The Day of Lament/ Ημέρα θρήνος / Iméra thrínos
Last Saturday in July (sometimes corresponding with Tisha B'Av, days commemorating the tragedies in Jewish history)
A remembrance of what started in 381 AD, at the Council of Constantinople by Emperor Theodosius; open minded thought and exchange of ideas destroyed by intolerance. A day we allow ourselves to recognize the loss of reason, debate, and open-mindedness. To think of those whose ideas, music, art, science and medical advancements, and inventions were killed as being heretics, never gifted and passed along to us, who could have enriched and bettered our lives.
How is it remembered and observed?
*As was customary in ancient Greek mourning, black clothing is worn.
*In Rational Hedonist homes, the hearth fire, always lit during the time the family is home representing Estia (Hestia), the warmth and heart of the home. and the knowledge passed to humans by Prometheus, is put out (candles by a stone, larger fires by sand. This symbolizes the darkness that overtook the world in 381 AD, wherever the church had control; the forced and enforced loss of rational thinking, debate, philosophizing, and advance of scientific learning. The fire is kept out for the remainder of the day. Family and friends gather in the dark of the night to re-light the family hearth fire, the memory that the revival and rebirth of Greek writings brought light back to the world. Around the fire, everyone takes a turn to read an excerpt of writing, theater, poetry, or express a thought or opinion which can be discussed or debated, in the Greek tradition of learning together.
*It is customary that the Greek letter "theta", for the "th" sound; " Θ " is marked on the bottom of shoes when outside of the house (Rational Hedonists traditionally are barefoot in the home); thus, the name "Theodosius" or Θεοδόσιος is stepped on and wiped out. (There have been times in history when the "T" or "t" used in the Latin spelling of Theodosius was intentionally made to look like a cross on the bottom of shoes. Rational Hedonists were falsely accused of "stepping on the cross", or being enemies of the Church. This accusation started after people forgot the name was once spelled in Greek).
One of the greatest legacies of the Greek tradition was the exercise of rational thought using reasoning and empirical evidence. This created public venues to explore, debate and advance the the questions and virtues of a good life, theories of science and how the laws of our material world function, as opposed to the superstitious beliefs of being the interventions, action or inaction of the gods. While the Roman's initially adopted the Greek custom of intellectual and religious tolerance, it was the Roman declaration of becoming a all-Christian Empire that created a domino effect of downfall ultimately causing the inestimable destruction of at least 1500 years of collected knowledge, culture, art, science, and philosophy that benefited all people.
The myth that Jesus came and the Church sprang up from the logic of his teachings after his death, is far from true. Nearly 300 years after Jesus' death, the Christians in Greece and Rome were not organized and had no single consensus. They were still considered merely a cult and merely one of many religions, The Greeks were famous for the lively and sometimes loud art of debate and use of logic. Early Christians had their own factions, and engaged in their own heated debates amongst themselves about the nature of God and Jesus and what place, if any, had the Holy Spirit.
In his effort to unite Rome, Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, awarding Christians' rights and protections, and convened the Council of Nicaea which resolved nothing, but opened up the doors for a future of persecution to all who were not. In 380 AD Emperor Theodosius decreed that Christianity was the exclusive religion of Rome.
During the past 300 years which its own followers were subject to persecution by Rome, now, only 80 years later, this newly legal Church, which had taught peace and love, and “Do unto others” while repressed, finally had the opportunity to practice what it preached.
Instead, it turned with a vengeance to destroy every other belief and religion.
* The philosophical schools of Plato, Aristotle, Epicureans, Rational Hedonists, and Stoics were forced to close and disperse.
* The Jews were considered “heretics” even though their religion existed before Christianity and Christianity could not have existed without it (wouldn't that make Christianity a heresy of Judaism?).
* Jewish Christians were cut off from church orthodoxy as it chose to sever ties with its Jewish roots and similarities, creating a rift that ironically started down the slope to anti-Semitic teaching.
* Paganism (mostly meaning the Greek and Roman gods) and heretics (any belief different from the Church), was outlawed.
* Gnostics, Ebionites, Arians, Homoeans, Sabellianism – all valid and different Christian viewpoints, no longer had voice and were wiped out.
So successful were they that most Christians are unaware of the existence of these other opinions (or instead taught that they are -surprise!-“heresies”), which would once have altered “fundamental” Christianity.
There was no longer tolerance for free thought and debate; now, only church leadership was able to interpret and understand. Of the many circulated writings, they chose which to include to make up“the Bible”. These books were now considered infallible and inerrant. The common people were thought too lowly to understand the true meaning of Scriptures and God's intent.
How do you stomp out discussion in an entire empire spanning countries of a population consisting of rational thinkers, intellectualism and dissenting opinions?
* First, destroy and burn the writings, religious icons, libraries, buildings and temples of all you disagree with and rewrite a new history you can teach your “sheep” to accept as truth.
* Dumb down your people and spread illiteracy so not only can they read other writings and control their ideas and stop free speech, but not even read the Bible and keep it in a language they won't understand.
* Make believing the unbelievable and everything that does not logically make sense an issue of “faith”.
* Make accepting teachings on blind faith the proof of a “real” Christian, and questioning punishable.
* Finally, bind them to you by creating a newly introduced fear of eternal hell fire and suffering if they consider wandering off.
Some of the early teachings and actions of the Christian church enforced with military force might have been considered criminal and an anathema if the Greeks still had controlled the lands of Alexander and Roman politics had not sold not only their soul, but sold out everyone.
As the tendrils of the Church spread into newly discovered or conquered territory, indigenous people had their cultures and riches plundered and destroyed, wherever the Church grew strong, wealthy, controlling, and intolerant, mixing church and state similar to Roman times, partly responsible for the Crusades and the Inquisition. All to advance the world in the name of the “Holy” Church and for the glory of its loving God and Son.
As a direct result of Theodosius' decree in 381 AD, years, the combined knowledge and gathered wisdom of over a thousand years of collected history, poetry, plays, science and philosophy not only at the Library at Alexandria, Egypt, but in every large city where there was Greeks cultural influence.
Beautiful artwork and statues were broken and defaced, temples and shrines torn down, such as Apollo's Temple at Delphi.
Original thinkers, philosophers, mathematicians, medical scientists, astronomers, were silenced, imprisoned or killed, including women, such as Hypatia in Alexandria.
He closed the sanctuaries by decree in 392 AD.
In 393 AD, the Pythian, Atkian, and Olympic games were outlawed as Hellenic “idolatry”.
The last remnants of the Eleusinian Mysteries which had continued from around 1500 BCE and had united people throughout Greece for generations, were wiped out in 396 AD, when Christians destroyed and desecrated these old sacred sites and killed the priests.
Unlike what many try to teach, America was not founded as a Christian nation. It carried over the best ideals echoing the Greek democratic system and freedom for all to practice their own religions, Christianity being only one of those. Rational Hedonist and Epicurean writings rediscovered during the Enlightenment influenced Thomas Jefferson that "happiness" was a human right everyone was entitled to pursue. Although it was edited later, Thomas Jefferson's original draft read:
"We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; ... “
These words appealed to people throughout the world and America became a melting pot of cultures much like ancient Greece. People from all countries came together, bringing their different cultures and religions, uniting by a common language (English) and Constitution, and for the most part, living together amicably while respecting each others cultural and religious diversity. Our brave police and military soldiers fight daily to protect our rights of freedom of expression, to peacefully assemble and protest. A look at our government buildings in Washington D.C. will show off the influence of Greek architecture.
We are the western inheritors of the Greek flame of Prometheus.
The Renaissance (the rediscovery of Greek philosophy) and Age of Enlightenment ended gaps of cultural darkness. In more recent times, the potential of the internet is to bring people all over the world together in international forums to discuss, exchange ideas and participate in good-natured debate and could potentially expose people of fixed minds, who think their way is the only right way, to facts, information, and other points of view.
For thousands of years, humans have gathered publicly to celebrate, talk, debate, read, enjoy theater or music, eat together. It was only sixty years ago that television became a necessity for the family home, and merely twenty years ago the internet made first home computers, then personal computers, a must. We have gone from being a social people to isolated individuals. No more will a room full of people talk to each other, but each be on a phone, tablet or laptop.
Unfortunately, far too often, social media has "dumbed down" the potential for intellectual exchange. Far too often someone will post an opinion or pondering or viewpoint and it is attacked, not with Greek-style intelligent counter-arguments or provoking thought, but by name calling and accusations. Hidden behind an anonymous profile name, it is far too easy for immature people to respond in a spontaneous, thoughtless manner. The inability to discuss in an orderly way hot topics such as, political correctness , religion, gender issues, right to life, prejudice, morality and ethnicity are often the result of the still intolerant brain-washed teachings of religious institutions, embedded since childhood.
This horrible legacy of Theodosius unfortunately continues today in close-mindedness and inflexibility after centuries of putting faith over evidence and modern knowledge, where to even question or listen to the other side can cause anxiety, guilt or social alienation. These issues will continue to tear us apart until they are resolved and they can not be resolved until people stop having such thin skin (get over it - people can disagree with you without it being personal - prove your point by reasoning and research) and vented and discussed in an orderly way.
The Day of Lament is a recognition of the purposeful destruction for all the great beautiful temples of worship, the vast libraries and works of art, the treasures and cultures of lost great minds, voices, scientists, medical scientists, philosophers and those suggesting different religious opinions that were lost as martyrs or silenced, works others could have built on for centuries. Who knows how much further advanced we would have been culturally, what inventions may have been introduced, what religious-based wars that would have never happened? Our world would have been a different place.
The truly sad part is we can never really appreciate the loss and the implications it has had in our world, because they simply ceased to exist.
Please join us in remembering this day.