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bw04060031396378081 It is a common assertion to state Christianity helped maintain the continuity of Classical civilization down to the Medieval era, through the “Dark Age” of Europe after the Fall of Rome. A more extreme position is that Christianity was a necessary condition for the maintenance of this civilizational tradition. I recall once reading an alternative history short story where illiterate tribesman visit the ruins of Rome, and muse about the consequences of Maxentius’ victory over Constantine at Milvian Bridge (this is the “point of departure”).

Obviously no one denies that the Christian Church was essential in maintaining ancient learning and ideas, whether through concrete steps such as copying in scriptoriums, or, more abstractly by integrating with into intellectual armamentarium tools developed by the Greeks (e.g., Greek philosophy). But, there is a line of thinking that asserts that there was something profound about the Christian religion which allowed for the maintenance of civilization against the barbarian hordes. Whether it is true or not is not an argument that is winnable in this space. But, the power of ideas to shape the course of human history is more tractable.

What I would suggest is that complex human phenomena, such as Christianity, are not reducible down to abstract sets of ideas in terms of how they manifest themselves in our world. That is, Christianity is only marginally about the Athanasian Creed, or even the sacrifice made by the Son of God, from a naturalistic perspective. Rather, the religion includes a broader set of institutions and folkways which derive from the culture at large (e.g., the Roman Catholic Church is the “ghost of the Roman Empire”). Additionally, it also expresses common human intuitions about the world and social relations.

But, as a complex cultural phenomenon, Christianity is conditional on complex culture. That is, Christianity may have aided the preservation of learning in the Dark Ages, but it couldn’t be the necessary cause of this preservation because too is an effect. The persistence of Christianity in the post-Roman world was a hallmark of those regions which maintained Romanitas to a greater extent. Christianity seems to have disappeared broadly (even if it persisted residually) from areas of the Roman Empire where there was total social collapse and transformation; the regions of Britain conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, much of the interior of Pannonia, Dacia, and Thrace. These are zones of cultural turnover. But, we know from genetics that a substantial local population persisted. In the Balkans and England a large minority of the ancestry derives from migrations which occurred after the year 500, but only a minority. But, the Roman majority clearly lost the cultural commanding heights, and with that the elite support for Christianity. These were zones that had to be re-Christianized in later centuries, even though a substantial proportion of the population probably had had Christian ancestors before.

congo_main_1894003f It isn’t that there was a proactive campaign of paganization, analogous to what occurred in 17th century Japan against the Christian population, who were forced to register with Buddhist temples. Rather, the total defenestration of the old Roman elites in these areas made it so that the new elites seem to have had little incentive to convert and patronize the old religion. This is in contrast to the situation in post-Roman Gaul (Francia), Spain and Italy, where Roman era elites maintained enough continuity to influence the German warrior elites (though in many cases these elites were already Christian, they were Arian sectarians, whose religious difference marked them off from the old nobility and the peasantry).

This all came to mind when I began to read portions of Congo: The Epic History of a People. I am reading this book for two reasons. After Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, I have come to think that the Congo basin is one of the great laboratories of the forces which drive cultural geography. As such, I have an eye out for books on the Congo. Second, it was a summer reading deal for the Kindle, and so cheaper than a Starbucks coffee.

The second relevant to this post: after the decline of the Kingdom of Kongo a residual memory of Christianity persisted across broad areas. But, Christianity became integrated into African shamanism and folk religion, and lost all its substantive distinctiveness from African traditional religion. The few Europeans who ventured into the interior in the 19th century reported villages where there were survivals of Christian ideas, but they had transformed beyond simple recognition. In the 20th century the southwest portion Congo basin, which been under Kongo rule, therefore became the focal point for missionary activity again.

What is true for Christianity is probably true for many complex human ideas and institutions that we think are here for good. The reality is that complexity of thought and contingency of logic are dependent on the surpluses generated by a a highly developed economy and centralized state.

Addendum: The tendency to culturally evolve seems normal. It happened to Islam in China when it was isolated from the broader world Islamic community.

 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: Kongo, Religion 
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  1. “In the Balkans and England a large minority of the ancestry derives from migrations which occurred after the year 500, but only a minority.”

    Does that mean the South Slavs are partly (or even mostly) descended from ancient Illyrians etc.? Has anyone come up with a model (like has been proposed for the Anglo-Saxon settling of England) how this actually worked out?

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    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0135820
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  2. @German_reader
    "In the Balkans and England a large minority of the ancestry derives from migrations which occurred after the year 500, but only a minority."

    Does that mean the South Slavs are partly (or even mostly) descended from ancient Illyrians etc.? Has anyone come up with a model (like has been proposed for the Anglo-Saxon settling of England) how this actually worked out?
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  3. AG says:

    In case of China, imported religion often adopted local flavor in order to survive. All buddha images became sinicized from original south Asian face into oriental one. Chinese pagan Gods and Zodiac animals were incorporated into buddhist teaching for common folk. Even Taoism is rubbed into new Buddhism teaching in China. Chinese Buddhism is total heresy in order to survive. Most worshipers visited buddhist temples just like visiting Taoism pagan temples. They had no idea what Buddhism really is.

    Islam was partially successful due to similar change. But it is also easier for natives to accept due to its faceless feature without idol worship. Idoless is an important feature of this religion which helps its globalization since it presents itself as non-ethnic religion.

    Christianity, especially Catholicism, had hard time in China due to the very image of God who has a western face. To ordinary Chinese, this alien face is foreign God, not theirs. Not sure any time soon that face of Christ can be converted into a East Asian one like Buddha.

    Catholicism itself was a creation between original Christianity and Roman Pagan tradition. If you visit Sistine chapel, those status share incredible similar facial features like those Roman/Greek Gods. Just like fiction DA VINCI’S CODE revealed, hidden paganism in Catholicism is designed to appeal the natives in theses regions.

    Heretic religions are inevitable in order to survive.

    BTW, Italians share some similarity with South Asian here in term of social interaction. When asked directions, they seems always having answer even they did not know about it. Only 1 out of 10 gave me true answer “I do not know”. In my opinion, wrong direction to an address is worse than no direction at all. A waste of time for every body involved.

    Sleepless in Roma, end up reading post here at this odd hours.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Karl Zimmerman
    I'm not sure I understand your argument that Jesus could not be depicted as East Asian. There is no canonical depiction of Jesus. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has long depicted him as being Ethiopian, for example. I've seen 19th century Chinese depictions of Jesus which sinified his looks considerably as well.
    , @John Massey
    I have a Roman friend who makes a point of sending tourists in the wrong direction if he considers that they have approached him rudely to ask for directions, according to his standards of politeness. So maybe you need to entertain the thought that Italian misdirections could be deliberate, if they decide for whatever reason that they don't like you.

    The nearest I ever come to that is if tourists approach me in Hong Kong and demand to know if I speak English, to which I invariably respond "No".
    , @PD Shaw
    China was initially missionized by the Dyophysite Church of the East, which long had religious issues with artistic representation of Jesus, and were particularly opposed to Jesus appearing on a cross. With the rise of Islam, they eliminated religious icons altogether, which would be vandalized or stolen by Muslims. I see no reason that religious imagery would be a barrier against Christianization of China, had China a Constantine.
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  4. spandrell says: • Website

    Just had a similar discussion in my blog.

    Indeed “ideas” are not memes floating in some undifferentiated primordial soup; ideas are told by specific people in specific societies and transmitted through specific institutions. To the extent that ideas have any effect it’s only after going through those very specific vectors.

    That we use a single word, “Christianity” to refer to the stuff that St. Isidore, to Pope Francis, the Maronites and the Kingdom of Kongo do is an artifact of our way of talking of religion as a group marker; not a very useful way of getting to the facts on the ground.

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  5. @AG
    In case of China, imported religion often adopted local flavor in order to survive. All buddha images became sinicized from original south Asian face into oriental one. Chinese pagan Gods and Zodiac animals were incorporated into buddhist teaching for common folk. Even Taoism is rubbed into new Buddhism teaching in China. Chinese Buddhism is total heresy in order to survive. Most worshipers visited buddhist temples just like visiting Taoism pagan temples. They had no idea what Buddhism really is.

    Islam was partially successful due to similar change. But it is also easier for natives to accept due to its faceless feature without idol worship. Idoless is an important feature of this religion which helps its globalization since it presents itself as non-ethnic religion.

    Christianity, especially Catholicism, had hard time in China due to the very image of God who has a western face. To ordinary Chinese, this alien face is foreign God, not theirs. Not sure any time soon that face of Christ can be converted into a East Asian one like Buddha.

    Catholicism itself was a creation between original Christianity and Roman Pagan tradition. If you visit Sistine chapel, those status share incredible similar facial features like those Roman/Greek Gods. Just like fiction DA VINCI'S CODE revealed, hidden paganism in Catholicism is designed to appeal the natives in theses regions.

    Heretic religions are inevitable in order to survive.


    BTW, Italians share some similarity with South Asian here in term of social interaction. When asked directions, they seems always having answer even they did not know about it. Only 1 out of 10 gave me true answer "I do not know". In my opinion, wrong direction to an address is worse than no direction at all. A waste of time for every body involved.


    Sleepless in Roma, end up reading post here at this odd hours.

    I’m not sure I understand your argument that Jesus could not be depicted as East Asian. There is no canonical depiction of Jesus. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has long depicted him as being Ethiopian, for example. I’ve seen 19th century Chinese depictions of Jesus which sinified his looks considerably as well.

    Read More
    • Replies: @John Massey
    Yes, I have seen sinified depictions of both Jesus and Mary, but they are fairly rare in my observation. Mostly, Chinese don't seem to have any problem with depictions of both as blue eyed, fair haired and with European features. But then, Chinese-speaking European priests and nuns were historically pretty active in various parts of China. My Chinese wife's grandmother grew up in a British treaty port, so had daily contact with such people and was entirely comfortable with it. She was surprisingly devoutly Catholic for a Chinese (by which I mean to the exclusion of other religious influences) and kept a picture of a blue eyed, fair skinned Mother Mary hanging on the wall in a place of prominence in the living room. But then, a fair number of Chinese are devoutly Catholic, or at least make a public show of being so.

    On that point, I suspect a lot of white Australian Christians would be somewhat troubled by depictions of either Jesus or Mary as swarthy skinned and with dark hair and eyes. I have never seen them depicted like that in any Australian church I have ever been in.
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  6. RK says:

    I asked a question on this blog about the emergence of world religion in specific historical windows a few posts ago, just to solicit opinions. This is an excellent and illuminating post, and gives me many leads to explore. Thanks!

    One question which I would ask, on the other hand, is what sort of institutional difference exactly allowed for the persistence of world religion, especially in societies such as the village in the empire or large-scale polity, operating on a smaller scale outside of the metropolitan centres. The structures and incentives of a small scale village society, as experienced by a subsistence farmer, don’t seem all that different, whether or not it is part of a cosmopolitan Empire; and thus behaviours and experiences are likely to be similar…

    Perhaps all religion, as socially experienced by the vast majority in premodern societies, is little different from the shamanism of the Congo, at least in its social role, and the only real difference is the presence of a universalist ideological dimension that manifests as a constant struggle towards enforcement of uniformity by the religious institutions themselves, who persist as an epiphenomenon of centralised, large-scale anonymous polities. The difference is the institution, perhaps? Since it gives a lifeline to people who can prosper under an alternate incentive and status structure, slightly divorced from the society around them, and thus free to embody a religiosity and a continuation of complex and esoteric traditions unknown to the common man.

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  7. ST says:

    Do you remember how to find that alternative history short story you mention?

    If you’re a fan of the genre, would love to hear your favorites. I love alternative history novels, but you have to look hard to find stuff that isn’t trash.

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  8. Pannonia and Britain were not really christian when the Empire lost control of them.

    Read More
    • Replies: @syonredux

    Pannonia and Britain were not really christian when the Empire lost control of them.
     
    Dunno about Pannonia, but Roman Britain certainly seems to have been pretty thoroughly Christianized. And it even produced at least one eminent theologian (Cf Pelagius )
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  9. Pat Casey says:

    But, there is a line of thinking that asserts that there was something profound about the Christian religion which allowed for the maintenance of civilization against the barbarian hordes. Whether it is true or not is not an argument that is winnable in this space.

    Well. There was something profound about the Irish Christian religion, which was disappointed they had no green martyrs–St. Patrick was perfectly efficient—and so they went about building something like 100 monasteries across Europe as soon as they could. The first Christian missionary wave in history. They were called the white martyrs, because they never came back, many after fighting to the death with barbarians, being warrior-monks as they were. That’s profound to anyone who can be objective about the matter I would think.

    That is, Christianity is only marginally about the Athanasian Creed, or even the sacrifice made by the Son of God, from a naturalistic perspective.

    From a naturalist perspective I can’t see one bit of a way Christianity is “about” those.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    That’s profound to anyone who can be objective about the matter I would think.

    your argument is totally incoherent. asserting objectivity but dripping with emotion. if you knew more about history you'd be less impressed by the singularity of the irish.

    the irish church was interesting, but it was not atypical in capturing the culture and polity gradually and without resistance. e.g. ethiopia and armenia. additionally, the church of the east almost certainly had sent missionaries deep into asia well before the irish thanks to the influence of the persianate diaspora. sorry.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  10. @AG
    In case of China, imported religion often adopted local flavor in order to survive. All buddha images became sinicized from original south Asian face into oriental one. Chinese pagan Gods and Zodiac animals were incorporated into buddhist teaching for common folk. Even Taoism is rubbed into new Buddhism teaching in China. Chinese Buddhism is total heresy in order to survive. Most worshipers visited buddhist temples just like visiting Taoism pagan temples. They had no idea what Buddhism really is.

    Islam was partially successful due to similar change. But it is also easier for natives to accept due to its faceless feature without idol worship. Idoless is an important feature of this religion which helps its globalization since it presents itself as non-ethnic religion.

    Christianity, especially Catholicism, had hard time in China due to the very image of God who has a western face. To ordinary Chinese, this alien face is foreign God, not theirs. Not sure any time soon that face of Christ can be converted into a East Asian one like Buddha.

    Catholicism itself was a creation between original Christianity and Roman Pagan tradition. If you visit Sistine chapel, those status share incredible similar facial features like those Roman/Greek Gods. Just like fiction DA VINCI'S CODE revealed, hidden paganism in Catholicism is designed to appeal the natives in theses regions.

    Heretic religions are inevitable in order to survive.


    BTW, Italians share some similarity with South Asian here in term of social interaction. When asked directions, they seems always having answer even they did not know about it. Only 1 out of 10 gave me true answer "I do not know". In my opinion, wrong direction to an address is worse than no direction at all. A waste of time for every body involved.


    Sleepless in Roma, end up reading post here at this odd hours.

    I have a Roman friend who makes a point of sending tourists in the wrong direction if he considers that they have approached him rudely to ask for directions, according to his standards of politeness. So maybe you need to entertain the thought that Italian misdirections could be deliberate, if they decide for whatever reason that they don’t like you.

    The nearest I ever come to that is if tourists approach me in Hong Kong and demand to know if I speak English, to which I invariably respond “No”.

    Read More
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  11. @Karl Zimmerman
    I'm not sure I understand your argument that Jesus could not be depicted as East Asian. There is no canonical depiction of Jesus. The Ethiopian Orthodox church has long depicted him as being Ethiopian, for example. I've seen 19th century Chinese depictions of Jesus which sinified his looks considerably as well.

    Yes, I have seen sinified depictions of both Jesus and Mary, but they are fairly rare in my observation. Mostly, Chinese don’t seem to have any problem with depictions of both as blue eyed, fair haired and with European features. But then, Chinese-speaking European priests and nuns were historically pretty active in various parts of China. My Chinese wife’s grandmother grew up in a British treaty port, so had daily contact with such people and was entirely comfortable with it. She was surprisingly devoutly Catholic for a Chinese (by which I mean to the exclusion of other religious influences) and kept a picture of a blue eyed, fair skinned Mother Mary hanging on the wall in a place of prominence in the living room. But then, a fair number of Chinese are devoutly Catholic, or at least make a public show of being so.

    On that point, I suspect a lot of white Australian Christians would be somewhat troubled by depictions of either Jesus or Mary as swarthy skinned and with dark hair and eyes. I have never seen them depicted like that in any Australian church I have ever been in.

    Read More
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  12. syonredux says:
    @Pseudonymic Handle
    Pannonia and Britain were not really christian when the Empire lost control of them.

    Pannonia and Britain were not really christian when the Empire lost control of them.

    Dunno about Pannonia, but Roman Britain certainly seems to have been pretty thoroughly Christianized. And it even produced at least one eminent theologian (Cf Pelagius )

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    it depends what you mean. the peasantry may not have been. it looks like the classical church was pretty lax about this as long as public paganism was suppressed. but it started to really clamp down on stuff in the cities and had 'captured' the upper classes. in any case, to a first approximation that commenter is wrong. e.g., in pannonia some christians priests did venture into that territory, and were saddened by the debasement of organized xtianity, but some of the latin speaking peasants obviously still had recollections of a functioning christian church.
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  13. Not sure that I disagree with your essay. . . as it is a bit unclear exactly what you are saying.

    One thing Christianity had/has going for it was the institution of the Church, which was very effective in spreading Christianity and preserving unity. Julian the Apostate, in attempting to restore paganism, created a surrogate “church” essentially copying the Ecclesia in the most sincere form of flattery.

    The spread of Christianity is interesting in itself, as many prominent “universal” or “imperial” religions spread on the backs of rising Imperial powers, whether it be Islam or Buddhism under Asoka the Great. Christianity won a centuries long war of attrition, with an obvious boost due to the conversion of Constantine.

    But one point worth mentioning is that when there is a political collapse, the result is often theocracy, as religious institutions are often the last to go, and religion provides a basis for claims of political legitimacy, particularly in the absence of a more secular opposition. You can see this in both Western Europe as well as in places like Tibet.

    Even though Islamic Revolution is a different matter all together, it is partially a result of Arab Nationalist governments suppression of civil society, leaving only the Mosque as a public space that can exist relatively independently (and in opposition) to the regime.

    Read More
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  14. PD Shaw says:
    @AG
    In case of China, imported religion often adopted local flavor in order to survive. All buddha images became sinicized from original south Asian face into oriental one. Chinese pagan Gods and Zodiac animals were incorporated into buddhist teaching for common folk. Even Taoism is rubbed into new Buddhism teaching in China. Chinese Buddhism is total heresy in order to survive. Most worshipers visited buddhist temples just like visiting Taoism pagan temples. They had no idea what Buddhism really is.

    Islam was partially successful due to similar change. But it is also easier for natives to accept due to its faceless feature without idol worship. Idoless is an important feature of this religion which helps its globalization since it presents itself as non-ethnic religion.

    Christianity, especially Catholicism, had hard time in China due to the very image of God who has a western face. To ordinary Chinese, this alien face is foreign God, not theirs. Not sure any time soon that face of Christ can be converted into a East Asian one like Buddha.

    Catholicism itself was a creation between original Christianity and Roman Pagan tradition. If you visit Sistine chapel, those status share incredible similar facial features like those Roman/Greek Gods. Just like fiction DA VINCI'S CODE revealed, hidden paganism in Catholicism is designed to appeal the natives in theses regions.

    Heretic religions are inevitable in order to survive.


    BTW, Italians share some similarity with South Asian here in term of social interaction. When asked directions, they seems always having answer even they did not know about it. Only 1 out of 10 gave me true answer "I do not know". In my opinion, wrong direction to an address is worse than no direction at all. A waste of time for every body involved.


    Sleepless in Roma, end up reading post here at this odd hours.

    China was initially missionized by the Dyophysite Church of the East, which long had religious issues with artistic representation of Jesus, and were particularly opposed to Jesus appearing on a cross. With the rise of Islam, they eliminated religious icons altogether, which would be vandalized or stolen by Muslims. I see no reason that religious imagery would be a barrier against Christianization of China, had China a Constantine.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    the barrier is more prosaic: the vacuum in china for institutional religion was filled by buddhism, and later forms of daoism which adopted buddhist institutionalism. once an institutional religion has deep enough roots it's hard for even rulers to change things in a singular manner. e.g., prussia remained mostly lutheran despite its rulers conversion to reformed christianity for centuries (this only changed with the forcible union of the two churches officially). similarly, when the kings of saxony became catholic because of succession through a lateral line, the domain remained protestant.
    , @NN

    I see no reason that religious imagery would be a barrier against Christianization of China, had China a Constantine.
     
    China sort of did have a Constantine, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Xiuquan
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion
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  15. @syonredux

    Pannonia and Britain were not really christian when the Empire lost control of them.
     
    Dunno about Pannonia, but Roman Britain certainly seems to have been pretty thoroughly Christianized. And it even produced at least one eminent theologian (Cf Pelagius )

    it depends what you mean. the peasantry may not have been. it looks like the classical church was pretty lax about this as long as public paganism was suppressed. but it started to really clamp down on stuff in the cities and had ‘captured’ the upper classes. in any case, to a first approximation that commenter is wrong. e.g., in pannonia some christians priests did venture into that territory, and were saddened by the debasement of organized xtianity, but some of the latin speaking peasants obviously still had recollections of a functioning christian church.

    Read More
    • Replies: @syonredux

    it depends what you mean.
     
    I was thinking in terms of the elite level of Romano-British society (Gildas, etc). I'm sure that a lot of the peasantry were operationally pagan.
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  16. @Pat Casey

    But, there is a line of thinking that asserts that there was something profound about the Christian religion which allowed for the maintenance of civilization against the barbarian hordes. Whether it is true or not is not an argument that is winnable in this space.
     
    Well. There was something profound about the Irish Christian religion, which was disappointed they had no green martyrs--St. Patrick was perfectly efficient---and so they went about building something like 100 monasteries across Europe as soon as they could. The first Christian missionary wave in history. They were called the white martyrs, because they never came back, many after fighting to the death with barbarians, being warrior-monks as they were. That's profound to anyone who can be objective about the matter I would think.

    That is, Christianity is only marginally about the Athanasian Creed, or even the sacrifice made by the Son of God, from a naturalistic perspective.
     
    From a naturalist perspective I can't see one bit of a way Christianity is "about" those.

    That’s profound to anyone who can be objective about the matter I would think.

    your argument is totally incoherent. asserting objectivity but dripping with emotion. if you knew more about history you’d be less impressed by the singularity of the irish.

    the irish church was interesting, but it was not atypical in capturing the culture and polity gradually and without resistance. e.g. ethiopia and armenia. additionally, the church of the east almost certainly had sent missionaries deep into asia well before the irish thanks to the influence of the persianate diaspora. sorry.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Pat Casey
    No, Razib, my argument is not totally incoherent. you just don't have much grasp of how literary tonalities can amount to an argument. you said there was nothing profound about the Christian religion which allowed for the maintenance of civilization against the barbarian hordes. well now, the objective fact about the irish after st. patrick up til lets say 850 is that they maintained more than half of the "civilization" we currently possess from then. I think that was so because of something profound about the irish, and how they received christianity. "Saints and Scholars," runs the old motto. ethiopia and armenia? nope, still impressed. and about those theoretical missionaries getting deep int asia, obviously, the real point is, yeah how'd that work out?
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  17. @PD Shaw
    China was initially missionized by the Dyophysite Church of the East, which long had religious issues with artistic representation of Jesus, and were particularly opposed to Jesus appearing on a cross. With the rise of Islam, they eliminated religious icons altogether, which would be vandalized or stolen by Muslims. I see no reason that religious imagery would be a barrier against Christianization of China, had China a Constantine.

    the barrier is more prosaic: the vacuum in china for institutional religion was filled by buddhism, and later forms of daoism which adopted buddhist institutionalism. once an institutional religion has deep enough roots it’s hard for even rulers to change things in a singular manner. e.g., prussia remained mostly lutheran despite its rulers conversion to reformed christianity for centuries (this only changed with the forcible union of the two churches officially). similarly, when the kings of saxony became catholic because of succession through a lateral line, the domain remained protestant.

    Read More
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  18. NN says:
    @PD Shaw
    China was initially missionized by the Dyophysite Church of the East, which long had religious issues with artistic representation of Jesus, and were particularly opposed to Jesus appearing on a cross. With the rise of Islam, they eliminated religious icons altogether, which would be vandalized or stolen by Muslims. I see no reason that religious imagery would be a barrier against Christianization of China, had China a Constantine.

    I see no reason that religious imagery would be a barrier against Christianization of China, had China a Constantine.

    China sort of did have a Constantine, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Xiuquan

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    China sort of did have a Constantine, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.


    this is a very bad analogy. a good analogy would be if kangxi had converted to christianity. the taiping rebellion fits a template which goes back to the yellow turbans.
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  19. Pat Casey says:
    @Razib Khan
    That’s profound to anyone who can be objective about the matter I would think.

    your argument is totally incoherent. asserting objectivity but dripping with emotion. if you knew more about history you'd be less impressed by the singularity of the irish.

    the irish church was interesting, but it was not atypical in capturing the culture and polity gradually and without resistance. e.g. ethiopia and armenia. additionally, the church of the east almost certainly had sent missionaries deep into asia well before the irish thanks to the influence of the persianate diaspora. sorry.

    No, Razib, my argument is not totally incoherent. you just don’t have much grasp of how literary tonalities can amount to an argument. you said there was nothing profound about the Christian religion which allowed for the maintenance of civilization against the barbarian hordes. well now, the objective fact about the irish after st. patrick up til lets say 850 is that they maintained more than half of the “civilization” we currently possess from then. I think that was so because of something profound about the irish, and how they received christianity. “Saints and Scholars,” runs the old motto. ethiopia and armenia? nope, still impressed. and about those theoretical missionaries getting deep int asia, obviously, the real point is, yeah how’d that work out?

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    and about those theoretical missionaries getting deep int asia, obviously, the real point is, yeah how’d that work out?

    there were nestorians in genghis khan's armies. the irish were a big deal. but they are less of a big deal outside of western europe (e.g., obviously greek learning was preserved in byzantium and transmitted to renaissance italy).

    btw, the irish missions into the eastern domains of the merovingian empire were famously ineffectual. it was boniface, and finally charlemagne, who christianized these areas with finality. they were a bigger deal in britain, but britain is not that big of a deal at that point in time (and it would have gotten converted by continental christians anyway at some point).

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  20. @Pat Casey
    No, Razib, my argument is not totally incoherent. you just don't have much grasp of how literary tonalities can amount to an argument. you said there was nothing profound about the Christian religion which allowed for the maintenance of civilization against the barbarian hordes. well now, the objective fact about the irish after st. patrick up til lets say 850 is that they maintained more than half of the "civilization" we currently possess from then. I think that was so because of something profound about the irish, and how they received christianity. "Saints and Scholars," runs the old motto. ethiopia and armenia? nope, still impressed. and about those theoretical missionaries getting deep int asia, obviously, the real point is, yeah how'd that work out?

    and about those theoretical missionaries getting deep int asia, obviously, the real point is, yeah how’d that work out?

    there were nestorians in genghis khan’s armies. the irish were a big deal. but they are less of a big deal outside of western europe (e.g., obviously greek learning was preserved in byzantium and transmitted to renaissance italy).

    btw, the irish missions into the eastern domains of the merovingian empire were famously ineffectual. it was boniface, and finally charlemagne, who christianized these areas with finality. they were a bigger deal in britain, but britain is not that big of a deal at that point in time (and it would have gotten converted by continental christians anyway at some point).

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    you're right. and cahill does say it was the latin texts that the irish largely saved. the only point about the monasteries that the missionaries built is that they were outposts which eventually did grow into dozens of cities. michael novak argued the monks started a market economy but I don't know about that. anyways, "the weight of the Irish influence on the continent is incalculable." -james westfall thompson. (I assume he means it was big, as you say.) the only reason i harp about it is because cahill gave his book the worst title to get anyone but irish to buy it so I think generally it was not received, and it seems that thompson was the only non-irish historian to make the point up to then at all. fyi, the book of kells has really evocative art.
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  21. @NN

    I see no reason that religious imagery would be a barrier against Christianization of China, had China a Constantine.
     
    China sort of did have a Constantine, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hong_Xiuquan
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion

    China sort of did have a Constantine, though he was ultimately unsuccessful.

    this is a very bad analogy. a good analogy would be if kangxi had converted to christianity. the taiping rebellion fits a template which goes back to the yellow turbans.

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  22. syonredux says:
    @Razib Khan
    it depends what you mean. the peasantry may not have been. it looks like the classical church was pretty lax about this as long as public paganism was suppressed. but it started to really clamp down on stuff in the cities and had 'captured' the upper classes. in any case, to a first approximation that commenter is wrong. e.g., in pannonia some christians priests did venture into that territory, and were saddened by the debasement of organized xtianity, but some of the latin speaking peasants obviously still had recollections of a functioning christian church.

    it depends what you mean.

    I was thinking in terms of the elite level of Romano-British society (Gildas, etc). I’m sure that a lot of the peasantry were operationally pagan.

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    me too. though pannonia was under roman control deep into the 5th century, so christianity was probably more well established in the peasantry than in britain. but by the time britain separate from the empire christianity had its own inertia. the roman-british seem to have been all christian by the 6th century, at least nominally.
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  23. @syonredux

    it depends what you mean.
     
    I was thinking in terms of the elite level of Romano-British society (Gildas, etc). I'm sure that a lot of the peasantry were operationally pagan.

    me too. though pannonia was under roman control deep into the 5th century, so christianity was probably more well established in the peasantry than in britain. but by the time britain separate from the empire christianity had its own inertia. the roman-british seem to have been all christian by the 6th century, at least nominally.

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  24. Anonymous says: • Website • Disclaimer

    Hi Razib, you say:

    QUOTE: It is a common assertion to state Christianity helped maintain the continuity of Classical civilization down to the Medieval era, through the “Dark Age” of Europe after the Fall of Rome :UNQUOTE

    I’ve understood that it was in fact Islam that cherished knowledge, philosophy, the arts and sciences during that period. Here’s Prince Charles on the subject:

    QUOTE: we have underestimated the importance of 800 years of Islamic society and culture in Spain between the 8th and 15th centuries. The contribution of Muslim Spain to the preservation of classical learning during the Dark Ages, and to the first flowerings of the Renaissance, has long been recognised. But Islamic Spain was much more than a mere larder where Hellenistic knowledge was kept for later consumption by the emerging modern Western world. Not only did Muslim Spain gather and preserve the intellectual content of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation, it also interpreted and expanded upon that civilisation, and made a vital contribution of its own in so many fields of human endeavour – in science, astronomy, mathematics, algebra (itself an Arabic word), law, history, medicine, pharmacology, optics, agriculture, architecture, theology, music. Averroes and Avenzoor, like their counterparts Avicenna and Rhazes in the East, contributed to the study and practice of medicine in ways from which Europe benefited for centuries afterwards.

    http://www.twf.org/Library/Renaissance.html :UNQUOTE

    Would you agree? And if so, what was it that “closed the gates of ijtihad” in such a way that Christendom, now morphed into “the modern west” picked up the torch and Islam dropped it?

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  25. Pat Casey says:
    @Razib Khan
    and about those theoretical missionaries getting deep int asia, obviously, the real point is, yeah how’d that work out?

    there were nestorians in genghis khan's armies. the irish were a big deal. but they are less of a big deal outside of western europe (e.g., obviously greek learning was preserved in byzantium and transmitted to renaissance italy).

    btw, the irish missions into the eastern domains of the merovingian empire were famously ineffectual. it was boniface, and finally charlemagne, who christianized these areas with finality. they were a bigger deal in britain, but britain is not that big of a deal at that point in time (and it would have gotten converted by continental christians anyway at some point).

    you’re right. and cahill does say it was the latin texts that the irish largely saved. the only point about the monasteries that the missionaries built is that they were outposts which eventually did grow into dozens of cities. michael novak argued the monks started a market economy but I don’t know about that. anyways, “the weight of the Irish influence on the continent is incalculable.” -james westfall thompson. (I assume he means it was big, as you say.) the only reason i harp about it is because cahill gave his book the worst title to get anyone but irish to buy it so I think generally it was not received, and it seems that thompson was the only non-irish historian to make the point up to then at all. fyi, the book of kells has really evocative art.

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  26. bla says:

    Razib, if you have some time, could you please expand on what is known about Balkan population. Thank you.

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