I recently started reading Marcus Aurelius' Meditations. I'm not intending to power through this book as I do with other books, I'm lingering on this one. As such, I'm also reading the introduction, by Gregory Hays, who wrote the modern translation that I'm reading (and, wow, the difference a good translator makes!). Backgrounds help a lot with understanding the why of things, why a thought process, why an action. Helps with the understanding, won't always explain, but often helps.
This paragraph struck me as fascinating:
Another area where Marcus’s policy continued that of his predecessors related to a small and eccentric sect known as the Christians. In the course of the next century they would become an increasing problem for the imperial administration, and they were prominent enough in Marcus’s day to attract an extended denunciation from a certain Celsus, part of whose work “Against the Christians” still survives. The sect met with contempt from those intellectuals who deigned to take notice of it (Marcus’s tutor Fronto was evidently one), and with suspicion and hostility from ordinary citizens and administrators. The Christians’ disfavor stemmed from their failure to acknowledge the gods worshipped by the community around them. Their “atheism”—their refusal to accept any god but their own—endangered their neighbors as well as themselves, and their reluctance to acknowledge the divine status of the emperor threatened the social order and the well-being of the state.
Read it again.
[Christians'] “atheism”—their refusal to accept any god but their own—endangered their neighbors as well as themselves...
Well, doesn't that just explain all? (The correct answer is yes here.)
It does, and it goes a long way to explaining the bulk of hard-edge (right AND left) Americans.