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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pagans Knew Better

"It is surely unsound to deny that good of life to animals only because they do not appear to man to be of great account ... The very plants: they have life, and life may bring good or evil; the plants may thrive or wither, bear or be barren ...

Those that deny the happy life to the plants on the ground that they lack sensation are really denying it to all living things ...

What then is happiness? Let us try basing it upon Life ... Happiness can exist only in a being that lives fully ... Life in its greatest plenitude, life in which the good is present as something essential not as something brought from without, a life needing no foreign substance called in from a foreign realm, to establish it in good.

When man commands not merely the life of sensation but also Reason and Authentic Intellection, he has realised the perfect life.

There exists no single human being that does not either potentially or effectively possess this thing which we hold to constitute happiness.

And if death taking from him his familiars and intimates does bring grief, it is not to him, not to the true man, but to that in him which stands apart from the Supreme, to that lower man in whose distress he takes no part."

– Plotinus (204-270), The Six Enneads. Plontinus was one of the last of the great pagan philosophers.

Porphyry (232-305) was the nemesis of the Christians. They 'refuted' him for generations and then settled for burning his books.

"A famous saying of the Teacher is this one: 'Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will have no life in yourselves.'

This saying is not only beastly and absurd; it is more absurd than absurdity itself and more beastly than any beast: that a man should savor human flesh or drink the blood ... and that by so doing this he should obtain eternal life!

Tell us: in recommending this sort of practice, do you not reduce human existence to savagery of a most unimaginable sort?"

– Porphyry Against the Christians (Hoffmann, p49).

"Injustice is a sin. Nature has constituted rational beings for their own mutual benefit, each to help his fellows according to their worth, and in no wise to do them hurt."

"When those about you are venting their censure or malice upon you or raising any other sort of injurious clamour ... it is still your duty to think kindly of them; for nature has made them to be your friends."

Jesus? No, 'Meditations' of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180), a pagan who devoted his life to the defence of Roman civilization.

He despised the fanatics of Christ who delighted in Rome's misfortunes.

Celsus (110-180?) was an Epicurean rationalist. He wrote scathing critiques of magicians and Christian tricksters.

"Just as the charlatans of the cults take advantage of the simpleton's lack of education to lead him around by the nose, so too with the Christian teachers: they do not want to give or receive reasons for what they believe. Their favorite expressions are "Do not ask questions, just believe!" and: "Your faith will save you!" "The wisdom of the world," they say, "is evil; to be simple is to be good." We are told that Jesus judged the rich with the saying 'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god.' Yet we know that Plato expressed this very idea in a purer form when he said, 'It is impossible for an exceptionally good man to be exceptionally rich.' Is one utterance more inspired than the other?"

– Celsus (On the True Doctrine)

"Peregrinus, having strangled his father, unable to tolerate his living beyond sixty years ... learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine.

In a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god ...

When imprisoned, the Christians, regarding the incident as a calamity, left nothing undone in the effort to rescue him ... from the very break of day aged widows and orphan children could be seen waiting near the prison, while their officials even slept inside with him after bribing the guards ...

Peregrinus ... procured not a little revenue from it. Indeed, people came even from the cities in Asia, sent by the Christians at their common expense, to succour and defend and encourage the hero ...

The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody ...

They despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence. So if any charlatan and trickster, able to profit by occasions, comes among them, he quickly acquires sudden wealth by imposing upon simple folk."

– Lucian of Samosata, The Passing of Peregrinus

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