How Christianity Conquered the White Conquerors
One may hope that the conquest is only temporary.
by Revilo P. Oliver
A READER asks: Dr. Revilo Oliver in Christianity and the Survival of the West states that pagan Nordics accepted Christianity because it was “more congenial to their minds.” Well, if the religion of Thor and Odin was too bleakly pessimistic, why didn’t they turn to the Celtic concept of the “thereafter”? It was just as joyful and serene a paradise as any a Christian missionary could invent.
Dr. Oliver was kind enough to reply to this interesting question:
1. Although we do not know precisely what concepts of a “thereafter” were entertained by the Celts at the time that Caesar noted with some astonishment their belief in immortality, that belief, as he reports it, included metempsychosis, which may or may not have been compatible with the beautiful and poetic myths of Ynys yr Afallon (Avalon), Ynysgutrin, and Tir nan Og that were recorded at much later dates. I grant, of course, that these lands, thought of as existing somewhere far in the West, like the Beatae Insulae of Classical myth, were “as joyful and serene a paradise as any Christian missionary could invent.” In fact, I think them much more attractive.
2. I do not know how generally these myths were known to the Norse, whose bleakly pessimistic (but realistic) view of the world’s future closed with the Ragnarok, to which a regenerated world, familiar from the very end of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, although present in the tenth-century Völuspá, was doubtless a later addition. If the Celtic myth was well known to them, I doubt that they, any more than good minds in our time, would have given credence to a myth merely because it was allicient and pleasing. I certainly did not mean to imply that they rejected their own religion because it was so gloomy.
3. The principal reason for the ‘conversion’ of the Norse to the new cult is, in my opinion, the one stated in the footnote to p. 21 of Christianity and the Survival of the West. The Christianity known to the invaders of the Roman Empire (in which the Romans had, for all practical purposes, become extinct more than two centuries before) was that of the peculiar sect that succeeded in allying itself with the despotic power of a dying Empire and using that power to exterminate the very numerous Christian sects that were its competitors in the salvation-business. This sect had a holy book that had been assembled and carelessly edited around the end of the Third Century; it consisted of (a) an anthology of a few gospels selected and revised (ineptly) from the hundred gospels that had been composed in the Second and Third Centuries, purporting to give a precise and circumstantial account of events that had happened at specified times in well-known places, and had supposedly been witnessed by many thousands of individuals, including the purported authors of the principal tales; and (b) the Jews’ storybook about the exploits of their tribal deity, which also had the form of an historical record. The whole, despite glaring inconsistencies that, if noticed at all, were explained away by clever theologians, and despite gross physical and historical blunders that escaped detection in a time of growing ignorance and irrationality, seemed to form a history of events so specific and accurate that it was possible for the eminent English divine, John Lightfoot, to “prove” that Adam had been created on Friday, October 21, 4004 B.C.
4. A secondary reason was that our barbarian ancestors captured and dismembered an Empire that, even in its decay, retained and exhibited a manifest superiority to their own culture in manufactured products (especially those requisite for luxury and refinement), in engineering and architecture, in literature and art, and in social organization. These impressive remains of past greatness they naturally, though mistakenly, associated with the superstition that had been imposed on the mongrel Roman population by its last despots.
5. There were numerous minor factors (e.g., the well-known vaudeville trick by which St. Poppo performed a “miracle” to impress the ignorant and gullible Harald Blaatand “Bluetooth,” King of Denmark; Charlemagne’s conquest of the pagan Saxons; etc.), but I believe I have stated above the two main causes of the unfortunate conversion of the Norse to a deleterious religion.
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Source: Instauration magazine, February 1979