Monday, October 10, 2022

The Irish

Nicholas Nassim Taleb, discussing how religious divisions are not likely doctrinal: "If the English had stayed Catholic in the the 16th C, I guarantee you the Irish would have become Protestant." He used it as a humorous reference while he was discussing the various splits in the Levant.  He is Greek Orthodox and was explaining Maronite division, attributing it more to language differences, urban versus rural and other regional differences, and cultural competition rather than distinctive doctrines of the Trinity.

If you see the religion schisms, they map to Aramaic speakers versus Greek speakers. The Maronites were one of the lines of the first schism. Earlier, of course, you have the Nestorians as a schism. You look at the line of how people have the schism in Asian Minor, and you see that these schisms were entirely driven by ethnicity, like the English Protestant versus Irish Catholic.

We can't go back and replay such things, but I take his point. Religious wars are seldom religious wars, they are tribal wars in which one or both sides drags religion in for further justification. Religious persecution of other countries does occur, but for Christians, persecuting those within the country who don't line up and present the unified front that they are supposed to is the more common problem. You may remember in "Chariots of Fire" the member of the British Olympic Committee talking about the runner who refused to compete on the Sabbath. "God and country.  In my day it was country first, God after." One can see this illustrated in Westminster Abbey, where the works of man are on display, both in the sense of "not women" and "not God."

Thinking about that English Catholic/Protestant split in the 1500s and how it played out, the consequences were profound. As long as Elizabeth, rather than Mary Queen of Scots was Catholic and ruler, she would be expected to abide by the Treaty of Tordesillas, which was not created by a pope as is popularly supposed, but validated by Pope Julius II in the early 1500s. The treaty was between Spain and Portugal and everyone else tried to ignore it as best they could, but it increasingly became insisted upon by the Roman Church. Yet once Elizabeth was excommunicated, rather than just an uncomfortable thorn in the side of the continental Catholics, England was free to colonise in the New World, and did.


james said...

WRT Nestorians
I read that one of the largest contributors to the original split was a difference in theological terms between Greek and Syriac, and that a possible reconciliation of the doctrines was managed--but too late, since the Moslems had overrun the area by then.
And, since the Nestorians were rejected by the (Roman) Greek-speaking church, the pagan "Persian" rulers figured that the enemy of my enemies is my friend, and permitted them to worship.

David Foster said...

There was a post & discussion about free speech climate & threats to the same on campuses, it was asserted that "Men are relatively more interested in advancing what is empirically correct, and women are relatively more interested in advancing what is morally desirable." Likely true, on the average...but also true that many people tend to define what is empirically correct & true OR what is morally desirable in terms of what is most convenient & beneficial to themselves.

In Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South (has nothing to do with the US Civil War) and the excellent BBC series made from it, a clergyman has a nice position in the south of England, where his family is very happy. BUT, he has to sign a loyalty oath to a theological position with which he does not agree, or else he and his family will have to move to an ugly northern city and dramatically reduced economic circumstances.

His wife doesn't see how this is even an can some words on a piece of paper be as important as his family's living conditions? Sign and stay, is her point of view.