The year after Alexandria burned, in 392 the Roman Empire began prohibition of all “Pagan” worship. Note that “Pagan” is a Christian word meaning any and all religions other than Christianity. So in 392, all other religions were officially decreed against the law. In 410 Emperor Honorius continued the policy decreeing: “Let all who act contrary to the sacred laws know that their creeping in their heretical superstition to worship at the most remote oracle is punishable by exile and blood, should they again be tempted to assemble at such places for criminal activities.”
For decades, Pagan temples within the Empire were burned and destroyed. A 386 written protest to the Roman government of Christian pillaging remains, stating: “If they [the Christians] hear of a place with something worth raping away, they immediately claim that someone is making sacrifices there and committing abominations, and pay the place a visit—you can see them scurrying there, these guardians of good order (for that is what they call themselves), these brigands, if brigands is not too mild a word; for brigands at least try to conceal what they have done: if you call them brigands, they are outraged, but these people, on the contrary, show pride in their exploits ... they believe they deserve rewards!” -Helen Ellerbe, “The Dark Side of Christian History” (28)
Even after the destruction of most temples, Rome’s non-Christians continued to practice their pagan religions and hold strong to their beliefs. In response to this the Emperor outlawed the practice of all religions other than Judaism/Christianity and decreed non-compliance punishable by death.
“By 435 a law threatened any heretic in the Roman Empire with death. Judaism remained the only other legally recognized religion. Yet, Jews were isolated as much as possible, with intermarriage between Jew and Christian carrying the same penalty as adultery: the woman would be executed. The Church had triumphed. The belief in but one face of God had led to the legal enforcement of but one religion. Orthodox Christians acted on their belief about God. As they perceived God to control in an authoritarian manner, so they set about finding a way in which they, in God's name, could exercise similar authoritarian control. To that end, they built an organization that appealed to the government of the Roman Empire by promoting uniformity and obedience.” -Helen Ellerbe, “The Dark Side of Christian History” (29)
Constantine and proceeding emperors used Christianity as an ideological and political unifying/centralizing force to assimilate or destroy everyone into their ever-expanding empire. The death penalty was delivered dictatorially and indiscriminately. The Roman Empire was gaining power and influence when in 540AD the worst plague in known history hit killing an incredible 100 million people. Over 10,000 people a day died in Byzantium alone. Compare this to the infamous 14th century “Black Death” which killed (only) 27 million. Needless to say the plague spelled disaster for the Roman Empire, but not for Christian imperialism.
“The plague had quite different impact upon Christianity. People flocked to the Church in terror. The Church explained that the plague was an act of God, and disease a punishment for the sin of not obeying Church authority. The Church branded Justinian a heretic. It declared the field of Greek and Roman medicine, useless in fighting the plague, to be heresy. While the plague assured the downfall of the Roman Empire, it strengthened the Christian church. After the plague, the Church dominated the formal discipline of medicine. The most common medical practice between the sixth and sixteenth centuries used for every malady became ‘bleeding.’ Christian monks taught that bleeding a person would prevent toxic imbalances, prevent sexual desire, and restore the humors. By the sixteenth century this practice would kill tens of thousands each year. Yet, when a person died during blood-letting, it was only lamented that treatment had not been started sooner and performed more aggressively.” -Helen Ellerbe, “The Dark Side of Christian History” (42)
Following the wake of the plague and the fall of the Roman Empire was the rise of the Christian Church. Following the rise of the Christian Church was the decline of most every other facet of society.
“The Church had devastating impact upon society. As the Church assumed leadership, activity in the fields of medicine, technology, science, education, history, art and commerce all but collapsed. Europe entered the Dark Ages. Although the Church amassed immense wealth during these centuries, most of what defines civilization disappeared … Technology disappeared as the Church became the most cohesive power in Western society. The extensive aqueduct and plumbing systems vanished. Orthodox Christians taught that all aspects of the flesh should be reviled and therefore discouraged washing as much as possible. Toilets and indoor plumbing disappeared. Disease became commonplace as sanitation and hygiene deteriorated. For hundreds of years, towns and villages were decimated by epidemics. Roman central heating systems were also abandoned. As one historian writes: ‘From about A.D. 500 onward, it was thought no hardship to lie on the floor at night, or on a hard bench above low drafts, damp earth and rats. To be indoors was luxury enough. Nor was it distasteful to sleep huddled closely together in company, for warmth was valued above privacy.’ The vast network of roads that had enabled transportation and communication also fell into neglect and would remain so until almost the nineteenth century. The losses in science were monumental. In some cases the Christian church's burning of books and repression of intellectual pursuit set humanity back as much as two millennia in its scientific understanding … History was rewritten to become a verification of Christian beliefs. Orthodox Christians thought history necessary only in order to place the events of the past into Biblical context.” -Helen Ellerbe, “The Dark Side of Christian History” (41-45)
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