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


OF THE MANY PROBLEMS that confront us today, none is more vexing than that of the relation of Christianity to Western Civilization. None, certainly, causes more acrimonious controversy and internecine hostility between the members of the race which created that civilization. None more thoroughly counteracts their common interest in its preservation and renders them impotent and helpless. And that is not remarkable: what is in question is the essential nature of our civilization, and if there is no agreement about that, there can be no effective agreement on other questions.

Around 1910, Georges Matisse, in Les Ruines de l’Idée de Dieu,* predicted that by 1960, at the very latest, the only churches left in the civilized world would be the ones that were preserved as museum pieces for their architectural beauty or historical associations. The scientific and historical knowledge accumulated by our race had rendered belief in supernatural beings impossible for cultivated men, and universal education would speedily destroy the credulity of the masses. "We have climbed out of the dead end of the dungeon into which Christianity cast us. The man of today walks in the open air and the daylight. He has won confidence in himself."

* Paris, Mercure de France, s.a. All translations from foreign languages in these pages are mine, unless otherwise noted.

In 1980, especially in the United States, there was a massive "upsurge" of Christianity. In November, one of America’s many bawling evangelists, Oral Roberts, had an interview with Jesus and took the opportunity to observe that Jesus is nine hundred feet tall. That datum so impressed his followers that within two weeks, it is said, they supplied him with an extra $5,000,000 to supplement the $45,000,000 they give him annually. A little earlier, another holy man, Don Stewart, reportedly made the big time in evangelism (i.e., an annual take of more than $10,000,000) by distributing to his votaries snippets of his underwear, which True Believers put under their pillows, since the bits of cloth that had been in contact with his flesh had absorbed the mana of his holiness. And in the quadrennial popularity contest to determine which actor was to have the star role in the White House, all three of the presidential candidates deemed it expedient to announce that they had "got Jesus" and been "born again."

More significantly, in both England and the United States, a considerable number of men who have received enough technical training to be called scientists, have been hired or inspired to prove the authenticity of the Holy Shroud of Turin by "scientific" proof that the coarse cloth was discolored by supernatural means, the mana of divinity. Some of these scientists, it is true, claim that the vague picture was formed on the fabric because the body of the deceased god was highly radio-active and emitted radiation of an intensity comparable to that produced by the explosion of an atomic bomb at Hiroshima, but obviously only a very supernatural force could have charged the cells of an organic body with such enormous and deadly energy. In many American colleges, professors of reputable academic subjects are teaching courses to demonstrate that human beings cannot be the product of the biological process of evolution, but must have been specially designed and manufactured by a god in a way that they more or less explicitly identify with the well-known account of the descent of mankind from Adam and his spare rib. The divinity school of Emory University (founded in 1836) offers, for the edification of Methodist ministers, a graduate seminar in the theology of America’s most distinguished automobile thief and rapist, a Black preacher named King, and, presumably for such exemplary Christianity, was rewarded with a gift of $100,000,000, the largest private benefaction on record.

The United States has always been noted for the multiplicity and fanaticism of its Christian sects, but on a much smaller scale a Christian "outreach" (to use the evangelical term) for souls and funds may be observed in several countries of Europe, even including, it is said, some in Soviet territory. And one wonders whether a survey in England today would maintain the statistics that permitted Professor A. N. Whitehead to conclude, in 1942, that "far less than one-fifth of the population are in any sense Christians today." I hear that the fraction would have to be significantly increased, and that Roman Catholicism, more than other sects, is constantly attracting a significant number of "converts." But the number of persons who attend churches or profess to believe some one of the numerous Christian doctrines is relatively unimportant. The domestic and foreign policies of all the nations of the Western world are based on ideas that their populations as a whole take for granted and accept without reflection or consideration – ideas which are obviously, though sometimes not explicitly, derived from Christian theology and are, so to speak, a residue of the ages when our race was, not inaccurately, called Christendom.

Matisse was egregiously wrong. His spectacular error, however, was a projection logically made from the evidence available to him in 1910, when he concluded that "the White race has conquered the whole world and slain the Dragon [of superstition]. And the race had to do it. If the human mind had been incapable of that achievement, the most difficult of all it’s achievements, it would have been doomed. Intellect would have ended in failure on this planet. It was a question of the life or death of intelligence... The indisputable proof of the innately superior power of the European mind today is atheism."

Matisse, of course, did not foresee the catastrophe of 1914 or sense the subterranean and occult forces that were secretly in operation even in 1910 to precipitate, not just another European war to alter the balance of power on the Continent, but a war that those forces converted into a universal disaster, even more destructive of rationality than of property and life, which may prove to have been the beginning of the end for our civilization and race. The question that Matisse so clearly posed therefore remains, not altered by the calamities he could not foresee, but instead now made even more vital and urgent.

The question is obviously, perhaps fatally, divisive, but it cannot be evaded or ignored. The question is one to which even reticence is an answer; and hypocrisy is demoralizing. I have therefore undertaken the exacting and almost impossible task of presenting in these pages an objective and dispassionate summary of the problem, condensing into a few pages what would more properly be the substance of several volumes, themselves compendious. I have necessarily refrained from debating side issues and from straying into scholarly controversies. I have tried to limit myself to skeletal essentials of what may with confidence be regarded as established fact and logical inference therefrom, and I assume that I need not tell intelligent readers that the subject is one on which it is flatly impossible to make any statement whatsoever that is not contradicted somewhere in the horrendous tonnage of printed paper on the shelves of even a mediocre library.*

* I have restricted the documentary notes to a bare minimum, limited to points that may not generally be matters of common knowledge. So far as possible, I have cited only works available in English, selecting from these the one or two that give, so far as I know, the most succinct and perspicuous treatment of the given topic.

To view our problem clearly, we must begin with its beginnings and indicate, as summarily as possible, its prehistoric origins, limiting ourselves to matters directly relevant to our own race, with which alone we need have a rational concern. And since Indo-European is best reserved for use as a linguistic term, and such words as Nordic and Celtic are too restrictive as designations of variations within our species, we shall use the only available word in general use that designates our race as a whole, although the Jews have forbidden us to use it. Aryan, furthermore, has the advantage that it is not a geographic term, and while some may think it immodest to describe ourselves as arya, ‘noble,’ that word does indicate a range of moral concepts for which our race seems to have instinctively a peculiar and characteristic respect, which differentiates it from other races as sharply as do its physical traits, and, like them, more or less conspicuously, depending on the particular contrast that is made. It is unfortunate that in the present state of knowledge we cannot trace our species, the Aryans, to the species of Homo erectus or Homo habilis from which it is descended.

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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