The rape of reason

19 Jun

I just finished watching Agora, the story of the famous female philosopher (and possibly Atheist) Hypatia of Alexandria.

In case you don’t know about Hypatia of Alexandria, here’s a quick bio: Born sometime between 350 and 370 CE, was a Greek woman living in Roman Egypt, was one of the first notable women in mathematics, also taught philosophy and astronomy. She was also a neoplatonist.

In March of 415 CE, a mob of angry christians attacked Hypatia and dragged her to their new Caesareum church. There  they took tiles and broken clay pots and proceeded to cut the skin off her body. When she was  completely flayed they burned her alive.

This was all condoned and encouraged by “Saint” Cyril of Alexandria. Under his reign all non-christians were persecuted, murdered, and imprisoned. The great bastion on knowledge, the Library of Alexandria, was pillaged and burned. The murder of Hypatia is considered by some to mark the end of classical antiquity.

Why is it that so often throughout history mobs of religious fanatics feel they have to burn books and destroy art?

I know why, but it just makes me sick. When I see art being destroyed, any kind of art, I just want to vomit. When people do it for religious reasons it makes me want to kill them. For instance, in the movie Agora, when the christian mobs go running through the library burning and destroying the greatest collection of knowledge in the world, all in the name of religious ignorance, nothing would give me more pleasure than to walk around them with a chain saw and calmly disembowel them all. Same is true for anyone who destroys art or books.

What is with this urge to make life as shitty as possible? Just watching those mobs sack the library, they’re like mindless insects infected with a virus. They scurry around killing and burning, compelled by this bullshit they’re infected with. They must destroy all that is good a beautiful in the world because it does not fit with the truth they have decided upon. How I wish I could kill them all.

It’s a power thing really. There is a reason why whenever a dictator takes over the first thing he does is persecute the intellectuals. Uneducated people are easily controlled. They don’t question, they don’t think, the dogma of religion suits them perfectly. Books and art are a threat to those in power. They compel people to think. When you are certain beyond all doubt that you, and only you, have knowledge of absolute truth, destroying art that disagrees with you is no shame. It just shows your insecurities and lack of faith by destroying art. What do you have to fear from a book or painting if you have the truth? Shouldn’t your truth be strong enough to stand on it’s own without the help of book burnings? It’s true that religion hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

9 Responses to “The rape of reason”

  1. Kelly Quantrill June 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    I just watched Agora a couple of weeks ago.
    I agree entirely. There was a lot of buzz online about it being an anti-Christian film, which I can totally understand when there are scenes with one guy stabbing another guy and yelling, “I’m a Christian! I’m a Christian!” But to me it was an anti-religion film in general, since, although they at least valued art, literature, science and philosophy, the pagans were no better in the whole you-killed-mine-so-I’ll-kill-yours war. An atheist film, if you will.

    I’m doing a write-up on the Library of Alexandria at the moment for some random work-related research purpose. I wanted to bawl my eyes out in Agora at the scene where they burnt all of the scrolls in the library calling them “Pagan filth.” What the hell!? So because they had all read the only book important in life they could just discard all other knowledge? It hacks me off that religion has stood in the way of scientific, societal, humanitarian and intellectual progress for millennia now and billions of people still seem “okay” with it.

    I still read a Christian review online where Agora was called a dangerous film because it perpetuates negative ideas about the history of Christianity. People so easily forget that the continued existence of Christianity itself perpetuates these negative ideas.

  2. godlesspaladin June 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    Hey Kelly 🙂 It’s funny how they immediately jump to “this is an offensive anti-christian film” without even bother to stop and ask “Wait a second, is any of this true?” Yeah I’m with you on the library scene. Like I said, I was so furious I wanted to wade into them with a chainsaw…

  3. Kelly Quantrill June 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Actually they pretty much outright state that the Christians who perpetuated those atrocities weren’t True Christians(tm) or Real Christians(tm). This is the article. Grrr.
    The historical fact of the destruction of the library is open to debate. It is more commonly believed (and there is more evidence for it, although this evidence is still contradictory and fragmentary) that Caesar’s troops accidentally burnt it down themselves. However, Hypatia WAS murdered by a Christian mob for being a Pagan philosopher. From what I know they thought she was simply a pagan, which made philosophy and science pagan pursuits and heretical teachings. Historically it is only implied that she was an atheist, but never outright stated as in the film. It is more commonly believed that she was a passive pagan Platonic philosopher. This is the wikipedia entry on Hypatia. While wiki itself is less than legit the references (of which there are, thankfully, many) are reliable. But I’m rambling…

    Chainsaws ftw -_-

  4. Charlie June 27, 2010 at 9:07 pm #

    Hi again, Dustin! (smile)

    My studies of my faith have disclosed several such period of failure within the Church to follow its own path, and others in which it shone. Look up Bishop Basil of Cesarea sometime. Not a perfect guy, but one so intent upon serving and helping others that in the hospital villages he set up, Pagans and Atheists were cared for as well as the Christians within the village, to the extent that Pagan leaders wrote to the Pagan emperor and complained that Basil’s villages were treating the Pagans better than the Pagan hospitals were. The letters are a matter of historical record.
    My point is, it is dangerously non-historically accurate to judge a race, or a faith, or a gender, or any large group of people by the bad -or- the good actions of a few. But I am quite sure you know this. (smile)

    Best regards,


  5. Chriss Cornish September 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    I like your graph. I’ve got a cold, so I may have overlooked if your article mentions it, but the major factor in the Dark Ages, that gets overlooked itself, is the Black Plague.

    Found this grand article when I was looking for a book burning image to use for my own post on Banned Books Week.

  6. Puddingpie December 8, 2010 at 2:01 am #

    When in D&D a party of adventurers rushes in and slays the evil sorcerer in his tower, looting his stuff, 100 years in that world’s future, it’ll turn out that this guy was a great natural philosopher and completely misunderstood by a band of ignorant, ragtag “heroes” with swords. I would pay to read a fantasy novel like that.

    I’m not gonna pull “No True Scotsman.” This is pretty sickening. I remember learning about Hypatia in math class as a kid, and wanting to barf when I found out what happened to her.

    Still, don’t get your history from movies. “Agora” is an anti-Christian movie the way “The Last Days of Pompeii” is a Christian movie. Take a mostly true historical event and distort its depiction so the theme fits an ideology. The predominant theory I’ve heard for the burning of the Library of Alexandria has to do with Caesar’s troops fire-shipping the city.

    I also wonder if being a charismatic mathematician back then involved high-tension political dangers that it doesn’t in the modern world. Nowadays, math professors are seen as somewhat gentle and harmless, but Pythagoras was also killed by a mob, and Archimedes by soldiers. (Both Christian-unrelated). I used to wonder as a kid if that wasn’t just some sort of occupational hazard for mathematicians then. There was clearly some political crap going on surrounding Hypatia’s death: making it purely about the Christians vs. the Rationalists IMHO makes it a less interesting movie.

    I’m not about to disagree with your general point. When any ideology makes purity of purpose more important than the negation of suffering, well…. Christianity is one of those ideologies. This is its failing. Full stop. I wish Christians would stop pretending it’s not true. Not that there are *no* principles worth killing for, but I don’t think anybody being skinned alive is going to make a distinction between “True Christian” and not. For all functional purposes, the distinction doesn’t exist.

    The graph is good for a laugh, but to be pedantic, there is no “Dark Ages” where science was all forgotten. I’m sure as a medieval history student, you’re sick to death of hearing this. 😉 “The Dark Ages” and “The Renaissance” are categories made up later. The scientific advancements of the Middle Ages are revolutionary, but unfamiliar to 99% of the public because they aren’t as jaw-dropping as “OMG aqueducts!” Metallurgy, agriculture, tanning, paper-making, printing, soap, navigation, seafaring, complicated gear systems, wind and water mills… That’s all “industry.” It’s not “Science” in a pure, theoretical sense, so textbooks don’t talk about it. Also, the Islamic caliphate clearly had some badass science which nobody disputes, so clearly, *something* happened to create the clusterfuck we know today.

    Beats me, you’d have to ask a Middle East historian.

    I just realized, that’s the first time in my life I’ve said, “I need a historian.” Therein is the relevancy of that field, to answer big questions about how we got to now from then.

  7. godlesspaladin December 8, 2010 at 2:26 am #

    Haha, yeah, I don’t think “I need a historian” is uttered very often. And yeah, I agree with your points. As for Ceasar accidentally burning down the library, that actually happened 4 centuries before Hypatia. There are about four instances when the library was destroyed, though it was done the third time with the consent of Pope Theophilus.
    (As for the graph, yeah it’s mainly for a laugh. It’s not exactly accurate)

    I’m not surprise that mathematician is a dangerous career choice. How many highschool kids wouldn’t love to strangle their math teachers :p

  8. Puddingpie December 11, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    If you want another reason to be enraged, look up the Mayan codices burned by the Spanish.


    That graph rubs me the wrong way mainly because I don’t like seeing ideology based on bad popular history. There isn’t some great scientific regression in the “Dark Ages” any more than the U.S. is a “Christian nation,” or our War on Terror is some spiritual continuation of the Crusades, or any number of wingnut theories based on an ideologically-filtered understanding of history. If atheism is supposed to be based on reason and rigorous research, it’s important that it base its conclusions on actual history and not what people *believe* is history. It’s hypocritical to be make up an atheist historical mythology that’s equally untrue.

  9. Oh really? November 17, 2011 at 8:03 am #

    “When I see art being destroyed, any kind of art, I just want to vomit. When people do it for religious reasons it makes me want to kill them. ”

    So you became outraged when we destroyed Nazi symbols after we conquered germany, (symbolic swastika’s on buildings were erased just like any ‘religion’ would do) and the work of arno beck (sculptor) was intentionally destroyed as well.

    I doubt it.

    What about atheistic communists who destroyed over 3000 churches in Soviet Russia, including untold amounts of icons…

    and lest we forget… the ‘enlightened’ french revolution which destroyed St. Denis – one of the most beautiful monasteries ever created – and scores of other churches. They wanted to destroy Chartres and Notre Dame but didn’t have the manpower to clean up the rubble. “enlightened’ ‘rational’ secular atheists.

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