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Gibbon's famous 15th chapter on Christianity (an email)

I finally read the famous 15th chp. of Gibbon's history and found it surprising. I really had no disagreement for the first 2/3s of the chapter. In fact, Gibbon says many things I came to on my own and wrote out on my PPP blog. The last third is a bit more of the juvenile atheism we constantly hear in our own day. His constant use of the word superstition, for instance. It's unself-aware, and the concept itself is defined by the true faith.

Yet none of it detracts from the history itself. Gibbon is cynical, which is OK. He is bringing the ways of the world type of understanding, and the nature of human nature, and the nature of power. This is valuable, even applied to the history of Christianity, which obviously has a lot of politics and human nature involved in it.

Gibbon obviously does not have the understanding and sympathy for the faith of a true believer.

The 16th chapter is also on Christianity, and I've just started it, but I can see already it is a bit more of a diatribe against Christians (and Jews) and a defense of their pagan persecutors. The defense thus far is Christians deserved being singled out and treated harshly, well, because. Gibbon doesn't really mount a very good defense for why Christians were the one religious adherents who were not tolerated by the Roman government. The answer is: it's because Christianity is the true faith. It's easy to tolerate a false belief. - C.


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