AriArmstrong.com, Religion in Culture and Politics.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gibbon on Roman Religion

Finally I'm reading Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (I know; it's about time. Gibbon assumes more background knowledge than I have, so thank goodness for Wikipedia). I came across this interested quote from the first part of Chapter II of the first volume:

The policy of the emperors and the senate, as far as it concerned religion, was happily seconded by the reflections of the enlightened, and by the habits of the superstitious, part of their subjects. The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosophers, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord.


While the era had some serious problems, such as slavery, which Gibbon describes elsewhere, and while Christian unity did bring some advantages, on the whole "mutual indulgence" has a lot going for it.

I am not so much concerned that many people do not regard all religions as equally true; what concerns me is that many philosophers fail to see them as equally false, and many political leaders find right-wing Christianity particularly useful.

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