Saturday, February 21, 2015
Back to the future of Religion
Human history is full of walls. Everywhere people have gone upon the earth, they have built walls. Walls can keep good stuff in and bad stuff out, or the other way around.
For instance, consider this wall, which we encountered in Rome when we were there a few weeks ago:
Beyond this wall lies the body of Western Civilization. . .
if you consider the history of the Christian Church as a primary trunk of Western Civilization.
Not everybody does of course. Some folk are not believers, but rather thinkers, like the early, pre-Christian Greeks. . . Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc. etc. . . Descartes, Locke, Marx . . .etc.
Many people in Western Civilization understand the difference between thinking and believing this way: they are mutually exclusive, two different animals. You either spend your life thinking, or you spend your life believing what is taught to you.
This is not true; it's a false dichotomy.
I myself am living example of this. I am a Christian believer, and yet I do like to think analytically about everything, including faith itself.
This I have concluded: Faith is what you find at the end Thought.
In other words, when you've exhausted your brain in trying to figure life out, then you start believing in something besides thinking itself.
In my youth, I considered the Catholic Church, in which I was raised. And I decided it was for the birds.
I took a look at Philosophy, and decided I couldn't not understand enough of it to make sense of the real world.
I studied the Law of Moses, and learned that I could not live by it.
Recently, I studied a little bit about Mohammed, because, well, you know. . . he and his followers are all the rage. Mohammed was a very smart guy, probably even a genius, but he was obviously a man, like me and you. His visions and ultimate indoctrinations were human, not divine. The outcome was True Religion by Intimidation.
Jesus Christ, on the other hand, laid down his life rather than settle for merely human solutions to our predicament. Now there's a man I could follow, even though he went to the cross and suffered death. He was pure goodness, and I could follow him through death's door, all the way to eternal life.
Of course that's what Peter, his right-hand man, said about Jesus: I will follow you.
Then he went on to stumble through life, like me or you or any other human being. I look forward to interviewing him in heaven. I can relate to his resolution to follow Christ, even though he screwed up on more than one occasion.
A lot of things were done, in subsequent Christian history, in Peter's name. There's the Chair of St.Peter, St. Peter's Basilica, etc.
Which leads me back to Walls phenoma. . .people building walls. Consider the one pictured above, in the great city of Rome. This wall was built by the Catholics to protect the museum part of St.Peter's Basilica (in the Vatican.) Pretty impressive wall too, don't you think. I was quite moved by its immensity; that's why I snapped the photo. It seemed so . . . medieval.
On the other side of it, as I later learned, is the Vatican Museum, which is why I say therein lies the body of Western Civilization . . .
In a metaphorical kind of way, and even then only if you're a person inclined to place value on religious traditions and institutions.
Like Tevya, you know. . .Tradition! tradition. Tradition.
Well guess what. Life goes on. That day in Rome, after the big brown wall image was safely in the iPhone, Pat and I resumed our walking tour of the city. It was a beautiful experience.
But just so you'll know what a backward thinker I am, here's a different photo that I had snapped about a week earlier, in Athens:
This is a statue of Constantine XI Palaiologos. He was the last emperor of the Byzantine empire.
He was killed by the invading Ottoman Turks in 1453. He died defending Constantinople, the epicenter of Orthodox Christianity during that period of history. The empire that he ruled, the Byzantine, had been trying to build a Wall, of sorts, a wall of Christian religion and dominion that would withstand the onslaught of Muslim Ottomans, but Byzantium could not withstand the Ottomans. So now the place is called Istanbul.
But such is the fate of Western Civilization's aspirations for world dominion. Orthodox Christendom and the Byzantine empire that defended it could not stand against the onslaught of Islam in 1453.
Later however, the Ottoman empire suffered its own demise, in 1924, after Western Civilization imposed a new victory over the Ottoman Caliphate in the aftermath of World War I.
Alas, nowadays we Civilized persons of the West face a new Islamic Pretender. This one, arising in ancient Syrian lands, is claiming to recover the lapsed Caliphate mantle which had been worn for a few centuries by the Turks, even though the arrogant ISIS brutes do not acknowledge the Ottoman legacy as a legitimate Caliphate.
Consequently, we survivors of Western Civilization are now building a new network of Walls: digital walls, firewalls, psychological walls, spiritual and moral walls, to arrest the shock and awe of "violent extremists."
Ultimately, we will have to erect some military walls, both defensive and offensive, before it is all over with, the end of the world or whatever.
Or just the end of Western Civilization. Then where will the body lie?
Whatever happens, our opposition to the jayvee-team fascists of the Khilafah will not end as Constantine XI's last stand ended in 1453; nor is it likely to be enshrined within the walls of the Vatican Museum.