Kriminalgeschichte, 48

Below, abridged translation from the first
volume of Karlheinz Deschner’s Kriminalgeschichte
des Christentums
(Criminal History of Christianity)

Other defamations of Athanasius, forgeries and the death of Arius

As he did to the emperor, Athanasius, of course, also attacked and defamed Arius. He constantly talks about Arius’ ‘delirium’, his ‘aberration’, his ‘deplorable and atheist speeches’, his ‘sour attitudes overflowing with atheism’. Arius is ‘the liar’, ‘the impious’, the precursor of the ‘Antichrist’. And likewise he rages against all the other ‘philandering of the Arian nonsense’, the ‘malicious’, the ‘quarrelsome’, the ‘enemies of Christ’, ‘the ungodly who have fallen into thoughtlessness’, ‘in the trap of the devil’.
However, Athanasius also reviled mercilessly, labelling them as ‘Arians’, all his personal adversaries and even, what is historically false, all the Antiochene theology. The one who opposes him he ‘declares without mercy, in a tone of utmost indignation, as a notorious heretic’ (Domes). The holy father of the Church, who boasted saying ‘we are Christians and we know how to appreciate the message of joy of the Redeemer’, says about Christians of different faith: ‘They are the vomit and the stool of the heretics’; he harasses by saying ‘his doctrine induces vomiting’, that they ‘carry it in their pocket like filth and they spit it like a serpent his poison’. The Arians even overcome ‘the betrayal of the Jews with their defamation of Christ’.
Nothing worse can be said. We already know this zeal and this Christian rage against any other faith, which have remained throughout the ages. The fact that Athanasius not only lacks scruples but possibly even believes much of what he preaches, only makes things worse: more dangerous as he encourages bigotry, intolerance, obstinacy and vanity of those who do not doubt never of themselves, perhaps not even of their cause, of their ‘right’.
The scandalous election of the saint led to the establishment of an anti-bishop and in many places to such street riots that the Emperor Constantine, in the year 332, complained in writing to the Catholics of Alexandria, impressed by the painful spectacle of the children of God, saying that they were not one iota better than the pagans.
Athanasius continued with ‘his own policy of pacification’ (Voelkl), beatings, imprisonments and expulsions of the Meletians (recently discovered papyrus epistles show that these accusations are justified). John Arcaph, the successor of Meletius, even claimed that, by order of Athanasius, he had bound Bishop Arsenius to a pillar and had him been burned alive. The saint had to answer for it before the court and in two synods. With the emperor he was acquitted but he did not appear before a synod summoned in the spring of the year 334 in Caesarea, Palestine.
In Constantinople, in the year 336, immediately after being readmitted into the Church, Arius died suddenly and mysteriously on the street, apparently when he was going to take communion, or perhaps on the way back. For the Catholics it was a divine punishment, for the Arians a murder. In a story full of details, Athanasius explains twenty years later that Arius had expired in response to the prayers of the local bishop: that he burst in public toilets and that he disappeared in the dung: an ‘odious legend’ (Kühner), a ‘fallacious story’ (Kraft) ‘which since then remains rooted in popular controversy, but which is revealed to the critical reader as the report of a death by poisoning’ (Lietzmann).[1]
Whoever in this way literally throws an enemy into the mud is capable of everything, not only as a politician of the Church but also as a religious writer. Athanasius did not just adorn his Vita Antonii (Saint Anthony or Antony was a monk who played an important role in the conversion of Augustine; was the archetype of the lives of Greek and Latin saints, and for centuries inspired the monastic life of the East and the West) with increasingly crazy miracles, but he also falsified documents in the worst of styles, so to speak.
In a letter written by Athanasius, after the death of Constantine and written in Constantine’s name, Athanasius wanted to see all those who kept even a writ of Arius, without appeal or clemency, condemned to death.
[1] Note of the Ed.: In his Historia Ecclesiastica, chapter XXXVIII, ‘The Death of Arius’, Socrates of Constantinople writes: ‘Soon after a faintness came over him, and together with the evacuations his bowels protruded, followed by a copious haemorrhage, and the descent of the smaller intestines: moreover portions of his spleen and liver were brought off in the effusion of blood, so that he almost immediately died. The scene of this catastrophe still is shown at Constantinople, as I have said, behind the shambles in the colonnade: and by persons going by pointing the finger at the place, there is a perpetual remembrance preserved of this extraordinary kind of death’.