Religions across the globe have their own distinctive rites and rituals, idols, traditions, and values. Each have in common a desire to explain something unexplainable by common wisdom, or attributing some aspect of life to some higher power. Many religions have at their heart etiological stories, which explain some sort of natural phenomenon through the physical manifestation of their deity or deities. From high winds and thunderstorms to love, fertility, and the sun, such religions focus on the physical world in this life.
Other religions try to explain the “next” life or the afterlife. These religions usually give a moral code to live by, with stricter adherence to this code offering a better afterlife. So, aside from obvious differences in practice and ritual, not all religions even address the same issues. In the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, religion is officially defined as: 1 : the service and worship of God or the supernatural 2 : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance3 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.
Religions have in common three things, then: first, a supernatural being to worship; second, a commitment to this being; third, a set of rules to guide the follower through his or her devotion. Throughout the ancient world, there were many different peoples worshipping in many different ways, as there still is today. Many of these religions were polytheistic in nature, and were of the etiological type. Greco-Roman religion in particular was the basis for a rich culture, giving rise to an extremely artistic and creative period of time. Greece had philosophers and playwrights such as Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, and Aeschylus. These men eloquently told of their gods, and provided ideas to strengthen the moral character of their culture. You might almost say they were the real prophets of the time. The Buddha guided other nations, Jesus still others. They were pioneers in their own time, and are still revered today. These men looked deep into the heart of the human spirit, and asked what it was to be human. Their insights have given meaning to many people’s lives, and have been the basis for many beliefs held today. These men and the cultures they came from have heavily influenced the fields of philosophy, art, theater, architecture, religionwar, and every individual practitioner of each. In some ancient Asian cultures, the beauty of nature was revered over everything, and this view became the basis of the Eastern lifestyle, creating beautiful gardens around their homes to celebrate their harmony with life. They, too, had their heavens and hells, deities and demi-gods.
In short, each religion differs somewhat, but they all have similarities as well. Many stories in several classical religions share common themes or events. There are a great many similarities between stories of Babylonian, Greek, and Christian origin. An example of a shared event would be “the flood” story. Each of these religions tries to explain the reason of a severe flood, which historians have found actually occurred in their shared region. Christianity eventually replaced the “old” religions, mostly by means of the spread of the Holy Roman Empire. There were many who opposed being converted, but after the remaining members of these religions realized that failure to convert meant you were a heretic, which meant death, the job of converting was much easier. Even then, some people did not want others telling them how to worship. They had their rituals and customs-they didn’t want new ones. This sentiment was conveyed to the leaders of the Roman Churches, who “bent” their rules and procedures to fit these pagan rites and rituals. A good way to convert someone is to make him or her feel like it’s the same religion. This is how Christianity has become riddled with elements of “Paganism.”The purpose of this paper is to highlight major aspects of Christianity that have been “borrowed” from other religions in order to show that Christianity is myth just like all of the other “false” religions. Perfect examples of this are the dates of Christian holidays, most notably Christmas–December 25th. This date is widely used as the birthday of some religious figure in many different cultures for many different people. In India, people decorate their houses and give presents to their friends. Like Christ, Buddha is believed to have been born on this day. Also like Christ, a virgin mother supposedly birthed him. Mithras, god of the Persians, is also believed to have been born on the 25th of December, long before the coming of Jesus. The Egyptians celebrated this day as the birthday of Horus, their great savior. Another Egyptian god, Osiris, god of the underworld (again, the son of “the holy virgin,”) shared this birthday as well. The Chinese shut down most commercial business and had great feasts on this day. In Greece, December 25th is the birthday of Adonis*, Bacchus, and Hercules. The Scandinavians celebrated the 25th of December as the birthday of their god Freyr.
*An interesting side note I found while researching this, I found that ceremonies of Adonis’ birthday were recorded to have taken place in the same cave in Bethlehem that is claimed to have been the birthplace of Jesus.
. The Romans observed this day as the birthday of the god of the sun, “Natalis Solis Invicti” (“Birthday of Sol the invincible”). On this day, they closed all the shops and had huge parties. There were public games. Presents were exchanged. They even allowed their slaves to go and celebrate on this day (how holy of them). Many emperors were elevated to the level of a God in Rome; this was the god they were supposed to be an incarnation of. Early Celtic rituals had their sun god born on the 25th as well. The Winter Solstice was the day of the longest night. After this, there was a “rebirth” and the God is born. At the vernal equinox, days and nights are the same length. This was supposedly the standoff between this sun god and the prince of darkness. Christianity conveniently adopted this holiday as well, turning it into what is known today as Easter. The sun god wins the standoff, and the days eventually grow longer and longer.
Ultimately, scholars believe all of these rites share a common background in the Germanic observance of the winter solstice. The Christmas tree gains its origins here. It was believed by pre-Christian pagans to have special powers of protection against the forces of nature and evil spirits because it keeps its green needles throughout the winter months. The Christmas tree is “derived from the paradise tree, symbolizing Eden, of German mystery plays” (Abdullah 3). Another popular holiday is Halloween. Variously called “All Hallows Eve” or “All Saint’s Day” by Christians, Halloween has its roots deep in pagan ritual. Druids, priests of Celtic myth, believed people needed to be cleansed after they died. “”The souls of the departed were transferred by magic to the bodies of animals. During the night of October 31, the enchanted souls were freed by the Druid god, Samhain [the god of the dead], and taken together into the Druid heaven. This festival was always accompanied by animal and sometimes human sacrifices and linked with all kinds of magic” (Occult ABC, Kurt Koch, p. 87).” (Gordon 1).
The Holy Cross is considered by many to be an irrefutable sign of Christianity, particularly Catholicism. In fact, however, even this sacred icon was borrowed from pagan ritual. It served as the symbol for the Hindu god, Agni. Hindu gods such as Siva, Brahma, Vishnu, Krishna, Tvashtri, and Jama, also sometimes appear with this holy symbol in paintings, drawings, and weavings. Buddhists and religious sects in Tibet also recognize the sign of the cross as holy.
During Christ’s time, the cross was associated with being cursed by God. Crucifixions apparently didn’t endear the sign of a cross to many people. Christ’s symbol was actually that of a fish! This possibly arose due to the fact that part of the Holy Meal consisted of fish. Our modern-day cross is derived from the Egyptian “Crux Ansata,” with the original Crux-Ansata design denoting peace. Different cultures used the cross to signify different things. In Egypt, Osiris held out the cross to the newly dead signifying their end of mortality in exchange for the next life. The Persian Mithra cult was comprised of members who held their own religious crosses, each depicting a crucified hero on them.
The Holy Roman Church is known today as the Catholic Church. Catholicism is extremely widespread across the Western World. As a child, I remember my Cousins giving the sign of the “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” the Holy Trinity at meals. Again, the Holy trinity was not an original idea coming from the Christians. The Sword In Hand organization gives the historical account as follows: “AD 325 – In response to the Arian heresy, which denied the deity of Christ and claimed the Holy Spirit was begotten of Christ, the First Ecumenical Council met at Nicea and formulated the Nicean Creed.” Here then is the Nicean Creed:”Whoever will be saved shall, above all else, hold the catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone keeps whole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in three Persons and three Persons in one God, neither confusing the Persons nor dividing the Substance” (Bogusnews). This trinity in the Christian faith represents one god. There is no separation between the three. “They are considered to be co-eternal, co-substantial, and co-equal” (Abdullah p1). It is believed that the Father preceded the son and the Holy Ghost. “Only the (Father) was self-existent” (p1). Buddhism and Hinduism both have their own versions of the trinity.
Hindus have their version of the divine trinity called “Tri-murti” which means “three forms” consisting of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. This is an inseparable unity even though they are three separate gods. Just like Christianity’s trinity, Hindus are told to worship these three as one. Buddha also was an incarnation of three gods: Vajrapani, Manjusri, and Avalokitesvara. Greco-Roman religious rites involved the number three quite often. Priests would sprinkle holy water on their altars three times; they would then sprinkle their followers three times each. They took Frankincense with three fingers and sprinkled it on the altar three times. “All of this was done because the oracle had proclaimed that all sacred things ought to be in threes” (Abdullah 2).
Certain deities in pagan religion also bear resemblance to Christ himself. Bacchus in particular shares many similarities with the Christian Son of God. He was torn apart by Titans (not similar), then buried and reborn again due to the intervention of his father, Jupiter (very similar). Instead of taking the bread and the wine during their ceremonies, Ancient Greeks actually tore apart a live animal, ate its flesh and drank its blood. They believed the flesh and blood were in fact Bacchus’ (gross but similar). Krishna, the Indian god, was born in a cave. He healed a leper. People witnessed his bodily ascent into heaven. The religion prophesied a second coming. These are all precisely the accounts in the Bible to describe Jesus! Also, T. W. Doane states in his book, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, “the accounts of Krishna’s childhood agree quite closely with the apocryphal accounts of Jesus’ childhood.” Jesus’ childhood years are not included in the text of the Bible, as we know it. The Apocrypha supposedly tells of these years, but many denominations don’t accept these books as being inspired works. The Catholic Church is one of the few that does. In What Did Jesus Really Say, by Misha’al ibn Abdullah, he notes:”As far back as 1884, a German historian of religion by the name of Rudolph Seydel published a very detailed study demonstrating that all of the tales, miracles, similes, and proverbs of the Christian Bible have their counterparts in the much more ancient Buddhastic (sic) gospel” (p3).
Many different religions have had an impact in the creation, life, and culture of Christianity. Its Gods and heroes all seem to have a tie to other religions. Was it because of Rome’s relentless need to convert everyone? Perhaps some of the stories are recounted between religions because some of these people may have really existed, just embellished upon through time? Krishna wasn’t considered a god until the 4th century B.C., many years after the first epic poems mentioned him as a hero. It is important to note that almost all Christian holidays were enacted to convert the heathen masses of the old religions. McCabe’s Rationalists Encyclopaedia states:”As soon as Constantine was dead the bishops produced a decree ostensibly signed by that Emperor, imposing “condign punishment” on all who sacrifice to the gods. This is acknowledged to be a Christian forgery, but it became law and opened the era of persecution. It is enough here to state that it was renewed, sometimes with express indication of the death-sentence, in 345, 350, 381, 383, 386, and 391. The repetition during nearly half a century proves the reluctance of the pagans to enter the Church, and, although in the East the temples were in large part destroyed, and the revenues were everywhere confiscated, the old religion was still strong when Rome fell (410) and the disorganization of the Empire began. The extinction of paganism, to which the great majority of the educated Romans clung until that time, since the conduct of the new Emperors generally was as repugnant to them as that of the body of Christians, was facilitated by the paganization of Christianity.”So we see that these Christian holidays are simply a ruse designed to convert the pagans. This was justified by the Christian Church by saying that it didn’t matter which day the celebration took place. If they wanted to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, let them! As long as the converted celebrated the birth of Christ, that was fine with the Christian priesthood. Why was it so important to the Christians to convert everyone that they’d do it by force, sacrificing thousands of their own? The Christian religion gets its name from its principal figure, Christ. Christ was the holy Son of God. He was a traveling monk in a way. He traveled around healing people, and when it came time to be crucified, he just let it happen. He was a pacifist, not a fighter. Why then the bloodshed from its practitioners? The converting of the pagans up until around 410 A.D. was only the beginning. The Crusades of the Middle Ages to convert the Moors (more heathens) saw fighting for decades. Christians will tell you that their god is a jealous god. He wants no idols to rival him, and all those you know should also hear the word of the one true god. They’ll tell you that those who seek heathen ways should be put to death. These are the same people that celebrate Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July-a holiday given to a nation, not God. How can those who worship a god of forgiveness be so hypocritical and unforgiving?In one point of view, one could say that Christianity provides a doctrine of high moral integrity that isn’t followed by its practitioners because people aren’t perfect and we sin. The spirit of Christianity was meant to serve as a lifestyle of respect and harmony with the fellow man, but it is when we take it upon ourselves to interpret the word of God that it begets the evil and carnage. Look at the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not covet; Thou shalt not killthe list goes on, as you know. These are good rules to live by, even if you’re not a Christian.
I wholeheartedly disagree with the savage manner with which they shoved their religion down everyone’s throat, however. I do not believe that if God made us after his own image, that he would condone killing those of a different faith just because it’s different, and therefore “wrong.” Humans are human regardless of how they pray to God, or whether they pray at all. I don’t think I could worship such a jealous god as the Christian deity. Does that mean I’m going to Hell? Is Hell a fiery inferno? I don’t know, and I don’t trust Christianity enough to let them tell me “yes” or “no.”Paganism is a part of every aspect of the Christian faith. Based simply on the obvious similarities between all of the ancient religions, including Christianity, I’d have to say they all get their roots from one common source. Is it God, or is it just the same stories embellished differently by different peoples? Who is to say that Christianity is the one true religion? Christians? That’s a conflict of interest problem-of course they’ll tell you that. I’d have to say I doubt it. There are just too many similarities between the religions: December 25th, the Holy Trinity, the Cross, Noah and the floodit’s obvious that Christianity borrows from other religions. There was hypocrisy shown by the Christians, too: absorbing pagan rituals while killing heathens for not converting. It’s obvious that Christianity’s rise to dominance has come at a very high cost. Many human lives were lost in the struggle. To ease the transition, the Holy Church gave concessions in the form of keeping their holidays. Did this make it OK to oppress and convert these people for hundreds of years? No, probably not, but that’s what happened. That is where much of the paganism found in Christianity as it is practiced today comes from. Many people around the world practice Christianity. While I’m sure practicing religion helps some people give meaning to their lives, it is based in myth and mystery just like those religions past and present it has tried to subdue.
Works CitedAnsari, Muhammad F.R. Islam and Christianity in the Modern World. World Federation of Islamic Missions, Karachi, Pakistan. 1965 (1940).
Doane, T. W. Bible myths and their parallels in other religions. 1882 Gordon, Ruth. Halloween – Harmless Fun or Pagan Ritual?. The Watchman Expositer 1992.
Holy Trinity. “excerpt of Sermon Holy Trinity” <http://www.bogusnews.com/holytrinity/sermons/1997/97trin.html> – Hacienda Heights. 1997 Holy Trinity. “Part Six in the Christchurch Fundamentals Series” <www.swordinhand.org/outlines/030401.htm> March 4, 2001 Massey, Kundan L. Tide of the Supernatural. Here’s Life Publishers, San Bernadino, 1980McCabe, J. Rationalists Encyclopaedia. <http://www2.prestel.co.uk/littleton/jmpagani.htm>. 1998.
McDowell, Josh. Answers to tough questions skeptics ask about the Christian faith. Wheaton, Ill. Campus Crusade for Christ. 1980 <www.facethefreedom.com/apochrypha.htm>Misha’al Abdullah ibn. What Did Jesus Really Say?. <http://wings.buffalo.edu/sa/muslim/library/jesus-say/ch3.html>. 1996.
Cite this Paganism In Christianity
Paganism In Christianity. (2019, Feb 19). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/paganism-in-christianity/