The Writings of Revilo P Oliver 1908-1994

The Origins of Christianity

by Revilo P. Oliver

Professor of the Classics, Retired; University of Illinois, Urbana



IN CONCLUDING this highly, and perhaps excessively, condensed prolegomenon, we must notice a fact of the utmost importance in the history of religions. There is a relatively high mortality-rate among the immortals.

The basis of all religions is a belief that there are gods who control natural phenomena and can be persuaded to use their power for the benefit of their votaries when placated by rituals and prayers. But what happens when the approved methods prove inefficacious?

Some tribes of American aborigines end periods of drought by performing methectic dances to stimulate the rain-spirits to action. Observers report that the dances frequently produce the desired effect, since, in well-run tribes, they are performed when the old men sense an impending change in weather. Christians, by the way, are less circumspect and often pray for such benefits unseasonably. One remembers the bon mot of the young Duke of Clarence who later became King William IV. At a church service at which the clergymen were exhorting Jesus to make rain, he remarked sotto voce to his entourage, "Egad, it won’t work while the wind’s in the southwest."

Any respectable theologian can produce offhand a dozen explanations why gods remain obdurate in any given case, and worshippers, like gamblers, are not discouraged by a few failures, since they hope they will hit the divine jackpot the next time. Constant disappointment, however, leads polytheist worshippers to transfer their supplications from an obdurate god to one untried, and when accumulated experience engenders doubts about the goodwill of several gods, they welcome new ones, who may be more amenable to persuasion. This undoubtedly accounts in large part for the loss of popularity suffered by many gods and eventual changes in a people’s pantheon. One is reminded of the Norse who, when the Northern peoples were being solicited by Christian missionaries, remarked that since Odin had done nothing for them, they would try the new god. Some students believe that at an earlier date Odin had supplanted Tyr for the same reason.

A powerless god is a contradiction in terms, and when a god’s impotence is spectacularly demonstrated, he ceases to inspire awe and worship. When the Christian sect headed by the Fathers of the Church shrewdly acquired influence over the despots of the decaying empire that had once been Roman, Christian mobs began to plunder the homes of wealthy citizens in some cities and to pillage and destroy the shrines of the gods whom the Christians hated. That was by far the most effective Christian propaganda. The "pagans," as the clever Fathers of the Church called them,* naturally reasoned that if their gods were unable to protect the stately and beautiful temples that had been built in their honor and adorned with the irreplaceable masterpieces of the world’s greatest artists, those gods must be less powerful than the god of the religion that was so steadily taking over the government of the state. As temple after temple throughout the world was defiled and destroyed by the rioting mobs, it required great faith in Symmachus and the other members of the "pagan aristocracy" to remain true to their ancestral creed, and perhaps they could not have done so, had not some of them thought of attributing to the impiety of the Christians the disasters that were accumulating upon the dying empire as it yielded ever more and more to the virile barbarians from the north, who must be the instruments of the outraged gods. It will be remembered that since the Fathers of the Church had not yet gained control of the state’s police powers and army to begin persecuting in earnest Augustine had to try to answer that argument with his famous De civitate Dei and to prod one of his followers, Orosius, into compiling a distortion of history, now remembered because it contains some fragments of ancient historians whose works were lost. And when the Fathers finally could use the army for ruthless persecution, they not only stamped out the worship of the discredited gods but acquired a theological argument that was irrefragable and even more effective than the terrorism of fire and sword in destroying the competing Christian sects. The congregations of those sects naturally reasoned that the Christian god must have approved the theology of the Fathers to grant them such power. There is truth in the American proverb that nothing succeeds like success.

* On this ingenious device in propaganda, see below.

The converse phenomenon may be seen in Christian Europe during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. The schism that fractured forever the unity of Christendom was essentially religious and appeared to both sides as the work of the anti-god, although opinion was naturally divided as to whether the Devil had inspired Luther and the other heresiarchs or had been put on the defensive by attacks on the Church which he had thus far controlled. The result was the long series of Wars of Religion, as the True Believers on each side rallied to the support of their beleaguered god and enthusiastically butchered millions of their fellow Aryans, sacked great cities, and made waste lands of rich provinces ad maiorem gloriam Dei. But after two centuries of godly slaughter and destruction, the zealots on both sides had to stop in sheer exhaustion, and each had to concede that God had been either unable or unwilling to help them exterminate the servants of Satan. That admission necessarily undermined their faith, and the agnosticism and atheism that had theretofore been the secret belief of a very few learned men gradually spread to ever wider circles. We are reminded of the Icelandic chieftain who, as the Hrafnkels Saga tells us, was specially devoted to Freyr, to whom he built a temple and consecrated the prized stud-stallion that, by the god’s power, was engendering a superior breed of horses. When his enemies destroyed the temple and cast the stallion into the sea, the chieftain concluded that there were no gods and religion was only a grand hoax. The Wars of Religion, even more than the steady advance of scientific knowledge in the Eighteenth Century, accounted for the mounting wave of scepticism and incredulity that was checked only when the ferocity and horrors of the French Revolution demonstrated, as Gibbon said, "the danger of exposing an old superstition to the contempt of the blind and fanatic multitude."

There is another factor, however, that must not be overlooked when we are dealing with our race, of which a major characteristic is the capacity for objective thought, which Professor Haas terms the philosophical mentality and which has made possible what we call science, which is simply the systematic investigation of natural phenomena to ascertain their natural causes. It begins, as everyone knows, with the earliest Greek philosophers and especially with Thales, although some scholars now question the tradition that he, at so early a date, not only understood the cause of eclipses but had sufficient data to predict them accurately. However that may be, when the physical causes of natural phenomena are ascertained, the power of the gods is thereby contracted.

In 168 B.C., L. Aemilius Paullus ordered an assembly of his army to listen to a lecture in which C. Sulpicius Galus explained the causes of eclipses and why he knew that an eclipse of the moon would occur at a stated hour on the following night. Thus did Aemilius, a sagacious general, avert the panic or dismay that would have destroyed the efficiency of the legions with which, two or three days later at Pydna, he broke a Macedonian phalanx in an open field and thus assured the supremacy of Rome in the civilized world. Aemilius, a sagacious Roman aristocrat, had no wish to impair the religiosity which he deemed the irreplaceable basis of an ordered society, but, of course, he did so. In the minds of the common soldiers, one large and important province was taken from the gods and restored to the nexus of cause and effect that governs the real world and with which no god can tamper.

From Thales to the present, interrupted only by a long relapse during the Dark Ages, the growth of scientific knowledge has steadily forced the gods to retreat from the real world into an invisible world of the supernatural, out of time and space, with consequent loss of their powers of imminence. In 1902, when the eruption of Mt. Pelée, so vividly described by Edward Diecmann Jr., in his Volcano Mondo (Los Angeles, Pinnacle, 1977), devastated a tenth of the island of Martinique, including the capital city, the clergy, whose colleagues in St. Pierre had been praying diligently ever since the volcano showed signs of activity, were much embarrassed. They did not dare to claim that Jesus had incinerated more than fifty thousand persons, including the pious who had taken refuge in his cathedral, so they had to concede that the phenomenal firestorm had been due to natural causes, and the best they could do was exploit the coincidence that in the ruins of the totally destroyed cathedral one sacred image was found unbroken. That, they claimed, proved that Jesus had belatedly intervened to save the garish statue while he obviously paid no attention to his most pious votaries and even made no effort to save his own consecrated priests. But with persons capable of even a modicum of reflective thought, that extemporized proof of divine activity did more harm than good to their faith.

We must not forget that the retreat of the supernatural is in accord with the innate propensities of the Aryan mind, shown by the universal Aryan belief in a destiny Moros, Fatum, Wyrd, inherent in the nature of the physical world and beyond the power of whatever gods there be. So strong was this racial instinct that it eventually produced the Anglo-Saxon proverb, "Christ is powerful, but more powerful is destiny."*

* Quoted by Gunther, op. cit., p. 33.

Destiny is simply the Greek heimarmene, the nexus of cause and effect that unalterably governs the physical world. It is not remarkable that atheism appears very early in the thought of our race.

The outlines, at least, of Greek philosophy are too well known to justify a description here. We have already mentioned Xenophanes and Critias, and the common noun, ‘Euhemerism,’ will remind everyone of Euhemerus, whose ironically entitled Sacred Scripture was translated into Latin as the Sacra Historia by Ennius when Rome was still predominantly Aryan. We should note that Critias was so frank in his play, performed for the whole body of Athenian citizens, as to impair the social utility of religion.† Aristotle was content to remark in his Metaphysica that since society depended on a moral order, religion was necessary "to convince the masses." This view was held by a large part of the Roman aristocracy in the great days of the Republic. The elder Cato said that he wondered how an haruspex could avoid grinning when he met a colleague: he could speak freely about foreigners;‡ it would have been bad taste to speak so crudely about members of a

† We do not know in what part of his Sisyphus the preserved passage occurred, nor are we informed about the plot. The character who spoke those pregnant lines may have been punished for his rationalism, thus satisfying the religious.

‡ The official haruspices were noble Etruscans and were summoned from Etruria when it was thought necessary to consult them about the wishes of the gods. On one famous occasion, in 162 B.C., when they returned a politically inexpedient opinion, Tib. Sempronius Gracchus (father of the noted "idealists"), then consul, denounced them as foreign barbarians and had them thrown out, but he had eventually to yield to the superstitions of the populace.

Roman religious collegium and, in any case, a well-bred Roman was supposed to maintain his gravitas in public. Cicero, who had attained the coveted honor of co-option to the college of augurs, had no illusions about the religious efficacy of an office which was prized for the political power it gave as a constitutional check on the actions of certain magistrates.

We are here in the presence of a very important factor in religious history: the belief, possibly correct, in the necessity of religion to perform the function Critias had attributed to it. This, of course, has had great weight, not only with sagacious students of politics, such as Machiavelli, but with many churchmen, although few have been so candid as the celebrated Cardinal Dubois, whose opinion we mentioned above. One thinks, for example, of the Protestant minister, Allamand, whom Gibbon knew in his youth and who adroitly fostered the young man’s intellectual development, but, since Gibbon was still a Christian, "had some measures to keep" and never showed him "the true colors of his secret scepticism." Allamand, like the famous Father Jean Meslier, who left, disguised as a last will and testament, an avowal of his own atheism, was a man of high moral principles, and in antiquity, as in our own time, the description est sacrificulus in pago et rusticos decipit may sometimes correspond to a high sense of social responsibility, although, of course, it more often describes only a cynical exploitation of the credulity of the masses.

Atheism, furthermore, is by no means restricted to the main stream of our civilization. Among the Norse there were many ‘godless’ (goðlauss) men, and although we can be absolutely certain only about those who said specifically that they believed only in their own strength and courage (á mátt sinn ok megin) and destiny (auðna), it is highly unlikely that any of them retained any superstitions about the supernatural, although some scholars of Norse antiquities would like to salvage by conjecture some vestiges of religiosity.

What may astonish some readers is the fact that atheism also appeared among the Aryans of India. In the great uncertainty that besets all attempts to fix a chronology of the early history of India, one cannot be certain of anything, but I feel confident that the strict materialism and atheism called Lokãyaka accompanied the breakdown of the Vedic religion and was a pre-condition to the rise of Buddhism; I therefore place it at least as early as the beginning of the sixth century B.C., the date favored by Paul Masson-Oursel. It is certainly older than the Maitri-upanisad (whatever its date!), which mentions (iii.5) atheism (specifically nãstikya) among human afflictions. It is certainly older than the oldest parts of the Mahãbhãrata, which mention atheism. Some passages, probably interpolated, threaten: persons who do not believe in a "spiritual world" with condign punishments, and one amusing episode (XII.clxxx.47) introduces us to a jackal who laments that in his previous life he was an "infidel" (pãsanda) and so wicked that he was a rationalist (haituka), devoted to the "useless art of reasoning" and so perverse as to doubt what he was told by the professional priests. It is uncertain how long the Aryan (philosophical) mentality persisted in India after it was finally mongrelized by Buddhism and the dominant mentality became what Haas termed philousian, which is capable, by some mental operation incomprehensible to us, of seeing itself in the clouds, the sun, and the whole living universe, of which it feels itself a part.* As late as the Fourteenth Century (A.D.), Mãdhava, in his Sarva-sargana-samgraha,† included a chapter on the materialists (carvakas), who deny the existence of gods, souls, and other spooks, and assert that religion "was made by Nature for the livelihood of persons who are destitute of both learning and manhood," and is therefore a racket that provides professional priests with an assured income. It is doubtful whether Mãdhava, at so late a date, actually knew persons who held such opinions; he could have derived his information about such sinful ideas from written sources.

* Günther, who believes that a pantheistic mysticism is also native to our minds, would take exception to my implication that the "philousian" mind is entirely alien. One can argue the question both ways.

† There is a generally good translation by E. B. Cowell and A. E. Gough (London Kegan Paul, 1904), who, however, translate as "demons" etc. (i.e., supernatural beings) words which really mean "savages," i.e., the dark-skinned aboriginal races of India in their native habitat, creatures whom the Aryans regarded as evil and so described by words (paisaci, etc.) which also mean ‘demon.’ There is an odd tradition that Gunãdhya wrote his Brhatkathã (the source of the well-known Ocean of Story, elegantly translated by C. H. Tawney and commented by N. M. Penzer, 10 vols., London, 1924-1928), in the Paisaci language, which is absurd unless the word there means some adulterated dialect comparable to modern Urdu; cf. ancient Hittite.

All of the three independent Aryan cultures of which we have good records early developed atheism as a Weltanschauung of some men. As was only to be expected, professional holy men, understandably alarmed by the threat to their incomes, clamorously assert that atheists are dreadfully wicked and immoral. They seem not to stop to reflect that an atheist who had no moral principles would naturally become an evangelist himself, and obtain a handsome income and flattering prominence by hawking salvation to the masses or otherwise exploiting their credulity. In our society, the avowed atheist clearly places his devotion to intellectual integrity above the material rewards that he, as a materialist, should primarily seek! Explain that paradox as you will. Given the innate propensity of the Aryan mind, we are left with the uncomfortable fact that in general we cannot tell how many holy men are atheists at heart, and how many atheists profess conformity to the established religion to avert damage to the social structure.


Psychologists have speculated endlessly about the true nature of the human psyche† and hence about its susceptibility to systematic superstition, commonly called religiosity. Into that pathless labyrinth we need not venture, and we cannot take the time even to outline what is the most cogent of the innumerable theories. It may be that, as Carl Jung claims, religiosity is an inherent and inherited tendency of our nature, determined by the archetypal symbols that are latent in our subconscious minds as our inheritance from the collective unconscious of the race to which we belong – a psychic substratum that was formed by our race’s collective experience during all the millennia since it became a human species. But although Jung’s arguments are plausible, his theory is, at the limit, no more demonstrable than the many that are more superficial.

There are, however, two indubitable factors that we may mention, since they are sometimes so obvious they are overlooked, being simply taken for granted.

Although all of the higher mammals have certain rudimentary powers of reason and communication, the several species that are distinguished as human possess, in varying degrees, the ability to form a language, by which certain arbitrary sounds are given specific meanings and may be assembled into the sentences of a statement that becomes a substitute for visual, auditory, or tactile perception. The word ‘spear’ causes the hearer’s imagination to form a picture of a specific instrument, and the statement ‘I hurled a spear at the tiger’ makes the hearer visualize in his consciousness not only the weapon, the tiger, and me, but also the act in which I am said to have engaged. There is nothing in the statement or in the hearer’s imaginative reaction to it that indicates the truth or the falsity of the statement. Language, in other words, confers the power to lie, and the validity of any statement, if it possesses internal consistency, can be determined only by external criteria, the common-sense test of plausibility in the light of our own experience of reality, and, if that test is passed, the availability of independent corroboration of the statement. If I tell you that I was in London this morning, you will know that I lie, because I could not conceivably have returned thence in the elapsed time. If I tell you that I thought of London this morning, you will never be able to determine whether or not I have told the truth.

If we read Sir Walter Scott’s Life of Swift and his Waverley, there is nothing in either narrative that permits us to distinguish between biography and fiction. We know, however, from our basic education that there was a distinguished writer named Swift who lived at the time mentioned in the first of these books, and what we know of his writings and the circumstances of his life agrees with what Scott tells us; we therefore accept the Life of Swift as a statement of facts, truthful and accurate, except insofar as Scott may have overlooked or misunderstood data that we can ascertain from other and reliable sources.* When we read the second of these books, however, we have no means of knowing offhand whether a man named Edward Waverley lived at the time indicated and we could not find out, except by a prolonged and laborious search through the vast mass of relevant records that might contain mention of him and confirm at least some of the acts attributed to him; but Sir Walter has informed us in his preface that Waverley is merely a creation of his own imagination.

If we read Hervey Allen’s Anthony Adverse, we know that it is a novel, for so the author has told us. If it were labelled a biography, we might wonder how some of the incidents and personal sentiments recorded became known to the writer, and we might be sceptical about parts of the narrative, but an enormous amount of research would be necessary before we would dare affirm that the protagonist never lived. Kenneth Roberts’ 0liver Wiswell would present an even more difficult problem, since almost all of the leading characters except the protagonist are historical figures who did participate in the events that are described in the book with historical accuracy, as can be determined from some or many authentic sources, and the protagonist is essentially an observer, so that we should have to prove that he could not have witnessed those events.

If now we turn to the famous works of J. R. R. Tolkien, we find a narrative that is, per se, as circumstantial and seemingly realistic, as convincing, as any of the books mentioned above. We know at once, however, that we are reading fiction – and we should know it, no matter how positively the author asseverated that it was a veracious account of actual happenings – because we know, from our basic education, that no such beings as hobbits, elves, and wizards ever existed and that many of the incidents described violate the ascertained and indubitable laws of nature. We know, beyond possible doubt, that Tolkien’s books are grandiose tissues of falsehood, of what would be impudent falsehood, if the author pretended otherwise. They are, however, works of brilliant and almost poetic fantasy and so serve a spiritual need that is an essential part of our nature and cannot be denied with impunity.

For our aesthetic satisfaction, therefore, we practice what is called the "poetic suspension of doubt," that is to say, we, by an act of will, assume that the narrative is a factual and veracious account while we are reading it and in our minds, so to speak, we temporarily suspend the laws of nature and our own rationality, so that we may enjoy a delightful illusion and satisfy our emotional need to escape for a time from the grim limitations of reality. Dulce et decorum est desipere in loco. At the end of the reading, as though at the end of a symphony, having experienced the spiritual and emotional release that our psyche needed, we return to reality and the dire world from which we escaped for a time in imagination. We return to painful sanity in a world in which, alas, there is no magic.

If we were propense to superstition and could not bear to surrender the dulcet illusion, if we were willing to believe what is manifestly impossible, only the author’s explicit statement that he wrote fiction would save us from taking Tolkien’s books as the veracious gospels of a religion more plausible and internally consistent than any other. Tolkien’s books are the work of a single and singularly lucid mind, not a mere congeries of myths elaborated at widely different times for widely different purposes by many obscure authors and never given competent editorial revision, which would have eliminated internal inconsistencies in each tale and gross contradictions between tales, such as have to be explained away by the theologians of all religions that have sacred scriptures. When Tolkien wrote his trilogy, he revised The Hobbit to make it agree with what he said in the later work; his Silmarillion was published posthumously from many shorter narratives, written at various times, mere, tentative drafts that the author would have revised and harmonized with the published volumes, had he lived to combine them into a continuous narrative.

There are some inconsistencies, therefore, but far fewer and far less troublesome than the flagrant self-contradictions found in the holy books of every revealed religion.‡ It is possible, indeed, to predict a collapse of our civilization and a new Dark Ages, and to imagine that the text of the Silmarillion and perhaps the other books will survive the destruction of most of our culture and come into the hands of ignorant survivors of our race or barbarians of a race to which our modalities of thought and feeling are congenial, with the result that Tolkien’s fantasies will be taken as the Sacred Bible of a new religion.

Tolkien’s has both coherence and a noble morality, but neither is requisite for sacred writings. The late Clark Ashton Smith wrote a series of short stories about a continent named Zothique that will appear in the far distant future, and the late Robert E Howard published a large number of short stories about a continent that vanished in the remote past; neither author aimed at more than a superficial similarity between the various short stories’ imaginary setting, and each story was composed for its own dramatic and romantic effectiveness in exciting horror and wonder in the readers of the popular periodicals in which the various stories were published over a period of many years. Nevertheless, the admirers of each writer have drawn maps of the imaginary continents, arranged the tales in a chronological order, and compiled biographies of the principal characters, explaining away inconsistencies with only a modicum of the ingenuity that theologians have to put into concealing the irremediable conflicts within their chosen body of myths. And the same admirers could, if they wished, read into the stories a religious significance. We may be quite certain that any moderately competent theologian could take the diverse tales thrown together in some one of Andrew Lang’s varicolored Fairy Books and, with the usual techniques of sophistry and mendacity, make of them an apparently coherent doctrine and a religion that many of our contemporaries would be prone to accept.

Language, in other words, can be used to portray what never happened and never could have happened in terms so vivid that they will induce belief subject only to the vigilance of the reader's common sense and knowledge of reality, his critical faculties, which will enable hin to test the story’s consistency, and, if necessary, his knowledge of the relevant facts of history and science. We know that no man can walk on water, that an omniscient god could not be surprised by an unforeseen event, and that the sun cannot be stopped above a town on earth. If such events were narrated in fiction written with a very high degree of literary skill and imaginative art, we could, for a brief time, feign belief in them for the sake of aesthetic satisfaction, but if we pemit emotional cravings to put our rational faculties permanently into cold storage, there is absolutely no limit whatsoever to what we can believe, and even the crudest tale will induce chronic delusions. Oddly enough, however, the paralysis of the intellect can be limited somehow to certain idées fixes. thus pemitting the mind to reason from its own delusions, as in the well-known story about Dr Abernethy’s insane patient: the man was convinced that he was dead, and when the physician lanced his am, the patient congratulated him on having made an epochal medical discovery, to-wit, that dead men can bleed.

Obviously, an individual's credulity is relative to two quite different factors, first, the quality and vigor of his intellect, which is genetically detemined§, and second, the amount of factual knowledge at his disposal, which depends on his education and, above all, on the extent of the accurate information that has been accumulated by his society in the time at which he lives. He cannot avoid erroneous suppositions about phenomena that have not yet been explained or correctly observed, and it is only natural that whenever an increase in knowledge destroys a false belief that is emotionally comforting to human weakness, many individuals will suffer a psychic perturbation that is strictly comparable to the "withdrawal symptoms" experienced by addicts who have been deprived of their drugs. What concerns us here is the persistence of belief in what is known to be impossible.

We must first of all remark that such an irrational belief satisfies a craving of our subliminal psyche, which is certainly shaped by our genetic inheritance and, most probably, by the collective unconscious of our race as formed by the evolution of our species for a hundred thousand years or more. It is a craving only a little less imperative than sexual desire, which is partly physical,†† and which, as Hippolytus discovered, men cannot deny with impunity. A yeaming to transcend the cruel reality of a world in which we are ephemerae is born in us and is today made only the more imperative by our knowledge that our twenty thousand days under the sun are but a moment, no more than the dance of a midge that is born in the morning to die at evening, in the infinite time of a universe in which we, and our race, and all mammals, and our peculiar planet itself are infinitesimally unimportant epiphenomena in a universe that is vast beyond our comprehension and actuated by the blind forces of an inexorable and insentient nature from which there is no appeal. Cultured men and women can satisfy this yearning with great literature, both poetry and highly imaginative prose, and, less directly, by music and the aesthetic satisfactions afforded by mimetic arts that correspond to our racial conceptions of beauty.** Such rational indulgence of a psychic need is not available to the unfortunate individuals who have been denied participation in our cultural heritage by their schools, their private circumstances, or their own abilities, and it is not remarkable that the sabotage of our civilization by "educators" is currently producing a frightening increment of voluntary belief in the impossible, thus more and more levelling our population to a peniplane on which it will be impossible for our race to retain the intelligence requisite for survival.

The fact that religiosity does correspond to a psychic need accounts, of course, for its persistence in otherwise intelligent individuals who were in their early years subjected by clever teachers to a process of conditioning that implanted a habit before the development of rational faculties in the child’s mind. A maxim frequently repeated in the schools of several religious corporations states the principle quite bluntly: "If we have them until they are seven, we’ve got them for life." This, of course, is an exaggeration: the technique often fails, either because the pedagogues who apply it are inefficient or because they encounter a firm resistance in the minds of precocious children. The method is not infallible, but it is often successful. We have all encountered from time to time men who have attained distinction in historical scholarship or technology (including the methodology of the genuine sciences), but have never been able to break the religious habits formed by the mold in which their infantile minds were forced to grow. This is the psychic equivalent of the physical deformation of the skull practiced by many savage and barbarous tribes, possibly for the subconscious purpose of concealing some racial diversity in the components of the tribe, at least at the time that it came together. Our children are born with the psychic need for transcending reality and instinctively take pleasure in fairy stories, tales of the marvellous and impossible, but naturally outgrow serious belief in such things as they grow up; but if childish belief in a given set of fairy tales is enforced by an imposed routine of acts of worship, thus implanting a habit that is both physical and mental, the sapling thus bent may become a tree that retains the inclination thus forced upon it. The efficacy of this psychological device was first discovered by religious organizations, but, as we all know, it is now intensively used by the revolutionaries who have made of the public schools in the United States a monstrous tool for the sabotage of our civilization and liquidation of our race. Their deformation of children’s minds and characters does not concern us here, since it does not at present induce religiosity,‡‡ except insofar as the stunting of native intelligence so debilitates the mind that it becomes susceptible to uncontrolled emotions and induced hallucinations.

Aside from conditioning in infancy, the emotional fixation requisite for belief in the impossible depends on two factors, if we exclude cases of patent insanity, temporary or permanent. As the promoters of "democracy" well know and vociferously deny, human beings, from both mental indolence and fear of the unknown, try to shirk responsibility for decisions that will affect their own future. The sentimental idealization of childhood springs, not so much from oblivion of the tears shed and pain felt in early years, as from recollection of the happy state in which all important decisions were made by parents, who sheltered, clothed, fed, and educated the child without requiring him to make any decision of real moment. When those happy years are past, the adult yearns for a replacement of the lost parent whenever he is confronted by a need to make a decision in circumstances in which it is not obvious to him which of the alternatives will be the more advantageous. He wishes to transfer the responsibility to the stars, oracles, or soothsayers, and if he cannot believe in such frauds, he can at least tell himself that a Big Daddy in the clouds is watching over him and, if he is a good boy, will save him from serious harm. Political theorists,, especially if "conservative," like to forget that for the masses, as for children, "liberty" is merely freedom to indulge whims and appetites, at present most commonly in a bar room, where alcohol will give them a happy hour and a female can be picked up for nocturnal exercise, but alia aliis, for there is a variety in such tastes. Given the "liberty" they prize, they will welcome any dictation not physically painful that will spare them the unpleasant exertion of thought about decisions of which the consequences on their own lives may be problematical. They can be stirred from the most supine acquiescence in decisions made for them only by a prospect of more money, i.e., of indulgence in more whims and sensual appetites. The liberty about which "conservatives" so constantly and vainly orate is desired only by an aristocracy, and, in cold fact, can in any society be fully enjoyed only by a privileged minority, which may be either an aristocracy or the masters of an ochlocracy. Given this fact, it is easy to see why individuals, especially if, as at present, they feel the terrible loneliness of men without status or secure social ties, feel a need for reliance on some supernatural being, faute de mieux.

As we remarked earlier, the survival of the anthropoids that evolved into the several human species was made possible only by their association in packs for hunting and self-protection. The very function of a pack requires that its members feel the unanimity without which it would be merely a chance collection of helpless individuals, and this law of the pack was bred into our subliminal psyche through a hundred millennia or more before we became recognizably human. It is so deeply embedded in our being that everyone knows packs, mobs, crowds are collectively capable of a unanimous action that few or possibly none of the individuals in it would consciously undertake. We need not explore la psychologie des foules* to perceive that obvious fact, nor need we question the report of competent observers that a unanimity of emotion or purpose in a large crowd may produce in an observer and even more in the leader who is temporarily the crowd’s master a distinctly perceptible sensation that has been compared to an electrical charge in the atmosphere.§§ However that may be, it is also a matter of comon knowledge that a crowd, however strong its collective emotion, is incapable of action without some initiative, some modicum of leadership at least, on the part of some individual. A crowd strongly charged with emotion is like a supersaturated solution (of sodium thiosulphate, for example) that will remain liquid until a small shock, no more than a light tap with a pencil on the exterior of the flask, causes it to crystallize instantly. Here again we have the law of the pack, which always follows a leader, the individual whom social biologists now call the alpha male or, in some circumstances, the alpha female. When wolves, for example, assemble for a hunt, the dominant individual (who, incidentally, takes the greatest risk) leads and the rest of the pack follows him with a spontaneous unanimity. After the common purpose has been served, the pack disperses, but within the territory which it has taken for itself and which its leader patrols. The members of the pack retain a sense of their unity, however, and are aware of it when they encounter one of their fellows.††† In human packs, unanimity in a common purpose or belief satisfies an immemorial instinct of the species and is doubtless pleasant in itself. For that emotional satisfaction, men in general are quite willing to believe what their fellows in the pack believe.

This human tropism can be distinguished from the use of religion as a force for social cohesion, which we discussed above. The cohesion is requisite for large societies, which do, indeed, generate an emotional unanimity for an urgent common purpose, most commonly that of defending the state or of looting another state. When the larger cohesion is not imposed by some stress, the emotional satisfaction of belonging to the pack is normally felt only by comparatively small groups, a few score or hundred at the most, probably the limiting size of the packs or small tribes of our prehistoric ancestors. This probably explains the disintegration of all religions into small sects when no external force compels a formal cohesion for a common purpose that transcends or constrains the tendency to give allegiance to a comparatively small pack, which usually persists in the formation of factions within the large sect. For our purposes here, we need only note the psychological fact that assent to, and even belief in, a given superstition is a price that most individuals are willing to pay for the comforting sense of belonging to a pack, a sense that is some vestige of the instinct implanted in our remote ancestors when belonging to the pack was a matter of life or death.

I have tried to account, in the simplest possible psychological terms, for the persistence of belief in religious dogmas that demonstrably demand belief in what is impossible. The analysis is applicable only to laymen, votaries, congregations, and the like. Professional holy men, who have made religion their business, necessarily represent a quite different mentality.


      † We should remember that, properly speaking, psyche is the vital principle, the life-force that distinguishes a living organism from an inanimate one. As Aristotle defines it in the De anima, all living things necessarily have a psyche of an appropriate degree of complexity. The simple psyche of plants enables them to absorb nourishment, grow, and reproduce. Animals have a more complex psyche, which gives them also the power of movement and of perception through the five senses. The human psyche has, in addition, the kind of consciousness that embraces the cognitive and ratiocinative faculties. When death supervenes, the psyche (including, of course, the human personality) ceases to exist, since it was inherent in the functioning of the organism, from which it can have no separate existence. The energy that produces such faculties is, of course, a part of the structure of the universe; a modern reader will most readily understand the disputed passage at the end of III.5 by an analogy with Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the survival of the will as an impersonal force. Aristotle logically denies the possibility of a personal immortality, such as is so beautifully set forth in the poetry of Pindar, who is believed to have been the first to use psyche (in a famous passage quoted by Plato, Meno, 81a) to designate a personal entity that is supposed to survive death and be capable of reincarnation.

      * We may remark in passing that we normally do not make a search for verification of all details, especially if the work is a recent one and so presumably is based on all relevant knowledge now available. We are thus vulnerable to the sophisticated technique of mental poisoning now practiced by professional liars, who produce a generally accurate and verifiable narrative and artfully imbed in it the one crucial lie that they wish to implant in the minds of their victims.

      ‡ Bibles that are the work of a single author are likely to show fewer inconsistencies. An obvious exception is the Koran (Qu'rán), which I have read through only in the English translations by JM Rodwell (Everyman’s, 1909) and R. Bell (Edinburgh, 1937-39). God’s Word appears to be almost entirely the composition of Mahomet (Muhammad), but its chapters have been lumped together without the slightest regard for either logical or chronological order, and each sura seems to preserve the form in which it was dictated by God’s Prophet at some point in his long and adventurous career, which was marked by many vicissitudes and drastic changes of circumstances. He frequently found it expedient to have God change his mind, but while he sometimes remembered what he had had God say months or years before, he never attempted to revise or reconcile pronouncements made over a period of about twenty-two years. The result, of course, is an indigestible mass of grotesque internal contradictions, which, however, pious Moslems read in a trance, much as Christians read their Bible, such powers of reflective thought as the reader may possibly possess by nature having been congealed and anaesthetized by religious awe. Moslem theologians, whose ambitions naturally thaw out their brains, use the technique of násikh and mansúkh, determining what passages were abrogated by what other passages, with an ingenuity and effrontery worthy of the most eminent Christian theologians. Needless to say, Mahomet’s innumerable hadíth were invented by many theologians, each trying to sharpen his own axe. here are, of course, very many other bibles composed by a single halluciné or charlatan. I read Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon rather cursorily many years ago; I do not recall having noticed conspicuous inconsistencies. At about the same time, I read Swedenborg’s Arcana coelestia with somewhat greater attention and, given the wild imaginings of the author, did not notice internal contradictions, although I did remark passages in which I thought the author’s Latin designedly ambiguous. Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health, while not attributed to God as author, is really the gospel of a sect which deserves attention as one of the two major religions invented in the United States; the book appears internally consistent, doubtless because its authoress gave it a careful revision before publishing it. Lodowicke Muggleton (1609-1698) and his cousin, reputedly the Prophets of God whose coming was foretold in the Apocalypse, produced The Divine Looking-Glass, at which I have glanced (in the edition of 1846), but without attempting to determine whether the divine ravings have any coherence. It was with reference to this book that Hervey Allen, in his best-known novel, succinctly described the reaction of a pious reader of revelations: he could not understand the words and was, therefore, profoundly moved by them. The quantity of divinely inspired trash is simply enormous in all literate parts of the world. A man who took the time to read the Bãni, composed by Dadu, a Hindu Representative of God, (1544-1603), for his 152 disciples, informs me that it is an unusually intelligible revelation of a religion tbat is essentially an odd mixture of Euhemerism and monotheism. All of the scriptures mentioned above depend on affirmations purportedly made by a god, and it may be worthy of note, as illustrative of the innate mentality of our race, that when educated Aryans intoxicate themselves with mysticism, they characteristically do so with the methods of scholarship; a good example is Godfrey Higgins’ Anacalypsis (London, 1833-1836; republished, New York, 1927).

      § It must be noted that two distinct factors are here combined, the intelligence of an individual relative to the average for his race, and the racial determinant of his mental processes. The latter was identified for our race by Professor William S. Haas in his fundamental Destiny of the Mind (New York, 1956), to which we may add the sociological data adduced by Géryke Young in her Two Worlds, Not One (London, 1969). Ours is what Haas terms the philosophical mentality, and, to use his example, an Aryan who thought that he saw himself in the clouds would be rightly adjudged insane, but, as he shows, persons who have been born with a philousian mentality can do so and are sane in terms of the innate conformation of their racial mind, which is basically beyond our comprehension, although we may observe its effects in their conduct. When we deal with Mongolians, Jews, and other intelligent races (including many hybrids), it is only fair and prudent to remember that they do not perceive reality as we do and cannot think about what they perceive with our logic. At the limit, of course, this poses one of the epistemological problems that are abstractly insoluble and to which, as Hume proved, we can only give the summary answer demanded by our will to live.

      †† Only partly physical in our race, at least, since there is often the spiritual component of a need for permanent companionship and reciprocal trust to assuage an individual’s terrible loneliness and bolster his weakness. It is only fair to add that a comparable need appears to be felt instinctively by the many species of animals that mate for life, ie, numerous species of birds and mammals, including (contrary to vulgar belief) most wolves (as distinct from dogs). The intensive effort in our schools to force members of our race to believe that sex is a strictly physical function, like defecation, represents, of course, a concerted and planned assault on our racial survival. I do not know whether or not the female professors who proclaim that "we must destroy love," that "we have to abolish marriage," and that "we must encourage women not to live individually with men" are Jewesses obeying their race’s animus against ours; if they are Aryans, they are a terrifying illustration of the extent to which the racial psyche of our women can be poisoned by systematically induced delusions. In any case, although the proclaimed "liberation" of our women from their biological nature is accompanied by a theoretical presumption that children will continue to be engendered and will be raised, like chickens, in pens provided by the government and explicitly designed to enforce equality with the lowest species of human life, it is obvious that the necessary result will be that women of an intelligence above the animal level will refuse to bear offspring, and our race, or at least the valuable part of it, will become extinct, as is, of course, tacitly desired by the promoters.

      ** Here again we cannot determine whether the obscenely disgusting malformations that are so successfully peddled as "art" by Picasso, Epstein, et alii quam multi, really correspond to some way in which Jews perceive reality or are an expression of racial hatred or are merely devices to profit contemptuously from the gullibility of barbarized Aryans. Picasso once declared, seemingly with candor, that he was just exploiting the suckers. The question cannot be resolved by the well-known fact that identical "art" is produced by hopelessly schizophrenic children in asylums for the feeble-minded. Much "art" of this sort is also produced by Aryans for profit and the pleasure of thumbing their noses at boobs. As an "artist," who collected junk from the city dump and piled it up in front of a hotel to collect a handsome fee for "sculpture" from the proprietor, remarked to one of his friends, "if the jackass will pay twenty dollars a pound for scrap metal, why not?"

      ‡‡ Unlike religious schools, our public schools, devoted to the revolutionary implementation of "democracy," are naturally most concerned with blighting the character of our children by destroying the racial psyche. For example, as we all know, the schools work intensively to incite indiscriminate copulation in children at the earliest possible age, preferably before puberty, to destroy their capacity for sexual love and thus render them incapable of ever experiencing the greatest of all the psychic satisfactions demanded by our racial instincts. The very institution of public schools in which children of greatly differing intelligence are lumped together has, of course, the effect of aborting innately superior minds and that purpose is even openly admitted to the accompaniment of mawkish snivelling about the "underprivileged" (if we may use one of the most disgusting nonsense-words coined by the con men). Forcing Aryan children into close association with savages is obviously a device to destroy their self-respect and their capacity for culture. A remarkable statistical proof of the efficiency of American schools is given by Professor Raymond B Cattell in his New Morality from Science (New York, 1972), p. 378: "In the early part of this century the classical studies of Burt (1917, 1925), Chassell (1935), and Terman (1926), clearly showed a decided tendency of delinquents to be below average in intelligence, and of highly intelligent children to be on an average of superior character and emotional stability. In some [recent] studies the correlation now approaches zero." (My italics.) The distinguished author goes on to point out that it is imperative for us (assuming that we do not acquiesce in our liquidation) to train our citizens "in defenses against psychological warfare." He does not explain, however, how this is to be done without abolishing the publicly financed boob-hatcheries and crime-breeding centers.

      §§ I allude, of course, to the magisterial work by Gustave Le Bon (Paris, 1895), one of the truly great men who undertook an objective study of human society. His work is denounced by the professors who are working the "social science" rackets, since it negates many of the myths they propagate for profit – and often, no doubt, to compensate for a dim awareness of their own inferiority. There is an English translation, which I have not seen.

      ††† So far as I know, there has been no investigation of this phenomenon. It probably has no relation to the now fashionable fraud called "Extra Sensory Perception". There may be some relation to the ability of a dog to sense the mood of his master when the latter, so far as he knows, has given no indication of it by word or gesture. The ability of many animals to sense fear in a human being is usually explained by reference to their olfactory sense, and anger stimulates glandular reactions that a dog may perceive in the same way. Such perception seems most unlikely in human beings. Speculation about brain waves would be gratuitous in the absence of a scientific study of a phenomenon which could be illusory.

      The many similarities between wolves and men make a study of their social organization particularly interesting; see the recent work by Barry Holstun Lopez, Of Wolves and Men (New York, 1978). It is, incidentally, odd and perhaps significant that wolves are now generally regarded with hostility and aversion, whereas our Aryan ancestors regarded them with a just admiration, as is obvious from the number of men today who bear such names as Ralph, Raoul, Rudolph, Adolph, Randal, Randolph, Rolf, Ulric, Wolfram, Pandulf, Bardolf, and doubtless others that I do not call to mind at the moment.

Go to chapter 9
Back to Table of Contents

The Origins of Christianity by R.P.Oliver, to be published by Historical Review Press (160pp £10 inc p&p). Please order now via e-mail

Copyright ©1999 Kevin Alfred Strom. Back to Revilo P. Oliver Index