November 22, 2004

X Marx the Cross

The always thought provoking (perhaps even saintly) John Cassian recalls a verbal tic that I seemed to encounter nearly every one of my undergraduate days and beyond until those peasants inexplicably voted on the basis of their stomachs rather than the fashions of college campuses:

During the 1980s part of the left-liberal intelligentsia in Britain (and elsewhere) wanted to show its support for the Sandinistas in Central America. Amongst such circles it was considered vitally important to pronounce Nicaragua as the natives did, i.e. something like "Nee-ka-ra-wah".

Ah, yes, the memories flow back to the quaint joys of the mid-1980s: the Rock against Reagan concerts (I believe their chief purpose was to raise revolutionary zeal to do away with the capitalist masses by making a profit from the sale of clever buttons with slogans like "USA out of North America"); any political discussion that got uncomfortable for your interlocutor being trumped by the phrase, "Salvadoran death squad" (Communists, of course, never killed anyone). I remember an argument I foolishly got into with someone in which I quoted an estimate I'd read somewhere (I've long since forgotten where) that in the entire 19th Century, the Czars' police executed somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 political prisoners; assuming the worst, and doubling, trebling, multiplying Czarist crimes tenfold, and you have at worst a government that over a century was a mere fraction as bloody as some months were under Lenin and Stalin.

At the apex of all this, of course, is dear old Karl Marx, about whom I've been thinking off and on. I highly recommend, to those who haven't read it, Frank Manuel's work, A Requiem for Karl Marx, which hints that sometimes, ideologues get the followers they deserve.

And now that I'm onto Marx, I might as well mention something I came across while reading Norman Cohn's book, Europe's Inner Demons. During the period of the Roman persecution of Christians in the second century CE, it was commonplace to accuse Christians of using the blood and flesh of their own infants in their rituals, of taking part in the most vile orgies, of worshipping the genitalia of the congregation's priest, and so on. The accusations died out in the second century, except for one "curious revival," as Cohn puts it:

In 1847 Marx read and was impressed by the newly published work of Georg Friedrich Daumer, Die Geheimnisse des christlichen Altertums (The Secrets of Christian Antiquity).

Cohn notes that Marx delivered a speech on the subject:

We know that the supreme thing in Christianity is human sacrifice. Daumer now proves in a recently published work that Christians really slaughtered men and at the Holy Supper ate human flesh and drank human blood. He finds here the explanation why the Romans, who tolerated all religious sects, persecuted the Christians, and why the Christians later destroyed the entire pagan literature directed against Christianity. Paul himself zealously argued against the admission to the Holy Supper of people who were not completely initiated into the mysteries. It is then also easy to explain where, for example, the relics of the 11,000 virgins came from; there is a document dating from the Middle Ages in which the nuns of a French convent made a contract with the Abbess to the effect that without the consent of all no further relics must be found. The occasion for this was given by a monk who was constantly travelling from Cologne to Paris and back and every time left relics behind. Everything that happened in this respect has been regarded as a fraud of the priests, but that would be to attribute to them a skill and cleverness far beyond the time in which they lived. Human sacrifice was sacred and has really existed. Protestantism merely transferred it to the spiritual man and mitigated the thing a little. Hence there are more madmen among Protestants than in any other sect. This story, as presented in Daumerís work, deals Christianity the last blow; the question now is, what significance this has for us. It gives us the certainty that the old society is coming to an end and that the edifice of fraud and prejudice is collapsing.

Cohn notes that Marx eventually had second thoughts about Daumer, who in 1858 "formally renounced" his own work and joined the Catholic Church.

Posted by Ideofact at November 22, 2004 11:39 PM