In 416 BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, Athens decided to attack the neutral island of Melos. When the Melians protested they had done Athens no wrong, the Athenians replied, “The strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must.” The Melians were starved into surrender, their men were killed, and their women and children were sold into slavery.
None of this was unusual in the ancient world. The strong, it was supposed, had every right to dominate the weak. Cruelty, rape, torture, and slaughter were ordinary means of enforcing power. Neither the gods nor the moral codes opposed dominations. Atheist historian Tom Holland, describes his feelings about the Greco-Roman world this way: “It was not just the extremes of callousness that unsettled me, but the complete lack of any sense that the poor or the weak might have the slightest intrinsic value.” Christianity Was […]
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