Archive for the 'May 2007' Category


May 29th, 2007

The noted philosopher Sören Kierkegaard wrote in his work titled Attack Upon Christendom: “The Christianity of the New Testament simply does not exist. Millions of people through the centuries have little by little cheated God out of Christianity, and have succeeded in making Christianity exactly the opposite of what it is in the New Testament.”

Such massive change is attested to by many prominent church historians.

Jesse Lyman Hurlbut: The Story of the Christian Church:

“We name the last generation of the first century, from 68 to 100 A.D., ‘The Age of Shadows’, partly because the gloom of persecution was over the church; but more especially because of all periods in the history, it is the one about which we know the least. We have no longer the clear light of the Book of Acts to guide us; and no author of that age has filled the blank in the history. We would like to read of the later work by such helpers of St. Paul as Timothy, Apollos and Titus, but all these and St. Paul’s other friends drop out of the record at his death. For fifty years after St. Paul’s life a curtain hangs over the church, through which we strive vainly to look; and when at last it rises, about 120 CE with the writings of the earliest church fathers, we find a church in many aspects very different from that in the days of St. Peter and St. Paul” (p. 41).

Hurlbut continues, “As long as the church was mainly Jewish, the Hebrew Sabbath was kept; but as it became increasingly Gentile the first day gradually took the place of the seventh day” (p. 45). And he further explains:

“The services of worship increased in splendour, but were less spiritual and hearty than those of former times. The forms and ceremonies of paganism gradually crept into the worship. Some of the old heathen feasts became church festivals with change of name and of worship. About 405 A.D. images of saints and martyrs began to appear in the churches, at first as memorials, then in succession revered, adored, and worshiped. The adoration of the Virgin Mary was substituted for the worship of Venus and Diana; the Lord’s Supper became a sacrifice in place of a memorial; and the elder evolved from a preacher into a priest”. (p. 79).

Will Durant. American philosopher, historian and author: The Story Of Civilisation.

Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretistic result. From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity… and a personal immortality of reward and punishment; from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child, and the mystic theosophy that made Neo-Platonism and Gnosticism, and obscured the Christian creed; there, too, Christian monasticism would find its exemplars and its source. From Phrygia came the worship of the Great Mother; from Syria the resurrection drama of Adonis; from Thrace, perhaps, the cult of Dionysus, the dying and saving god…. The Mithraic ritual so closely resembled the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass that Christian fathers charged the Devil with inventing these similarities to mislead frail minds. Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world … (The Eucharist) was a conception long sanctified by time; the pagan mind needed no schooling to receive it; by embodying the ‘mystery of the Mass’, Christianity became the last and greatest of the mystery religions“. (pp. 595, 599).

What is now known to the world as Christianity is actually filled with practices, concepts and stories that originated not in Christian tradition, but in paganism.

Historian John Romer, in his 1988 book, Testament: The Bible and History, writes about the early Catholic Church:

“Subtly, so subtly that the bishops themselves had not seen them, the old gods had entered their churches like the air of the Mediterranean. And they live still in Christian ritual, in the iconography and the festivals of Christianity. When Julian arrived in Antioch in 362 … the great Christian city was in mourning, bewailing in the Levantine manner the annual death of Adonis, Venus’s beautiful lover. At Ephesus, though the sanctuary of Diana, goddess of the city, was taken down … her statues were carefully buried in dry sand. And when the Third Council of the church assembly at Ephesus solemnly voted that henceforth the virgin Mary should be honoured with the title of Theotokos, the God-bearer, Ephesus, itself for centuries the city of the virgin hunter Diana, became the city of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. In Egypt, too, the ancient sign of life, the Ankh, which the gods had carried in their sculptures for thousands of years, was easily transformed into the Christian cross; the figure of Isis nursing her child Horus, Isis Lactans, became the figure of the virgin with Jesus at her breast … .

At Rome, Romulus and Remus were swapped for the biblical saints Peter and Paul. And still in the fifth century, the Pope had to stop the early morning congregation of St Peter’s from walking up the church steps backwards so as not to offend Sol, the rising sun god. Similarly, 25 December, now Christ’s birthday, was also the day of Sol Invictus’ festival and Constantine’s birthday. This festival was celebrated by cutting green branches and hanging little lights on them, and presents were given out in the god’s name. Sol’s weekly festival Sol-day–Sunday–became the Christian Sabbath. Just as Apollo of Delphi had made a beautiful transformation to become the Roman Sol Invictus, so later he became a Christ of the sun. All three of them are sometimes pictured in their fiery chariots … with … radiant haloes”. (pp. 230-231).

Charles Guignebert Professor of History, Sorbonne: The Early History of Christianity, gave the following explanation:

“Now at the beginning of the fifth century, the ignorant and the semi-Christians thronged into the Church in numbers…. They had forgotten none of their pagan customs…. The bishops of that period had to content themselves with redressing, as best they could, and in experimental fashion, the shocking malformations of the Christian faith which they perceived around them…. (To properly teach new converts) was out of the question; they had to be content with teaching them no more than the symbol of baptism and then baptising them en masse, postponing until a later date the task of eradicating their superstitions, which they preserved intact…. This “later date” never arrived, and the Church adapted to herself, as well as she could, them and their customs and beliefs. On their side, converts were content to dress their paganism in a Christian cloak … The ancient pagan festivals are now kept as Christian holidays and celebrated in the country parts, and the Church can only neutralise their effect by turning them to account for her own profit”. [pp. 208-210, 214].

Guignebert stated earlier in the same work, “It is sometimes very difficult to tell exactly from which pagan rite a particular Christian rite is derived, but it remains certain that the spirit of pagan ritualism became by degrees impressed upon Christianity, to such an extent that at last the whole of it might be found distributed through its ceremonies”. (p. 121).

Eventually, we see the sentiment expressed by the well-known Roman Catholic Church historian Eusebius, writing in the fourth century about decisions made in 325 at the famous Council of Nicea:

Eusebius, The Life of Constantine, bk. 3, chaps. 18-19.

(Constantine): “It appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews (of keeping Passover on the 14th of Nisan), who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul…. Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way…. Beloved brethren, let us with one consent adopt this course, and withdraw ourselves from all participation in their baseness … For how should they be capable of forming a sound judgment, who, since their … guilt in slaying their Lord, have been subject to the direction, not of reason, but of … every impulse of the mad spirit that is in them?… Strive and pray continually that the purity of your soul may not seem in anything to be sullied by fellowship with the custom of these most wicked men…. All should unite in desiring that which sound reason appears to demand, avoiding all participation in the perjured conduct of the Jews”.

Joel Carmichael: The Birth Of Civilisation: Reality and Myth. (1995, p. 351)

“From the merely organisational point of view the Christian Church has the aspect of an established institution. Originally organised in private assemblies modelled on the Jewish synagogue or on pagan associations, by the beginning of the third century it has assigned both its administration and its spiritual functions… to a body of clergy in a hierarchical order…. The clerical authorities preside over rites that have been borrowed more or less directly either from Judaism or from the pagan Mysteries. These all have been integrated with Christian aims. The principal rites have been recharged with magical power familiar to adepts of the secret cults of Greece and of the Middle East. By the beginning of the third century, then, Christianity has become a full religion, plausibly presented as the most complete of all religions, since it has taken what it can regard as the best from them all … To achieve salvation an ignoramus need only believe without understanding and obey the authorities, while the philosophically minded can speculate endlessly on the dogmas”.

British historian Paul Johnson regarding Constantine and his involvement in the church: A History of Christianity, 1976, pp. 67-69:

“There is some doubt about the magnitude of Constantine’s change of ideas…. He himself appears to have been a sun-worshipper, one of a number of late-pagan cults which had observances in common with the Christians. Thus the followers of Isis adored a Madonna nursing her holy child; the cult of Attis and Cybele celebrated a day of blood and fasting, followed by the Hilaria resurrection-feast, a day of joy, on 25 March; the elitist Mithraic, many of whom were senior army officers, ate a sacred meal. Constantine was almost certainly a Mithraic, and his triumphal arch, built after his ‘conversion’ testifies to the Sun-god, or ‘unconquered sun’. Many Christians did not make a clear distinction between this sun-cult and their own. They referred to Christ ‘driving his chariot across the sky’; they held their services on Sunday, knelt towards the East and had their nativity-feast on 25 December, the birthday of the sun at the winter solstice. During the later pagan revival under the Emperor Julian many Christians found it easy to apostatise because of this confusion; the Bishop of Troy told Julian he had always prayed secretly to the sun. Constantine never abandoned sun-worship and kept the sun on his coins. He made Sunday into a day of rest … In his new city of Constantinople; he set up a statue of the sun-god, bearing his own features, in the Forum.

Constantine’s motives were probably confused. He was an exceptionally superstitious man, and he no doubt shared the view, popular among professional soldiers, that all religious cults should be respected, to appease their respective gods … Vain and superstitious, Constantine may have embraced Christianity because it suited his personal interests, and his growing megalomania … Many of his ecclesiastical arrangements indicate that he wanted a state Church, with the clergy as civil servants. His own role was not wholly removed from that of the pagan God-emperor – as witness the colossal heads and statues of himself with which he littered his empire – though he preferred the idea of a priest king … seeing himself as the chief divine instrument …

According to this analysis, Constantine, as emperor, was an important agent of the salvation process, at least as vital to it as the apostles. So, evidently, the emperor himself thought. Thus he had a tomb prepared for himself within the new Church of the Apostles he built and gloriously endowed in Constantinople, ‘anticipating’, says Eusebius, ‘that his body would share the title with the apostles themselves, and that he should after his death become the subject, with them, of the devotions performed in their honour in this church’. His coffin and tomb, in fact, were placed in the centre, with monuments to six apostles on each side, making him the thirteenth and chief…

How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac in its theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most from this unseemly marriage between Church and State? Or, to put it another way, did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire?”

Winthrop S. Hudson, Professor of History, University of Rochester: “The Story of the Christian Church”, comments:

“There were other consequences flowing from imperial patronage which suggest that the new position which Christianity had acquired was something less than a full triumph. The extraordinary change by which Christianity, instead of being the religion of a persecuted minority, became the religion of the Imperial Court” and as Edwyn Bevan says, ” …made a greater difference to the character of Christianity than it did to the character of the world … The disappointing thing is that when the change came about, the world went on very much as before – the institutions of the state were the same, the behaviour of men in business and pleasure, slavery, wars”. But the church did not go on as before. The church was not the same”. “The church”, as Kenneth E. Kirk, former bishop of Oxford, observed, was “all but completely assimilated to the model of the world”. (1958, p. 170).

Hurlbut agrees: “As a result of the church sitting in power, we do not see Christianity transforming the world to its own ideal, but the world dominating the church”.

(Op.cit. p. 79). He continues:
“If Christianity could have been allowed to develop normally without state-control, and the state could have continued free from the dictation of the church, both state and church would have been the better by dwelling apart. But the church and the state became one when Christianity was adopted as the religion of the empire, and out of the unnatural union arose two evils, one in the eastern, and the other in the western provinces. In the east the state dominated the church until it lost all energy and uplifting life. In the west, as we shall see, the church gradually usurped power over the state, and the result was not Christianity but a more or less corrupt hierarchy controlling the nations of Europe, making the church mainly a political machine”.
[p. 80].

Will Durant explains this transfer of authority:

“Christianity… grew by the absorption of pagan faith and ritual; it became a triumphant Church by inheriting the organizing patterns and genius of Rome … As Judea had given Christianity ethics, and Greece had given it theology, so now Rome gave it organization; all these, with a dozen absorbed and rival faiths, entered into the Christian synthesis. It was not merely that the Church took over some religious customs and forms common in pre-Christian Rome – the stole and other vestments of pagan priests, the use of incense and holy water in purifications, the burning of candles and an everlasting light before the altar, the worship of the saints, the architecture of the basilica, the law of Rome as a basis for canon law, the title of Pontifus Maximus for the Supreme Pontiff, and, in the fourth century, the Latin language as the noble and enduring vehicle of Catholic ritual. The Roman gift was above all a vast framework of government, which, as secular authority failed, became the structure of ecclesiastical rule. Soon the bishops, rather than the Roman prefects, would be the source of order and the seat of power in the cities; the metropolitans, or archbishops, would support, if not supplant, the provincial governors; and the synod of bishops would succeed the provincial assembly. The Roman Church followed in the footsteps of the Roman state; it conquered the provinces, beautified the capital, and established discipline and unity from frontier to frontier. Rome died in giving birth to the Church; the Church matured by inheriting and accepting the responsibilities of Rome”. (Op.cit. pp. 575, 618-619).

“Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles”.



May 29th, 2007

Paganism is a broad term used to describe any religion or belief that is not Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Paganism can be traced back to Neolithic times and survived up until the middle ages when Christianity became powerful enough to attempt to erase it from existence. Paganism is an earth bound religion, which lays emphasis on the worship of all aspects of nature. Paganism appeared very early on in the history of the world. Examples of early paganism can be seen in ancient Greek and Roman religions, as well as in ancient Goddess worship and Druid religions.

Ancient people believed everything has a spirit and were polytheistic and they placed great importance on the worship of many gods, goddesses and deities. Gods were a part of everyday life and great emphasis was placed upon placating them through worship and ritual. Pagans believed that the gods were immanent and entered every aspect of society, influencing everything from laws and customs to the general working of their community.

As pagans were polytheistic they had gods and goddesses of the forests, the sea and all aspects of nature. Pagans began to personify the energies of the land, sky and other elements by giving specific responsibilities to individual gods. As ancient civilizations began to develop and change, the gods grew and changed with the people. New gods appeared one’s which were relevant to village life, for example, gold and silver smith-craft. The old gods remained, but aspects of them changed to conform to the changing people. As an example, as war became more prominent, so to did the gods of war, such as Ares and Mars.

Pagans held no belief in heaven and hell as Christians do, rather they believed in reincarnation. They believed that a body could be reincarnated in another form. There are many varying beliefs relating to reincarnation, however the theme remains the same in most forms of Paganism.

Some of the more prominent forms of Paganism include earliest Roman and Greek religions. In recent years there has been an upsurge in the practice of paganism known as Neo-Paganism. There are several forms of neo-pagan traditions that have taken their roots from ancient pagan practices these include neo-druidism and Wicca.

Primeval Greek religion was a predominant form of early paganism and as a result their religion was a reflection of many central ideas and concepts of earlier forms of paganism, such as Druidism, and both ancient and modern forms of Witchcraft and Wicca. It was polytheistic, consisting of the worship of many gods. The Greeks believed that the gods would offer protection and guide their city-states and this belief was identical to other forms of paganism.

Divinities were the most important aspects of Greek religion and much emphasis was placed on pleasing the gods in order to live a life free of oppression and hardship. Like all pagans the Greeks believed that they had to worship and please the gods in order to have, good fortune. The Greeks participated in numerous rituals, rites, ceremonies and sacrifices in order to impress and placate the gods. They erected shrines and statues as designated places for worship and to offer sacrifices to the gods.

Religion was a very important aspect of Greek society and culture with sacrifices and regular worship of the gods serving to unify the people in a common goal to please the gods. The Greeks believed in an after-life and that this life was not the only reality in which the soul lives, but in the afterlife a whole new realm awaited them.

The origins of Greek history are lost in the mists of time but the knowledge that has remained is that the Greeks assimilated cults of pre-Greek inhabitants of the peninsular. An example of this can be seen when the Greeks encountered the Minoan civilisation whose central divinities influenced many characteristics of later Greek goddesses.

Greek religion was based upon ritual, practicing a flexible set of beliefs. It was unlike many modern religions, because it made no claim to universality, they did not proselytise, they did not have regular clerics, no hierarchical system, no sacred texts or moral code backed by religious beliefs. Renaissance scholars proposed that the Greek religion simply consisted of an abundant treasury of legendary tales told by Greek authors, but Greek religion, however, did not just consist of legendary tales and fictitious myths, it was a complex organization in which each city-state contained its own divinities which acted as a cement to bind the citizenry into a true community.

The divine played an integral part in Greek religion and society, domestic affairs, civic organisation, gender, agriculture and war. This belief is also reflected in many other forms of paganism. The Greeks attempted to please the gods, fearing that they could upset them with insolence and impiety. They placed great importance on twelve pantheon gods. They also worshipped other deities, such as oracles, lesser divinities, demi-gods and heroes.

They worshipped many gods, creating a polytheistic society and their gods were admired and also feared, being distinguished from man by their immortality. They believed the gods controlled nature and social forces and lived on Mount Olympus. The Greeks were an earth-based culture as were many forms of paganism, holding a high respect for nature and the earth. To reflect this love of nature they placed different gods in charge of different aspects of life. They had gods of the countryside; Nymphs, the goat-god Pan, Naead (spring dweller), Nereids (Sea dwellers), and Satyrs, displaying their respect nature. The twelve main gods were: Hades, god of the underworld, Aphrodite, the goddess of love, Apollo, god of light, guidance, healing and music, Zeus, king of gods, thunder, gold and kings, Athere, goddess of Athens, war, handicrafts and wisdom, Dementer, goddess of harvest, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Hephaistos, Poseidon, Artemis and Ares.

Although these twelve gods were the most important, facets of their personalities were altered by sporadically adding new gods. The Greeks believed that the gods were pre-eminently social beings, upholding an organized universe. They gods were often depicted as humans and occasionally assumed animal guise. An interesting factor was that each god assumed and presented a different aspect and function of Greek life. Sometimes gods can be worshipped under different names, as an example, Zeus can be worshipped under the name Omrios. The Greeks used the gods to explain the occurrence of things, which they could not understand through lack of scientific proof. They thought that the gods controlled the rising and setting of the sun and created great myths about such events.

Although the Greeks depended heavily on their gods to uphold their society it is evident that they relied upon other deities as well. This can be seen through the Greek faith in a deity that they referred to as an Oracle. An Oracle’s primarily function was to offer guidance and advice and from archaic times the Greeks sought out the Oracle’s advice in relation to the religious and political aspects of life as well as being used to seek out the will of the gods. Sanctuaries were dedicated to the Oracles to indicate their importance; shrines were also erected and became places of international prestige. Oracles controlled many human decisions about health, sickness, peace, war, colonization, migration, crime and punishment.

In order to show their appreciation to the gods and Oracles, the Greeks performed a series of rituals, ceremonies, sacrifices and offerings as other forms of paganism did. Small animals such as sheep, cows, goats, pigs and bulls were sacrificed as well as occasionally human sacrifice.

Chosen animals were crowned, adorned, purified with water and sprinkled with barley. Many shrines and temples were erected as a mark of respect and for a place to offer the sacrifices. It is obvious from the present day ruins that the Greeks placed a lot of pride in their temples and shrines, as they spent extensive time and money to re-build, preserve and beautify them.

The function of sacrifice, apart from pleasing the gods acted as a unifying force binding them together in a common and regular pattern so as to integrate them into the city. It is clear that many similarities can be drawn between other forms of paganism and Greek religion, through their similar worshipping techniques, their desire to please and placate the gods and their polytheistic nature.

The after-life was also an important aspect to the Greeks, as they believed that their souls were carried onto another dimension and live on after earthly death. This ideology about death was in direct contrast to other forms of paganism. Other pagan religions believed that there was no heaven or hell, rather they believed in re-incarnation. They believed that the soul was passed onto another body a t the time of death. This is one aspect of geek paganism that differed it from other forms of paganism.

The Greeks also held strong beliefs that our bodies needed to be buried with the goods and wealth that one had accumulated in this lifetime in order to carry them into the next life. Recovered gravesites have shown that people were buried with food, clothes and bejewelled ornaments. Kings were buried with bronze weapons, chariots and even their horses. In some cases the wives and slaves were killed and buried beside the dead so that the departing person could take their family with them into the next lifetime. Their bodies were preserved and embalmed so that they were not ruined for the next life.

It is obvious that the Greeks shared many common aspects with other forms of paganism. All held the gods in high esteem, attempted to placate them with rites, worship and sacrifices. All were earth-based cultures, placing high regard on nature. All were polytheistic. The worship of many gods is linked through all of the pagan religions: Wicca, Druidism, Witchcraft and Neo-paganism. The only contrast between Greek religion and other forms of paganism is seen through their differing beliefs about the after-life. While most pagan religions hold to the belief that their spirit passed on from one body to another, Greek religion centrered on the belief that the soul moved onto another life, such as Heaven or Hell.

Pagan religions believed in many gods and generally worshipped the earth, sea, sun, sky and various other aspects associated with the natural realm. The Romans worshipped many gods and much of their lives were spent in a fervent effort to appease these gods. Romans believed that their gods had an enormous influence over their daily lives and their fate. In order to placate the gods the Romans believed that certain rituals and rites were necessary to be performed to show appreciation of the god’s works.

As the religion progressed, so did the number of rituals, so it became necessary to establish a “priesthood” performing specific rituals and traditions.

In keeping with pagan tradition the Romans had a deep respect for the earth and her cycles.

Early Roman religion was based upon spirits. They did not build great mythologies like the Greeks; rather they believed everything had a spirit. These were thought to have influence for good or evil, and daily life. The Romans therefore had to keep them happy through worship and sacrifice.

Each god had a specific ‘field” of expertise. There was a god of the sun, Apollo, a god of the sea, a god of the sky and many others. As Roman life had many different aspects there were many different gods. If a Roman farmer wanted a good crop he would pray to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. The most important of all the spirits was Vesta the goddess of the hearth and home and the centre of Roman family life. Each household had a small shrine dedicated to the household spirits.

They borrowed many gods from Greece, but unlike the Greek gods theirs did not have the same conceived personality. They were more cold and formal. The Romans lived under the gods and were constantly trying to please them.

The Romans had a well-defined State pantheon of gods. These were the official gods led by Jupiter, the father of the gods. These include: Mars, the god of war: Ceres, goddess of agriculture: Diana, the moon goddess, Juno, goddess of women and childbirth and Minerva, goddess of wisdom and healing in war.

The Roman religion was based upon rituals and sacred rites. These became very complex over time and needed special people to perform them. This is where the priests came in. The chief priest was usually a distinguished statesman or general. Roman religion and politics were intertwined. Two types of priests emerged. One was established for the general supervision of religion and the other for particular deities.

As the Roman Empire expended it came into contact with new and different religious practices. They absorbed many of these into the state religion.   Religious tolerance was a policy amongst the emperors and they introduced a policy of syncretism designed to encourage the merging of pagan religions to unite people and effect a greater political stability. This cemented and united the empire.

And so it came to pass that Romans could worship whoever they liked so long as it didn’t interfere with others, until the fourth century CE, when “Christianity” was declared the state religion of the Empire, “Christianity” being the eventual result of this synchronisation.

The ancient Roman religions are one of the most well known of all the pagan religions. Worship was not only confined to the Romans but also by various communities that were absorbed into the Roman Empire. These communities added to the state religion their own specific beliefs until it was a truly diverse and all-encompassing religion. This diverse and all-encompassing religion became the foundation of the emerging Holy Apostolic Roman Catholic religion. Basically those pagan religions of Mithraism and the worship of Sol Invictus had a name change to that of Christian.

It is recognised today that the ancient Roman religion is one of the earliest and most famous of pagan religions. It is the Roman and Greek pagan concepts of old which form the basis for today’s neo-pagan beliefs.

And it is these Roman and Greek pagan concepts of old which form the basis for today’s Christian beliefs, who condemn pagans for having these same beliefs.

At least our modern day pagans know where they have come from, the Christians don’t know “from whence they come”.

“When it is present, men honour it, and they long for it when it has gone”.