Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Early Christianity and the Hazard of Pestilence

The idea of indoor plumbing and a sanitation department is relatively new in the industrialized world. The proper disposal of trash and sewage on a daily basis does a great deal for our health. Consider that in parts of Europe in the Dark Ages, people did not have a toilet, but a pail [bucket] used for the collection of human waste. When the pail was full, someone in the house went outside and inverted the pail in the street, or, they opened a window and inverted it there. The accumulation of waste in the streets led to many plagues besides the infamous Black Death [Bubonic Plague]. Also bear in mind there was no centralized system for the disposal of trash. It was reported that as late as the eighteenth century, every so often, a plague or some other epidemic broke out taking numerous lives.

Pestilence abounded in the Dark Ages, and when comparing this period of time to other cultures, the most interesting feature is that this was rather unique. The early Church and various Protestant sects, perhaps inferring upon Psalm 127:1 [Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it. ], believed that since God was the way and sway of the world, they could not help their situation; any effort was futile and vain, and so no effort was made to investigate the causes of plagues, particularly in regard to disposal of all forms of waste.

The Church and the Protestant Church [Lutheran] also did not do a great deal to educated the masses, and so, the people kept ignorant, blamed every ill fortunate, from storm to famine to plague, upon Satan and his devils. The belief in the mis-translated Exodus 22:18 [Thou shalt not suffer a with to live - the actual translation should be: Thou shalt not suffer an assassin to live] kept the people extremely superstitious, and blamed their woes on what they believed to be primary agents of the devil: witches and Jews.

Consider what a typical situation in those days must have appeared to a superstitious, ignorant, uneducated people. A plague breaks out, and the leading religious authority in the area says it is God's work for a great sin committed by the people, or perhaps an agent of the devil is seeking to wreak havoc. The people also notice that the Jews are not experiencing any of the same problems with regards to whatever epidemic is sweeping the area. The collective minds, kept feeble and dumb, could not entertain the idea that Kosher laws and stricter rules concerning the handling and preparation of food might contribute to a healthier lifestyle. Nor could they fathom a far better system of waste disposal as opposed to dumping it in the streets, and they certainly could not understand the power of water mixed with soap on human skin.

Naturally, the masses assumed Satan was protecting the Jews, and there are numerous accounts throughout Europe where Jews were massacred in great numbers: for example, in Bavaria, at least 12,000 Jews were killed during the Black Death alone.

Jumping forward to today, every once in awhile we read a story on the Internet or see a broadcast on TV about how some person, in dire need of medical assistance, refuses admission for treatment on *religious grounds* and delegates their time to prayer; if God would just intervene, by the person's faith or by their works, they would have no need for *secular medicine* when all that was needed was a careful tending to the sixty-six books of the King James Bible. If the story has a followup, and some do, and the person expires, the interviews with the family and friends and members of their particular congregation are worth noting: they earnestly believed that God's hand was at play, and there really was nothing they could have done, and this did not diminish their faith - this increased it.

These things having been said, consider the worse alternative that transpired under the Church. It is an easy observation that the Church believed the world was given to them by God, and to administer it for Him under the laws of the Church originating, in some way, form the Canon. This led to the idea that any worldly problem can be solved directly from the clergy, and no problem was beyond their grasp. Given the rather unhealthy lifestyle of the early Christians, it is rather obvious they succumbed to various ailments and disease on a regular basis. And so the Church, having no need for *science* decided to dabble in the art of medicine with no regard to any of the medicinal texts before them from any other culture, people, or religion, regardless if they were proven or phony, or at the very least, to take into consideration as a possible answer.

While the Church sent out hunting for witches for practicing *witchcraft,* one has to marvel at the hypocrisy of the clergy when one considers the *potions* developed for the laity, and just what type of mind could believe in the magic necessary to justify ingesting them to cure anything:

Water that had been dipped in hair, bones, or other bodily parts of saints:

- Saint Remy's ring - cured fever

- Saint Gall- cured tumors

- Saint Valentine - epilepsy

- Saint Christopher - throat diseases

- Saint Ovid - deafness

- Saint Apollonia - toothache

and there are many, many, many more, as their were always patron Saints being produced in every century since Christianity was formed.

Another *great idea* was that a devil was the cause of a sickness or ailment, and the best way to expunge the devil was to pollute the body, so the devil would leave in disgust, thus producing a cured person. Perhaps a simple examination of the text concerning Jesus sending swine into the sea to rid them of the demons gave weight to this idea: Matthew 8:28-33, Mark 5:1-21, and Luke 8:26-40. This involved ingesting *medicine* made from toad livers, roots of plants, ointment made from discarded animal parts, and, of course, medicinal blood from rats and frogs. There were more wretched *cures.*

The Church and the Protestant Church long regarded science as heresy, and sought to exterminate it in the most violent fashions conceived to exert dominance over the masses. It is somewhat ironic that as more and more of the *heresy of science* was not persecuted, the flock of the converted, now using water and soap, did not need Christian magic potions, and people became healthier... especially when people decided witches no longer existed, the longevity of women and children increased.


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