Sins of the Early Christian Cult

As the Christian cult struggled out of the decaying Roman Empire in the general timeframe of the early 400s, the previous ages of artistic beauty and high craftsmanship so respected by Pagan traditions began to sink into decline.  Systematically purged from Christian cult values were all the delights in human beauty and grace; discarded were the attributes of comeliness and tolerance.  Elitist insolence engulfed Christian mentality as the church’s influence savaged it way into the distant corners of the declining empire.  There are many accounts in ancient Roman files of senseless Christian violence as the cult strove for power, but these have been carefully suppressed.

Art and beauty once used in tribute of higher principles, which were long personified as gods, was replaced with hard symbols  of pain, suffering and aggression.  Aesthetic sense was judged to be “Pagan error,” and was replaced with a religious creed of false shames, false guilts, castigation of skeptics, and a nagging pessimism.  It was a sparse attitude of faith that would fester into the spiritual dejection known as the Dark Ages.  “Saints” such a Jerome and Augustine seemed maniacally determined to smear every physical joy with a patina of “sin,” and instilled that neurosis as Christianity’s major message to the world.

The fall of Rome is placed at 410 when the Visigoth king captured and pillaged the city.  But in this timeframe the Pagan world’s higher principles were still honored across the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria, Egypt, much to the displeasure of Christian hucksters.  The quality of the Christian cult to which the less educated were drawn would assert itself even in this illustrious city, however.  But Christian historians give little attention to the  many acts of violence indulged in at the hands of Christians throughout the empire.  One particularly despicable act was carried out in Alexandria, Egypt. 

There lived in Alexandria a very wise and beautiful young woman named Hypatia, the daughter of a famous Pagan mathematician, astronomer and teacher named Theon.  Hypatia had assisted her father in his writings, and upon her father’s death had succeeded him as lecturer on mathematics, astronomy and Greek philosophy at Alexandria.  By 400 CE, Hypatia was the undisputed leader of the Neo-Platonist school of philosophy, as well an author of commentaries on ancient astronomy and mathematics.  Her intellectual gifts and her personal beauty attracted students from foreign countries, and she was so highly respected that she was regularly consulted by magistrates of Alexandria on important issues.

To the Christian bishop in Alexandria named Cyril, however, her very existence was like a personal threat to his ideas of how God should work.  She was everything that the bishop detested: she was a woman, she was a beautiful woman, she was an intellectual, an eloquent speaker, a respected teacher, and had powerful friends.  Even Synesius of Ptolemais, a Neo-Platonic philosopher and Christian bishop, corresponded with her and often visited her.  The governor of Alexandria was Orestes, and in this period was shocked at the conduct of the Christian bishop named Cyril who was fanning hatred throughout Alexandria and forcing the expulsion of Jews.   Hypatia joined with the Pagan magistrates of Alexandria in opposition to Christian persecution of Jews and other non-Christian people.  Not surprisingly, this further incurred Bishop Cyril’s wrath, which not so coincidently incited Christian monks to murder the governor.

Self-satisfied that God approved, Bishop Cyril continued to indulge himself in furious rhetoric from his pulpit, fanning hatred of Hypatia to such a pitch that finally a self-righteous Christian mob, ably assisted by several Christian monks, rose to take action.  They waited until one day when the noble lady was traveling by chariot near the Christian church, and the crazed mob ambushed her, dragging her from her carriage toward the church.  At the church steps the mob was in such a frenzy that they stripped her and began beating and stabbing her as they dragged her into the church.  There, according to contemporary accounts, the furor proceeded to toward the altar, which was ablaze with candles.  And it was there that Hypatia’s tormentors stole her last breath beneath the cross symbol of their alleged “prince of peace.”  By some accounts the pious monks then sliced flesh from her bones with oyster shells, and methodically reduced the flesh to ashes one small piece at a time. 

 And what did Bishop Cyril receive for stirring up all this merciless hostility toward all those Pagans whom he considered to be incompatible with his Christian ethics?  After Cyril died and he was assumed to have been received in heaven by Jesus, the church honored Cyril as a “saint.”  His feast day is February 9th.

This true story is horrifying in itself, but it is rendered even more disheartening by the fact that today, nearly 2000 years later, similar deadly conduct is still being indulged in throughout the world and is carried out in the name of some religion.  That same vicious brand of religious fanaticism is seen at work today in the United States in the blatant attempts to sabotage the democratic rights of a broadly diverse citizenry.

Conveniently ignored is the wise counseling, follow after things which make for peace (Romans 14:16).

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One Response to “Sins of the Early Christian Cult”

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