Rolf Bergmeier (Supervisory board Giordano Bruno Foundation, Germany)

In the year 380, Emperor Theodosius effects a tabula rasa. With the Edict Cunctos populos he forbids all pagan religions and also represses the “heretics”, the various forms of Christianity that deviate from Catholicism: “We authorize the followers of this law to assume the title of Catholic Christians; but as for the others, in our judgment they are foolish madmen, we decree that they shall be branded with the ignominious name of heretics”. The year 380 marks a change in paradigma from the polytheistic, multicultural way of thinking to a monotheistic, monothematic attitude. Cunctos populos marks the beginning of the disempowerment of the State. The State subjugates itself to religion and the properties of the heathen temples fall to the Church. The antique philosophical- and liberal-arts-oriented culture is replaced by a culture of dogmatism, able to assert itself because of the alliance between religion and State power. The henceforth dominant focus on the afterlife and the Church’s authoritarian claims to the truth together paralyse creativity and research, education and science. Other areas of culture such as public schools, public libraries, philosophical academies, theatres fall into disuse. Without public schools and public libraries, without theatres and public forums, the cities begin to crumble. Their culture collapses and antique texts are no longer transferred except for clerical usage. The so called “dark ages” begin. They are accompanied by a paradigmatic loss of texts and information from previous centuries.