(from atheism to agnosticism and back) [IV]
by Ştefan Bolea
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“I want to die in a tavern, where wine is close to the mouth of the dying man.” (Carmina burana)
I bought Minois’s newly translated book into English for my birthday: Georges Minois, The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed, translated by Lys Ann Weiss, University of Chicago Press, October 2012. Because I am fascinated by atheism and deeply interested in religion, I read it with great delight. It tales the story of an “atheist bible” written in the 18th century which claims that Moses, Jesus and Muhammad are all impostors. They are said to have created religion(s) to rule over ignorant and fearful human beings. As long as we fear God, we will obey all his emissaries on earth: kings, priests, generals, head teachers, fathers … It’s safe to say that God was the first Führer: if you disobey me, son, you shall have death. If you obey me, Son, you shall end on the cross.
Moving on, I traveled in time to 1830 and read this free Google Book on my iPad: Arguments of Celsus, Porphyry and the Emperor Julian, against the Christians, Thomas Rodd, London, 1830. Better said, I traveled to 177 BC when Celsus wrote the first Antichristian book of the history, The True Word. Celsus’s book was removed from memory of mankind in the Orwellian style of the Catholic Church but some fragments were preserved because Origen wrote a refutation to it.
So let’s hear what this 2nd century Greek philosopher (influenced by both Plato and the Stoics) has to say about Christ. Did you know that Jesus’s dad was a Roman soldier called Panthera? Or that he learned sorcery to make ends meet? Me neither. Moreover, “Jesus having collected as his associates ten or eleven infamous men, consisting of the most wicked publicans and sailors, fled into different places, obtaining food with difficulty, and in a disgraceful manner” (6). If you walk the streets of Jerusalem around the year 0, be sure to watch out for Jesus and his gang. If you were an aristocrat, it would be hard to believe that the Son of God was a plebeian, the sly beggar who wants to hypnotize you and read your fortune.
Are you interested in the original percepts of Christianity? “Let no one who is erudite accede to us, no one who is wise, no one who is prudent (for these things are thought by us to be evil); but let any one who is unlearned, who is stupid, who is an infant in understanding, boldly come to us.” (19) Remember? “Blessed are the poor in spirit …”! We should keep in mind that Christianity is a religion for minors. Only the ones who are infantile in understanding will find the key to paradise: only they can believe “because it is absurd”. The others have to live with hopelessness and truth. You have to choose: blue pill or red pill. IGNORANCE IS A BLISS vs. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.
“Let us now hear who those are that are called to the Christian mysteries. ‘Whoever is a sinner, whoever is a fool, and whoever, in short, is miserable, him the kingdom of God will receive’” (22).
Origen made a mistake. Cyril of Alexandria made a mistake. Many others did. They tried to erase history. They burnt all the books that were Antichristian (including those written by pre-Antichristian philosophers like Heraclitus!). They burnt the library of Alexandria. They censored Plato to make it look that he was pre-Christian. But as they refuted, they made the spirit of such philosophers like Celsus immortal. Let me make this clear: Celsus is NOT a great or an original philosopher. But he makes us feel his truth that would have been obliterated from history if Christians had been more consistent. So thank you Origen and Cyril! Your works are not completely pointless. Your enemies speak from the grave.
So what is fresh in Celsus’s vision? It’s a sample of the “morality of the master” prior to the revolutions of the slave. It’s a terrible truth for those who are Christians in a spiritual, poetic or aesthetic way. Nevertheless, it says that Christianity is a religion for the subhuman race. “The first will be the last”. Everything that is low, villain, debased, contemptible is (in Celsus’s Weltanschahuung) Christian.
So let me finish with two ideas: the Christians were the first atheists (literally without god) when they disobeyed the ancient local gods. So perhaps it if full circle that atheists like me (and you?) have nowadays fundamental religious experiences.
See Bingham quoted in the Celsus edition from 1830: “They also called the Atheists, and their religion the Atheism or Impiety, because they derided the worship of the heathen gods. Dio, says Acilius Glabrio, was put to death for atheism, meaning the Christian religion … Eusebius says the name was become so common, that when the persecuting magistrates would oblige a Christian to renounce his religion, they bade him abjure it in this form, by saying among other things … ‘Confusion to the atheists, Away the impious,’ meaning the Christians.” (99)
Perhaps we are only beginning today to see Jesus the way Celsus did. So ley me ask you: if Pan was a God for the Greeks and a devil for the Christians, does it mean that Jesus will become a devil for the next dominant religion? From the height of the Greek polytheism, Celsus could only see the New God as a subhuman.