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Thursday, June 24, 2010

What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? The Vikings

The next installment in a series I began some time ago (and unfortunately have gotten away from recently) centered around the book What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? authored by Dr D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, concerns one of the most fierce group of people to ever walk the face of the earth, the Vikings. While intellectually honest, internet skeptics will credit the impact of Christianity for making the world a better place, the so-called "new atheists" are less likely to do so and are either forgetful or selectively ignorant to the great service that Christ's church has contributed to mankind over the years. Concerning the Vikings, in Chapter 11 of the book titled The Civilizing of the Uncivilized, Kennedy and Newcombe wrote......

"In the ninth and tenth centuries the Vikings, who were marauding adventurers, terrorized much of the coastline of Europe in their quest for plunder. They would plant crops in the spring, then go raiding, and then return for the harvest. The Christians in the pillaged lands would pray, "God, save us from the Norsemen [Vikings]." Religious institutions (e.g. monasteries) were a particularly favorite target of the Vikings because they often housed treasures and were often poorly defended. The Vikings pillaged, raped, and killed men, women, and even children! They would systematically put to the torch what was left. Their fighting men, berserkers, were so fierce in battle that our word beserk comes fom them. What changed this horrible scourge of humanity? Jesus Christ did. The gospel managed to penetrate even the Vikings-not without some resistance-and not even without some violence on the part of the new converts who didnt know better! Nonetheless, over time, many of the Scandinavians became true Christians, and so the Vikings stopped their terrible raids. Virtually every Norwegian, Dane, Swede, and even many British people are descendants of these formerly fierce and warlike people.

In A.D. 1020, the Norwegians had their first national assembly in their history. At this gathering, presided over by King Olav, Christianity became law. "At the same time," writes Norwegian historian Sverre Steen, "old practices became illegal, such as blood sacrifice, black magic, the 'setting out' of infants', slavery and polygamy."

Kennedy and Newcombe then go on to quote the following from history professor Dr. Joseph Reither (NYU) in his book, World History at a Glance who wrote on page 144...

"When we contemplate the violence and chaos which attended the disruption of Charlemagne's great empire, and we recall that distracted and disunited Europe was beset upon all sides by enemies-Vikings to the north, Saracens to the south, Magyars and Slavs to the east-we marvel that out of this confusion there arose a great civilization. Throughout these early centuries of turmoil one institution above all others patiently and persistently labored to combat the forces of disintegration and decay. During the era that has long been known as the Dark Ages, it was the Latin Christian Church which succeeded little by little in restraining violence and restoring order, justice, and decency. A distinguished and critical student of the Latin church has acknowledged that in all the history of mankind no other institution "has exercised so vast an influence on human destinies."

Should anyone be interested in further reading about the conversion of the Viking people(s) click here. If any skeptics would be willing to argue that the conversion and subsequent wholesale change of the Vikings was much more related to some type of organic, secular causation, I would be glad to see them cite their source here. Although I am not aware of anything specific on this topic, the wide range of atheist apologetics explanations never ceases to amaze me and if there is something more substantive than the odd "witch burning" reference, feel free to mention it on this thread. Though somehow I think that the existance of such material would be scant at best.


SmartLX said...

Wrong alternative.

The facts of the matter are pretty straightforward; several brutal practices were outlawed by rulers who had converted to Christianity in order to follow the rules of Christianity. The question is not whether the movement away from the practices was secular, because it wasn't. The question is whether it could have been, and eventually would have been if Christianity had never reached the Vikings, and whether therefore Christianity is taking credit for something which was going to happen regardless.

The "could" at least is a given, because tribal rituals both brutal and harmless have been stamped out by regimes both theocratic and secular, including places Christianity didn't get to until much later. The "would" has high probability for the same reason, so I think the conclusion is literally reasonable.

His Lordship The Gun-Toting Atheist said...

JD, check out this Wikipedia entry on the Viking Age. I quote:

"With the means of travel (longships and open water), their desire for goods led Scandinavian traders to explore and develop extensive trading partnerships in new territories. It has been suggested that the Scandinavians suffered from unequal trade practices imposed by Christian advocates and that this eventually led to the breakdown in trade relations and raiding. British merchants who declared openly that they were Christian and would not trade with heathens and infidels (Muslims and the Norse) would get preferred status for availability and pricing of goods through a Christian network of traders. A two-tiered system of pricing existed with both declared and undeclared merchants trading secretly with banned parties. Viking raiding expeditions were separate from and coexisted with regular trading expeditions. A people with the tradition of raiding their neighbours when their honour had been impugned might easily fall to raiding foreign peoples who impugned their honour." Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_Age#Probable_causes_of_Viking_expansion

In other words it was partly retribution for being treated unfairly by arrogant Christian trading nations. And when their kings finally converted to Christianity (which was done for political reasons), trade relations improved, and they didn't need to go raiding anymore.

feeno said...

I hope Brett Favre is a Viking again this year. Does anyone know if he is a Believer?

Late, feeno

SmartLX said...

Apparently he's Catholic and relatively private about it, Feeno.

JD Curtis said...


Don't say anything. Maybe Froggie will stumble in here with an obligatory witch-burn reference. I thought I would have at least one by now.

JD Curtis said...


Given that Wikipedia is rife with problems concerning facts and biases, I checked with the Encyclopedia Brittanica. They had the following to say about the Viking Age...

"The term Viking Age has come to denote those years from about 800 to 1050 when Scandinavians set out on innumerable plundering expeditions abroad. Surplus population, superior ships and weapons, well-developed military organization, and a spirit of adventure seem to have combined to cause this great movement. Link.

Froggie said...


I'm on hiatus as this first week of summer, every year for as long as I can remember, sister-in-law comes for ten days with her three kids and their friends along with some of our kids and grandkids to spend the week enjoying the natural beauty of our area-

Check it out!

Your free ride will soon be over..........

Reynold said...

I know this will be kind of off the topic of vikings, but as to the more general topic of xianity taking credit for everything good, I figure this comment is on topic.

To me, no Christ, no christian tradition of anti-semitism could have arisen in Europe.

Read how Martin Luther (On the Jews and Their Lies) and Hitler (Mein Kampf) became antisemites.

Read about the long christian tradition of antisemitism. "The Jew and The Cross" by Dagobert Runes.

No need to bring up witch burnings...this alone shows that your religion has been at best a mixed blessing...like any other philosophy.

Jquip said...

Meh. The relationship between Christianity and the Odinist set has always been a complicated one. Without the Vikings we'd have not had Protestantism; though without the Roman panopoly we'd not have had Catholicism. The best that can be said is that it's a complicated relationship.

Contra Reynolds, it is always those that desire more currency than they have that give rise anti-semitism. It's a historical and economic issue more to do with government and basic fraud than any philosophic or religious school.

Reynold said...

Just read up on those books I mentioned.

Besides, it was the first xians who first started calling Jews "christ-killers".

That at least, had not much to do with money. The origins of anti-semitism are complicated. What is certain is that christianity had a huge role in it's development, whether economically driven or not.

JD Curtis said...

"Luther harshly criticized many peoples in addition to Jews; a pamphlet of his in 1545, the year before he died, was entitled "Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil." It is also recorded that at a round table discussion he said he believed in burning witches. Some of Luther’s writings seem quite vulgar by today's standards, but much of it was also in response to vulgar accusations against his religious views." Link

Flute said...

Ah, Conservapedia is so biased, it's always good for a laugh.
I expect in a few decades, they'll be writting:
"Some of Hitler’s speeches seem quite vulgar by today's standards, but much of it was also in response..."

JD Curtis said...

By their name one could imply that those at Conservapedia do have a bias. Which is fine as far as I'm concerned given that how the worldviews of the editors/administrators are announced up front, whereas Wiki's is more subtle and hidden.

I expect in a few decades, they'll be writting:
"Some of Hitler’s speeches seem quite vulgar by today's standards, but much of it was also in response..."

You missed the discussion on this topic. If you believe that Hitler was a conservative in the small government, American sese of the word then I have some good, used lederhosen I would like to sell to you. Link

Reynold said...

"Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil".

Did Luther ever advocate doing anything to the Catholics the things that the wanted done to the Jews?