Sunday, 7 September 2014

Religions explained

Update: A few people have commented that my post erroneously states that Islam is older than Mohammad. I would argue Islam is older than Mohammad. Have you ever wondered why Islam and Arianism are so similar? All Mohammad did is rebrand Arianism after Constantine outlawed it three hundred years earlier.

St John of Damascus: "And so down to the time of Heraclius they [the Arabs] were very great idolaters. From that time to the present a false prophet named Mohammed has appeared in their midst. This man, after having chanced upon the Old and New Testaments and likewise, it seems, having conversed with an Arian monk, devised his own heresy."

Here is a map showing the dominant branch of religions across Europe and the middle east. In the Good old days of the Roman Empire these were all one religion. So how did these splits come about? 

Blue - Roman Catholic
Purple - Protestant
Red - Eastern Orthodox
Light Green - Sunni Islam
Dark Green - Shi'i Islam

Like most things it had much more to do with power politics then religious ideals. The first point I would make is that up until the 4th century, Christianity and Islam were the same religion.

If I was to blame one person it would be Constantine the Great. He single handedly created most of the conflicts due to a couple of bad decisions:
  1. The Council of Nicea (lead to all the Crusades, Jihad)
  2. Founding Constantinople and splitting the Empire (lead to East vs West divide)

Constantine made some bad calls

First off, here's some maps showing the main events. I describe why each religion was founded in more detail below the maps.

First off, the Empire stops growing and decides to consolidate.

Germans teach the Romans a lesson at Teutoberg Forest in 9 AD.
The Roman Empire stops growing.

Constantine splits Roman Empire into East and West. This went on to become the
Roman Catholic - Eastern Orthodox split. He also enforced the doctrine of the Trinity and outlawed
Arianism. This Annoyed Muhammad and Arabs in general three hundred years later. 
Here's another talking point for those of you more familiar with history: 
Ever wonder why Arianism and Islam are so similar?

Arabs teach the Byzantine Greeks a lesson, both on how to fight and what
Monotheism is. Arab's not massive fans of the Trinity. Again Constantine messes up.

Arabs get into a fight over who's boss of the new Empire. Sunni's win. Persians
hijack the Shiite cause to retain their territorial and political independence.

East - West Schism leads to Roman Catholic - Eastern Orthodox divide. Basically
boils down to The Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of  Constantinople getting in a
pissing contest. Culminates in the Cold War.

30 years war between protestants and Catholics in 17th century.
Essentially Teutoberg Forest Round 2

Detailed Explanation of main events

  • The First Council of Nicea in 325 AD Christianity split from Arianism/Islam The Council enforced the doctrine of the Trinity across the Roman Empire which lead to the ideological split between Christianity and Islam. The reason for the Council was that Roman Emperor Constantine wanted to enforce one religious doctrine across the Empire, in order to ideologically unify the Empire's citizens. The main ideological issue is the nature of Jesus with Christians arguing Jesus is God (as part of Trinity) whereas Muslims argue Jesus was just a Prophet.

    So next time someone talks about the 'Clash of Civilizations' just remember it all came down to one council in Turkey 17 centuries ago.
  • Sunni and Shi'i Split in 656 AD Sunni split from Shiite
    Originated from Arab infighting over who was the rightful successor to Muhammad. The Sunni's beat the Shiites at the battle of The Camel which is why most of the Muslim world is Sunni. The Shiite's set up shop in Persia, modern day Iran and Iraq.

    So next time you hear about the conflict in Iraq between ISIS and the Shi'ite dominated government or you wonder why Saddam fought Iran, remember it all started 14 centuries ago.
  • The East–West Schism in the 11th century Roman Catholic split from Eastern Orthodox
    Simply put, the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople got into a pissing contest, resulting in them ex-communicating each other. It lead to the split of Christianity between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    This in turn was due to an earlier decision by Emperor Constantine to split the Roman Empire into a Latin dominated Western Empire and a Greek Dominated Eastern (Byzantine) Empire, with no clear 'supreme leader'

    So next time you hear about East vs West, Cold War rivalry, think back to when it all began, 10 centuries ago, or 17 centuries ago.Constantine has a lot to Answer for.
  • Protestant reformation in the 15th century Protestant split from Roman Catholic
    Surprise, surprise another power struggle. Between authority of Pope and western Kings. Basically all of the Germanic speaking nations converted to Protestantism while all the Romantic speaking nations stuck with the Pope. Makes sense when you think about how the Germans were never conquered by the Romans.

    In fact, the Protestant / Catholic split really dates back to The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, when the German tribes (ancestors of English, Germans, Dutch etc.) destroyed three Roman legions and prevented the Roman Empire from conquering greater Germany.

    So next time you here about 'Hitler's war', remember this all started 20 centuries ago! Arguably France (the dominant Latin power) and Germany (dominant Germanic power) fought a number of wars (WW1, WW2 for example) over which language Europe would speak. They settled on the middle ground language of English a mongrel combination of the two.

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