When I lost my faith as a young girl, it took many years of research into the generic realm of faith and religion to find my way to Paganism. Because of this self-induced decade of study, I came to learn much about the history of different religions and the very similar, overlapping connections shared by many. I've proposed these similarities in conversations of the past and find people are typically unwilling to accept that Christianity has much in common with ancient Pagan beliefs, rituals, symbols and more.
Why the denial? Recognizing that your religion shares a past with another doesn't taint it or steal it from your heart anymore than the advances of science overshadow faith. People still believe, regardless.
Reactions by Christians upon my suggestion that our religions have a shared background have always intrigued me -- from laughter to scoffs to outright anger. Finally an article written by Ellen Lloyd, [author of Voices from Legendary Times], has shed some light on the topic.
In the article, Christianity Jesus and the Pagan Connection, Ellen explains that "a majority of us [Christians] associate Paganism with idol worship, blood sacrifices and witchcraft. We [Christians] were taught to believe that Pagans are primitive people, who in some way worship the Devil."
Makes sense then that they would find issue with having their "pure, sacred and unique" religion of Christianity based, however loosely, on ancient occult beliefs and practices. However, Ellen warns, "to write off something as 'impossible' is an easy and quick process... but before we [Christians] reject the Christian/Pagan connection, we should first ask ourselves a couple of questions."
In her article, Ellen's questions seek to answer if perhaps Christians have a wrong and very twisted image of old traditional Paganism. "Were the mystery religions maybe more spiritually developed than we realize? What was the true reason for painting followers of the mystery religions in such black colors?" she asks.
The author recognizes that the Church's past is tainted by its political and social struggle for power. Long wars were waged by the Church of Rome and the Roman Empire to eradicate Paganism and its followers. However, within their bloody intent to take over as the majority shareholder[s] of spirituality, these early enforcers for the Church brilliantly understood that by adopting portions of Pagan dates, rites & rituals, their chances of conversion increased drastically.
And by painting a dark and sinister portrait of the Old Ways, long-term success was all-but guaranteed. Because even millenia later, who would think to question the Church -- especially considering the deterring examples made of those who did [insert horrific tales from the Crusades, the Inquisition, or the Burning Times]. People accepted out of fear.
And then it was just a matter of permitting time to cover-up any true origins... what was once clear embellishment turned to possible... and what was possible, after more time, turned to probable... to likely... to absolute. Centuries after the life and death of Jesus Christ we find ourselves now struggling to convince His followers that much of what they irrefutably consider to be His tale was in-fact borrowed. The plan worked wonders.
Yet if more Christians took an eye-opening glance into historical references and symbolism of the past -- a past, mind you, that precedes the life of their savior -- they may be shocked to find handfuls of identical stories and icons. Author Ellen cites more than a few compelling examples including present-day traditions of the Christmas season, the birth story and life of Jesus and other similar saviors and the existence of the cross at least 14 centuries before Jesus Christ. [The Scandinavians, for example, considered it a representation of the four equinoxes and even celebrated a crucifixion of the sun upon its arrival at the shortest day.]
Even Bishop and self-proclaimed Christian Druid Alistair Bate, in his contribution to the book The Path of the Blue Raven [by Mark Townsend] stated "the Christian and pre-Christian myths are so intertwined, interdependent and complementary as to be inseparable".
There is far more here than can be so easily dismissed with a laugh, scoff or angry outburst. Just as much of our lands, our histories and even our genetics have intermingled since the dawn of man, so too have our religions. Instead of taking offense, take interest! There are some fascinating tales interlinking many different faiths and cultures. What once created wars and rifts now has the potential to bring us together.
Divine Unity : Many paths up the same mountain.