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ALEXANDER KIMEL - HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR
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TEN COMMANDMENTS DICHTOMY

by Alexander Kimel


In the NY Times Book Review section dated July 25,1999, the reviewer of the book- "Saint Augustine" by Garry Wills writes: "His monumental (St. Augustine's) mistake was to endorse the use of force to brink the increasingly extreme Donatists (heretics) back to the church. ...When the imperial authorities resorted to coercion, and the coercion seemed to work, Augustine defended their action and interpreted Scripture to support it. ....The man who might have been the bulwark against medieval Inquisition, provided it with a charter.."

It seems to me that by supporting the use of force against the heretics, St. Augustine initiated a long cycle of dogmatic intolerance that let to the East-West schism, the Reformation, and to all the religious wars. Intolerance goes always hand in hand with anti-Semitism. It was St. Augustine that laid down the foundation of medieval anti-Semitism, writing: "The true image of Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus..." It is a pity that the book does not deal with all those aspects.

I do believe that St. Augustine had an extensive, negative influence on the development of Christianity and the Western civilization in general. My reasoning is as follows:

1. Augustine's, far reaching interpretation of the famous "Compel them to come in (Luke 14:23)" provided the state and the Church with the rights for CONSTRUCTIVE PERSECUTION, by which an heretic could be compelled to conform to the religious dogma or face destruction.

2. In addition he provided the Church with the right to CONSTRUCTIVE CENSORSHIP, by which the church had a right to use force and torture to investigate the beliefs of innocent people.

3. St. Augustine stamped out the Pelagian heresy,- the reform movement that looked to Christianity as a moral force for changing and improving the society. He even used bribery to overwhelm Pelagius and his followers.

4. I believe that St. Augustine greatly influenced the development of what I call the "Ten Commandments Dichotomy" by which the Ten Commandments, the ethical basis of civilized life, pertain only to relations between individuals, while states, churches and social groups are exempt from those moral injunctions. For example blessing of the guns shelling Sarajevo by the Serbian priests, the violence of the Inquisition, the blessing of the guns by the German or French priests during W.W.I, etc. State sponsored violence is never questioned.

I believe, that St. Augustine by his leadership, his actions and free flowing Scripture interpretation married the religious dogma with the powers of the state setting the stage for the perpetual intolerance that brought such bitter fruits to the Western civilization.


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kimel@systec.com