Hart: Atheist Delusions—Chapter Five

Chapter five is entitled “The Destruction of the Past.” This chapter is closely related to the themes of chapter four and follows almost seamlessly. Specifically though, Hart addresses the myth that after the fall of Rome it was the West’s contact with Islamic culture that reintroduce to the West the “remnants of classical Greece and Rome” which had been preserved under Islam. The truth, rather, is that Islam was the “beneficiary of Eastern Christendom[s]” preservation of classical works and then the West benefited from contact with both, especially after the fall of Constantinople. The scarcity of those works in the West before the fall of the Eastern Empire had nothing to do with a “rejection” of classical works by the Church but everything to do with the fall of Rome and the vagaries of history.

Again, the story goes something like this: After Constantine and then Rome’s fall, the Church regularly burned/destroyed pagan writings as a rule and wiped out such writings and works in the West thereby leading Europe into a “Dark Age” of “obscurantism, stagnation, and terror.” In response to all this, Hart writes:

Talk of medieval Christian civilization being “quick to burn” the writings of ancient pagans, moreover, is tantamount to a confession of an almost total ignorance of that civilization. In fact, not only did medieval Christians not burn pagan texts, the literary remains of ancient Rome were hoarded and jealously guarded in monastic libraries even as the Western Roman world was disintegrating…and for centuries, there were monasteries throughout Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Britain, that housed thousands of collections containing the writings of Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Pliny, Horace, Statius, Persius, Lucan, Suetonius, Seneca, Martial, Apuleius, Juvenal, Terence, and so forth, as well as such portions of Plato, Aristotle, and the Greek church fathers as were available in Latin.

The fact that both pagan and Christian works were lost after the fall of Rome is true, but it had more to do with the contingencies of history, the fall of an empire, war, riots, fire, mistake, mishap, inattention, and a thousand other effects and causes than it did due to some concerted malevolent human scheme or forethought.

However, if one wanted to talk about the intentional destruction of books and writings, one need look no further than the pagan and Roman emperor Diocletian, who when finding works objectionable, “demonstrated great delight in the combustion of [those] books…” Oh, but that’s right, he was a pagan so let’s overlook that and keep our attention focused on those terrible Christians.

Hart sums up this chapter thus,

Slovenly scholarship is a sin, perhaps, but bad scholars might almost be forgiven for believing what they have always been told: that Christianity rejected classical civilization, even sought to destroy it root and branch, and thus inaugurated the Dark Ages. In truth, there is no intelligible sense in which the rise of Christianity can be held responsible for the decline of late Roman culture, some supposed triumph of dogma over reason, or the retardation of science.

How interesting: the radical atheist/secularist who prattles on and on about the need for evidence and facts refuses, it would appear, to ever let any “evidence” from history confuse their second and third hand prejudices supported only by bad scholarship and the gullibility of narrow minds.

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7 Responses to Hart: Atheist Delusions—Chapter Five

  1. Burk Braun says:

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  2. Burk Braun says:

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  3. Burk Braun says:

    No “triumph of dogma over reason”? What do you call the early church councils, which dealt with such reason-based questions as …

    “… whether Jesus was the literal son of God or was he a figurative son, like the other “sons of God” in the Bible.”

    “1. prohibition of self-castration;”, which apparently had scriptural support.

    “… because the Council of Nicaea had not clarified the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Trinity, it became a topic of debate.”

    “This council also developed a statement of faith which included the language of Nicaea, but expanded the discussion on the Holy Spirit to combat the heresy of the Pneumatomachi.”

    “In 449 the Second Council of Ephesus, the so-called Robber Council which is not considered one of the ecumenical councils, didn’t just rehabilitate Eutyches, who had been deposed by Flavian, the patriarch of Constantinople, for teaching that the Word had been made flesh and not just assumed flesh from the Virgin. Dioscorus the patriarch of Alexandria who had convened Ephesus II, moved to depose Flavian for teaching that Christ had two natures, which violated a canon of Ephesus I. Flavian was mortally wounded in the fight that broke out.”

    Sounds to me like reason did not even enter the room, except when it came to practical issues of power. Otherwise, devotion to dogma was triumphan and all-encompassing.

    As I mentioned before, collecting shards of cultures you have destroyed out of intolerance is not quite the same as fostering a renaissance.

    (Sorry about the deletes.. the html is not working quite right)

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  4. Darrell says:

    Let’s see, so you’re upset no one at that time used the anachronistic “Enlightenment” view of reason you are projecting back even though no one would have at the time (do you think the pagan and barbarian intelligentsia at the time sat around sipping tea, pinkies extended, calmly discussing differences?) –not much I can do about that…

    However, it was not “shards” that were collected—it was thousands of works preserved and kept by hundreds of monasteries all over Europe. The culture of antiquity was not “destroyed” by the Church; Rome fell for many different reasons, most of its own making. But, history is clear, it was the Church that preserved, protected, and provided the classical works of antiquity for future generations. You’ve raised nothing that counters Hart’s main points from the actual historical record; you have however confirmed several of his other points about those who still believe such ridiculous historical mythic accounts.

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  5. Darrell says:

    By the way, when you use the word “intolerance” do you mean as opposed to the “tolerance” exercised by pagan culture or Rome? Do you mean as opposed to “Enlightenment” tolerance that somehow they should have been aware of? Do you mean the “tolerance” shown by modern secular states like Soviet Russia, North Korea, China, or other atheistic states in modern times? And, if one’s view of “tolerance” is subjective and based upon personal preference, emotion, intuition, whatever, why would we even care? How would one know what to “tolerate” or not? Maybe the Christian “intolerance” you deplore was just their “tolerance;” you say potato, they say potato. After all, such would be consistent with your “better illusions” world view, right?

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  6. Burk Braun says:

    Sorry, but your and Hart’s re-writing of history is as futile as it is one-sided. The influences reversing the Western Dark ages towards the < HREF="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance#Origins" REL="nofollow">renaissance origins<> were heavily foreign (Byzantine/Greek and Islamic), as well as matters of recovering texts forgotten and neglected by the monasteries, as well as engaging in new searches for empirical knowledge likewise neglected.

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  7. Darrell says:

    To accuse someone of re-writing history, one first has to be familiar with history, which clearly you are not. First of all, the post and chapter five of Hart’s book was speaking of events centuries before the Renaissance (14th and 17th Centuries). My post was speaking of the time after Constantine and the fall of Rome (4th and 5th Century) up to the fall of Constantinople (1453 A.D.). So you don’t even have the correct time-frame in mind. Second, your cite simply repeats what Hart notes as well as my post, that it was Byzantium (A Christian Civilization) that preserved the works of classical antiquity along with monasteries in the West. The Islamic contribution still derived from the contact (whether through warfare or otherwise) with Byzantium or other conquered Christian subgroups in the East. Third, I’m afraid your one cite from Wikipedia is not going to overcome the work of Hart in the original sources. By the way, did you read the Wikipedia cite:

    “The Renaissance has a long and complex historiography, and there has been much debate among historians as to the usefulness of Renaissance as a term and as a historical delineation. Some have called into question whether the Renaissance was a cultural “advance” from the Middle Ages, instead seeing it as a period of pessimism and nostalgia for the classical age, while others have instead focused on the continuity between the two eras. Indeed, some have called for an end to the use of the term, which they see as a product of presentism – the use of history to validate and glorify modern ideals.” (Wikipedia)

    At best, even if it were addressing the right time-frame, your cite notes nothing that would significantly contradict my post or Hart’s book. Further, you address no key or main point in the post at all. You simply do not know what you are talking about.

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