Quantcast
About this site
About us
Our beliefs
Is this your first visit?
Contact us
External links
Good books
Visitor essays
Our forum
New essays
Other site features
Buy a CD of this site
Vital notes

World religions
BUDDHISM
CHRISTIANITY
   Who is a Christian?
   Shared beliefs
   Handling change
   Bible topics
   Bible inerrancy
   Bible harmony
   Interpret Bible
   Persons
   Beliefs, creeds
   Da Vinci code
   Revelation, 666
HINDUISM
ISLAM
JUDAISM
WICCA / WITCHCRAFT
 
Other religions
Cults and NRMs
Comparing religions

Non-theistic...
Atheism
Agnosticism
Humanism
Other

About all religions
Important topics
Basic information
Gods & Goddesses
Handling change
Doubt/security
Quotes
Movies
Confusing terms
Glossary
End of the world
One true religion?
Seasonal topics
Science v. Religion
More info.

Spirituality and ethics
Spirituality
Morality and ethics
Absolute truth

Peace and conflict
Attaining peace
Religious tolerance
Religious hatred
Religious conflict
Religious violence

"Hot" topics
Very hot topics
Ten commandments
Abortion access
Assisted suicide
Cloning
Death penalty
Environment
Equal rights -gays/bi's
Same-sex marriage
Nudism
Origins of the species
Sex & gender
Sin
Spanking kids
Stem cells
Women-rights
Other topics

Laws and news
Religious laws
Religious news

Sponsored links

!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.



An overview of religiously motivated oppression

Events before the 4th century CE

horizontal rule

Sponsored link.

horizontal rule

Religiously motivated oppression in the ancient Middle East:

In ancient times, a person's religion was generally determined by the beliefs of their local dictator/king. Individual religious freedom was rare. Gods and Goddesses were perceived as local deities with a defined geographical range.

When a person moved into another country, they would typically adopt the Gods and Goddesses of their new region. One example of this is seen in a famous passage from Ruth 1:17-18 when Ruth said to Naomi:

"...Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

When another country declared war and successfully overthrew the local dictator/king, the losers interpreted this as proof that the foreign God was greater than the local deity. The public in the losing country often converted to the religion of the invaders. One example of this was the attack by the Assyrians during  722 & 721 BCE on the Northern Hebrew kingdom of Israel. Ten of the Hebrew tribes plus the Levites were scattered and lost their Jewish identity.

Intolerance of other religions was the rule rather than the exceptions. A few of the many examples in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) are listed below:

bulletExodus 32 discusses the mass murder of Hebrews because they worshiped another deity.
bulletNumbers 25 describes the mass murder of Hebrew men who married women from another tribe -- presumably because the women worshiped another deity.
bullet1 Kings 18:17-40 describes the mass execution of 450 priests of Baal, and 400 priests of Asherah because of their faith.
bulletExodus 20:4-6 contains the third of the Ten Commandments, according to the Protestant/Eastern Orthodox sequence. It explains that if a person bows down to a "graven image," like a statue, they and their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will be punished.
bulletThe books of Joshua, Judges, 2 Samuel and 2 Chronicles records the killing of hundreds of thousands of people of other religions. Often entire populations were wiped out: women, men, children, infants and newborns.
bulletMore information.

horizontal rule

A period of relative religious freedom in the Roman Empire prior to the 4th century CE:

As the Roman Empire expanded throughout the Mediterranean, it allowed the conquered peoples to retain their own religions. It was a time of general religious freedom. However, the state expected everyone to perform certain civic duties. One of them was to make a sacrifice to the Roman Gods in the temple. To most of the population, this did not represent a problem:

bulletFollowers of polytheistic religions within the Empire were generally able to draw correspondences between their Gods and Goddesses and the corresponding deities from the Roman pantheon.
bulletFollowers of various Mystery Religions often held at least a nominal allegiance to the official Pagan religion of Rome along with their beliefs in their own religion.
bulletJews were respected by the Romans because of both their high ethical behavior and the ancient roots of their religion. They were exempt from the requirements to sacrifice in the Pagan temple.

horizontal rule

Persecution of Christians by Pagans in the Roman Empire circa 30 to 313 CE:

One exception to the general state of religious tolerance was Christianity. Christians were regarded with suspicion. Their founder, Yeshua of Nazareth, was executed by the Roman Army for insurrection. Suetonius, a famous Roman historian, called Christians "a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief." Other historians denounced it as a "perverse irrational religious awe", "immoderate," and harmful." 1 But one of the most severe criticism of early Christianity was simply that it was new. Only religions with a long history were fully respected and accepted by the Romans.

Many Christians refused to perform nominal sacrifices in the temple. They believed that they could only worship their God. Offering a sacrifice to a Roman God or Goddess would be blasphemy. The Romans feared retribution from their Gods if Christians were allowed to neglect their civil duty. (We see echoes of this mind set today, as some conservative Christians anticipate some form of retaliation by God because women have partial access to abortion and some rights that were once restricted to heterosexuals are now extended to  gays and lesbians, etc.)

According to author Neil Manzullo, 1 there were three main intervals of persecution:

bulletThe first extended from the time of the execution of Jesus until just the Great Fire in Rome in 64 CE when the Emperor Nero falsely accused Christians of committing arson. Historians M. Cary & H.H. Scullard suggest that this first persecution "was a mere afterthought, and did not result in any general proscription." 2
bulletThe second interval lasted from 64 CE to circa 250 CE. Oppression was intermittent and confined to isolated areas within the Empire.
bulletThe third and final persecution lasted from 250 to 313 CE:
bulletThe Emperor Decius instituted what historian Michael Grant calls a "systematic persecution of the Christians" during 250 and 251 CE. 3
bulletEmperor Valerian's persecution lasted from 257 to 259. 4 Grant comments: "As never before, the motive of the Great Persecution which began in 303 was the total extirpation of Christianity: it was a struggle to the death between the old and new orders."

[We plan to enlarge this paragraph in the future]

The persecutions ended in 313 CE when Constantine published the Edict of Milan. This extended religious tolerance to Christians. Unfortunately Jews lost many rights as a result of this edict. They were no longer permitted to live in Jerusalem, or to proselytize.

horizontal rule

Next: Christian persecution of Pagans during the 4th century CE

horizontal rule

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Neil Manzullo, "The Roman Persecution of Christians," 2000-FEB=08, at: http://patriot.net/
  2. M. Cary & H.H. Scullard, "A History of Rome," St. Martin's Press, (1975), Page 487.
  3. Michael Grant, "The Roman Emperors," Barnes & Noble Books, (1985), Page 157.
  4. Ibid, Page 208.

horizontal rule

Site navigation:

Home page > Visitors' essays > here

horizontal rule

Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-APR-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)

horizontal rule

Go to the previous page, or to the "overview of religious oppression" menu, or choose:

Google
Web ReligiousTolerance.org

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?


Twitter link

Facebook icon

Google Page Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.