Religion 21st Century

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  • Christianity - The Roman Church

    The Roman Church has used costumes, drama, music and propaganda to remain an international presence. The claims of the church were perhaps more believable centuries ago, but the Church has always been in the insurance business and retains an irrational hold on its members. Without regular dramatic meetings, communion, confession and the last rights, your insurance policy is cancelled. You face eternal damnation in hell. Despite its history of wars, inquisitions, and corruption, the church continues to claim virtues that it has not earned. The pretense of virtue is again under attack.

    In the early days in Rome, Christians were viewed as an alien cult and suffered persecution until emperors Constantine and Licinius proclaimed a new era of religious tolerance in the Roman Empire in 313 AD. Emperor Theodosius I published an edict in 380 AD giving the bishops of Rome and Alexandria (the Nicene faith) exclusive rights to promote Christianity in the Roman Empire. The empire had eastern and western divisions that were soon to split. Christianity also split into eastern and western divisions. Theodosius attempted to resolve the growing schism in Christianity by convening an ecumenical council at Constantinople. Theodosius promoted the Nicean (Roman) orthodoxy which included the Trinity idea, adding the Holy Ghost to the Father and Son. Theodosius attempted to ban other religious practices, referred to as paganism.

    The Roman Church, the main expression of western Christianity for many centuries, was carried throughout Europe later spread by European nations who colonized the Americas and other regions of the world. The catechism of the Roman Church was strict and exclusive: non-members (pagans, jews and heretics) were excluded from God’s love, barred from a pleasant life after death and faced eternal damnation in hell. Priests and soldiers marched together and collaborated on gaining wealth and political control wherever they went. As a result of Spanish Imperialism, the Roman Church increased its wealth, political power, and continued to develop into an international corporation. Church leaders assumed aristocratic status. They hired the best artists, musicians, architects and builders to glorify the church. The "Holy Roman Empire" began with rulers endorsed by the Roman Pope. Charlemagne was the first crowned by the Roman Pope in 800. Eventually, Emperors discovered they could do without papal coronation. Charles V of Spain was the last Emperor to be crowned by the Pope in 1530. At that time the Spanish Empire dominated Europe. The Spanish Empire expanded globally, dominating the oceans with its navy. The Holy Roman Empire ended in 1806 when the last Emperor, Francis II of Austria abdicated, following a military defeat by the French under Napoleon.

    Voltaire described the Holy Roman Empire as an agglomeration which was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an empire. The spread of Christianity was a brutal affair. Soldiers and priests offered local communities, who had their own beliefs and rituals, a choice between death or membership in the Roman Church. Routery suggested: “The Christian religion has, so often, spread through violence, force and coercion, yet, its advocates, who have written the histories most of us learned in school, portray it, as having been, joyfully embraced by the ancient world, a loving embrace whose only restriction was imposed by the corrupt Roman state like a mean father with an innocent child. In this essay, I present the view of the pagans without apology. In truth, the Roman Church triumphed by marrying the Empire, in that most fateful of centuries, the Fourth, and for the most part people converted because they were terrorized into doing so or forced to by ferociously repressive new laws. In the forced conversion of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire to Christianity, the new religion set itself apart from others, particularly, in its jealousy and extreme intolerance of any other spiritualties. In the ancient world this mania to impose one God, exclusively, was an aberration. Israel had attempted it, but only upon its own ethnic group. “

    Eastern Orthodox Churches remain the third largest branch of Christianity existing apart from the Roman Church. National orthodox churches are found in many Eastern European and Asian countries: Russia, Greece, Serbia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, and Georgia. Christianity arrived in Russia in the ninth century. There is a long history of interchurch disputes, battles, attempted reconciliations, and enduring schisms. The Roman church failed in its attempts to dominate Eastern countries, as the power of Roman Emperors declined. The crusades involved battles among Christian groups; for example, during the fourth crusade Christians from the west partially destroyed Constantinople. Muslims later seized control of the city and eventually Muslims ruled most of territories once occupied by Orthodox Christians. The Muslims made the patriarch of Constantinople the senior bishop, the patriarch of all Orthodox believers.

    Vices not Virtues

    Despite its history of genocidal wars, inquisitions, and corruption, the church continues to claim virtues that it has not earned. The pretense of virtue is again under attack. In several countries sexual abuse and pedophilia claims repeatedly confronted a secretive Roman Church.

    Dowd wrote:" The Catholic Church can never recover as long as its Holy Shepherd is seen as a black sheep in the ever-darkening sex abuse scandal. Now we learn the sickening news that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, nicknamed "God's Rottweiler" when he was the church's enforcer on matters of faith and sin, ignored repeated warnings and looked away in the case of the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, a Wisconsin priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys .The church has been tone deaf and dumb on the scandal for so long that it's shocking, but not surprising, to learn that a group of deaf former students spent 30 years trying to get church leaders to pay attention. The cardinal did not answer. The archbishop wrote to a different Vatican official, but Father Murphy appealed to Cardinal Ratzinger for leniency and got it, partly because of the church's statute of limitations. Since when does sin have a statute of limitations? The pope is in too deep. He has proved himself anything but infallible… The sin-crazed "Rottweiler" was so consumed with sexual mores - issuing constant instructions on chastity, contraception, abortion - that he didn't make time for curbing sexual abuse by priests who were supposed to pray with, not prey on, their young charges. American bishops have gotten politically militant in recent years, opposing the health care bill because its language on abortion wasn't vehement enough, and punishing Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights and stem cell research. They should spend as much time guarding the kids already under their care as they do championing the rights of those who aren't yet born. Decade after decade, the church hid its sordid crimes, enabling the collared perpetrators instead of letting the police collar them. In the case of the infamous German priest, one diocese official hinted that his problem could be fixed by transferring him to teach at a girls' school. Either they figured that he would not be tempted by the female sex, or worse, the church was even less concerned about putting little girls at risk."

    Donadio wrote: "With more victims coming forward worldwide and three bishops resigning last week alone, it is clear the issue is more than a passing storm or a problem of papal communications. Instead, the church is undergoing nothing less than an epochal shift: It pits those who hold fast to a more traditional idea of protecting bishops and priests above all against those who call for more openness and accountability. The battle lines are drawn between the church and society at large, which clearly clamors for accountability. This latest eruption of the scandal, nearly a decade after the costly turmoil in the American church, may just be beginning. Last week, a bishop in Ireland resigned, acknowledging he had covered up abuse, while one in Germany and one in Belgium also stepped down, admitting that they themselves had abused children. Other resignations are expected in Ireland after two reports documented decades of widespread abuse and a cover-up in church-run schools for the poor."

  • Religion for the 21st Century is available as printed books and an eBook download. 332 Pages, The book is intended for an educated reader who is interested in a world view of religious expressions past, present and future. The main theme is that each religious group has its own claims and stories and will tend to reject others. A reader committed to one point of view may not accept the egalitarian review presented here. Innate tendencies are expressed as religions and in the past have created conflicts that hinder progress towards the real and true. The book examines paths for religious renewal in the 21st century.

    The author is Stephen Gislason

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