“Alexamenos worships his God“.
You know what they say, what goes around comes around. Back in the good old days we had secular religion. Our Roman and Greek predecessors kept gods in their place. Priesthoods were just jobs handed out to the already powerful, to people of the ‘right sort’ who could be relied upon to maintain the status quo.
You weren’t expected to actually believe any of this religion stuff, just pay dignified lip service and keep up appearances.
Society was nicely stratified as well. You ended up with the humiliores and honestiores. The humiliores were persons of low social status, about 90% of the population. They were the ones who were subject to certain kinds of punishment, such as crucifixion, torture, and corporal punishment. Indeed if you were a humiliores and appeared as a witness in court, you had a fair chance of being tortured to make sure you were telling the truth.
The honestiores were the better class of people, the political ruling class who owned most things, and got the priesthoods and similar.
This cosy set up was screwed up, big time, by new religions. Really you can lay the blame on the Jews. They introduced into religion people like the prophet Nathan (try 2 Samuel 12) or Isaiah (try Isaiah 5). But here’s a highlight from Isaiah
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine
and champions at mixing drinks,
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
but deny justice to the innocent.
Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw
and as dry grass sinks down in the flames,
so their roots will decay
and their flowers blow away like dust;
The problem with the Jewish religion (and the Christians and Moslems who picked up on it,) is that they didn’t know their place. Nathan’s attack on King David is revolutionary; it suggests that a monarch should be held accountable by the same law as the rest of the people. These religions refused to accept the concepts of humiliores and honestiores.
Now obviously the honestiores have not been willing to take this nonsense lying down. They’ve clung to their power and left the little people to do the actual believing in religions, whilst they got on with running what really mattered.
But every so often they’ve discovered their own mortality. When Henry IV walked to Canossa and stood barefoot for three days in a blizzard as a penitent, people were shocked. At least some of the shock came from the fact he was being treated as any other penitent and not afforded treatment appropriate for his exalted status. Somehow, somewhere, somebody had slipped and allowed the very Judeo-Christian concept of equality in the eyes of the law to creep in and it’s going to be a beggar to get rid of.
Obviously the honestiores haven’t taken this lying down, and they’ve spend two or more millennia trying to keep their hands on the levers of power and influence. And for as long as the old Judeo-Christian faiths had people who believed in them, the humiliores were in with a chance. The last great push was probably the birth of the Labour Party which came out of the Methodist revival.
But now the honestiores have largely captured that as well, so normal service can at last be resumed.
Hence now at last we have a new priesthood and a new secular religion once more and at last the honestiores are firmly back in the saddle.
But wisely the new religions are unlike the old Judaeo-Christian faiths. The latter were just an embarrassment. If you claimed you believed in them, then people would point to some rule you’d forgotten or had overlooked ‘because it was inconvenient’ and ask how you could call yourself a whatever when you weren’t doing what the book said.
Now you don’t have to believe the new religions, you’ve just got to pay lip service to them.
So take the current dominant cult of Climate Change. There the priesthood has things well in hand. They put forward measures which are paid for by the humiliores and keep them in their place, whilst at the same time the honestiores can jet round the world to conferences or get good salaries on quangos thinking of new restrictions to put onto other people. Admittedly they haven’t worked out how to burn people as heretics yet, but the term ‘denier’ works nearly as well.
Obviously the beliefs of the cult cannot be allowed to actually impinge of the things that the honestiores regard as important. Hence whilst promising us a guaranteed 3mm a year rise in sea levels, devotees of the cult are still investing massively in London, even though by their own calculations the tube will be full of salt water in another generation.
One problem these new cults have got is that their priesthoods might well regard their own deity as important, but they can sometimes get so carried away with their own schemes that they forget to pay lip service to other deities.
So the priestesses of feminism who decided to allow their devotees to wear ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ T shirt, (a snip at a mere £45 each! I mean, who spends £45 on a T shirt?) totally ignored the fact that humiliores were being forced to work for £0.69 an hour to make them.
But that’s perhaps what the new faiths are for. They’re there to make the honestiores feel good; they’re not actually there to make things better for the humiliores.
There again, what do I know?
As a reviewer commented, “Once in a while a book really gets to you. Jim Webster’s book Sometimes I just Sits and Thinks has done just that to me. Jim is a farmer in the English county of Cumbria. His sense of humour shines throughout each episode. If you come from farming stock as I do, this is the book for you. In my mind’s eye I was out there with Jim and his faithful Border Collies Jess and Sal. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book…”