Now that Christians have given up on trying to prove their faith in the Christian God through science, they have taken the low road asserting that Civilization, even Western Civilization derives its moral worldview from Christianity and thus to abandon Christianity would (and is) be disastrous. This is of course preposterous as Western Civilization extends back at for at least three thousand years of history of which only a few centuries were decidedly Christian (from the completion of the Crusades in eastern Europe in the 14th century to the beginning of The Enlightenment). Do we simply set aside the histories of the Greeks, Etruscans, Minoans, and Romans etc…? Neither can we ignore the role of Pagan Germanic society in the formation of our values, as it is from the Germanic Tribes that a large part of Western Europeans derives their genes.
Writing at around 98 C.E., Roman historian Tacitus gives the following account of the Germanic Tribes he encountered in Germania,
“For myself, I concur in opinion with such as suppose the people of Germany never to have mingled by inter-marriages with other nations, but to have remained a people pure, and independent, and resembling none but themselves. Hence amongst such a mighty multitude of men, the same make and form is found in all, eyes stern and blue, yellow hair, huge bodies….to bear hunger and cold they are hardened by their climate and soil.”
“In the choice of kings they are determined by the splendour of their race, in that of generals by their bravery. Neither is the power of their kings unbounded or arbitrary: and their generals procure obedience not so much by the force of their authority as by that of their example, when they appear enterprising and brave, when they signalise themselves by courage and prowess; and if they surpass all in admiration and pre-eminence, if they surpass all at the head of an army…To give ground, provided you return to the attack, is considered prudence rather than cowardice. The bodies of their slain they carry off even in indecisive engagements. To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes; nor may a man thus disgraced be present at the sacred rites, or enter their council; many, indeed, after escaping from battle, have ended their infamy with the halter (hanged themselves). And what most stimulates their courage is, that their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans. Close by them, too, are those dearest to them, so that they hear the shrieks of women, the cries of infants. They are to every man the most sacred witnesses of his bravery--they are his most generous applauders. The soldier brings his wounds to mother and wife, who shrink not from counting or even demanding them and who administer both food and encouragement to the combatants.”
“Affairs of smaller moment the chiefs determine: about matters of higher consequence the whole nation deliberates; yet in such sort, that whatever depends upon the pleasure and decision of the people, is examined and discussed by the chiefs. Where no accident or emergency intervenes, they assemble upon stated days, either, when the moon changes, or is full: since they believe such seasons to be the most fortunate for beginning all transactions. Neither in reckoning of time do they count, like us, the number of days but that of nights. In this style their ordinances are framed, in this style their diets appointed; and with them the night seems to lead and govern the day. From their extensive liberty this evil and default flows, that they meet not at once, nor as men commanded and afraid to disobey; so that often the second day, nay often the third, is consumed through the slowness of the members in assembling. They sit down as they list, promiscuously, like a crowd, and all armed. It is by the Priests that silence is enjoined, and with the power of correction the Priests are then invested. Then the King or Chief is heard, as are others, each according to his precedence in age, or in nobility, or in warlike renown, or in eloquence; and the influence of every speaker proceeds rather from his ability to persuade than from any authority to command. If the proposition displease, they reject it by an inarticulate murmur: if it be pleasing, they brandish their javelins. The most honourable manner of signifying their assent, is to express their applause by the sound of their arms.”
“ In their councils an accusation may be preferred or a capital crime prosecuted. Penalties are distinguished ac-cording to the offence. Traitors and deserters are hanged on trees; the coward, the unwarlike, the man stained with abominable vices (, is plunged into the mire of the morass, with a hurdle put over him. This distinction in punishment means that crime, they think, ought, in being punished, to be exposed, while infamy ought to be buried out of sight. Lighter offences, too, have penalties proportioned to them; he who is convicted, is fined in a certain number of horses or of cattle. Half of the fine is paid to the king or to the state, half to the person whose wrongs are avenged and to his relatives. In these same councils they also elect the chief magistrates, who administer law in the cantons and the towns. Each of these has a hundred associates chosen from the people, who support him with their advice and influence. “
“It is well known that the nations of Germany have no cities, and that they do not even tolerate closely contiguous dwellings. They live scattered and apart, (farmsteads) just as a spring, a meadow, or a wood has attracted them. Their villages they do not arrange in our fashion, with the buildings connected and joined together, but every person surrounds his dwelling with an open space,”
“Their marriage code, however, is strict, and indeed no part of their manners is more praiseworthy. Almost alone among barbarians they are content with one wife, except a very few among them, and these not from sensuality, but because their noble birth procures for them many offers of alliance. The wife does not bring a dower to the husband, but the husband to the wife. The parents and relatives are present, and pass judgment on the marriage-gifts, gifts not meant to suit a woman's taste, nor such as a bride would deck herself with, but oxen, a caparisoned steed, a shield, a lance, and a sword. With these presents the wife is espoused, and she herself in her turn brings her husband a gift of arms. This they count their strongest bond of union, these their sacred mysteries, these their gods of marriage. Lest the woman should think herself to stand apart from aspirations after noble deeds and from the perils of war, she is reminded by the ceremony which inaugurates marriage that she is her husband's partner in toil and danger, destined to suffer and to dare with him alike both in peace and in war. The yoked oxen, the harnessed steed, the gift of arms, proclaim this fact. She must live and die with the feeling that she is receiving what she must hand down to her children neither tarnished nor depreciated, what future daughters-in-law may receive, and may be so passed on to her grand-children….The young men marry late, and their vigour is thus unimpaired. Nor are the maidens hurried into marriage; the same age and a similar stature is required; well-matched and vigorous they wed, and the offspring reproduce the strength of the parents. Sister's sons are held in as much esteem by their uncles as by their fathers; indeed, some regard the relation as even more sacred and binding, and prefer it in receiving hostages, thinking thus to secure a stronger hold on the affections and a wider bond for the family. But every man's own children are his heirs and successors,”
“Thus with their virtue protected they live uncorrupted by the allurements of public shows or the stimulant of feastings. Clandestine correspondence is equally unknown to men and women. Very rare for so numerous a population is adultery, the punishment for which is prompt, and in the husband's power. Having cut off the hair of the adulteress and stripped her naked, he expels her from the house in the presence of her kinsfolk, and then flogs her through the whole village. The loss of chastity meets with no indulgence; neither beauty, youth, nor wealth will procure the culprit a husband. No one in Germany laughs at vice, nor do they call it the fashion to corrupt and to be corrupted. Still better is the condition of those states in which only maidens are given in marriage, and where the hopes and expectations of a bride are then finally terminated. They receive one husband, as having one body and one life, that they may have no thoughts beyond, no further-reaching desires, that they may love not so much the husband as the married state. To limit the number of their children or to destroy any of their subsequent offspring is accounted infamous, and good habits are here more effectual than good laws elsewhere.
…Of lending money on interest and increasing it by compound interest they know nothing,--a more effectual safeguard than if it were prohibited.”
“In their funerals there is no pomp; they simply observe the custom of burning the bodies of illustrious men with certain kinds of wood. They do not heap garments or spices on the funeral pile. The arms of the dead man and in some cases his horse are consigned to the fire. A turf mound forms the tomb. Monuments with their lofty elaborate splendour they reject as oppressive to the dead. Tears and lamentations they soon dismiss; grief and sorrow but slowly. It is thought becoming for women to bewail, for men to remember, the dead.”
“..from the grandeur and majesty of beings celestial, they judge it altogether unsuitable to hold the Gods enclosed within walls, or to represent them under any human likeness. They consecrate whole woods and groves, and by the names of the Gods they call these recesses; divinities these, which only in contemplation and mental reverence they behold.”
If there is anything which divides the Pagan peoples of Europe from the oriental religion of Christianity it is honor and the pride, which it engenders. As aptly put by George Fenwick Jones in ‘Honor in German Literature’, “if we permit ourselves the medieval license of parody, we could codify their (the Germanic peoples) values as follows:
Blessed are the rich, for they possess the earth and its glory.
Blessed are the strong, for they can conquer kingdoms.
Blessed are they with strong kinsmen, for they shall find help.
Blessed are the warlike, for they shall win wealth and renown.
Blessed are they who keep their faith, for they shall be honored.
Blessed are they who are open handed, for they shall have friends and fame.
Blessed are they who wreak vengeance, for they shall be offended no more, and they shall have honor and glory all the days of their life and eternal fame in ages to come.”
For the Christian, “Pride goeth before destruction”, and so Christianity was (rightly) viewed as the religion of the servant or slave.
“Nietzsche traces Christian morality back to what he calls the "slave revolt in morality", which he attributes to the resentment experienced by the weak members of society vis-à-vis their strong, aristocratic masters. The morality of the nobles operates with the value-distinction "good/bad"; they view themselves as evidently good and their inferiors as beneath contempt. The slaves find their subjection to the strong intolerable and thus set up an "imaginary revenge" by labelling the strong as evil and themselves as good, thereby instituting the morality of Christianity, which says that the meek shall inherit the earth.
From the aristocratic mode of valuation another mode of valuation branches off which develops into its opposite: the priestly mode of valuation. Nietzsche suggests this process is encouraged through a confrontation between the priestly caste and the warrior caste where they are unable to settle. The priests, who are powerless in a situation of combat, develop a deep and poisonous hatred of the powerful. This is the origin of what Nietzsche calls the "slave revolt in morality", which according to him begins with the Jews. Slave morality in feeling ressentiment does not seek redress for its grievances by taking revenge through action, as the noble would, but by setting up an imaginary revenge. It therefore needs enemies in order to sustain itself, unlike noble morality, which hardly takes enemies seriously and forgets about them instantly having dealt with them. The weak deceive themselves into thinking that the meek are blessed and will win everlasting life, thereby ultimately vanquishing the strong. They invent the term "evil" to apply to the strong, i.e. precisely to the "good" according to the noble valuation.”
Or as put forward in Beowulf when the hero comforts the grieving king Hrothgar with the words, "Don't sorrow, wise man. It is better for us to avenge a kinsman than to sorrow greatly for him, each of us will see the end of his life in this world. Let him, who can, win renown before his death. That is the greatest joy for the deceased warrior.”
This is in direct opposition to the Christian teaching of, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,…pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” In other words, ‘grin and bear it’. Except your lowly lot in life and await death when your spirit will heap the rewards befitting a terrestrial doormat.
Looking at the Biblical God.
Why are we here? Why is there an Earth, a sky, a sun, a moon, stars, trees, wind, dirt, water, etc…?
A man is born through no fault of his own. He comes into this world with a body designed to decay, wasting away everyday of his life. He is burdened with need to constantly seek after the necessities (shelter, food, water..) of life just so he can keep on going yet another day. And to what end? Our bodies are designed so that they need constant up-keep, and yet we know that eventually they will succumb to death. We live, just so we can die.
And so the question of God arises. We are left with the unanswerable questions of why and what for, and in their place we look to a greater power than ourselves, God(s). In this we seek to make a purpose to all this random chance and chaos. But the God solution (as in the Biblical God) creates more problems than it answers. For example, which of these is more likely; an inferior being, who at a loss to understand the world around him, creates a superior being in whom he attributes the ability to explain it all (yet for some mystical reason does not). Or an All-Powerful being that is perfect and complete, requiring nothing beyond itself, creating an lesser being out of boredom.
You see, one can understand why a human would need to create a God, but why would a God need to create a human? Who is the creator here?
In the New Testament theology of Christ’s sacrifice, we must ask ourselves what practical value (even IF it were true) is there in it. In other words if the sacrificial system (as mandated in the Bible) had been instituted by mankind (as in all of mankind holding a single annual sacrifice for ALL) then God offering his son in that place might be seen as gracious. However, since God himself mandated this sacrifice, his offering up of a son whom he knew would rise to be “King of Kings”, fails to impress. What’s more, had you and I stubbornly refused to listen, and chose to enter into this life knowing all the potential consequences, then the sacrifice of the “only begotten” would surly merit our sincerest thanks. But you and I did not choose to be here. We simply opened our eyes, and well, here we were.
If it is true that God made us for his pleasure (as some assert), then it is he who owes us, not we who owe him. It was his need, which provoked him into the act of creation to begin with. If this were not so, then we must look at God as an abstract artist who created a useless thing to fulfill a desire which he himself could not understand. If however the “Great Potter” crafted something of practical use to it’s maker, then the crafter himself needed the object of his creation. Can you imagine a potter who needed a cup to drink from, creating a cup, and then saying to it, “You owe me! You owe me big time!”
Does nature really attest to the reality of an unending God? Well, what do we observe in the natural world as it relates to the potential of divine inspiration? What we observe is a never-ending cycle of things being born, only to die. From man himself to the leaves of a tree, everything portends unavoidable demise and then…well, all else is un-observable. Though if we were to base our understanding of existence outside of this world on experience, then experience (that being what we recall of existence BEFORE we came into this life) tells us the answer is nothingness. The soul, much like heaven, hell, God, Jesus, Satan, angles, demons, elves, Bigfoot and every other bugaboo remains invisible.
So all that the Christian ideology can offer man is a life of meaningless servitude followed by an unexplained and undeveloped notion of “heaven”. Faith is one thing, but faith requires an equal amount of evidence. I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow based upon acquirable information (I have seen it rise everyday before). The faith in that sunrise is not conjured in darkness. It, unlike faith in God(s), is tangible.
So we are left with what our ancestors had and which they passed down to us through blood, honor. For the purpose of life to the Germanic pagans was determined by each man himself, who winning honor and praise among his kinsman, would be remembered long after his passing.
Part II will look at the influence European Pagan values had on shaping modern morality, in spite of Christian influence...