Away with the Atheists

Polycarp: 2nd Century Atheist, Bishop, Martyr

Contrary to the opinion of some, this post’s title was not the rallying cry of the alleged Bush theocracy that infringed on the rights of people who steadfastly believe in spontaneous generation.

Rather, the post’s title was a derisive chant shouted by 2nd Century pagans in reference to Christians. That “atheist” now refers to a subset of modern-day pagans is an irony lost on many.

Usage of the phrase, ‘away with the atheists!’, is documented in the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom (you can read it here).

“Away with the atheists!” was an appeal to the Roman government to murder people whose only “crime” was total and utter trust in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

The Roman proconsul plead with Polycarp to condemn his fold by yelling “Away with the atheists!”. The proconsul uttered these words to the 86-year-old bishop,

Have respect to your age! Swear by the fortune of Caesar; change your mind; say, ‘Away with the atheists!’

After this he plead with Polycarp to curse our Lord, to which the aged bishop replied:

Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?

The proconsul then came back with threats. First it was wild beasts, which would have brought delight to the bloodthirsty ‘theists’ in the crowd.

Next came the threat of being burned alive. Then Polycarp, 2nd Century atheist, replied,

The fire you threaten burns but an hour and is quenched after a little; for you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and everlasting punishment that is laid up for the impious. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will.

I guess the faithful bishop didn’t buy annihilationism

5 Responses to Away with the Atheists

  1. kris says:

    great find…


  2. Bobbo says:

    Hey dude, in pointing out irony, you called pagans atheists…I thought pagans were just any religious or spiritual belief that didn’t come from Abraham…that back in the old days were generally associated with the gentiles…aguas, mrs. piña….

  3. Laz says:

    I called modern-day atheists “pagans” not the other way around.

    You defined “pagan” correctly.

    Since (despite their denials) atheism is a religious/spiritual belief that most definitely is not Abrahamic, then yes they are pagans in the “old” sense of the word.

  4. Bobbo says:

    but doesn’t atheism mean that one is opposed to religious or spiritual ideas? i just see that as contradictory…i’m reminded of a half druid friend who didn’t quite worship trees…

  5. Laz says:

    Atheism is the rejection of other religious or spiritual ideas in favor of other worldviews, mainly naturalism. The atheist is very religious, though he might not believe in a supernatural being, his belief in himself as the center of the universe is very real.

    Paul says it more elegantly in the first chapter of Romans.

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