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The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason

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A radical and powerful reappraisal of the impact of Constantine’s adoption of Christianity on the later Roman world, and on the subsequent development both of Christianity and of Western civilization.

When the Emperor Contstantine converted to Christianity in 368 AD, he changed the course of European history in ways that continue to have repercussions to the present day. Adopting those aspects of the religion that suited his purposes, he turned Rome on a course from the relatively open, tolerant and pluralistic civilization of the Hellenistic world, towards a culture that was based on the rule of fixed authority, whether that of the Bible, or the writings of Ptolemy in astronomy and of Galen and Hippocrates in medicine. Only a thousand years later, with the advent of the Renaissance and the emergence of modern science, did Europe begin to free itself from the effects of Constantine's decision, yet the effects of his establishment of Christianity as a state religion remain with us, in many respects, today. Brilliantly wide-ranging and ambitious, this is a major work of history.

432 pages, Paperback

First published August 28, 2002

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About the author

Charles Freeman

77 books80 followers
Charles Freeman is a freelance academic historian with wide interests in the history of European culture and thought. He is the author of the highly acclaimed Egypt, Greece and Rome, Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. He has followed this up with The Greek Achievement (Penguin 1999), The Legacy of Ancient Egypt (Facts on File, 1997) and The Closing of the Western Mind, a study of the relationship between Greek philosophy and Christianity in the fourth century and beyond. His The Horses of St. Mark’s (Little Brown, 2004) is a study of these famous works of art in their historical contexts over the centuries. In 2003, Charles Freeman was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 127 reviews
Profile Image for Lobstergirl.
1,715 reviews1,243 followers
March 16, 2014

This book had been languishing on my shelf ever since I bought it in 2005. I think it was one of those broccoli books (which is really a misnomer since I freaking love broccoli)...books that you buy because they look like they'd be good for you rather than hedonistic romps. The Western Mind! Faith, Reason! It sounds like a mini-education!

It is - and the book was an absolute pleasure to read, hard to put down. Freeman seems to be some kind of "freelance" historian - like a Barbara Tuchman, I guess - and he writes brilliantly. All is clear, coherent, beautifully explained, and the paragraphs and chapters flow into one another without resistance. He begins with ancient Greece (don't worry, he doesn't get that deep into the weeds as he only has 340 pp. to work with), Greek philosophy and Greek science, and the rationality of the Greek mind. Even though the Greeks got a lot of stuff wrong, science-wise, they had the right idea: look at things empirically, use the senses to figure out what might be going on. And of course this rationality coexisted with faith - pagan belief in gods. Then we come to Christianity. Jesus and Paul each get their own chapters. This book will be good background as I reread the New Testament. It's with Paul that we get the beginnings of the fall of reason: Paul is very anti-philosophy. Freeman goes into a lot of history on the Roman emperors and the church/state nexus, the eastern church vs. the western church, the results of the battles over doctrine, and how faith rather than reason won these battles. Augustine is a monumental figure here; he seemed to revere Paul but pay very little attention to Jesus, and the church moved further away from rationality. Freeman finishes up with Thomas Aquinas, who folds Aristotle into his theology and thus presages a return to a certain kind of reason and rationality.

The endnotes are thorough and superb. There is an ample bibliography.
Profile Image for Tim.
1,232 reviews
May 7, 2011
This book is a horrible travesty of historical reporting, but let me quote theologian David Bentley Hart who says it so well and with an appropriate amount of snark.

"Freeman's is the old familiar story that Christianity is somehow to be blamed for a sudden retrogression in Western civilization that set back the cause of human progress by, say, a thousand years. Along the way, Freeman provides a few damning passages from the church fathers (always out of context and without any mention of the plentiful counterexamples found in the same authors), attempts long discourses on theological disputes he simply does not understand, continually falls prey to vulgar misconstruals of the materials he is attempting to interpret, makes large claims about early Christian belief that are simply false, offers vague assertions about philosophers he clearly has not studied, and delivers himself of opinions regarding Christian teaching that are worse than simply inaccurate." Hart has even more to say about Freeman's limited understanding of the history of natural science, but I will stop for now. (from Atheist Delusions, Yale University Press, 2009)

Profile Image for Markham Anderson.
83 reviews3 followers
January 23, 2009
I actually stopped reading this halfway through. It was not for religious offense; I don't take that sort of offense.

Writing like this troubles me because the people I observe reading and acclaiming it are those who consider themselves intelligent, and yet it appears to me that they let themselves be completely persuaded by the writing, which I find insufficiently cogent.

As with Cahill's book, I was enrapt with the relation of the history, but I found the analysis so distasteful. The author repeatedly asserted interpretations or explanations which were not adequately defended, failing to address alternative explanations which occurred to me as more probable. Having done research elsewhere on the matters of concern, I was yet not able to rule out my alternative ideas, so I do not suppose that he assumed his readers would already have enough background knowledge to see that his conclusions were the correct ones.

(One thing of little significance but great annoyance was that he used one of the highly derivative versions of the Bible for his quotations--one of those ultra modern translated-from-an-earlier-English-version affairs, which butchers the language and distorts semantics terribly. If his readers were incapable of following the English in the KJV, that's perhaps an indication that he's reaching for a not-so-acute audience.)
Profile Image for Erik Graff.
5,008 reviews1,118 followers
March 17, 2011
I was loaned this book by an old friend who at that time was a professor of the classics at Loyola University Chicago. Raised a Catholic in St. Louis and having gone to school at Holy Cross and Loyola as a student, first, of astronomy and then of the classics, he was--and is--not very sympathetic to Christianity. Indeed, he is downright hostile. The Closing of the Western Mind, a learned screed against the Church with an intentional reference to Bloom's infamous best seller of similar title, pleased him greatly enough to want to share the pleasure of it.

My own background was pretty much areligious. Mom was a nominal member of the Church of Norway, but except for some months in a Lutheran Sunday school with my best friend Larry Nolden around fourth grade, I was pretty ignorant of the whole religion business. And indeed, to the credit of our Sunday school teacher, attendance at basement classes while Larry's parents worshipped upstairs served more as an introduction to comparative world religions than as indoctrination. Dad, however, announced himself an unapologetic atheist when I finally got around to asking him about his own beliefs. Nobody in the family was religious so far as I could discern and when church was attended it was more for the sake of Norwegian tradition than an expression of any ideology. Basically, no one cared much one way or the other. My brother and I were free to attend any services we liked without criticism. Later, brother Fin, following in my footsteps, got involved in his best friend's church, a Greek orthodox one.

The world around us, however, seemed quite religious, quite Christian in fact, and when we moved from a rural housing development to upscale Park Ridge, Illinois, it seemed almost entirely Protestant and often evangelical--and Republican--at that.

Having had friends of all faiths--and races--while living in the country, the move to Park Ridge in fifth grade was quite upsetting. There I was introduced not only to Protestant enthusiasm, but also to anti-Catholicism, class prejudice and racism. There were Catholics in town, but they had their own schools and virtually their own neighborhoods. By high school, a disproportionate number of my friends were of Catholic backgrounds, though those who still "believed" were quite selective in their beliefs.

By the end of the sixties the New Left had penetrated even Park Ridge, many of my older friends being socialists of one sort or another. With the left also came the appeal of the broader counterculture, many peers and younger friends being freaks of one sort or another. Between the two groups, the political and the apolitical, there was much interaction, much openness. It was from among their number and from a freshman History of Civilization course taught by Kelly Fox that I became exposed to and increasingly interested in non-Western religions.

The first two years of college were devoted to study and politics, the politics often pushing the academics aside. Then, having to drop out for a year while facing draft evasion charges, I found myself with the time to read what I wanted. Thinking my character could use a lot of improvement and having had some rather challenging experiences with psychotropics led me towards the serious study of continental depth psychology and the works of C.G. Jung--a psychiatrist who seemed to know a lot about altered states of consciousness and to care a lot about religion.

Returning to college to find the politics now more subdued and inspired by my independent studies, I started taking psychology courses and even a two semester sequence on the bible taught by the Grinnell College chaplain. Dennis Haas, the bible professor, managed to get me enthusiastic about the new Religious Studies Department and to switch to that from the History Department, a change that led me to go straight to Union Theological Seminary in New York upon graduation.

Although the Religious Studies major in college and the subsequent M.Div. did not serve to make a Christian of me, they give me a bit of expertise and an abiding interest in the antique world and religions in general and in Christianity in particular. Consequently, Jim's recommendation of Freeman was well taken and the book thoroughly enjoyed.

This does not, however, mean that I buy into Freeman's arguments entirely. The ideology of Christianity need not be seen as inherently authoritarian, though its alliance with such a state in the fourth century has had that consequence.

Now my stepbrother has walked in for a planned dinner to be eaten together, so this will have to stop...
Profile Image for Gary  Beauregard Bottomley.
980 reviews578 followers
February 20, 2023
The powers that be had a reason for forcing a standard doctrine across the empire and forced uniformity onto what was once diverse with no agreed upon overriding consensus, and this book will delve into that while actually showing that religious truths of today were sometimes determined by fiat. When certainty is dictated for the sake of convivence, reason is used to rationalize beliefs and authority is substituted for rational thought.

This book gives short shrift to those who believe dogmas while claiming scripture alone as their source. Doctrine is necessary in order to turn myth into a religion and the author will point out that recent re-analysis of credal certainties were often forced upon others for the sake of stability, order and control rather than truth.

The book really doesn’t miss a beat within its area of study. I would only fault it for implying that reason existed before the Christians came along and mucked it up. The Christians were no worst than the Pagans who put Socrates to death, for example.

The real theme of the book does lie more with the muddle pathway that led to orthodoxic thought and made those who disagreed anathema even when at times heterodoxy had the better argument (see Pelagius or Arius for examples demonstrated in this book, why are they heterodoxic today? Only because the orthodox say so, ‘almost all Enlightenment thinkers were Pelagians’ for a reason, and Arius is right that the evidence for the Trinity in the bible is almost non-existent, ‘holy, holy, holy is the name of the lord’ is a ridiculous proof for the Trinity).

Plato, Peter, Paul, Augustine, Plotinus (never underestimate Plotinus’ influence on religion), pseudo-Dionysius all are mentioned in this book and they are foundational for giving primacy of feelings over reason such that reason is used in support of what faith (feelings) already thought was true rather than what philosophy alone would support.

This book shows that going from point A of yesteryear to B with its strongly held orthodox beliefs of today was not a straight line and that sometimes the best arguments get shoved down by those in power under the shadow of sham councils or devious machinations.
Profile Image for Lynn Weber.
511 reviews34 followers
August 6, 2007
This was an incredible history of the transition from the classical world to the medieval world, centering in particular on the rise of Christianity within the context of an increasingly brittle, and thus authoritarian, Roman empire. One of the best nonfiction books I've ever read. In one poignant passage, Freeman talks about the first astronomical observations recorded in Greece in 585 BCE by Thales---the accurate prediction of an eclipse. The last astronomical observations in the classical world was made in 475 CE, and it would be almost 1100 years before another was recorded, by Galileo . . . so far had the respect for natural knowledge and science fallen.
48 reviews10 followers
October 1, 2009
A meticulously constructed discussion of how the rise of orthodox Christianity as a means of imposing social control in the crumbling Roman Empire led to the suppression of the classical tradition of rational and empirical inquiry, supplanting reason with faith. The result was a centuries long retreat from scientific discovery in Western culture, the effects of which we still feel today in the inability of many segments of the population to process scientific knowledge in favor of revealed belief. Freeman is scrupulously fair to the philosophers whose works he discusses, detailing both their strengths and weaknesses. Yet is it clear that the Christian philosophers like Augustine and Jerome come across as those whose works were significantly impacted by their personal instabilities while the pagan philosophers of the earlier period(such as Aristotle and Epicurus) are notably less emotionally disturbed. Those unfamiliar with the history of the early church may well be surprised at the degree to which imperial politics shaped Christian doctrine in ways that had nothing to do with either the life and work of Jesus or with anything resembling historical fact. This is a work of fine scholarship, judicious and detailed, as well as copiously notated. It is clear, however, that Freeman feels that the triumph of faith was a tragedy for the development of western culture. It represents, he concludes, the complete abdication of the power to think for oneself in favor of letting external authority dictate what is known and not known. I highly recommend this book to anyone whose inquiry into the development of western culture is sincere and independent.
Profile Image for Rob.
407 reviews
September 9, 2012
Best sentence of this 430 page book: "History suggests that conflicts between religions tend to be more destructive than those between scientists!"
Profile Image for Eric Wojciechowski.
Author 3 books20 followers
August 13, 2014
Sapientiam Sapientum Perdam, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” These are the words of Saul of Tarsus, or St. Paul. 1 Corinthians 1:19. This passage is almost a direct quote from Isaiah 29:14, which reads, “...for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish”. And it appears Paul's declaration to be the first volley against Greek reason in favor of faith in the divine. A faith, belief system, void of Greek logic, that kept mankind in the dark ages far too long.

It's a shame that Alexander the Great's conquest, and Hellenization, from Macedona to Egypt and far into India didn't take a deeper root. For while the reason of the Greeks was upon the known world, it was soon to take a backseat to the rise of Christianity, dogma and the closing of the Western mind. While the Persians were preserving the texts of the Greeks and accumulating and welcoming knowledge and science, the lands once liberated by Alexander were turning into territories ruled by Christian clerics who wouldn't hear of anything outside of Christian scripture. Reason and experiment were cast aside in favor of an authoritarian model from an infallible pulpit.

The early Christians didn't completely abandon the reason and philosophy of the Greeks. What they did do, however, was adopt the Platonic idea of the logos to explain Jesus. Casting aside Aristotle, Christian thought was imposed upon the already existing philosophy of Plato which made it more attractive (and understandable) to the already accepting audience of the Greeks.

What is of interest is how this happened. How did a small Jewish sect become so dominate? A pinpoint on the map of history suggests it was with emperor Constantine, the first “Christian” Roman emperor. But Mr. Freeman makes it rather clear that Constantine's concern with the Christians was more to do with bringing them in line with Roman authority. Early Christians weren't silent about the inclusion and outright paganism accepted in the Roman/Greek world. They were not content in living alongside those who still worshiped Apollo, Zeus and the older gods. And because of this, they refrained from participating in Roman society to the dislike of local governors and the emperors alike.

What emperor Constantine accomplished with the First Council of Nicaea was not a joint agreement of all the bishops from all the opposing opinions but an almost forcibly signed Creed. As Jaroslave Pelikan put it, “(Other than Arius and the exiled bishops) all the rest saluted the emperor, signed the formula and went on teaching as they always had.” Along with this, Constantine never truly adopted Christianity as his religion of choice, using it and its churches and members as political pieces to keep stability during his reign.

Shortly after Constantine's death, for a short term, the Roman empire returned to paganism with emperor Julian who wrote his own critic of Christianity, showing it to be “less superior” to the older religions and gods. Yet after his death, a series of floundering emperors couldn't hold Rome together and what was once a great civilization, fell into the hands of the “barbarians”. The authorities left, were the bishops and the church which continued to gain more and more power, legal and social, throughout what was left of Rome.

From then until around 1500 AD to the Enlightenment, reigning Christian governments and authorities stamped out all other thought. Faith took precedent over reason and the west launched itself into a thousand years of dark ages. Aside from some very few dissidents, the only intellectuals left were those debating whether or not Jesus and God were the same or separate entities, what happened to unbaptized babies and the like. Basically, one-thousand-years of human history was wasted debating the merits and qualities of invisible friends.

It was a shame to read this, finding myself constantly taking breaks to walk out the absurdity. It is a shame this was ever part of human history. It is my not so humble opinion that if the Greek spark had been allowed to grow from a small ember into a full out inferno, the human race would have had its first moon landing in 1500 AD. It's disheartening that an authority like Christianity ever got a foothold for it is the grounds for generations of lost wisdom, lost opportunity and lost life.

Although studies show that religion in the west is falling by the wayside and more people are considering themselves not in need of it, those who are cemented to the churches and basing their lives on old texts written by goat herders are still squabbling over who Jesus really was. Was he and God the same? Was he divine or, like stated in the Qur'an, just another messenger? The debate continues among the faithful but luckily, for the rest of us and the future of the human race, this debate will eventually be seen as meaningless as debating the color of jealousy.
Profile Image for Stephie Williams.
382 reviews36 followers
November 14, 2016
This book is about how the dark ages came upon Europe with rise of Christendom; it is also about much more. Thomas Aquinas bookends the book, but it begins in earnest with the beginnings of Greek philosophy. After covering the development of Greek philosophy the book discusses the Hellenistic period which arose after Alexander the Great. This period runs from about 300 BC to 200 BCE. Within this period the Romans came to power, Christianity was founded with its the Jewish background, and its growth is discussed. Then Constantine coming to power and Christianity becoming the state religion is presented. Within this period the bishops’ squabbling and Constantine’s attempt to bring them together through Church counsels is related. Finally, how both the Eastern and the Western Roman empires with Christianity having triumph over all of society is given. During all this statist period the wheedling out of reason and the firm grip of faith is described.

While I don’t believe Charles Freeman is a professional historian, meaning holding a Ph.D., which trains a person in using primary sources and some form or forms of historical methodology. I say some form(s) because there are many methodologies, some of which clashes, sometimes heavily. Anyway, Freeman does seem to make good use of secondary historical sources, which does not automatically disqualify one, providing a useful historical piece of writing. I found the book quite enjoyable, and I even learned some new stuff, having lost my notes I cannot recall them at the moment, but given the appropriate associations they would probably surface again.

I could definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in how the dark ages descended upon Europe. While Freeman doesn’t seem to use much primary historical sources in the book, I do feel that he provides good information and supportive evidence for how the dark ages developed. For those of the evangelical Christian persuasion they might find it useful in having exposed the poverty of reason in some Christian’s minds.
Profile Image for Art.
16 reviews1 follower
November 12, 2008
While I'm not completely convinced of the author's central argument--that the rise of Christianity and the waning of Greek intellectual tradition were not merely coincident, but that the former has a causal relationship with the latter--I have to say that this is an absolutely riveting history of early Christianity.

One thing I found particularly interesting is how much of what I'd considered fundamental tenets of Christianity had no basis in scripture but rather are the work of a small handful of influential theologians. For instance, Christianity's disdain for sexuality is based solely on the writings of men who clearly had serious issues that they projected into their theology--Paul and Augustine, for example.

Freeman also runs down some obligatory fidelity of transmission issues. For example, the doctrine of the immaculate conception is based on a (willful?) mistranslation of Isaiah. The original Hebrew says the messiah will be born to a 'young woman,' but we wind up with 'virgin.' Another fine example is Jerome and Tertullian creating doctrine from abysmal Latin translations.

Even though 'The Closing of the Western Mind' doesn't live up to the promise of its central argument (and Mr. Freeman admits as much in the epilogue), I'd still recommend it to anyone interested in the complicated relationship between the historical Jesus, the Gospels, Paul, Judaism, the Roman Empire, the Greek intellectual tradition and what would become the Roman Catholic Church.

Profile Image for Dan.
17 reviews3 followers
April 2, 2008
My rating notwithstanding, this is a pretty good book. What it's not, though, is a book about how Christianity stifled intellectual thought in the western world. It's more a history of the development of orthodox Christianity (in a Nicene sense). And it's a good one. Just not what I was praying for.
Profile Image for Ray.
117 reviews
May 30, 2016
Christianity in 4th and 5th centuries had big problems: riven within by doctrinal disputes, disagreements about what implementing the Christian message meant, and on the outside political domination and interference from the Roman and Byzantine emperors. The famous councils of the time (such as Ephesus, Nicea, Chalcedon) tried to address these issues, but did so poorly. As the empire's grip on the Western part of the continent weakened, the stresses between what eventually became the Orthodox church in the east and the Roman Catholic church in the west led to a split that remains today. The western church suffered further problems: the texts it used (in Latin) came from poorly translated Greek. The early great thinkers of the Church (Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome among others) worked with poor quality texts. Jerome (famed for fluency in many languages) did much to try to fix this problem, but wound up being loathed in his own time for his troubles.

Looking at this problem led to looking more closely at the basic texts to see why there are so many doctrinal conflicts in early Christian thought. And the problems only increased from there: the first gospels (Mark or Matthew, depending upon whose analysis you take) did not appear until some time in the 2nd century). Which means that Paul wrote all of his influential work without any benefit of the gospels in written form. Additionally, Paul wrote his letters to communities for specific purposes in his specific time. Interestingly, none of the Christian communities survived long after Paul's death. Those place later became re-Christianized many years later. So the foundational documents of Christianity come from disparate sources, say different things, and support different objectives. The only solution the early church fathers could find was to seek recourse in faith. The other prevailing tradition in the area was Greek rational study. The church decided to make empirical thought, reasoned argument, and conclusions based on evidence its enemy. From the 5th century to Thomas Aquinas (himself considered heretical until just before his canonization in the 13th century), the church in both east and west made itself an enemy to other forms of thought in order to quell its own contradictions and conflicts and make it a better instrument of wielding political power.

The results of these approaches affect modern politics and religious thought today, and Freeman makes a very well researched and compelling case for how the closing of the western mind made for a lost era of human achievement of nearly 1500 years.
Profile Image for Andrea.
430 reviews7 followers
July 2, 2018
Loved this. The author does a great job of tracing the threads of classical philosophy and inquiry from their Greek foundations and seeing how they grew and were co-opted, altered, and suppressed throughout the political and religious turmoil of the late Roman empire and the early Middle Ages. The path is not a straightforward one; in the epilogue, he comments, "It is simplistic to talk of the Greek tradition of rational thought being suppressed by Christians." Rather, he stresses the way the Church interacted with and was influenced by imperial politics, and the consequences these interactions had for both political policy and Church doctrine.

The discussions of philosophy and theology are woven through a surprisingly thorough, albeit brief, history of the Greek and Roman empires, as well as the early Church and some of its foundational thinkers. I found this very helpful since I came in with a fairly surface-level knowledge of the topics (the standard one chapter each on the Greeks, the Romans, and the Middle Ages in 10th grade World History, plus the totally-unbiased-you-guys Catholic-school version of Church history). A Classics major might get bored here from time to time, but for the interested layman, I think it's a good level of information.
Profile Image for Margot Tesch.
Author 1 book3 followers
May 4, 2020
Wow. This was a bit of a marathon read. I left and came back to it several times. It was tough going but presented such fascinating arguments that I couldn't abandon it.
It begins with a wonderful summary and timeline of the early philosophers. Then it traces the development fo the christian ideology / theology and how the political and other religious influences played a part. Christians have been arguing since Christ about what it means to be a Christian and from my own personal experience as a Christian (not any more) I know this is still the case today. There is often a perception that Christianity (particularly compared with Islam) is non-violent. But you don't have to look far back in history to realise this is a fallacy. All ideology is violent. I heard this phrase some time ago and it hasn't left me. Extreme views bring conflict.
Anyway, if you're up for a challenge, this book is highly thought provoking. Christianity never succeeded in using reason to justify is tenants. It always falls back onto the unchallengeable ... faith. But faith in something they have never been able to successfully describe.
Profile Image for Mark O'mara.
208 reviews2 followers
May 28, 2023
A great book history, delving deep into the origins of Christianity becoming made to be united by the political forces of empire and how this negatively affect the exploration of Reason as explored by the Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle. The author makes a compelling case that the divorce of faith and reason, for nearly 1000 years until Aquinas’s profound influence, has a highly significant affect on the course of Western history etc.
I knew little about the development of, and the serious divisions within, Christianity that existed prior to Christendom being made to adopt single tenets (etc.) of teaching and authority by the Roman emperors and the profound effect this had on world history.
Profile Image for Rob Atkinson.
218 reviews14 followers
July 26, 2012
I found this more of a duty than a pleasure to read, but it does lay out the intellectual climate in the waning days of the Roman Empire more completely than any of the more general histories of the period I've read (such as the excellent "How Rome Fell: Death of an Empire" by Adrian Goldsworthy). It's essential reading for those who are interested in the end of the Classical tradition and the birth of the Medieval mindset in those turbulent days, and the role that the Empire's official adoption of Christianity played in that transition. That said, many lay readers are likely to find the intricacies of theological debate in the third to fifth centuries a fairly heavy slog, and these disputes make up the greatest share of the book. I would have appreciated more on the embattled last representatives of the pagan cults and classical philosophy to balance out the account, but perhaps the record is scant due to suppression of these 'heresies'; apparently many of the fathers of the church were enthusiastic book-burners. One of the last great thinkers in the old tradition, the brilliant female mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria, was actually herself torn to pieces by a Christian mob. Amidst sectarian riots and vituperative charges of heresy made by bishops against bishops, Christian orthodoxy was gradually imposed by imperial fiat in an attempt to restore order, and dissenting theological opinion of any sort became dangerous to express. Most everything pre-Christian was regarded as pagan, and therefore anathema, excepting a narrow form of Platonism which was made useful in formulating Christian doctrine. A thousand year long tradition of rational inquiry, argument and experiment in philosophy and the natural sciences effectively ceased.
Fortunately for posterity, the Islamic invaders who conquered the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain soon thereafter were tolerant and included some deep and rational thinkers; they recognized the brilliance of the Greek tradition and saved many pre-Christian works since lost to the West, even making their own significant contributions to them over the centuries. Not until Thomas Aquinas' Scholasticism began to reconcile faith with objective reasoning in the early 13th century -- nearly another thousand years later -- would the Church begin to loosen its stranglehold on philosophy and science, allowing the surviving Greco-Roman intellectual legacy to re-enter Europe, in new Latin translations from the Arabic.
Profile Image for Mike Clinton.
172 reviews
February 7, 2013
Freeman does a fine job of balancing the history of ideas and institutions with human stories of the events that influenced them. He has a thesis composed of several elements woven together to historicize the emergence of Christian thought during the transitional period between the late classical and the early medieval eras. He examines how the configuration of power, ideas, and historical actors produced a culture that privileged faith and renounced empirical rational thought, effectively distancing medieval Christianity from a robust and diverse heritage of classical ideas that had contributed to its early articulation. Freeman reaches back to the origins of the Greek rational tradition, examining various tensions within it, especially that between Plato and Aristotle; analyzes the dynamic interaction between culture and authority in the Greek, Hellenistic, Roman-Byzantine, and early medieval contexts; retells the story of Christianity's origins from a historicist perspective; depicts the various conflicts over critical theological questions that characterized a multifarious Christian world; and briefly but pointedly draws a contrast with Islamic monotheism, a tradition that more easily reconciled itself to the varieties of classical thought without compromising its spiritual integrity. He successfully explains the development of Christian thought and culture as the outcome of human events and worldly forces rather than the absolute truth of divine revelation and does so engagingly and compellingly.
Profile Image for Dustin.
53 reviews11 followers
May 27, 2020
They say there are always two sides to every story. The Closing of the Western Mind presents early Christian history in a way it isn't usually presented in Sunday school. Freeman is especially interested in "rational thought" in contrast to "faith." He begins with the classical Greeks (the Forms of Plato and Aristotle's deductive reasoning) and takes us on a journey through early Christianity (both east and west) that ends with Thomas Aquinas. In short, Freeman's argument is that Christians suppressed the use of reason in their search for theological truth with disastrous results. This book is well written (and easy to read) and, as such, is a good introduction to Church history. However, his sources for the "historical" Jesus and Paul are a bit dated: newer scholarship and ideas are available. In addition, his opposition between the classical world and Christianity has many critics in the academic world. Nonetheless, this book will be challenging for many Christians, especially those who are not aware of the politics of Late Antiquity. Even if you don't buy his thesis, understanding the past and exploring it from different perspectives is necessary to build a better tomorrow.
Profile Image for Arturo Castillo.
19 reviews
April 5, 2018
Isahia 29:14
"... for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent menshall be hid."


1 Corinthans 1:19
_For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”_

Wisdom or Sophia was how any science was known in biblical times. Add ambitious Christian fundamentalists and there you have it. The conflict between faith and reason or the closing of the Western mind. Beautiful book!
Profile Image for Roger.
272 reviews6 followers
January 22, 2022
This is probably one of the most informative works of intellectual history I've ever read, and it's overall message is one that contemporary society would do well to digest.

Freeman's basic thesis is that the decline of the culture of rational thought that had been developed by Greek civilization was caused by Constantine's--and then later emperors'--attempt to use Christianity as a tool to solidify Roman society under the threats of northern and eastern invaders which, in turn, led to the church itself becoming politically powerful in pursuit of social order. Because the early Christian communities were spread out and diverse, there was--despite orthodox Christian history's telling of it--little overall agreement on what one might call orthodoxy. Thus, the political need to standardize doctrine in order for Christianity to serve the political purpose for which Constantine integrated it into Roman society.

This, of course, led to the onset of what we commonly call the "Dark Ages"--a recession in rationalism, empiricism, and open inquiry. As Freeman puts it, the last overt act of Greek science during the late Roman Empire was an astronomical observation by the Athenian Proclus in 475 A.D., approximately 800 years before Aquinas would integrate Aristotle's philosophy into Christianity. That's also a full millennium before the Renaissance and the first rumblings of the Reformation would mark the end of the Middle Ages in Europe. In between, Freeman points out, there were a few bright flashes of hope--Anselm of Canterbury, Scholasticism, and, of course, the Muslim Arabs' preservation of Greek learning.

I find this important for two reasons. First, this is history to which Christians--even seminary-trained Christians like me--do not get enough exposure. It is important to understand that much of what we call today orthodoxy was driven less by ideal motives of doctrinal purity than social and political demands that came from both inside and outside the church.

Second, I think that a lot of the social upheaval and lack of rational, civil discourse and debate in our society today is driven by similar, and equally nefarious, motives. We are caught between competing narratives peddled by centers of power and influence who, in an attempt to assert dominance and maintain control, are pushing out reason and rationalism. Like the Roman emperors in the 4th and 5th centuries, it's tempting to misinterpret a diverse but flourishing social and intellectual environment as threatening to order. And, I think that critique holds for both the political left and the political right in the United States today. But, what is more important in terms of liberty and human flourishing is that a diverse and flourishing social and intellectual environment is difficult to control.

Not to sound apocalyptic--that's not my purpose--but we ought not risk another Dark Ages by sacrificing reason and rational thought on the altar of today's cause célèbre.

On a side note for those who like reading intellectual history, this book meshes well with Arthur L. Herman's book, The Cave and the Light.
Profile Image for Mike.
186 reviews3 followers
August 19, 2018
Freeman tries to determine why in the early days of the Christian church the Greek intellectual tradition was suppressed. The author discusses early church fathers (Ambrose of Milan and Augustine of Hippo, for example) and their attempts to consolidate church doctrine (which at the time was varied and messy) which led to the discarding of rational thought and discourse. It was not until a thousand years later when Thomas Aquinas showed up that the veil of unintellectual thinking was lifted.
Why and how this occurred is the premise of Freeman's book.
Interesting read for those who would like to understand more of how humanity went from the Greeks and Romans to the Dark Ages.
Profile Image for Arianne X.
Author 1 book7 followers
December 18, 2022
12 Steps to 1,000 Years of Darkness (475 – 1543)

The dates in the title of this review represent the last recorded astronomical observations in the ancient Greek world by Proclus in 475 and the publication of De Revolutionibus in 1543 by Copernicus.

The book is not organized in the following fashion, but what follows from my reading is the top twelve causes that I could identify leading to the fall of reason and rise of faith.

1) Political – The late Roman Empire needed to establish and maintain internal order in the face of external pressure. It was important that the growing Christian communities support the Empire and the personal rule of Constantine. Constantine recruited the growing Christian sects along with many other communities to support his rule of a reunited Empire. The hierarchical structure of Christianity melded well with authoritarian imperial administration. Constantine was actually shocked at the levels of vitriolic disagreement among the bishops over “idle and trivial” speculations. There was a strong pressure on Christianity to stamp out decent and thus end free thought to arrive at an orthodox position for the sake of unity and stability. This resulted in the Council of Nicaea in 325 called by Constantine. Many subsequent doctrinal issues were settled by emperors interested in good order, not bishops interested in theology. Theological issues became political and thus legal issues. For example, the insistence on the incoherent notion of the Trinity as orthodox reinforced the Church’s need for control over doctrine and made reasoned and open debate on theological issues impossible if not dangerous.

2) Religion was now sponsored by the Empire - The new authority of the Church was backed by the state – this was one of most the most pernicious spawns of Christianity. Constantine, as God’s Commander-in-Chief, also made Christianity safe for war and war safe for Christianity. Christianity and war became forever linked. With this precedent, Christian nations could fight each other in good conscious that their cause was just. This demonstrates how Christianity cannot be understood apart from the historical circumstances from which it developed. Also, with the Empire granting tax exemptions to the Catholic Church, heresy became a matter of some urgency for the state and the believers. The Church and its doctrines were now as much political and economic as theological. Accusations of heresy now carried political weight, financial cost and judicial penalty. As time passed, orthodoxy and loyalty were increasingly conflated such that heresy was treason. This was the root of such odious doctrines as the divine right of kings and the combination of religion with the state.

3) Paul - Attacks on the very notion of reason and the outright rejection of Greek rational thought as well as philosophy by the effective founder of Christianity. Paul turned his back on philosophy and also attacked art, especially statues, and of course sexuality, primarily female sexuality for good measure. These antipathies, based on Paul’s personal insecurities, became central to the Christian message. Paul rejected all pagan symbols and the diverse world of pagan spirituality and freedom of thought that such symbols represented. We see here the difference between the Greek tradition of speculative thought and the narrow Christian fixation on an exclusive version of the truth. But of course, the master of unreason was Tertullian who preached that Christian doctrines must be believed precisely because they were unreasonable and even absurd. Christian doctrines were certain because they were impossible. “Mystery, magic and authority”, as quoted by the author from Dostoyevsky, were the real source of the Church’s power and the Church exercised this power with suppression and repression, terror and torture.

4) The selective expropriation and exploitation of Greek philosophy to cast it as proto-Christian, e.g., Plato and metaphysical dualism (body/soul dichotomy). The Platonic Forms became the thoughts of the Christian God. The Greek logos of reason became the Word made flesh in Christ. Also, the notion that Platonic idea that ‘the Good’ was only available to a few was adapted to support the rational for Church hierarchy and the authority of bishops. Plato’s denigration of the imminent material world as inferior to the transcendent immaterial world of the Forms aligned perfectly well with the Christian rejection of concert reality in favor of a fictional abstraction that we still see today in Christian fundamentalists. Without the adoption and adaptation, I would say usurpation and upending, of sophisticated Greek philosophical language as well as some very tortured interpretations of the Jewish scriptures, the creation of the incoherent doctrine of the Trinity and notions of Christ’s divinity, would not be possible. Thus, Christian truth was created by manipulating philosophical concepts as well as scripture and if the result made no reasonable or rational sense, it was simply declared to be a revelation from God. After Christianity obtained what it wanted from philosophy, philosophers were condemned as pagan teachers and subjected to the death penalty for practicing a pagan cult.

5) Increase in mystification - This is another method by which faith overcame reason. In lieu of rational thought, Christianity adopted some of the most irrational aspects of pagan religion and the cruder aspects of Hellenistic culture as well as new forms of mystery rites and magic. This is shown in the appearance of angles and demon in the Christian world view. The Christian world became one of increasing miracles and magic with demons around every corner. The natural order itself became defined by commonplace miraculous events. Irrationality now became universal truth. This is also seen in the formulation of the Trinity which is an inheritance from Syria and Mesopotamia where gods were often worshiped in groups of three. The doctrine of the Trinity is an obvious comprise formulation between strict Jewish monotheism and pagan polytheism. Christian saints and holy days become linked with pagan festivals. Saints filled the roles of pagan gods and pagans, to remain within Christian laws, incorporated and adopted Christian images. Christians searched for any method by which they could be relived from the responsibility of thinking for themselves. Intellectual independence was now the sin of pride. Intellectual life became radically simplified.

6) False history - This was created by early Christian fathers by adopting and distorting the Old Testament to give Christianity an ancient history. In an attempt to make Christianly look seamless with the past, the Old and New Testaments were made speak with one voice. The Christians needed to imbue their new religion with an instant tradition. Hebrew scriptures were clumsily misinterpreted and intentionally misrepresented to be converted into Christian prophesies. This was seen as a mark of Christian superiority over the Jews who overlooked this ‘history’ and these prophecies specifically about Christ. For example, Mary had to be cast as a virgin in the Gospels due to the verse in Isaiah, “Behold a virgin will conceive” With this, the brothers and sisters of Jesus were recast as cousins. Christianity now had a much-needed goddess. But with this, female sexuality was destroyed for at least two thousand years in that a women could be only be whore or a virgin in the Christian mind, some still believe in this false dichotomy as well as the false equivalency of sex and sin. Polemics replaced rational debate, it became tolerable to meet any disagreement with intolerable invective.

7) The selective inclusion of Gospel stories and the selective exclusion of dissenting voices in the construction of the New Testament cannon. There was great deal of diversity of opinion and tension between different Christian groups to exclude. There were over twenty competing gospels from which to choose and there were different belief groups to had to be excluded to make room for orthodoxy such as the Marcionites, Arians, Gnostics, Jewish Christians, Montanists, Sabellians, Adoptionists, Donatists, Arians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, Monophysites, Palagianism and of course women. (It was Augustine, drawing on Paul, that fused Christianity with a hatred of sexuality). Augustine also came to deride philosophers as arrogant and was a major force in subjecting reason to faith. Augustine represented a crucial shift away from the Greek tradition of reason and rational thought. This led to a philosophical dead-end and at this dead-end was found the rational for persecution. As to theological issues, the resolution of each issue raised additional issues. The result was a staggering a set of astounding inconsistencies and incoherence passed down as authoritative doctrine. The resolution of one theological problem only created ever greater theological problems and more heresy. These theological disputes were so incoherent and confused, with no possible clarity, that they degenerated into power struggles. Disagreement about doctrine now became a punishable offense as orthodox doctrines were enforced by law. The Church became deeply embedded in the legal and political systems of the Empire in both East and the West. The early diversity in Christian thought became heresy and the Church persecuted heretics with greater vehemence than the Christians themselves were persecuted in easier centuries.

8) Philosophical coherence within Christianly was to prove impossible as it was based on so many variant sources such as Christian doctrines, Hebrew scriptures (much of it mistranslated from Greek or Hebrew into Latin), pagan traditions, Greek philosophy, Gospel stories, the works of various Church fathers and the decisions of synods and councils. Incoherence was the only possible coherent outcome. Augustine listed some eight-three heresies, i.e., reasonable alternative interpretations based on the diverse array of sources. So far had independent intellectual thought degenerated that among the heresies could be included the search for empirical truth itself. With eternal damnation on the line, Christian debate was often bitter and acrimonious in contrast to non-Christian philosophical debates. Christians trapped themselves into an intellectual dead-end with now exit within Christian doctrine. The Christian concept of God evolved from too many different, various and conflicting sources. This led to the tradition of leaving such issues to the elite clergy who would simply inform the believers as to what they need to believe with silent acceptance. In truth, most of what became Christian orthodox belief was imposed by the emperors seeking political stability.

9) Retroactive heresy was invented. A change in the nature of faith from a state of openness to revelation to, in the words of Origen, belief without thinking and without reason. That is, faith now meant unquestioned acceptance of whatever the Church hierarchy authoritatively decreed. Ignorance and credulity became virtues. Ironically, Origen, the clever and creative superstar darling theologian of the third century, who preached that God was without human characteristics, became the despised heretic of the fourth century. Apparently, Origen was already a heretic in the third century, he just did not know it, neither did anyone else at that time.

10) A death cult. Christianity developed a sophisticated but monstrous presentation of martyrdom as something desirable, noble and worthy of imitation owing to the great rewards in the newly invented life after death. Martyrdom and death became a mark of status and prestige. This death cult frame of mind became a seed-bed for Christianity. The martyrs, their relics and their feast days became marketing literature and propaganda for recruitment and conversion.

11) Waste of Resources. Vast resources that could have been used for the Army on the frontiers of the Empire, municipal or public buildings or even support of the poor, indigent and destitute were squandered to build and decorate opulent churches. This is actually an example of another pagan custom carried over into Christianity. Christians wantonly destroyed pagan art and architecture and then imitated it.

12) Neglect of the body in an effort to come closer to God. Christian asceticism became narcissistic and encouraged devotees to engage in the bazar acts of self-torture to achieve spiritual transformation. Christian asceticism assumes that the mind/soul/spirit is different from and superior to the physical body so the body must be subjugated. The antecedents of this in Plato should be obvious but Christian asceticism went beyond the ancient practices of moderation, control and restraint and into the realm of bazar fetishes with obsessive intensity. With the Jesus example as the touch point, suffering became a Christian virtue and a mark of as well as a test of faith. This made self-inflicted torture and suffering desirable. In a bazar ethical inversion, caring for the sick was more about the care giver earning salivation than curing the sick. That is, care for the sick was about the spiritual needs of the care giver, not the physical needs of the sick person. Once someone is convinced of an afterlife, many unreasonable acts become reasonable. The modern example is St. Theresa of Calcutta.

These are the twelve pernicious causes that I could identify in the text that gave rise to faith over reason and thus gave rise to the rise of habits of mind that allowed faith to overcome reason. This set the advance of western civilization back for a thousand years by preventing progress in science, math and philosophy and in opposing progress when it did occur over Christian faith-based objections.

The final chapter in the book covers the slow awakening of reason, but reason still had to be suspended when it conflicted with orthodoxy. Reason still had an opening but little chance when confined within a paradigm that insisted all views, all perspectives and all lines of thought must submit to a single and common authority. Once Christianity was made the official and only legal religion of the Roman Empire, it became hierarchal and inflexible. It took on the worst aspects of Rome and jettisoned any claim to reasoned spirituality. Orthodoxy, by definition, is something that must be imposed. The ostensibly docile faith that was intended to encourage support for imperil authority, but no one and nothing remains docile when it has power.
Profile Image for Donald Luther.
167 reviews2 followers
April 20, 2020
When I was teaching World History (not so much in Combined Studies, but rather my regular courses and my courses at USJ), one of the troublesome periods I had to deal with was the transition from the Ancient World to Medieval Europe (Europe broadly defined, western and eastern, including the Byzantine Empire). This was not so much my lack of religious concerns, which did color my approach to the material, but rather the confusing nature of the material itself.

In covering the Ancient world, I talked at some length about the Greek philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists. Even in my grad course in the History of Science (thank you, Dr. Beer; yes, that was his name!), it was noted that the ancients had come within a very narrow margin of making the breakthrough to what we might regard as modern scientific thinking. How was it that their rationalism, their ability to investigate and seek out evidence, their rather funky attitude toward their deities, how was it that the ancients gave themselves over to what must be seen as a rather authoritarian religion--Christianity--with its debates over orthodoxy and its pummeling of heresies?

I wish I had found this book when it was first published (in 2003), as it would have been very useful for resolving this quandary. Charles Freeman's 'The Closing of the Western Mind' offers a truly remarkable analysis and examination of this subject, covering religious thinking and the institutional relationship between the western and eastern churches and the government establishments in place. He shows how first Plato and, later, Aristotle were incorporated into Christian orthodox thinking. He examines a number of heresies and how and why they arose, and how and why orthodox Christian thinking required that they be put down. And, most important, he examines the role played by the government (offering tax exemptions, exemptions from military service, local authority, and prestige, among others) in corralling orthodox churches to their support. (Constantine was crucial in this effort.) The result was the suppression of what he calls Greek rationalism in the areas where the Christian religion took control.

Freeman follows this story from the emergence of Christians (from Judaism), including the differences between the several Gospels as well as the differences between the Gospels and Paul, through the Church Fathers--Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Popes Leo and Gregory the Great (the only two Popes to be given that sobriquet)--up to the reawakening of rationalism with Thomas Aquinas, though Aquinas found that he still had to conform to orthodox belief in drawing his final conclusions.
9 reviews1 follower
May 7, 2015
i liked this book a lot. however, the author doesn't, to my mind, prove his thesis, which is that the adoption of Christianity in Europe and around the Mediterranean during the first 5 or so centuries of the current era caused "the closing of the western mind". however, the author definitely provided evidence pointing in that direction (and no evidence that i saw that would contradict that assertion).

i think the main lesson i derived from this book is about how rational thinking (the scientific method, etc.) should relate to religious/spiritual beliefs. the author states that during pagan time (Greek, early Roman), rational thinking and beliefs about gods, miracles, etc., were siblings, if you were, sitting side by side, with one having little effect on the other. the Christian era (for mainly political/economic reasons, it appears from this book) placed rational thinking in a position of subservience to religion. while the author doesn't discuss modern atheism in any detail, i'd say a problem with modern atheism (Dawkins, whose book i have only seen discussed in reviews, etc.) is that it attempts to place religion in a position of subservience to rational thinking. neither of these seems to work.

the relationship of Christianity to rational thinking is further complicated by the fact that the founding documents of the Christian religion (the gospels, letters by Paul, and oral tradition) are probably mutually contradictory. in math, if you assume that you can divide by zero, you can prove "anything"; probably, in rhetoric, if you assume two mutually contradictory assertions to be simultaneously true, you can likewise prove anything to be true. (possibly, though, this is just an effect of the size of the corpus; Hebrew scholarship, as well as Marxian theoretizing, are possibly likewise characterized by the ability to prove anything from the Talmud or Das Kapital.)

though i didn't read this book in order to learn about early Christian church history, in fact i *did* learn very much about that subject, which i found very interesting. i'm glad i read this book.

one nit: i read this book on my Kindle "paperwhite". the citations in the text to footnotes were *not* active, so i had to constantly engage in clumsy fingering to read the footnotes. (i found the footnotes to be a very useful supplement to the main text.)
Profile Image for Andi.
405 reviews40 followers
February 2, 2017
Many books dealing with Catholic Church history present the lineage of the Church and the internal conflicts, largely revolving around doctrine and organization, of its members. Little attention is paid to the larger political climate in which these conflicts are set. The Closing of the Western Mind looks at the history through this missing political dimension and provides a fuller explanation as to the "whys" in Church history.

While the title is somewhat cynical, the body of the text is less so. Freeman’s central theme is that "the Greek intellectual tradition was suppressed rather than simply faded away." However, he also notes that this was not the end of the story, calling Gregory the Great "one of the greatest spiritual leaders the west has ever produced, not least in terms of his restoration of moderating and moral integrity to the Christian tradition after the obsessional ascetic narcissism and destructive invective of the fourth and fifth centuries." He also praises Thomas Aquinas as brilliant and credits him with the restoration of "the power of words and independent thinking [which] were once again given a status that they had almost lost."

As for his thesis, I cannot argue with his position. It is a bizarre history in which a Jewish movement, fueled by opposition to Roman rule, becomes a political tool used by said Roman government to (try to) achieve unity in order to better establish authority in hopes of protecting the state. The real irony comes with the revelation that it was the Roman emperors, in hopes of creating a unified state, that drove (and often directed) what is now considered Orthodox Christian doctrine and not the Church itself. Moreover, this orthodoxy has been presented as being timeless and largely dismisses the events that led up to its creation.

On a side note, I find it fortunate that the Arabs assimilated much of Greek culture into their own as they conquered northern Africa and the Middle East, for it would likely be lost to us otherwise...and, that Islam showed a tolerance for other religions at a time when Christianity did not.
Profile Image for James Lindsay.
Author 11 books327 followers
September 20, 2012
So I gave this book five stars, which is a little bit inaccurate, but I can't give it the score I want of 4.5 stars. I'm taking away from the otherwise perfect rating I would give this book for the overwhelmingly dry nature of the reading, particularly through the first third or so. Indeed, I almost didn't make it past that part. The middle third is quite good, though, and the last third is entertaining but repetitive, documenting the apparently incessant squabbling that characterizes the formative period of the Christian (Catholic) Church, mostly in the faltering Roman Empire.

I wanted to give this otherwise dry book such a high rating, though, because of its importance, in my opinion, for anyone to read if they are serious about understanding how Christianity came to be such a dominant structure in Western Culture (indeed, Western Civilizations, post 500 CE, could almost be a history of Christendom) along with the disastrous effects that this mode of thought had, some still reaching their dead fingers around us today. Given its high degree of scholarship, its importance with respect to elucidating the very political (read: not divine) foundations of the most influential religion in the world, and clear execution, I felt that a five-star rating was closer to my true feelings on it than a four-star would be.

That said, for anyone that is willing to put up with a relatively dry read to get deep into the core of how Christianity came to fore in the Western world, this book is an absolute must-read. I put it up near the top on my recommendations list in most situations, and so despite the bored-in-history-class feeling that sometimes characterizes the text, I recommend it here.
Profile Image for Tom.
41 reviews1 follower
June 22, 2008
The oft-addressed description of Constantine I's toleration, and part-time aggrandizement, of paganism stands out as the shiniest gold in The Closing of the Western Mind, the insinuation being that the first Christian Emperor of Rome publicly embraced his monotheism as an astute but insincere political expedient.

It remains a fact that he never abdicated the title of Pontifex Maximus, the spritual head of the polytheistic cult of the empire, nor did he decorate Constantinople with any particularly Christian motifs when he commandeered Byzantium for its geopolitical superiority over Rome as an imperial base. I don't mind saying, though, that he did construct some choice pagan monuments there instead. Well... Constantine's pandering spawn, much diluted and even less sincere, are all around us now, aren't they, clamoring for not only the highest, but any office in this land of religious babel and so I'm going to have to agree.

Well worth a read if you want an account of the birth and establishment of Roman Catholic orthodoxy but if you're looking for some of the more notably outrageous examples of faith persecuting reason, as the book's subtitle suggests you'll find inside, then maybe not so much.
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