October 28

Bill Gates (1955)

It was on this date, October 28, 1955, that the entrepreneur who became chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corporation, the world's largest software firm, Bill Gates, was born in Seattle, Washington. Born William Henry Gates III, Bill Gates was an exceptional student. After co-founding Microsoft with friend Paul Allen, Gates used quasi-legal maneuvers and shrewd judgements about the computer industry to make himself, according to Forbes magazine, the wealthiest man in the world. His success was hardly due to the quality of his products, but in part due to shutting out competition.

After his marriage to Melinda French in 1994, the couple created the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a charitable organization. Perhaps a public relations move, the Foundation has contributed generously to minority college scholarships, AIDS prevention, and other worthy causes.

In a November 1995 interview on PBS with David Frost, Gates was asked if he believed in the Sermon on the Mount. "I'm not somebody who goes to church on a regular basis," he said.

The specific elements of Christianity are not something I'm a huge believer in. There's a lot of merit in the moral aspects of religion. I think it can have a very very positive impact. ... In terms of doing things I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don't know if there's a god or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.
In a cover story for the January 13, 1996 issue of Time magazine, Gates was asked if there isn't something divine about the human soul. Gates replied tonelessly, "I don't have any evidence on that. ... I don't have any evidence of that." He later added, "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning."

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Constantine the Great (312 CE)

It was also on this date, October 28, 312 CE, that Roman emperor Constantine the Great, aged 32, is said to have conquered in the sign of the Christian faith. After seeing a vision of the Chi-Ro [ΧΡ] — indicating "Christ," his priestly advisors gleefully told him — he crossed the Milvian bridge with a labarum bearing the sign and won the battle. And so his supremacy over the legally divided Roman Empire was won.

The story of the miraculous sign is related by "the father of ecclesiastical history," Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, but it is not to be found in his Ecclesiastical History, which he wrote while Constantine was alive. Instead, Eusebius tells the tale after the Emperor is safely in his grave.

Constantine was the natural son of a rural tavern girl and a Roman officer. He advanced to the throne through rivers of blood, with more to come. That he established a new capitol in Constantinople was an expedient based on practicality: he had been driven from Rome because, in a fit of jealousy, he had ordered the murder of his wife, a son, and a juvenile nephew.

If he was a Christian, before his deathbed baptism, it is hard to tell: he carried pagan offices and titles throughout his life and after his death his successor and son Constantius...

...slew his uncles and his cousins. He had no mercy on the father-in-law whose daughter he had married, or on his relatives in their affliction. He treated his brother infamously...*
...according to the orthodox Christian and contemporary, Athanasius. The Empire was secured for the Christian cult to expand and grow, its supremacy assured by decrees shutting out competition, plus generous donations of state money and property. Thus did Christianity triumph — not by persuasion but by coercion. Within a century the state-supported Church was wealthy, corpulent and corrupt.

* St. Athanasius (Doctor of the Church, c.296-373) wrote of the Emperor's son, Constantius, in his History of the Arians, ch. 69,

What wonder that he should rage against the bishops seeing that in the treatment of his relatives he showed himself devoid of the common feelings of humanity. He slew his uncles and his cousins. He had no mercy on the father-in-law whose daughter he had married, or on his relatives in their affliction. He treated his brother infamously, and he now announces that he is building a sepulchre for him, and he delivered his wife to the barbarians.
In other words, as Joseph McCabe writes, "in order to secure the division of the Empire between the three sons of Constantine, nearly all the other male relatives (two uncles, seven cousins, and their supporters) were murdered in the imperial palace." (A Testament of Christian Civilization, 1946, p. 13)

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance writer.
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