<html><head /> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><title>Religion and Politics in Western Civilisation: The Ancient World as Matrix</title><meta name="keywords" content="religion,politics,andreas,belief,christianity,civilization,crusades,culture,galtu1ng,greco-roman,history,johan,order,osiander,philosophers,roman,social,totalitarianism,uniformity,western,witch-hunts,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">Religion and Politics in Western Civilisation: The Ancient World as Matrix</span></td> </tr> <tr> </td> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><p><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; "></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><IMG SRC="auth_osiander.jpg" width=100 height=139 alt=Osiander vspace=0 hspace=0 border=0 align=right> Andreas Osiander (below) deviates from traditional assumptions about religion. He looks back to Greco-Roman religion within the world of antiquity and contrasts this with the emergence of Christianity. Through his analysis of these two religious paradigms, Osiander provides an insight into the origins of social order: a modus operandi that is visible even in the modern world. He uses Johan Galtung's idea of "cultural violence" to justify the reasoning that Christianity was used primarily as a tool for social control.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">This story seeks to evaluate from a historical perspective the role played by religion in Western civilization. It is based on the premise that a civilization only exists in time because of its collective memory: it cannot escape from, but will always be conditioned by, the historical experience stored in this collective memory. Western collective memory reaches back to the Greco-Roman world of antiquity, the origin of the two religious paradigms that have shaped Western civilization and politics: Greco-Roman religion and Christianity. I will analyze and compare the two paradigms and their political impact, from the ancient world onwards.</span> <p><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Greco-Roman religion</strong></span><br> <A HREF="1556_501.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1556_Th501.jpg" id="3065" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1556_501.ram"></A></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I would like to argue that Greco-Roman religion represents the exceptional case of a religion from which the function of social control is largely excluded. It contains no code of behaviour binding to its followers, nor does it conceive of the social order as divinely inspired and protected by divine sanctions. Because religion was not used to cement the social order and the position of those in power, it did not claim a monopoly of control over the way people conducted their lives. There was no premium on uniformity of belief, and no missionising. Not least owing to the absence of holy scriptures, the clergy was relatively weak. It was not priests but philosophers who served the function of providing ethical guidance, but this guidance was secular, pluralistic and not instrumentalised for the purpose of social control.</span> <p><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><br> <span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Christianity</strong></span><br> <A HREF="1556_502.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1556_Th502.jpg" id="3066" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1556_502.ram"></A><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The introduction of Christianity represents a dramatic paradigm shift, particularly if we emphasize the extent to which the new religion is concerned with controlling the behaviour, and even the thinking, of its adherents. Its ability to do so made it a valuable ally for the faltering Roman state. In the fourth century, the Roman authorities therefore switched from fighting Christianity to promoting it. In return for the political support of the Church, they privileged it and gave it an increasingly strong political position. This enabled the Church to root out the old, pluralistic paradigm by violent means. Uniformity was now not only prized but enforced, often brutally so. It is no accident that the methods employed closely mirror those of twentieth-century totalitarianism, which was unthinkable without the many centuries of exposure to Christianity.</span> <p><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><strong>Galtung</strong><br> <A HREF="1556_500.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1556_Th500.jpg" id="3064" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1556_500.ram"></A></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Based, in part, on ideas put forward by Johan Galtung, I would like to suggest that there are different political behaviours associated with the two religious paradigms in terms of their "deep culture." For example, central to Christianity is the notion of a single deity that resides "on high"--indeed, outside planet Earth--and is mirrored by Satan below. On this model, people tend to be judged by their perceived closeness to God, with some "higher" than others; invariably, it is the Self that is perceived as higher, and it is others, outsiders, that are perceived as lower, inferior. Thus, according to Galtung, this model promotes the notion of "chosenness, a vicious form of cultural violence," and gives rise to intolerant, aggressive behaviour against perceived outsiders. Illustrations of this were the Crusades and witch-hunts.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Contrary to the view that might see such behaviour as simply generically human, I would like to contend that aggression based on intolerance and a desire for uniformity was alien to the pre-Christian ancient world. There is no Satan in Greco-Roman religion; not fortuitously, the society based on this religion did not wage war over matters of belief, nor did it persecute "witches" or suchlike.</span> <p><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><strong>Conclusion</strong><br> <A HREF="1556_503.ram" TARGET="_blank"><IMG src="1556_Th503.jpg" id="3067" type="3" align="left" width="102" height="102" name="" url="1556_503.ram"></A>A central point of my argument is that mind-sets induced by prolonged exposure to a religious paradigm and its deep culture do not necessarily disappear with the faith that they originally accompanied. Thus, while serious espousal of Christianity is now rare, Christian deep culture, with its tendency to produce, as Galtung suggested, "sharp, value-loaded dichotomies" and aggressive behaviour, continues to influence contemporary politics.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">On the other hand, Christianity since the Middle Ages has been progressively eroded by a retrieval not of Greco-Roman religion but of its accompanying pluralistic, deep culture. Thus, today's "Western values"--such as the notion of "human rights," with their condemnation of things like "ethnic cleansing" and enforced uniformity, and their corresponding emphasis on pluralism, diversity and moderation--are not, as is usually asserted, "Judeo-Christian." They are really the result of the restoration of the rationalism and humanism implicit in the Greco-Roman paradigm--a restoration that is, however, only partial and in ongoing competition with Christian deep culture.</span><br> <br> <span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">This story is part of a paper given at the "Religion and International Relations" conference on May, 27, 2000, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Copyright The London School of Economics and Political Science.</span></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>