H.A. Drake, Intolerance

Ἀπὸ ἄρθρο τοῦ συγγραφέα τοῦ Constantine and the Bishops. The Politics of Intolerance (2000),

Intolerance, Religious Violence, and Political Legitimacy in Late Antiquity, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 79.1 (2011), 193-235:

Intolerance surely played a part in these developments, but closer investigation has raised questions that this model of tolerant pagans and intolerant Christians cannot answer. Why, for instance, did «tolerant» pagans in earlier centuries persecute «intolerant» Christians? More importantly, why did Christians in Late Antiquity abandon their hitherto unshakeable faith in the proposition that true belief could not be coerced? To the latter question, a common answer is that the change merely shows that Christians never really believed what they had been saying for three centuries. But long after Constantine, Christians continued to worry about the wisdom of coerced faith and, as this article will show, to resist aggressive actions. The intolerance argument is not so much wrong as incomplete […]. The result is a certain circularity: intolerance explains the religious violence of Late Antiquity, while the violence in turn proves the intolerance. It is more accurate, and ultimately more rewarding, to recognize that in Christianity, as in every organization, there are «hawks» and «doves.» To explain how the one prevails over the other calls for political and social, not theological, tools. In the case of post-Constantinian Christianity, this requires a close look at a worldview shared by Christians and those adherents to traditional religions that, for convenience, I will label «pagans.» Both groups shared a belief in the active intervention of deity in human affairs that made it harder than it is today to separate «religious» from «secular» functions. Comparative study is also useful, and Rome’s great neighbor and adversary, Persia, provides one. The Mazdaean faith that was the official religion of Persia’s shahs was not monotheistic but dualistic, positing a cosmic struggle between the god of light, Ahura Mazda, who was worshipped in temples that preserved his sacred fire, and his evil adversary, Ahriman, each of whom led a supporting cast of lesser deities. Nevertheless, Persian shahs frequently persecuted religious minorities. […]

Julian’s effect was not only to expand the definition of persecution and to polarize Christians and pagans, but also to polarize Christians themselves. By creating an environment in which aggressive and defiant Christians now shaped the definition between «real» and «nominal» members of the faith, his policies were at least partially responsible for aligning the definition of Christianity more closely to militant behavior. […] That debate was fueled almost entirely by the premise that «real» Christians were intolerant: since there is abundant evidence that Constantine refused to coerce others to convert, decriers—of whom Jacob Burckhardt is perhaps still the best known and most influential—argued that Constantine’s conversion was only meant to serve his political ambitions. […]

The ancient state was founded on an entirely different set of premises: that divinity did actively intervene in human affairs on a day-to-day basis, that these interventions manifested themselves not just in the bounty of crops but also in victory or defeat on the battlefield, and that it was the primary duty of the leaders of the state to assure that such interventions would be beneficial. When the gods were offended, they punished the entire community, not just the perpetrators; it was therefore incumbent upon civic leaders to maintain the goodwill of the gods. Under such circumstances, it is misleading to classify divine service as strictly a «religious» function, doubly so in the case of the Roman emperor, whose offices since the time of Augustus, the first emperor, included that of pontifex maximus, head of the state religion. This worldview explains pagan persecution of Christians far better than the one, preferred by Gibbon and others, that Christians brought it upon themselves by their rigid intolerance.

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