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  #21  
Old 01 March 2013, 04:15 PM
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That's not special.

Catholics and Evangelicals do the same thing all the time.
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  #22  
Old 01 March 2013, 04:24 PM
pinqy pinqy is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
I was kind of ready to accept this because, yeah, after the fact stories often get exaggerated and so forth. But what makes me think is this part:It sounds a lot like "he wasn't beaten for being black but for acting in a 'certain' way". (Or, as the racists who I used to live among used to say "I don't dislike black people unless they act black.") So it sounds like the Romans were just making excuses for their bigotry, which is a normal part of bigotry.
Not sure how you're getting that. The way I see it, if there was a general rule against speaking ill of the Emprorer, and Christian X spoke against the Emperor as part of a Christian speech and non-Christian Y spoke against the Emperor as part of a political speech and both were executed for speaking ill, is it really fair to say that the Christian was executed for being a Christian?

Or for a curent analogy...there are some current Christian groups that believe "spare the rod, spoil the child" to be literal and practice corporal punishment in violation of local laws. They consider themselves to be persecuted as Christians because they are acting what they believe to be religious requirements. I would say that the reason they are beating their children is irrelevant, they're being prosecuted for beating their children.
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  #23  
Old 01 March 2013, 05:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
IOW, Romans didn't persecute Christians because G*d loved Christians and the Romans hated G*d. Romans persecuted Christians because Christians didn't toe the Roman line, and Romans persecuted everyone who didn't toe their line.
Precisely. The Romans had a long history of conquering other lands, and the continuing practice of "native" religions in those lands was frequently associated with political dissent and armed revolt. The zealots in Israel - their religion manifested itself as armed revolt - guerrilla style - against the occupying Romans.

Even though some - but not all - Christians of that time were fully committed to the "Christian" principles of non-violence, forgiveness, "turning the other cheek", and so on - the Roman government did not want such a grass-roots movement to grow to the point where it could be dangerous. What's to say that the Romans didn't suspect early Christians from preaching one thing, yet doing another? It's not like things like that didn't happen before.

One of those aspects of history is that the winners get to write it - so because of the "fact" that Christianity "won" this struggle, it gets portrayed in a positive light. If every Christian martyr was, in fact, a giving and pious person who was non-violent even when facing death - then it would also, perhaps, justify our sympathies, because even today we value people who try to make change by peaceful example. But we know that not all Christians - or even all people - are so saintly.

Having watched a documentary about early Christians and their mixture of pagan rites with the new religion - including sexual liberation and orgies - I mentioned this to one very Catholic friend who dismissed it as lies and liberal propaganda, being unable to resolve within himself that anyone who called themselves Christian could be anything but following what is "proper" within the faith. Never mind that the rules he was expecting them to follow, hadn't been codified yet. Rather short-sighted to think this way, but the thing is that admitting that this happened, just like admitting that once upon a time the priesthood was not celibate, is merely accepting the truth of history.
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  #24  
Old 01 March 2013, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by pinqy View Post
Not sure how you're getting that.
Two things: 1) I'm not saying they were persecuted because they were Christian. I'm saying that minorities are often persecuted because they are minorities and there's little difference between that and being targeted. It's a common pattern of bigotry. It's little wonder that they feel targeted.

2) I'm not really commenting about this specific case so much as attacking what seems to be the logic. All I'm saying is that it isn't good evidence that a group isn't being targeted to say that their persecutors were actually prosecuting them.

It sounds to me like the Romans were just ordinary bigots - intolerant of everyone. It's little wonder that minorities of the time felt persecuted because of their specific minority status.

I don't see modern comparisons to Christians who aren't minorities as at all relevant. But if you want some modern comparisons, yes, there are countries that actually do persecute minority Christians and, yes, the excuses are almost exactly the same: "We aren't persecuting them because they're Christian but because they spoke out against our way of life." Where "speaking out" is simply saying anything that an ordinary Christian - substitute Atheist, etc. - might say.
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  #25  
Old 02 March 2013, 12:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinqy View Post
Not sure how you're getting that. The way I see it, if there was a general rule against speaking ill of the Emprorer, and Christian X spoke against the Emperor as part of a Christian speech and non-Christian Y spoke against the Emperor as part of a political speech and both were executed for speaking ill, is it really fair to say that the Christian was executed for being a Christian?
It wasn't a free speech issue. Everyone was required to sacrifice to the genius of the emperor (that's where we get the phrase, "a pinch on the altar of Ceasar"). They let the Jews have an exemption from doing that, but they wouldn't allow that for the Christians (upstarts making inroads among the Romans themselves). This was an issue of relgious coercion. Christians were executed for not complying, not for saying stuff like "The Emperor sucks."

Martyrdom got out of hand among the Christians, of course; some Christians very actively sought execution. That's not to say that religious persecution wasn't real and didn't happen.
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  #26  
Old 03 March 2013, 05:55 PM
KingDavid8 KingDavid8 is offline
 
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We have a text written by Pliny the Younger in around 111-112 AD in which he confirms that people were punished simply for being Christians. In fact, he was the one doing the punishment, and was asking Emperor Trajan for clarification on how far to take it. He's clear that he's punishing people if they maintain they are Christians, and acquitted those who denied Christ.

He wrote (in part):

Quote:
It is customary for me, sir, to refer to you in all matters wherein I have a doubt. Who truly is better able to rule my hesitancy, or to instruct my ignorance? I was never present at examinations of Christians, therefore I do not know what is customarily punished, nor to what extent, nor how far to take the investigation. I was quite undecided; should there be any consideration given to age; are those who are however delicate no different from the stronger? Should penitence obtain pardon; or, as has been the case particularly with Christians, to desist makes no difference? Should the name itself be punished (even if crimes are absent), or the crimes that go with the name?
Meanwhile, this is the method I have followed with those who were brought before me as Christians. I asked them directly if they were Christians. The ones who answered affirmatively I questioned again with a warning, and yet a third time: those who persisted I ordered led [away]. For I have no doubt, whatever else they confessed to, certainly [this] pertinacity and inflexible obstinacy ought to be punished. There were others alike of madness, whom I noted down to be sent to the City, because they were Roman citizens. Soon in consequence of this policy itself, as it was made standard, many kinds of criminal charges occurred and spread themselves abroad. A pamphlet was published anonymously, containing the names of many.
Those who denied that they were or ever had been Christians, when they swore before me, called on the gods and offered incense and wine to your image (which I had ordered brought in for this [purpose], along with images of the gods), and also cursed Christ (which, it is said, it is impossible to force those who are real Christians to do) I thought worthy to be acquitted. Others named by an informer, said they had been Christians, but now denied [it]; certainly they had been, but had lapsed, some three years ago, some more; and more than one [lit. not nobody] over twenty years ago. These all worshiped both your image and the images of the gods and cursed Christ.
David
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  #27  
Old 06 March 2013, 09:06 PM
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Ah, I guess Pliny is our independent comtemporary source then.

What I don't understand though is why Jews were allowed to keep their religion, as long as they paid a special taxes, but the Christians weren't.
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  #28  
Old 06 March 2013, 09:09 PM
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It was an old religion. The Romans respected the long history of Judaism. Christianity not so much.
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  #29  
Old 06 March 2013, 10:51 PM
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Jews were allowed to practice their religion in Israel - it was seriously frowned upon in other areas.
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  #30  
Old 06 March 2013, 11:33 PM
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Depends on what century we're talking about, but in general Romans did not force Jews to sacrifice to the emperor, unlike Christians--so long as Jews agreed not to proselytize. Romans changed Judaism from a proselytizing religion to a (generally) non-proselytizing one.
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  #31  
Old 07 March 2013, 11:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Avril View Post
It was an old religion. The Romans respected the long history of Judaism. Christianity not so much.
Yeah, I guess that's the truth. Because the Romans usually respected the old religions of their provinces, as long as they didn't threaten the power of Rome. And the Jews didn't cause any trouble after the Bar Koshba revolt, so they were allowed to be excluded from the compulsary sacrifice to Caesar. What I don't understand is why the Christians couldn't get a similar status. Because other than that they were "weird" and didn't worship the gods, did they actually cause any trouble? Were there any Christian revolts against the power of Rome? I understand that the goverments sometimes needed scapegoats, when things didn't go as well as they hoped. That seems to be why the emperor Decius prosecuted the Christians. Valerianus seems to have been a real hater of Christianity as well. And this was of course many centuries before freedom of religion was even thought of. But still... It was only after Diocletanius had died, that Christians were even considered as ordinary citizens, except with a minority religion, and that sounds really weird.
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  #32  
Old 07 March 2013, 02:18 PM
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My guess would be the fact that Christianity was "strange and new" but also small. The Romans could have tried to force Jewish people to conform, but they were (probably) so stubborn and so numerous as to make it not worthwhile. But since there were (initially) many fewer Christians, the Romans weren't so worried about having to deal with them.
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  #33  
Old 07 March 2013, 02:23 PM
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Christians did "cause trouble" for several different reasons. That Christians were recruiting was a major part of this. The Romans were genuine about their belief that the Christian refusal to participate in Roman religious rituals would anger the gods, and thus threatened the whole society. They also upended society in other ways--usual social groupings mattered not a whit to these new Christians, who would now have slaves and slave-holding classes socializing, and whose youth swore allegiance to their invisible God rather than to their fathers.
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  #34  
Old 07 March 2013, 02:32 PM
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Hmm... Both of you have good points.
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