Χρυσόστομος

Today is the feast-day of Saint John Chrysostom, one of the most despicable figures history has ever produced, and leader of the mob of idiots that destroyed the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. As much as I admire the stories and mythology of Christianity, and can often be found talking or writing about them, I feel a deep hatred and revulsion at what people like John Chrysostom did, at their ignorant destruction of what was probably the greatest civilization this species has brought forth in the name of their petty superstition. There was a place for Christianity in the ancient world: but there was no place for the ancient world in what Christianity became. Would Jesus have approved of the Middle Ages? I greatly doubt it.

But today I’m not writing from the perspective of defending Jesus from his hypocritical followers, as I often do. Today I am writing as both descendant and admirer of that greater civilization which laid the foundation for so much of what followed, and whose wonders and achievements the barbarians tried so hard to destroy, even while they themselves lived off the remains, unable to replicate even the smallest of achievents of Rome and Greece. I write as someone who prefers the awe and freedom of philosophy to the dogmatic wrigglings of theology, who believes in democracy and despises theocracy and monarchy, who is dedicated to the light of thought and opposed to the darkness of religious obscurantism.

I write, ultimately, as someone who still feels keenly the loss of the classical world – who could weep for every burned work of philosophy, every lost tragedy, every comedy discarded by the barbarians for another self-aggrandizing sermon about humility.

So today I say to the barbarians and fanatics: by their fruits ye shall know them. I admire your Jesus, and I admire your Bible, but I remain eternally opposed to the crimes of your Churches; for their fruits were a thousand years of darkness, and a stain of hatred and intolerance that still covers the world.

Unlike Jesus, John Chrysostom was an ascetic. He thought that the fulfilment of human life was to sit around praying to his god, not eating, not drinking, not enjoying anything in this wide and wondrous world except his ridiculous self-righteousness. In other words, he was a blasphemer, an arrogant fool who spits upon the miracles of the world in order to gaze in a mirror and proclaim himself pure. So today I will eat well, and laugh loudly, and raise my glass in honour of the people I truly feel close to: those who celebrated civilization and art, in whose footsteps it is our greatest honour to tread.

Amen.

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11 Comments

  1. TJF588

     /  November 13, 2009

    Actually, the Bible has some profound fucked-up-ities (as made abundantly clear via http://www.thebricktestament.com/, especially the Old Testament, though Revelation might be interesting (in a severe drug-trip sort of way) as mythology), and Rome’s (and Greece, if it foreran it) rampant use of slavery and the brutality of the gladiatorial bouts are harsh blemishes on the more acclaimed aspect of both.

    Is it a way of the world that the more profound the benefits, they are accompanied inversely appalling [some fancy, refined word for “badities”]?

  2. The peak of civilization could be Norway in the year 2009. Maybe.

  3. Rome’s (and Greece, if it foreran it) rampant use of slavery and the brutality of the gladiatorial bouts are harsh blemishes on the more acclaimed aspect of both.

    Yes, but you do have to see it in the context of the time (esp. slavery, and the vast differences in legislation and the treatment of slaves over the years) – and beyond that, there were many people advocating an end to such practices in those times. Had the Republic not fallen, things might have gone very differently.

    The peak of civilization could be Norway in the year 2009. Maybe.

    In terms of the basic necessities of life, that’s possible. I am talking about more than that, though. (And I’m not saying we can’t outdo the Greeks and Romans. We can. I wish we would.)

  4. Sarah

     /  November 14, 2009

    Some of the saints were just not nice people.
    Take St. David of Wales, for example. His hagiography depicts him as a complete asshole. And he is utterly revered.
    … I don’t get it either. I prefer the mostly mythical saints, like George or Brigid.

  5. “Context of the time”? Since when did everything but the Bible get the benefit of “context of the time”?

    I’m sorry, Jonas, but statements like that just make me eight kinds of mad. In all fairness, the history of the events themselves- the cultural aspects, the reasons behind some of the apparent atrocities- should not be overlooked.

    Now, this guy, John Chrysostom, doesn’t sound like he deserved to be called a saint. I’m not gonna deny that. I don’t believe in Artemis (cool name, though), but destroying a Wonder isn’t exactly on my “Things Saints Should Do” list.

    But people like him should NOT be the basis of judgment for Christianity. There are far too many people in the world who think Christianity is nothing more than a blind witch-hunt, a platform for baseless persecution because of events like the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, and the Dark Ages. The Crusades were out of selfishness, the events in Salem were a result of fearful hypocrisy and an unwillingness to forgive on Christ’s terms because it was not THEIR terms, and the Dark Ages was just Orwell’s “1984” sans the cameras, and also money-mongering hypocrites who only saw the Bible as a way of making money.

    None of which, I’m sure you’ll agree, are what the Bible teaches.

    There are some things that the Bible DOES teach, though, things I think you overlook: For one thing, Satan is no busier anywhere than he is in God’s house. I’m not gonna say the people who caused the atrocities I listed weren’t in any way at fault, but what I am saying is that Satan was laughing the whole time it happened.

    Another thing is forgiveness. You absolutely refuse to forgive the past and forget it. People want so badly to go into the future, but they keep digging up these things in the past just so they can have something to be angry at, something to blame for not moving forward. We should learn from the past, but we shouldn’t keep digging it up, lest we become trapped in its grave (a lesson that took me years to learn, albeit the hard way).

    Forgive it, forget it, move on. If you don’t deal with it, you’ll become consumed by it. Although under different circumstances, this same thing happened to me- more than once. Many of Jesus’ teachings were based on forgiveness, and forgiveness was the purpose of the Cross.

    And that wraps up my ramblings for today. Next week: How your toaster could be killing you.

  6. “Context of the time”? Since when did everything but the Bible get the benefit of “context of the time”?

    I often put Biblical things into historical perspective. (Christians often object to it, though, which is silly.) In fact, putting things into historical perspective is an essential aspect of my understanding of history and politics.

    And as I said, I admire Jesus, and large parts of the Bible. (There are also parts that are simply awful, no matter the time period.) But not the Churches. And forgetting these events is exactly what has landed us in the position of repeating them. If we remembered the crimes of the past, we wouldn’t be reenacting the fall of Rome right now.

    I have no intention of becoming trapped by the past. But knowing what has come before prepares us for what is still to come.

  7. Still, I feel that continuously bringing it up just to be angry about it is an entirely wrong reason to bring it up.

    We shouldn’t dig up the past every time we’re reminded of it, or just if we want to be angry about it. Instead, we should point people to the grave its buried in when they start down a path that’ll just put them in the plot right next to it. When someone is beginning to repeat the past, or even before that, we should take them to the tomb for the Tragedy family and tell them that they’ll end up inside it if they keep going the way they are.

    Leave the past buried in the cemetery. Don’t dig it up, and only walk through it when we absolutely need the reminding. That’s what I believe. And so far, it’s worked out a lot better than feeling sorry for myself about my screw-ups, or lashing out at someone for some hurt they caused me too long ago for it to be relevant anymore.

  8. When it comes to personal injustice, sure, that is usually the correct path. But when it comes to history, I don’t think you can apply the standards of a personal relationship. This isn’t about vengeance or about feeling sorry for yourself. The fall of classical civilization isn’t a matter of one individual doing something to another; to remain opposed to barbarism and obscurantism is not about hatred, it’s about justice. The same goes for being opposed to torture and violence – to remind people that these things went on and are going on is not to dig up the past, it’s to fight for the truth, to remain dedicated to the light.

    If you remain obsessed with some personal slight, there is a real danger of poisoning your mind. But to remember history, to feel something for another time and place, that can give you powerful energy for fighting the good fight.

  9. Jonas, what’s the difference between personal slight and the destruction of the temple of Artemis?

    There isn’t one, Jonas. This isn’t about protecting culture, it’s about being angry over something that should be left buried in the past. I’m not any happier about it than you are. But am I going to bring it up every year because of the guy that did it? No. I didn’t even know about this guy until I read your post.

    If something else of great architectural beauty and importance is about to be destroyed, such as Mount Rushmore or the Taj Mahal, then I will point the people involved to the gravestones of previous such events to remind them of what they are doing.

    I’ve got two scars on my right shoulder from when I wrecked my bicycle last year. The long and short of it was that I was preoccupied and wasn’t paying attention until a large bug hit my face. I snapped out of it, but only to deal with the bug. It was only after it was too late that I remembered I was on my bike.

    Those scars played an important role in my life over the next year, and I only recently decided to start looking at them as just scars instead of some heavy burden (a long story that I won’t take up your time with). Instead of reopening long-healed wounds, I just look at the ever-fading scars and remember to stay alert when I’m on two wheels and a thin, metal frame.

  10. This isn’t about protecting culture, it’s about being angry over something that should be left buried in the past. I’m not any happier about it than you are. But am I going to bring it up every year because of the guy that did it? No. I didn’t even know about this guy until I read your post.

    This is about protecting culture. It’s also about protecting history and not accepting the easy lies we are so often offered. It’s about remembering that not everyone you’re told to revere is a saint, and that beautiful things have been lost to barbarism and religious persecution.

    Why should this be left buried in the past? Why should we not, on occasion, remind ourselves of where we came from, of the achievements and mistakes that have brought us here? This reminds me far too much of Obama and his “let’s look forward” response to torture. The attacks on culture by fanatics have not ceased. John Chrysostom is still revered as a saint. Our modern culture is letting go more and more of the Enlightenment and embracing the obscurantist bullshit of postmodernism, religiously flavoured or not. If the Church revered Hitler as a saint, wouldn’t you on occasion want to point out that this is not a good thing? You said you didn’t know about this guy – but I think it’s important to spread that knowledge, because this is not a crime that should go forgotten. The same goes for My Lai, the Holocaust or the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Crimes that must be remembered and understood, or we will repeat them.

    It is important to remember what you stand for, and to remind yourself sometimes what you stand against. The fight isn’t over.

  11. Jonas, you do not even have to go that far back, we have seen, within the last decade or two, the destruction of cultural heritage in Afghanistan, again by “religious” zealots, so even recently some people have conveniently forgotten history.

    While we may not agree on other matters, this is one where I will stand by your opinion.