Saturday, March 2, 2013

Blame the Christians!

The "Volfian" reading group is re-convening today to discuss more of Augustine's City of God. We just read Book III. Augustine provides a model and robust critique of the surrounding culture and of his contemporaries' criticism of Christianity. They were blaming Christianity for the fall of Rome and its current suffering. If only the Romans had kept worshipping their own gods. They would have protected them.

Augustine cleverly uses secular authors to show the flaws in these arguments. Rome "suffered" much before Christ. Furthermore, Roman gods were diligently worshipped then and yet Roman citizens experienced considerable natural disasters and atrocities in war. Much of this suffering arose from civil wars and from man's own lust for power and violence. In Augustine's words:

How can our opponents have the effrontery, the audacity, the impudence, the imbecility (or rather the insanity) to refuse to blame their gods for those catastrophes, while they hold Christ responsible for the disasters of modern times?
The brutal civil wars, more bitter, in the admission of their own authors, than any wars against foreign enemies - those civil wars which, in the general judgement, brought on the the republic not merely calamity but utter destruction - broke out long before the coming of Christ.
Book III, Chapter 30,  pages 131 (Penguin edition)

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