Hellenistic Greeks

Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
#11
I see no reason why Greece would be more resistant to Christianity than any other culture. It had always been a very spiritual nation - the pantheistic beliefs were almost universal in Ancient Greece.
I wouldn't really say that. They'd expunged supernaturalism and myth from numerous fields (such as, for instance, history) and in some senses regarded religion as mostly a public duty, by that time (we aren't talking about Homeric Greece here, after all). They certainly practiced it, but they did so in the same sense that Confucians continued to go through the motions of Chinese folk religion - because it was perceived as a social virtue, not necessarily out of fervent belief. By the time Christianity showed up, they don't seem to have been as involved in their own religion as they had once been.

Even if I accepted that a development from "rationalism" to Christianity as illogical, or "evolution in reverse"
Hmmm ... I don't think that was really how it worked. Greek philosophy had long since been secularized, and continued to develop while the Greek religion became somewhat ossified. Christianity, on the other hand, was a fusion of religion and philosophy and alot of it was very compatible with the Greek philosophies - perhaps even inspired by the Greek philosophies in some aspects. This made it an attractive substitute, in some ways more in keeping with Greek ideals than the old religion.
 
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Nov 2008
639
Melbourne, Australia
#12
I wouldn't really say that. They'd expunged supernaturalism and myth from numerous fields (such as, for instance, history) and in some senses regarded religion as mostly a public duty, by that time (we aren't talking about Homeric Greece here, after all). They certainly practiced it, but they did so in the same sense that Confucians continued to go through the motions of Chinese folk religion - because it was perceived as a social virtue, not necessarily out of fervent belief. By the time Christianity showed up, they don't seem to have been as involved in their own religion as they had once been.
Well, fair enough, but they were hardly living in a religious vacuum to the point at which they would be particularly more resistant to Christianity than any other culture.

Hmmm ... I don't think that was really how it worked. Greek philosophy had long since been secularized, and continued to develop while the Greek religion became somewhat ossified. Christianity, on the other hand, was a fusion of religion and philosophy and alot of it was very compatible with the Greek philosophies - perhaps even inspired by the Greek philosophies in some aspects. This made it an attractive substitute, in some ways more in keeping with Greek ideals than the old religion.
I completely agree. It was Rosicrucian who made the claim of "evolution in reverse".
 
#13
I'm Greek my shelf so I'll try to explain things a litlle bit.
First of all you need to understand the "Greek way of thinking".
Its basic concepts are:
1. If everything is fine praise the leader, but if there's something going wrong blame the leader(e.g. Alcibiades, Venizelos).
2. Before anything think of yourself and those that you favour the most.
Exception on rule no. 2 : Freedom or death.Emblem of the Greek revolution gainst of 1821.
3. If someone is stronger than you don't get in his way, if not you can do whatever you like.

I'm sorry to inform you that most of my countrymen have only heard of the great phillosophers of the past. You should also know that religion played a very important role at the ancient Athenian democracy. Furthermore religion has a major role in greek modern society(e.g. the whole school visits the nearby church in certain occasions, and I'd like to see you try to tell your 50 yo teacher that you don't want to go in because you are an atheist).
The bonds between social life and religion in Greece are more than you can imagine; for example, when a new shop opens a priest blesses it, when a new house is built a priest blesses its foundations at the beginning of the whole building process. Also the majority of the Greeks is deeply religious.
A lot of teenagers go to church each Sunday with their grandfathers, wear crosses around their necks and almost all of them(99,99%) pray each morning when school begins. Finally, the church holds great influence and strength in modern greek society.
Concerning ancient Greece you should know that even ancient Greeks were deeply religious. They stared each battle by singing a hymn to the god they favoured(usually Zeus or Ares, god of war), the drama competitions were part of the festival of a god, usually Dionysus god of whine and if you read Plato's writings on Socrates you'll understand that neither Socrates nor Plato were atheists( you should consider that through Socrates Plato tries to deliver his own ideas, so when Socrates says somethign Plato is the one who actually says it, so it's Plato's ideas that we read and not Socrates').
 

Rosi

Historum Emeritas
Jul 2008
6,242
#14
First of all you need to understand the "Greek way of thinking".
Its basic concepts are:
1. If everything is fine praise the leader, but if there's something going wrong blame the leader(e.g. Alcibiades, Venizelos).
2. Before anything think of yourself and those that you favour the most.
Exception on rule no. 2 : Freedom or death.Emblem of the Greek revolution gainst of 1821.
3. If someone is stronger than you don't get in his way, if not you can do whatever you like.
:D I like your unsparing observation.

Concerning ancient Greece you should know that even ancient Greeks were deeply religious. They stared each battle by singing a hymn to the god they favoured(usually Zeus or Ares, god of war), the drama competitions were part of the festival of a god, usually Dionysus god of whine and if you read Plato's writings on Socrates you'll understand that neither Socrates nor Plato were atheists.
It's not about being atheists. I was referring more to Greece's transition from its faith in mythology to the Humanism of Antiquity to embracing Christianity. That's what I'm trying to understand. I get Greece moving from mythology to philosophy, what I don't get is it moving from philosophy to Christianity. (The fundamental difference between the two being that religion hands you over an elaborate list of dos and dont's, and a bundle of answers about most important questions concerning ourselves and our world -- you DON'T question any of them; just accept them. Whereas philosophy exhorts an individual to find these answers for herself and question EVERYTHING in doing so.) I've tried searching about this on the net with little luck. You said modern Greeks don't know much about their ancient philosophers. But back then when Christianity had just come to Greece, surely they would have been better known?

You could say a common man back then had nothing to do with the philosophers. But it's not about the philosophers themselves per se, it's about the spirit to question things that marked those ages, and not accepting things on face value. Not even on face value, as it turns out as far as religion is concerned, more on faith value.
 
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Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
#15
You could say a common man back then had nothing to do with the philosophers. But it's not about the philosophers themselves per se, it's about the spirit to question things that marked those ages
Right, but that was the province of the philosophers, not the Greeks as a whole.

Philosophy was just one aspect of life in ancient Greece. Because it is important to us, we often forget that the ancient Greek farmer and carpenter and fishmonger had to deal with all the banalities and disappoinments and drudgery of everyday life. That's part of what kept the Greek religion alive even after philosophy had more or less moved past it, because philosophy didn't really answer their cares and worries. Christianity came along, and it was not only a more appealing balm to life's disappointments, it also seemed to echo many of the things the average Greek associated with the philosophers, so to them, it would have seemed like a good fit. He would have been thinking it was only natural to pursue a more philosophical religion. That the marriage of philosophy and religion spelled the end of secular philosophy probably didn't occur to him.
 
#16
Let me ask you a simple question.
If you're starving asnd your whole family is starving will you think about Plato's "world of ideas" or find a way to survive?

As you understand the phillosophers were rich(except ,perhaps, of Socrates, who, nevertheless, had trully powerful friends), as a result their way of thinking was the way of thinking of the rich people ant therefore was attractive to mostly them.
Also, as i tried to point out in my previous post, the so called logic and humanism that started in ancient Greece was adopted only by the upper classes, more specifically the members of the upper classes who tried to give the impression of a leader who cared for his people, while the vast majority could not be interested in such phillosophical pursuits, due to its lack of proper education.
An exception may be Pericle's Athens, but still even though more CITIZENS(males whose both parents were athenians) were interested in phillosophy there were even more metiki(some kind of economical immigrants) who only thought of how to survive , put aside the slaves and women.
I hope I helped you understand that this so called era of human rights is quite diffirent to what we think, the greek phollosophy was not a part of peoples' everyday lives, so a phillosophy(Christianism is actually a philosophy, apart from being a religion, as it represents a way of thinking and living) that apealled to the masses, with the promise of eternal life, quickly gained followers.
 
Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
#17
Michel Ney said:
As you understand the phillosophers were rich(except ,perhaps, of Socrates, who, nevertheless, had trully powerful friends), as a result their way of thinking was the way of thinking of the rich people ant therefore was attractive to mostly them.
Well now, I wouldn't exactly say that. The philosophers were a class unto themselves. Some of them were wealthy; some weren't. The Cynics, for instance, were ascetics who rejected possessions altogether and seem to have been homeless vagrants for the most part.
 
#18
Well now, I wouldn't exactly say that. The philosophers were a class unto themselves. Some of them were wealthy; some weren't. The Cynics, for instance, were ascetics who rejected possessions altogether and seem to have been homeless vagrants for the most part.
My point is not that all phillosophers were rich but that they didn't have to earn their living, like all the other people, through heavy labour.
They were class unto themselves as you said, but still they were not among the lower classes nor the higher classes, but, the important thing is that they could practice phillosophy because they didn't have to work. A man of the lower classes couldn't become a phillosopher, partly because of the lack of education and partly because of the lack of money.
I don't think it's bad to practice phillosophy without having to work, actually, I'd really like to be able to do this.:)
 
Jul 2007
9,098
Canada
#19
A man of the lower classes couldn't become a phillosopher, partly because of the lack of education and partly because of the lack of money.
Well that's not true either. Anyone could become a Cynic, and its not like you had to show your papers to the raving longhair on the street corner to be admitted. They didn't have to work, because they took alms. It's not as if all of the followers of others schools were leisurely aristocrats, either: Zeno was a sailor, for instance. The famous ones all worked, at least as teachers, many as writers, orators, politicians, geographers, engineers, mathematicians, architects, etc
 
#20
I think you might find better literature on the conversion of the Roman empire's conversion as a whole (the driving force of which was arguably located in Rome's eastern holdings), rather than looking at Greece as a society continuous from the writings of the first Sophist movement. I once read a history of the word 'superstitio' in Roman law that dealt specifically with the replacement of Roman fear of "irrational religion" with the Christian society it became.

And don't draw the line so clearly between Classical Attica and early Christianity. While they were certainly profoundly different, Socrates himself was executed for, primarily among other things, not believing in the Athenian gods. Epicurus is a distinctly spiritual philosophy, and does not rely on the same logic that the Socratic method does, but rather the same trust in divine revelation that Christianity later would. And I personally think that Socrates is best interpreted in the context of the axial age, and his philosophy was not a response to religion or a rejection of religion, but simply coexisted with it.

Finally, Christian theology was in many ways a rationalization of the Jewish traditions it grew out of. It would have appealed to the Greek mind much more than Judaism and Zoroastrianism. It attempted to simplify and provide motive to the actions and stances of God, whereas most examples of monotheism before it were defined by a list of unconnected moral absolutes.
 

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