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Featured The Throne and the Altar

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by Sunstone, May 13, 2020.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    The influence of the clergy, in an age of superstition, might be usefully employed to assert the rights of mankind; but so intimate is the connection between the throne and the altar, that the banner of the church has very seldom been seen on the side of the people. — Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

    Gibbon. Right? Wrong? Handsome? Charming? What make you of his notions and the cut of his jib?


    Today, quite a bit is known with certitude about the formerly murky origins of written history. We now know for a fact that written history begins sometime around 5,500 years ago (give or take 10,000 years) on the grassy plains of Sumer -- and quite possibly in the town of Kish (or any of perhaps two dozen other towns). Moreover, the name of man who invented writing has come down to us as Clay Cuneiform, although we still have left to us the scholarly work of discovering his precise dates of birth and death.

    Another thing we can be absolutely certain of is the approximate, possible, and perhaps even plausible likelihood that the very first civilizations (which first arose in Sumer just a few centuries before writing) achieved political and social stability largely through the expedient of uniting church and state, throne and altar, in order to forge hierarchical societies with centralized governments powerful enough to subjugate the will of the masses to the will of the elites.

    That is to say, the early city-states of Sumer managed to last a while because their kings and their priests joined forces to rule over the people. Had they not joined forces, the people of the time would have risen up and overthrown their wannabe rulers, for men and women are by human nature too unruly to slavishly obey their leaders without their leaders possessing a combination of power and authority.

    Moreover, power ultimately proceeds from the barrel of a gun (as Mao famously put it), while authority is the opiate of the masses (as I myself infamously twist Marx's words on it).

    Power and authority.​

    Force and ideology.

    King and clergy.​

    The winning combo.The reason the earliest city-states were able to hold together long enough to make a difference to the history of the world.


    But what do you yourself think? What has been -- or what is -- the relationship between throne and altar, church and state, kings and clergy in terms of the ability of our world's political and social elites to govern the rest of us?


    BE CIVIL!




     
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  2. Israel Khan

    Israel Khan Well-Known Member

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    Religion was used to keep people in line, as one can disobey a King, but if that king is ordained by God then you would be disobeying the gods themselves and thus risk your own afterlife.

    This is especially true when the King and civilisation is an anti-type of the mythological narrative as was the case with Babylonian religion and Egyptian religion. The Pharoah for instance, was an avatar of Atum, Horus, Ra, Osiris etc, and thus opposing him would be akin to opposing a god.

    Religion was also used to unite the people of a conquered nation with the conquering nation by merging mythology. For instance there is a theory that the Babylonian god Marduk kills Tiamat because Tiamat originated from another civilisations religion and that this cause Marduk to be the King of the Gods, both the Babylonian and the other nations. It would be a similar case with the church incorporating pagan practices into their own religion to unify the peoples.

    With regards to Rome, they were pretty open to other religions, letting them practice them freely, but one had to pay homage to the Emperor as King of Kings and the ultimate God (I think, I can't remember exactly.) which expressed Roman domination over society. The Jews and Christians rejected this outright which is potentially why Jesus was killed, but also a reason why the Christians were persecuted and the Jews and Romans had so much tention.

    Religions are a powerful tool because they provide hope regarding elements of life that are beyond our control. If the state religion promises everlasting life after death to those who follow it and damnation to those who do not, then those who wish to rebel are unlikely to do so because they do not want to risk their salvation.
     
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  3. Rival

    Rival Ecclesia Gentium
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    I disagree with Mao.

    Power proceeds from superstition and belief. Many Kings, Pharaohs, Emperors and others were not just connected to the clergy - they were themselves deities. Not deities such as modern people think, but of the lower tier of gods in the greco-roman sense. One recalls when Hirohito made his declaration to the Japanese people that he is also just a man there was complete disbelief. And that was in the mid 20th century.

    What one needs to rule people is the backing of something higher than people and we call that a god, generally; be it the Sun, the Earth, whatever it is, it needs to be more powerful. If the people truly and fearfully believe that their crops will fail because the sun and rain gods were angry at them and that the King has the power to make those gods happy, you end up with both.

    It's when that backing is questioned, such as during the European Wars of Religion or the American War of Independence, that governments become unstable. People start asking what right the government has to rule over them in the first place and the answer is, really, none. This is a very modern problem, I think. It is a fact that a ruler needs some power behind him, be it the Divine Right of Kings or being a god himself, to rule the people. You can have as many guns as you want - the British did - and it means nothing.
     
    #3 Rival, May 13, 2020
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  4. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
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    The Hasmonean dynasty thought the solution to possible animosity between the priesthood and the royalty would be to combine them: The Hasmoneans were a Kohen (priest) family who rose to power after the Jewish defeat of the Greeks. Shimon Thassi became leader and (if memory serves) the unofficial king of the Judean Jews and was also the Kohen Ha'gadol, the high priest in the Temple. His son Yochanan Hyrcanus was officially king and continued on as high priest, as did his son Alexander Yannai. The problems started when Yannai had two sons who inherited him: The eldest, Hyrcanus, was given the high-priesthood, while the younger, Aristobuleus, was given the crown. Both wanted both jobs and started fighting between themselves. Finally, they had the bright idea to involve the Roman Empire to judge the case. The Romans, naturally, decided neither was worthy of ruling, stormed Judea, and annexed it into the empire. After that, Herod (descendant of an Edomite convert) rose to power and killed off most of the remainder of the Hasmoneans.

    While it sounds that the reality of having a priest-king was the best for the Jews, the sages and Jewish law disagree with that. Jewish law is clear that the priests are descendants of Aharon and stick to their duties, while the crown belongs to the descendants of David and they stick to their duties. For this reason, it's argued by some that the fall of the Hasmonean Dynasty came from the fact that they didn't know their boundaries - had Yochanan Hyrcanus remained in a non-kingship leadership position, it would've been better in the long run.
     
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  5. Kangaroo Feathers

    Kangaroo Feathers Yea, it is written in the Book of Cyril...

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    Sorry... we know the name of the inventor of writing? ?
     
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  6. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    ????…...you think so?

    Clay Cuneiform

    is a name?
     
  7. BSM1

    BSM1 What? Me worry?

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    'Clay Cuneiform'!! Next you'll be telling us that ol' Clay lived long enough to shake hands with John "Pappy" Papyrus...
     
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  8. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Clay Cuneiform. His name was Clay Cuneiform. The French and German archeologists and scholars are quite sure of it. I read the articles they publish in the various French and German scientific journals quite religiously. In fact, if I dare say so myself, I am quite proud of the fact that I read those articles, especially given that I don't know a word of their filthy heathen languages.

    Well, that's not quite true. I do know "Bonjour", which is a German legal term meaning "Bonny good justice". At any rate, it is exceedingly well known to both the French and the Germans that Clay Cuneiform is the man who invented writing.
     
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  9. Harel13

    Harel13 Am Yisrael Chai
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    What's the name pre-translation to English?
     
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  10. Fool

    Fool ALL in all
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    if you can enslave the mind, you have the body. love is a very strange thing when it can launch a thousand ships, or overthrow a kingdom. where is my mind?


    friendship is two bodies being of one mind. mencius



     
    #10 Fool, May 13, 2020
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  11. shmogie

    shmogie Well-Known Member

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    From the Christian perspective, whenever the Church gets into bed with the government, it gets a disease, and ceases to be the Church as it is supposed to be.

    Anything that attempts to be a Christian theocracy is inherently non Christian. History has clearly proven this.
     
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  12. shmogie

    shmogie Well-Known Member

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    Clay also invented tossing horse shoes as a game. Unfortunately, it didn't work out well as the horse shoes were made of clay.
     
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  13. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Spot on! The king might have the soldiers, but the priests have an even greater weapon: ideology. The scope and range of a sword is by its very nature limited. One trembles in its presence, but not so much in its absence. With an ideology, though, the scope and range of its control is theoretically unlimited. A thousand miles from the nearest sword of the king's men, you might find yourself still obeying the ideology of the priests. And even obeying it less begrudgingly -- and more zealously -- than you ever would a sword pointed at you.

    Again, spot on! And not only the Babylonian and Egyptian rulers either -- as I suspect you know. Again and again, when looking at the early hierarchical states around the world, we find this agreement, this marriage, even a fusion of altar and throne, church and state, god (and/or clergy) and king. The Inca of the Incan Empire was a god-king. As apparently might have been the rulers of most of the Meso-American civilizations (Mayan, Olmec, Toltec, Aztec, etc). Either god-kings or priest-kings.

    Perhaps even more tellingly in this context, the rulers of the first Sumerian city-states begin as god-kings, then over time morph into stewards of this or that specific god.


    Excellent point! You're right! Nothing bespeaks the efficacy of a religious ideology to help mentally and emotionally subjugate a militarily conquered people than the fact religious ideologies were almost routinely employed to do just that. If it didn't work, why did they keep doing it?

    As I recall, the Emperor's status was a bit fuzzy. In Rome and other sophisticated cities, he was not a deity, but instead his "genius", his spirit or driving inspiration, was the deity. A minor deity when compared to Jupiter or Saturn, to be sure, but still a deity. However, in the less sophisticated regions of the Empire, out in the boondocks, the Emperor himself was a god.

    By the way, the Christian term "liturgy" originates in the Latin word for a Roman tax. The tax usually took the form of a bit of salt paid to a Roman deity (in latter years, the Emperor or his genius) as a token of one's submission to the Romans, their state, their Senate, their Emperors. It was the Jewish refusal, and later the Christian refusal, to pay the liturgy that identified them as enemies of the state.

    Ironically, they thus became enemies of the state even though some of them might otherwise be among the very best, most upstanding, and law-abiding subjects or citizens of the Empire for miles in any direction.

    Agreed. But even without any reference whatsoever to an afterlife, religions are hugely compelling when they become in any way "official" or representative of both the people at large and the state in particular. Just imagine what it's like to live in a society where the religion has no afterlife, but everyone about you treats you like an outcast so long as you do not subscribe to it.

    Why, it would be worse -- far worse -- than being a nun in a strip club.
     
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  14. Thief

    Thief Rogue Theologian

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    there are four basic motivations

    if you believe in God.....religion would be top of the line
    someone behind the status of priest will attempt to convince you...
    God wants you to......

    then politics....
    I have a dream
    I have a plan
    I am not a crook

    then the military
    obey of be shot

    last....but not least.....economy

    listed as last for motivation as motivation should be of higher thought and feeling
    and money as a motivator
    can be so......spiritless
     
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  15. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I think you and I (and Mao) are using the same words, but defining them differently. What you call "power", I have included under the label of "authority". Everything you go on to say about "power" is almost word for word what I myself would say -- only I would call it "authority" rather than power. So you and I are in substantial agreement -- except for how we define the terms we use.

    Now, at 63, I am far, far too emotionally mature and intellectually responsible to shamelessly make a public spectacle of myself by throwing a infantile tantrum over the fact that you are using your terms in ways that are different from how I myself am using the same terms. After all, you have a right to use terms as you see fit, and so do I (though it is necessary that we define our terms either explicitly or implicitly if communication is to occur).

    But I am on the very verge of tears because you refuse to use "power" the way I use "power". Why do you insist on breaking my heart, Rival. Why do you want to break it! Oh gods! Oh gods! How can I endure the chasm between our minds! Oh gods!

    I'm cool with what you're doing. I understand what you mean. No worries.

    I agree. Although I would broaden "superstition and belief" out to "ideology in general". Please see my post #13 to @Israel Khan for further elaboration.

    Said well and said truly. I agree with you as far you go. The one point I would like to broaden out here is that ideologies exert control over us not just by creating threats of punishment or holding out promises of reward. They also frame our world for us. They tell us -- often subconsciously what to think of as possible and impossible. And in doing that, they exert tremendous influence over us. Influence you call "power" and I call "authority".

    A bit of trivia. You speak of "when people start asking what right the government has to rule over them" as "a modern problem". But I know you well enough to know that you are forgetting for a moment what you know of the ancient Greeks, and their questioning of the rights of governments or other people to rule over them. You probably know more than I do about that, given you know the language.

    Yet I bet I know at least one thing you don't....

    Around 800 BCE there was a Greek living in Asia Minor who led a province-wide rebellion against his Assyrian king. He was recorded on a tablet written upon by the Assyrian scribe, Clay Cuneiform, as stirring up the rabble with speeches hammering on his point that "the king is not a god, but a man just like us".

    Greeks! Insufferable!
     
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  16. Rival

    Rival Ecclesia Gentium
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    I think maybe you missed my point that I don't speak or read Greek I was making. What I'm basically trying to say is that the authority lies with the ruler (King, Pharaoh, &c.) but that authority needs to be backed up by a power. For many, that backing is a higher power - that is, a power that can confer the authority to the King, in the same way a King has the power to give authority to the judge to prosecute on behalf of the King. A king with no backing will quickly be deposed. We see a version of this power in the US. as a deification of the Bill of Rights, for instance, alongside the Constitution - this is the power that gives government authority. In my own country, we go G-d -> Queen -> Prime Minister. In the Ancient Greek world they had these and similar ideas.

    No-one can ever rule without that. But 'that' has to be something that is, or usually is, beyond question. Very few things are beyond question now especially.
     
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  17. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Yes, I did indeed miss that part. I also missed my brunch today reading your post, but you'll never know the sacrifices I make for you. The hours I spend thinking only of your welfare. The nights I lay awake reading the Torah and filthy, erotic novels, trying to get inside your mind. The times I have slaved -- slaved! -- over composing love poems to Suzanne Giles, a woman who has nothing to do with you, and who you do not even know, but as long as I'm on a guilt trip roll, I should include her too. The months I hav Thanks for the clarification! That's very helpful.

    You and I only obliquely agree here. That is, we agree somewhat, but only in a more or less oblique way. However, I can see you've got a well-thought out position there that it's Romanian you speak and read, rather than Greek. I should have remembered! .

    For the record, and not by way of disputing you, my use of the terms "authority" and "power" reflect my knowledge of leadership in hunting/gathering groups. The leaders (in my terms) are followed solely on the basis of what authority they might have, for they have no power over their followers at all. By "power", I mean the use of force to compel behavior.

    Their authority is derived from -- not from the gods -- but from the prestige, reputation, respect, and confidence they have earned over their lifetimes as individuals notable for (in no particular order) their kindness, good sense, knowledge, wisdom, 'community spirit', loyalty, compassion, prowess as warriors and hunters, competence as gatherers. etc etc. etc.

    That isn't me speaking. That is almost every anthropologist who has ever studied how leadership works in such groups. The leaders of hunting/gathering groups literally cannot order anyone to do anything. They can only persuade people to do things via the influence of their authority over them. Were they to threaten anyone with force or violence, they themselves would instantly become anathema. The whole group would rush to gang up on them, take them down via sarcasm, ridicule, ostracism, and like means. That's how it works. That's what anthropologists consistently report.

    Typically, the enforcement of group norms is exercised by ostracism -- and in very rare cases -- by driving someone out of the group to fend for themselves in the wilderness. BUT THESE ARE NOT SEEN BY HUNTING/GATHERING PEOPLES AS PUNISHMENTS! They are seen as teaching. As instructing. As educating someone in how valuable other people are to them. Kind of like, "You're being a jerk to us, so we're going to teach you how much you truly value us by refusing to talk with you until you appreciate us."
     
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  18. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    From what little I know of the early Church, I think the Christians of the first two centuries would especially agree with you. That is, if by "theocracy" you mean some kind of authoritarian government.
     
  19. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    ***MOD POST***

    HAH! HAH! HAH!

    I MOVED THE THREAD FROM GENERAL DEBATES TO GENERAL RELIGIOUS DEBATES JUST TO SEE IF ANYONE WANTS TO PLAY HIDE AND SEEK WITH ME.

    ANYONE?

    PLEASE?

    PLEASE, ANYONE?

    .

     
  20. Rival

    Rival Ecclesia Gentium
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    no
     
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