Monday, April 24, 2006

Pillars of Salt


Alright kido's, again sorry for the lengthy delay regarding a new post. Life is crazy but good right now, as such, nerdom gets placed on the back burner. So instead of my own words I thought I would provoke thought/debate by quoting Mill and some sexy Stoics. Enjoy and I promise to have my own post regarding Globalization up in a week, its currently in the works.

Timshel.



Mill regarding Christianity from On Liberty:

"Christian morality (so called)has all the characteristics of a reaction; it is, in great part, a protest against paganism. Its ideal is negative rather than positive; passive rather than active; innocence rather than nobleness; abstinence from evil rather than energetic pursuit of good; in its precepts (as has been well said) "thou shalt not" predominates unduly over "though shalt". In its horror of sensuality, it made an idol of asceticism which has been gradually compromised away into one of legality. It holds the hope of heaven and the threat of hell as the appointed and appropriate motives to a virtuous life."

"I believe that other ethics than any which can be evolved from exclusivively Christian sources must exist side by side with Christian ethics [...] and that the Christian system is no exception to the rule that in an imperfect state of the human mind the interests of truth require a diversity of opinions."

Mill on Stoicism and Criticism On Liberty

"ninety nine in a hundred of what are called educated men are in this condition, even of those who can argue fluently for their opinions. Their conclusion may be true. But it might be false for anything they know; they have never thrown themselves into the mental posisiton of those who think differently from them, and considered what such persons may have to say; and, consequently they do not, in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they themselves profess."

"If ever anyone possessed of power had grounds for thinking himself the best and most enlightened among his contemporaries, it was the Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Absolute monarch of the whole civilized world, he perceived through life not only the most unblemished justice [...]but the tenderest heart. The few failings which are attributed to him were all on the side of indulgence, while his writings, the highest product of the ancient mind, differ scarcely perceptibly, if they differ at all, from the most characteristic teachings of Christ. This man, a better Christian in all but the dogmatic sense of the word than almost any of the ostensibly Christian sovereigns who have since reigned, persecuted Christianity. Placed at the summit of all the previous attainments of humanity, with an open, unfettered intellect, and a character which led him of himself to embody in his moral writings the Christian ideal, yet he failed to see that Christianity was to be a good and not an evil to the world, with his duties to which he was so deeply penetrated. Existing society he knew to be in a deplorable state. But such as it was, he saw, or thought he saw that it was held together, and prevented from being worse, by belief and reverence of the received divinities. As a ruler of mankind, he deemed it his duty not to suffer society to fall to pieces; and saw not how, if its existing ties were removed ,any others could be formed which could again knit it together. The new religion openly aimed at dissolving those ties; unless, therefore, it was his duty to adopt that religion, it seemed to be his duty to put it down. Inasmuch then as the theology of Christianity did not appear to him true or of divine origin, inasmuch as this strange history of a crucified God was not credible to him, and a system which purported to rest entirely upon a foundation to him so unbelievable, could not be foreseen by him to be that renovating agency which, after all abatesments, it has in fact proven to be; the gentlest and must amiable of philosophers and rulers, under a solemn sense of duty, authorized the persecution of Christianity. To my mind this is one of the most tragical facts in all history. [...] No Christian more firmly believes that atheism is false and tends to the dissolution of society than Marcus Aurelius believed the same things of Christianity; he who, of all men then living, might have been thought the most capable of appreciating it."


Here is a letter written by another Roman, Seneca, a stoic like Marcus Aurelius, which illustrates the similarities between the two philosophy's. Remember too that Seneca was a chief advisor to Nero and we all can remember how he treated Christians.

From Letter XLI
"you are persevering in your efforts to acquire a sound understanding. This is something it is foolish to pray for when you can win it from your own self; There is no need to raise our hands to heaven; there is no need to implore the temple warden to allow us close to the ear of some graven image, as though this increased the chances of our being heard. God is near you, is with you, is inside you. [...] No man, indeed, is good without God--is any one capable of rising above fortune unless he has the help of God? [...] And if you ever come across a man who is never alarmed by dangers, never affected by cravings, happy in adversity, calm in the midst of storm, viewing mankind from a higher level and the gods from their own, is it not likely that a feeling will find its way into you of veneration for him? Is it not likely that you will say in yourself "here is a thing which is too great, too sublime for anyone to regard it as being in the same sort of category as that puny body it inhabits". Into that body has descended a divine power. [...] A thing of that soul's height cannot stand without the prop of a deity. [...] a soul possessed of greatness and holiness, which has been sent down into this world in order that we may gain a nearer knowledge of the divine, associate with us, certainly, but never loses contact with its source. [...] Praise in him what can neither be given or snatched away."