessions by using and abusing of contending Emperors in Constantinople.

In 1402, Constantinople had an extension on its life because the Mogul Tamerlane (Timor Lank) of Samarkand had defeated the Ottoman army and cut it to pieces.  Otherwise, the Ottoman Sultans could easily conquer most of Europe, including Italy 50 years earlier.

By 1450, Constantinople had barely 50,000 inhabitants and 7,000 valid individuals to defending the city walls extending to 22 kilometers.  The plague had stricken several times and prosperous merchants had immigrated to southern Greece.

Religion is not even an ideology: it just permeates all aspects of life and is a prime factor in political problems.

Political professionals use and abuse of religious inclinations as a cover to mobilize energies for exercising extensive power.

What variants of democratic systems managed to do was to establish institutions and laws that counter, prohibit, and occasionally punish political professionals and civil administrators from using religion for State interests and programs.

Nietzsche wrote: “God is dead but mankind is always locating God’s Shadows in caverns. Mankind has still got to vanquish the Shadows.

Religion potency is that it survives and is implicit in political programs:  religion is used as the omnipresent symbol for any kinds of changes or the continuation of statue quos.

Although science in modern time has somewhat supplanted religious dogmas, even the rational scientists are profoundly contaminated by religion in many aspects of their research.  Faith is still a catalyst to rational understanding and frequently the engine for reasoning.

Scientists thrive to homogenize their theories (as religion does) and impose concepts by consensus until a few bold minds disturb the consensus (paradigm shift).

So far, science has prolonged the period of mankind ignorance because it refuses to be based on relevant cultural meaning:  Science is neutral! Maybe this void of cultural basis in science is mainly the consequences that modern scientists are no “Renaissance Men” and lack essential human knowledge to communicate and interact with common people.

Fact is, most researches are financed by institutions with explicit purposes and implicit ideologies.

Is religion bunk?

Religion impresses kids and the elderly. Kids are ignorant and elderly are eternally scared of the next eternal unknown.

It is better for kids to learn and be instructed on the UN Charter with all its supra-laws corresponding to all kinds of human rights.

As for the elderly, it is good to remind them of the dictum of US diplomats: “When dealing with the US institutions then you better not put all your eggs in one basket”.

I suggest to the elderly and terminally ills not to put all their eggs in a single religious dogma.

Modern Europe re-defines Christianity; (Nov. 5, 2009)

A few years ago, the European Parliament was considering attaching a clause in the Constitution that Christianity is the foundation of Europe’s civilization. It didn’t pass and Europe saved its modern identity as promoter of human rights and human dignity. How could a religion (one of the many in Europe), one of the various attributes in the vast matrix of a civilization be the exclusive characteristics of Europe?  Europe is a heterogeneous society of Nordic, Slavic, and Mediterranean climate and cultures and was dominated intermittently by several Empires.

Modern Europe has extended to its citizens a minimum of human rights.  This respect to human dignity was not the case until late in the 20th century.  Respect of man did not evolve historically as a continuum but in bounds. Retrospective historical studies tend to discover just the illusion of human respect for rights and dignity.

Europeans claiming Christianity to be the foundation for Europe’s new trend for “mercy, forgiveness, and kindness” (trying to attach these attribute to Europeans) forget that for many centuries the strongest faith in Europe was the taste for violence such as in the Inquisition, the chasing out of the Moslems and Jews from Spain, the Crusading campaigns, the conquest of overseas lands with the benediction of Papal Rome, the division of the conquered lands among the European monarchs by Papal decrees, the religious mass massacres among the Christian sects and factions with Papal consent, the so many wars in Europe where the Catholic Church was an integral party, and the worst of all the Dark Age in Europe that lasted from 400 to the 15th century because the central religious power in Rome was apprehensive of rational thinking and forbade the influx of scientific works that might rob it of its temporal power.

There are Europeans claiming that it was Christianity that set the foundation of the individualistic character in Europe, a non-conformist attitude to the collective norms, rituals, and traditions, the will for self-realization rather than clinging to the behavior of rank and file; these chauvinistic Europeans are also relying on entrenched illusions.  The Christian Church was the personification of harassing free thinkers and burning who defied the Christian central dogma for many centuries. Once baptized as a Christian at birth, you had no other alternatives but to obey the Christian laws.  Christianity was the most exclusive religion among all religions:  It coerced colonized people by force into Christianity.  As “Saint” Augustine wrote “It does not matter the faith of a new convert; what counts is what time and rituals will produce in the long run on him and his descendents.”  This is exactly the tactics of western globalization “Promote the consumerism of technological gadgets and the world will acquire faith in the superiority of western civilization”

It is paganism that disseminated liberal thinking of individuality.  A pagan could worship any other idol in foreign lands (with different name but with the same potency in his mind) and he was never persecuted. A pagan could switch idols that suited his interest of the period and his community would not persecute him or ex-communicate him on his God’s preferences.

The modern principle of universality (which means that individuals of all genders, races, colors, and origins have the same mental potentials and capabilities as human and that the differences reside in societies) was never a Christian dogma. Christianity never had this meaning of universality in its dictionary of laws; a slave was a slave by birth and should accept his condition and offers his miseries and plights as sacrifices to God Jesus who suffered for the entire humanity and forgiveness of the “original sin” that never existed. The discovery by the Europeans of the universality of mankind was due to the de-colonization process, an implicit discourse on the role of society during the 20th century.

How could equality and fraternity have emerged from Christianity in order to claim that Europe’s roots are Christian? Lactance in 314 wrote “People are born equal. In societies where people are not considered equal then justice is not served.  Yes, within the Christian communities there are rich and poor, masters and slaves by the flesh but they are equal in the spirit.”  How sweet! Lactance was repeating St. Paul’s ejaculation that added oil to the machinery of the caste system. Gregory “the Great” considered charity what was offered to nobles reduced to poverty because of the huge suffering they felt of being considered within the rank of the poor classes; thus, the true poor people by birth were so used to their way of life that they didn’t need much charity to survive.

The Western Christian Churches (Catholic and Protestants) supported and maintained the caste system of nobility and the “others” non-noble classes.  The feudal lord had the right to crush his vassals with all the might he possessed as a father had the rights over his kids.

There are many Europeans who claim that it was Christianity that promoted the separation of the spiritual off the temporal power on the basis of Jesus saying “Give to Caesar what is due to Caesar and to God was is due to God”;  this is total nonsense.  Most of the wars in Europe were launched by monarchs against the temporal influence of Papal Rome in state matters.  Neither the Catholic Church not the various Protestant sects relinquished their temporal “rights”.

Protestantism had this indirect advantage that it weakened the central power of Papal Rome; thus, Islam scientific manuscripts were permitted to enter Europe; this new openness to rational discovery was the main catalyst for the Renaissance period and the qualitative jump into modernity.  It does not mean that the previous sentence of Jesus had no influence in the mind of modern Europe; it does not mean also that Christianity willingly relinquished its temporal influence based on that sentence.  The Prophet Mohammad also urged Moslems to acquire knowledge even from China; it worked for four centuries; it does not mean that Moslems remembered that encouragement most of the time.

There are Europeans, when pressed to give an identity (other than their State), they might opt for their religious denomination (with utmost reluctance in Europe) and thus, when a European says that he is Christian it is sort of family name, the latest in heritage, as cathedrals, old churches, and the paintings, sculptures, and music of the Renaissance period. Christianity cannot be used as identification because it won’t do: most of the US citizens also claim to be Christians, as is the case with Latin Americans; does this means that they could also be considered Europeans or European civilization roots?

Modern Europe is democratic, secular, with laws guaranteeing free religious beliefs, free speech, gathering, and opinions, human rights, sexual liberty, welfare states, open borders and travel.  Modern Europe is anathema to the principles and practices of Christian Churches.  Christianity must be glad that the modern European civilization is giving it not just a mere face lift but a totally different identity.

Note 1: This topic was inspired by the last chapter in the French book “When the world became Christian” by late Paul Veyne.

Note 2:  Ten years a go, Europe was the scene of large genocide; not just between “Christians and Moslems” but among Christians of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox on the basis of “ethnic cleansing” in former Yugoslavia.

Beware of the senile stubbornness of an 88 year-old Patriarch; (Nov. 4, 2009)

A serious conclave of all Christian sects (heretic or not) in the Middle East is required.

First some history is needed to set the background.  The Christian Maronite sect was considered heretic by both the Orthodox Church of the Byzantium Empire and by Papal Rome.  The Maronites were monotheists (One God; not three as of Father, Son, and Virgin Mary) and also they believed in only the spiritual existence of Jesus not his physical nature.  Thus, this sect was persecuted by two strong Empires with central Churches.

When the Crusading forces entered the Near East after sacking Constantinople, on their way to Jerusalem in 1100, the Maronite sect decided to pay allegiance to the Pope.  Thus, this sect was saved from being labelled a heretic sect, doomed for constant persecution, and enjoyed the military and political backing of Rome.

This sect has migrated to the northern mountains of Lebanon after the schism of the year 1000 between Rome and Byzantium, and the subsequent major massacres of the “heretic” Christian sects.  Since then, the Maronite sect obeyed the decisions of the central Catholic Church of Rome, both the spiritual and temporal.

The Church of Rome  was the main temporal decision maker in Europe, and thus the Maronite Church facilitated the infiltration of colonial establishments as trade centers, first in Sidon and then to Beirut, to the French and the Italians.  The British and Russia established also commercial centers in Lebanon and had to circumvent the Maronite influence by encouraging respectively Protestantism and the Russian Christian Orthodoxy.

During the civil war of Lebanon (1975-1991), the Catholic Church proved to be mostly impotent to end the war that relegated the Maronite to the third political power, instead of the first since the independence of Lebanon. It also happened during the civil war that a new Patriarch was to be elected. Rome selected her favorite Bishop and the Christian militias selected their own. No Patriarch could be elected after four rounds of secret voting. Thus, Nasr Allah Sfeir was elected to overcome the impasse.

Since then, Patriarch Sfeir made it a personal vendetta to counter Rome’s interference in the Maronite decisions when opportunities knocked.  This Patriarch was openly favorable to the Lebanese Forces militia during the civil war and going even stronger now.  It is to be noted that the current leader of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Jaajah, is the officially a convicted murderer a spent 11 years in prison.

Jaajah was politically liberated in 2005 after serving 11 years in prison for assassinating prime ministers, many officials, and running a state within a state, a forming his own court martial tribunals.

Currently, Lebanon is at an impasse: the appointed Sunni Deputy Saad Harriri (with the largest block in Parliament) was to form a unity government five months ago; he failed, delivered his resignation, and was then re-appointed with a mere 72 vote out of 124; Harriri has no success so far to forming a unity government.

Patriarch Sfeir would like us to believe that the majority should form a government so that Lebanon could enjoy a democratic system of parliamentary opposition. Sound sweet to the ears of the non-initiated western politicians on Lebanese political system.

First, the new Taef Constitution, enacted in 1989 during Lebanon’s civil war, striped the Maronite President of major rights and forced upon the Lebanese a system of fair representation by the major religious sects in any government.  Now the Chiaa, the majority in Lebanon (forming more than 45%) of the population), are in the opposition; if they refuse to participate in a government then the President cannot abrogate a government devoid of any Chiaa ministers commensurate to their ratio.

Thus, a unity government is a must to form any government constitutionally.

Patriarch Sfeir know that formula but he is trying relentlessly to put obstacles to the formation of a unity government under the guise of “democratic practices”.  The other problem is that the new Parliament has no longer a majority of Deputies:  Since the election in June, the 8 Druze Deputies of Walid Jumblatt have taken a neutral position, and thus denied the previous majority any claim to current majority.  This fact also, the Patriarch is happy to forget and resumes his senile stubbornness.

What is in line to the Christians in the Middle East? How to go from here?  Since the Christians of all affiliations are confirmed minorities in every States in the Middle East,  I suggest that all Christian sects (heretic or not) existing in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey meet in a formal conclave to decide on fundamental programs of administrative and executive assemblies to regaining their rights as minorities.

It is totally irrelevant to dwell on abstract dogma, but to find pragmatic common denominators for feasible detailed programs for survival as a culture.

I sincerely feel that the major Christian sect of “Roum Orthodox” (over 7 millions in the Near East) change their name:  This name reflects allegiance to a long defunct Byzantium Empire (and current Greece is not a proper political or spiritual substitute). The same will go to all sects paying allegiance in their names so that Christianity in the Middle East reflects a patriotic feeling of belonging to a specific people and nation.

It is urgent that a unity executive body with wide range of power be confident to quickly and swiftly preempt any laws that might restrict their fundamental rights, or encourage other religious sects to gaining rights not proportional to their numbers.

Note:  Three years after publishing this article, Patriarch Sfeir was pressured to resign by Rome (he is over 88 years), and a new more opened minded Patriarch was elected.  It is rumored that Rome knew that Sfeir encouraged the US government of G.W.Bush to resume the war on Lebanon in June 2006, after 33 days of terrible Israeli devastation of our country.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2020
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