Did The Church Evolve From Pagan Religions?

In terms of the core of its teachings, the orthodox Church evolved principally from the teachings of Jesus Christ… but the dogma in which it has entrenched itself has strayed far from what Jesus intended in terms of his mission. And there is no doubt that much of this dogma was rooted in earlier pagan myths and rituals.

Political manipulations, sectional disagreements within the Church itself, and the interpretations and misinterpretations of scribes through the centuries have further widened the rift between the teachings of Christ and the Church’s expressed views.

For any institution to survive through the centuries, it needs to keep up with changes in society and take account of new information that throws light on the accuracy and relevance of its beliefs. The Church has been slow to do this. There is concern among many Catholics that even today the Church refuses to reconsider its position on crucial issues like contraception, celibacy and women priests.

At the same time, however, the influence of the pagan past is clearly to be seen in many aspects of Christianity, not only because the past cannot simply be thrown off entirely when new ideas begin to prevail, but because the Church deliberately imposed some of its rituals and days of celebration over major pagan ceremonies in order to obliterate earlier religious practices and beliefs that were unacceptable to it.

By the middle of the second century, the ‘Nazarenes’ – those who followed the teachings of Jesus and later of his brother James – were being persecuted by Pauline Christians who were well into the developing orthodoxy that was to be cemented by the Council at Nicaea in 325 AD. Christianity had become much more the religion of Paul’s view of Jesus than the religion of Jesus himself.

The Council of Nicaea is largely seen now as a calling together by Constantine of Christian representatives – both orthodox and sectarian – in order to create a unified Christianity to stabilise the weakening Empire. It was, in fact, attended also by leading figures from all the pagan religions in the Roman Empire because it was Constantine’s intention to create a universal (“catholic”) religion for the Empire, and he was not inclined to be too tolerant of any group who opposed this.

In order for pagan cults to be willing to be drawn into the ‘universal’ religion planned by Constantine, they had to feel assured that certain of their rituals would persist and some of their major feast days continue to be observed, even if under different names.

Pagan fertility ceremonies became blessings of the fields under the spiritual guidance of priests. The Eastern Orthodox Church had a tradition of sharing dyed and painted eggs as symbols of life renewed when Christ rose from the tomb, but the Easter tradition of eggs and rabbits had actually been taken over from fertility rites celebrated by pagan religions. ‘Virgin’ births were celebrated in pagan religions long before the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, and resurrections of fertility gods in nature religions were ritually observed long before the resurrection of Christ. There is nothing sacrilegious in saying that many Christian beliefs were in the long line of old and honoured religious tradition. 

Imposing new Christian traditions over older pagan ones was favoured as a way of drawing formerly pagan believers into the Church. Many of our rituals stem from pagan rites; for instance, confetti thrown during celebrations and rice thrown at bride and groom arose from the practice of throwing grains of wheat and barley during pagan processions.

The months of our Christian calendar are named after Roman gods and Roman Caesars. With the exception of the Roman origin of Saturday (Saturn’s Day), the days of the week are named after Germanic gods.

The Church realised that the most effective way of eventually eliminating pagan beliefs – or at least rendering them ineffective as threats – was to superimpose Christian celebrations over them. The assumption of many of the pagan rituals gradually became so embedded in the dogma and traditions of Christianity that their pagan origin was either unknown to later Christians or no longer mattered.

The Christian Church in the years following on Nicaea was therefore a mix of several shades of belief and by no means orthodox. Orthodoxy had been imposed by Constantine, but belief came about more slowly. The sign of the fish had been ousted in favour of the Cross, and the new focus was on the suffering of Christ for the sins of mankind. 

The Church of Antioch had been founded in Asia Minor about 36AD by James, Peter and Thomas. Church leaders were outraged by the goings-on at Nicaea and withdrew from the Council.

Even the earlier religion of the Israelites from which Christianity borrowed much had in turn borrowed many beliefs from contemporary and earlier pagan religions, including the story of Noah and the Flood. Orthodox Christianity’s way of presenting Mother and Child echoes the Egyptian goddess Isis and the child Horus from the powerful cult of Isis which also celebrated the resurrection of her husband, the god Osiris. The use of holy water is not confined to Christian blessings. In ancient Egypt, jars of water from the holy river, the Nile, were kept in jars in homes and public buildings to protect against evil influences.

Worship of the Madonna echoes the veneration given the goddess Diana by members of pre-Christian Roman cults.

There are echoes of paganism in countless Christian ceremonies and traditions, including in the exotic garments of the highest priestly class. The ringing of the church bells is found in earlier Buddhist Tibetan and Chinese monasteries, as were beads and rosaries, and the halo of Renaissance paintings was Babylonian in origin, used to depict not only holy figures but also to indicate great virtue in ordinary human beings. The practice of celibacy was common in pagan religions, particularly in Rome. Many pagan religions valued celibacy as an extreme of virtue, but it was not a practice followed by the Christian Church until some centuries after its founding, and then it seems to have been the result of practical considerations; that is, that the Church was losing land to the heirs of married priests and, secondly, that married men with families could not give undivided attention to the Church. 

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5 comments on “Did The Church Evolve From Pagan Religions?

  1. Marcus Laruius says:

    In any discussion of the pagan origins of Christianity, it ought to be pointed out that the very idea of a God with a son that rises and saves the people is derived from very old pagan ideas involving Sun worship and Sun Gods such as Sol Invictus and Mithraism, which were the two reigning Roman religions at the time of Christianity’s birth. In fact, Mithra, the Persian sun god’s birthday was December 25th, a date not unfamiliar to Western Christians.

    Ancient people saw their fates as in the hands of gods and goddesses who ruled the seasons and the elements. At least they did not have a God that was so contrary and moody as the Christian and Jewish God! In any case, death and rebirth in nature as well as natural sexuality was well understood and the gods and goddesses they worshipped provided a SUN that seemed to die at the winter solstice and leave them cold, hungry and fearful. But even they knew that something was still alive and if they paid enough attention to it – begged their deities for their blessing, the warmth and growing would come again. Festivals and sacrifice hoped to guarantee that the SUN would return. And the promise of this was the evergreen tree and the hint was in the sacred mistletoe that symbolized the semen and the berry that symbolized the blood. The return of the SUN in spring was a joyous, but reverent time because by then the old and young had been purged through the cold, sickness, and hunger of winter. This also held true for the animals they depended upon.

    Christianity had to appropriate the symbols and also the traditions that had been regulating people’s lives for hundreds, if not thousands of years. All the various gods and godesses went on as saints. There are local saints all over Europe. This is especially evident in more rural areas, reflecting that pre-Christian tendancy as well.

    So Christianity does a real trick by making polytheism seem like monotheism. But there is no basis for a claim of originality here.

    • Rick says:

      well, your words are a bit strong on the Christian and Jewish God! Maybe you need to get God and repent! The reason them Pagan gods and goddess are so relaxed, is because they don’t have no concern and are demons waiting to destroy you! It’s all a illusion of Satan’s! Do you really think the avg Ancient Egyptian for example, had it all that easy among them Ancient gods and goddess! Now I ant saying the Royals didn’t have it easy in Egypt then! They made the rules and who knows, they could have been hypocrites to there own faith! And told forced the people to worship for example Moloch or Isis!! But they didn’t have too!

    • Mordecai says:

      Yeah you sit there and complain and say my God, the Jewish and Christian God is moody and contrary? How dare you!!! For example Ancient Egypt and most Ancient Mythological Kingdoms! And you don’t think the Pharaoh wasn’t! he claimed he was god! And you don’t think he wasn’t moody and contrary?lol. I know form researching the Pharaoh was very hard, contrary and moody! especially when he didn’t get his way! Kings like this and in Ancient Persia under Kings like King Xerxes, if you entered there courtyard and there thrown room, no matter the reason, even if it was a reason of life and death. They would instantly put you to death!!! Now if that’s not moody and unmerciful! I don’t know what is! The Jewish/Christian God gives us our freewill! He don’t control us like robots! Like some false god like Pharaoh did his people! And all them gods and goddess of Egyptian, Persia and all Pagan Mythologies, were not real gods! They were demons, portraying as gods and goddess, do you think the powers of darkness cares about us!!! Not!!

  2. Master Utak says:

    I think that the Catholic church indeed evolved from the fusion of the doctrines of Christ with paganism. It is very evident in the way the priests dress, in the symbolic structures found in every Catholic church, and of course the most obvious – image worship and god-eating rituals. Imagine, what do a halo and an obelisk doing in a Christian church? Aren’t those originated from the early Egyptians whom many of the prophets deemed as idol worshipers. I think that the Catholic Church has bended the real doctrines of Christ to cope up with different circumstances and pressures coming from the people. Of course, the reason would be to please the people more than the Lord. Then, it is easy to conclude that it is not the real church founded by God. But I do believe that God has built a “real church” for the His “real worshipers.”

  3. Paul says:

    If you search youtube for the movie “Zeitgeist” And watch the section on religion you will see where all religion starts from…Its all astrological from pagan rituals worshiping the sun moon and stars! dont take my word for it watch it, will be the best thing you do today

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