Accusations of Paganism


#1

Hi everyone,
I’ve read in various Protestant books and websites, as well as been told by several Protestant friends, that the Catholic Church is largely pagan. They claim that the original church that Yeshua (Jesus) founded was corrupted over the centuries and evolved into the Catholic Church. They maintain that the real church died out to almost nothing, with only a few underground believers in hiding. Then, the Protestant Reformation allowed these underground believers to “come out”, and the real church was restored.
Also, I’ve had several Protestant (and even non-Christian) friends tell me that Christmas and Easter are actually pagan holidays. They claim that the Church adopted the pagan holiday of Yule and changed its name to Christmas, and decided to celebrate the birth of Messiah on this day. Furthermore, several people have told me that Easter is actually a celebration of the pagan goddess Ishtar (Where the name Easter supposedly comes from). They claim the Church took this holiday, changed it’s name to Easter, and started celebrating the Resurrection on this day. I’ve been told by several Protestant friends that this is further evidence of the Catholic Church’s paganism.
I also read in “Are We Living in the End Times” by Tim Lahaye that the Madonna and Child is actually the ancient Babylonian goddess Tammuz and her child, and the title “Queen of Heaven” comes from this very same Babylonian goddess.
Can someone help me understand, refute, etc. these allegations? Does anyone have any insights? Thanks.

Shalom Ha Moshiach!


#2

Everything you wanted to know:

Is Catholicism Pagan?
catholic.com/library/Is_Catholicism_Pagan.asp

The thing to keep in mind is just because something is similar to something else, doesn’t mean it has a common origin. Many cultures going back to prehistoric times have used swastikas, crosses, yin and yang, and other symbols, but their use has arisen independently. The image of mother and child is another example: isn’t it common to all cultures that women have been portrayed with their children? :hmmm: There are just so many types, symbols and images to go around that are common to all men at all times. No need to see anything sinister at work here unless one is grasping at straws in trying to discredit Catholicism. :whacky:


#3

Did they mention that books of holy writings are pagan, as well as singing praises of God (gods)? What about building holy buildings to worship in? No, they’re more selective than that.

Here’s what Newman says (he gets quoted a lot by those accusing the Church of paganism, showing that those making the accusations don’t understand what he is saying at all):

We are told in various ways by Eusebius [Note 16], that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward ornaments to which they had been accustomed in their own. It is not necessary to go into a subject which the diligence of Protestant writers has made familiar to most of us. The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.

That’s the crux of it. The Church sanctifies that which it adopts to itself, in a way similar to the way Christ sanctified all of creation by adopting it to Himself. The Church is holy, unspotted, and that which it adopts is made holy and unspotted. You might consider the authority granted to the Church to bind and loose in the context of adopting and sancitifying older (that is to say, pagan) practices.


#4

By the way, the Easter - Ishtar connection shows a typical cluelessness on the part of the accusers. Church documents are written in Latin, not English, and in Latin the word used is not Easter but Pascha.

You’ll find mountains of such accusations, for segments of the Protestant world have had 500 years to come up with (invent?) this stuff. They range from reasonable (but wrong) to outright slanderous lies. Rest assured that Catholicism has an answer to all of it. But rather than take anybody’s word, continue to investigate for yourself.


#5

There’s a great article about this very topic in the most recent edition of *This Rock * magazine. It makes the same point above - i.e. a pagan practice is not historically linked to a Catholic practice just because it appears to be similar. If that’s so, then Protestant churches are “pagan” for the same reasons… “prayers offered to god” “sacred texts” “wedding rings” “altar calls” all have pagan counterparts, but that does not make the protestant churches pagan in nature.

The conclusions of those protestant writers and “scholars” that the Catholic Church is “pagan” is just sloppy logic.


#6

[quote=Fidelis]Everything you wanted to know:

Is Catholicism Pagan?
catholic.com/library/Is_Catholicism_Pagan.asp

The thing to keep in mind is just because something is similar to something else, doesn’t mean it has a common origin. Many cultures going back to prehistoric times have used swastikas, crosses, yin and yang, and other symbols, but their use has arisen independently. The image of mother and child is another example: isn’t it common to all cultures that women have been portrayed with their children? :hmmm: There are just so many types, symbols and images to go around that are common to all men at all times. No need to see anything sinister at work here unless one is grasping at straws in trying to discredit Catholicism. :whacky:
[/quote]

Thank you for the link. I’ll check it out. I’m still learning my way around this website.


#7

[quote=VociMike]Did they mention that books of holy writings are pagan, as well as singing praises of God (gods)? What about building holy buildings to worship in? No, they’re more selective than that.

Here’s what Newman says (he gets quoted a lot by those accusing the Church of paganism, showing that those making the accusations don’t understand what he is saying at all):

We are told in various ways by Eusebius [Note 16], that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward ornaments to which they had been accustomed in their own. It is not necessary to go into a subject which the diligence of Protestant writers has made familiar to most of us. The use of temples, and these dedicated to particular saints, and ornamented on occasions with branches of trees; incense, lamps, and candles; votive offerings on recovery from illness; holy water; asylums; holydays and seasons, use of calendars, processions, blessings on the fields; sacerdotal vestments, the tonsure, the ring in marriage, turning to the East, images at a later date, perhaps the ecclesiastical chant, and the Kyrie Eleison, are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.

That’s the crux of it. The Church sanctifies that which it adopts to itself, in a way similar to the way Christ sanctified all of creation by adopting it to Himself. The Church is holy, unspotted, and that which it adopts is made holy and unspotted. You might consider the authority granted to the Church to bind and loose in the context of adopting and sancitifying older (that is to say, pagan) practices.
[/quote]

So basically, when the Church adopts a pagan practice, that practice ceases to be pagan and is then Christian and holy? Why is this done? Is it done to draw non-Christians into the Church by offering them something that’s familiar to them? (As in the case of Constantine?)


#8

[quote=Jew_Man_73]So basically, when the Church adopts a pagan practice, that practice ceases to be pagan and is then Christian and holy? Why is this done? Is it done to draw non-Christians into the Church by offering them something that’s familiar to them? (As in the case of Constantine?)
[/quote]

It’s not automatically done. Sometimes it’s too much of a reach. Practically speaking, it is far more effective to give pre-existing symbols in a culture new Christian meaning (when appropriate) than just leaving it for people to backslide into pagan habits.


#9

Grace & Peace!

Jew_Man_73, I’d also refer you to Origen’s letter to St. Gregory the Wonderworker on pagan philosophy–he uses the image of the Hebrew children coming out of bondage with the gold of Egypt that will be used to adorn the temple as an example of what should be the church’s attitude to pagan philosophy. If there is truth in it, then it is fitting for the temple. If gold can be drawn from it, so much the better.

The idea behind this is baptism–all things can be baptised, purified, and brought into the temple. For proof of this, look to the writings of St. Dionysius the Areopagite and discover there Neo-Platonic philosophy baptised. Look at Origen. Look at Clement.

Just my two.

–Mark

Deo Gratias!


#10

Hey JM,

Good to hear from you! This exact question was discussed at the last class of the course I just finished. Basically, you want to realize that all truth is God’s truth, so one needn’t worry about studying science or other cultures and being taken from God if you continue to seek the fullness of the truth.

St. Augustine stated that the seeds of the Universe were all created at the beginning by God, including you, me, all Pagans, the planets, plants and animals. Truth will never be contradicted by Truth, so a Catholic can always pursue truth with humility.

God gave bits and pieces of the truth to various cultures, while giving a much clearer picture to his chosen people, the Jews, who ultimately received the fullness of that truth in the form of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. But he did give bits of the truth even to pagan cultures. It is up to us to test everything and then hold fast to that which is Good. (St. Augustine)

This is something that the Catholic Church has been especially good at doing, finding that which is good in the truth as heard by other cultures and incorporating it into the fullness. Again, remember that we have been called to share the truth of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This has been very effectively done by recognizing how close a culture is to the truth, while in some cases being dangerously off course. A small correction, such as in Mexico, how Our Lady of Guadalupe so closely resembled a Goddess who required human sacrifice. The Queen of the Heavens is Mary, whose offspring will crush the head of the serpant under his heal, and offered himself as the only perfect sacrifice pleasing to God, the Father. So, yes, the sacrifice of a child is required, yet it is God’s Child, not ours.

Mary’s appearance in Mexico rang true to the people because her coming was foreshadowed in the Goddess they knew. The truth of Mary’s message of Love had to speak directly to their hearts.

I hope this helps,

CARose


#11

[quote=Jew_Man_73]Hi everyone,
I’ve read in various Protestant books and websites, as well as been told by several Protestant friends, that the Catholic Church is largely pagan. They claim that the original church that Yeshua (Jesus) founded was corrupted over the centuries and evolved into the Catholic Church. They maintain that the real church died out to almost nothing, with only a few underground believers in hiding. Then, the Protestant Reformation allowed these underground believers to “come out”, and the real church was restored.
Also, I’ve had several Protestant (and even non-Christian) friends tell me that Christmas and Easter are actually pagan holidays. They claim that the Church adopted the pagan holiday of Yule and changed its name to Christmas, and decided to celebrate the birth of Messiah on this day. Furthermore, several people have told me that Easter is actually a celebration of the pagan goddess Ishtar (Where the name Easter supposedly comes from).
[/quote]

Ishtar is a Semitic divine name from the Mesopotamia of (roughly) 2500 BC - how did it come to be known in Western Europe, which has different languages, different religions, and a different culture from Mesopotamia ?

Why would a feast which is supposedly in honour of Christ’s Resurrection, be named after a Babylonian goddess ? Why would the Church want to honour her ?

The idea is ingenious - but it does not make sense. People can claim anything they want - to be convincing, they have to show some evidence. ##

They claim the Church took this holiday, changed it’s name to Easter, and started celebrating the Resurrection on this day. I’ve been told by several Protestant friends that this is further evidence of the Catholic Church’s paganism.
I also read in “Are We Living in the End Times” by Tim Lahaye that the Madonna and Child is actually the ancient Babylonian goddess Tammuz and her child,

That is silly. FWIW, that idea as quoted is unusually interesting, because Tammuz is usually the name of the child. To give a name meaning “true son” to a goddess, is like calling one’s daughter Julius or Habakkuk, or one’s son, Stephanie. What are Lahaye’s words ?

There was a god named Tammuz - he was a vegetation- god, and is best known for the myths which associate him with the goddess Inana (the Sumerian equivalent of the Semitic goddess Ishtar). “Tammuz” is the Semitic form of the Sumerian name “Dumuzi” - true, or, legitimate, son.

His mother is either Duttur or Sirtur - apparently a deified ewe. She is seldom mentioned in what texts remain: Inana his wife is far more important, with his sister Geshtinana and his brother-in-law Utu the sun-god.

He is identified with the child-god Damu in some texts - but as the two gods have nothing in common, a different meaning may be intended: not “My Damu” but, “My child”. There is also a deity Dumuzi-abzu, of indeterminate sex - at one place a goddess, at another a god.

What there is no evidence for in Babylonia, is a “Babylonian Madonna” - a goddess nursing a male child- god. Apart from anything else, there were so many gods in Babylonia - about 3000 names are known - that the context for such a thing would be entirely different from the context in a strictly monotheistic religion such as Christianity is.

and the title “Queen of Heaven” comes from this very same Babylonian goddess.

No one knows for sure who the QoH is - her worship has described in Jeremiah 7 and 44 has nearly nothing in common with the honour shown to Mary (the usual reason for mentioning the QoH)

Even if Mary and Ishtar (or some other goddess) share titles, so does Christ with some gods. Does “Zeus the Saviour” make Christ any less our Saviour ? Of course not. What matters, is not the words as such, but the meaning the words are intended to express.

Besides - why should not Ishtar (or whoever is meant) be less fitly called QoH than Mary ? IOW - the genuine Saviour is not Zeus, but Christ; the genuine QoH is not a goddess, but the humble virgin who bore God. IOW - Mary is the Divinely-intended woman of whom the goddesses Ishtar, Nanaya, Isis and the rest are approximations: because Christ is the Saviour of whom other saviours were approximations. ##

Can someone help me understand, refute, etc. these allegations? Does anyone have any insights? Thanks.

Shalom Ha Moshiach!

It’s a popular thesis, which is complicated by the fact that one man’s “Babylonian abomination” is another’s “usage of non-Christian origin which is nonetheless tolerable in the Church”.

[continue…]


#12

…continued & ended]

The first thing is, not to be too impressed, & not to panic.

The problem is, that different groups have different ideas about what is pagan and about how to react.

Some groups insist that the name Jesus is pagan and intolerable - we must learn Hebrew and Aramaic instead of using a form of Greek origin.

Some regard carpets as pagan, but think we should not be too bothered about it.

Some regard instrumental music in Church as pagan: therefore, utterly intolerable

Some regard the AV (aka KJV) as pagan for allowing the word “Easter” into it - some, who regard Catholicism as warmed-over Babylonian religion (about which, their remarks show that they know absolutely nothing), regard the KJV as superior to the texts it is translated from.

Quite a lot of these groups (not all ) regard the CC as a satanic abomination spewed out from the bowels of Belial, more or less. Some would say the same of all Protestant groups. Some, belong to one or other of the Protestant groups so regarded, and still, regard the CC as the nose-bogeys of the evil one (and that is when they are being polite).

They might not be sure whether to blame Pre-Reformation Christians for inventing the Trinity - or for not worshipping the Trinity properly; for regarding Hell as a reality - or for regarding Purgatory too as a reality: but at least they have some amusement-value.

There is a lot to be said on this issue ##


#13

I also read in “Are We Living in the End Times” by Tim Lahaye that the Madonna and Child is actually the ancient Babylonian goddess Tammuz and her child, and the title “Queen of Heaven” comes from this very same Babylonian goddess.

Another thing you should always consider is the source. Not only is the pre-millennial dispensationalism (i.e., “Left Behind”) theology intrinsically anti-Catholic, LaHaye himself is a notorious anti-Catholic personally. Here’s an informative article regarding that:

No Rapture For Rome:
The Anti-Catholics Behind the Best-selling Left Behind Books

nativityukr.org/various_files/Rapture_article.html


#14

[quote=Jew_Man_73]So basically, when the Church adopts a pagan practice, that practice ceases to be pagan and is then Christian and holy? Why is this done? Is it done to draw non-Christians into the Church by offering them something that’s familiar to them? (As in the case of Constantine?)
[/quote]

I think it pays to ask what is a “pagan practice”. Human nature is the same everywhere, and we are designed to seek God and to worship Him. It’s also a fact that pagan humans came before Christian ones. Human nature detects divine symbolism in light (candles), color, smoke, fragrance (incense), adornment, holy places, holy actions, holy words and songs, marks of holy purpose, etc. Since it is in our very nature to represent divine things by earthly means, it would be impossible to have a Christian religion that did not use some of the same earthly means that pagans (our human brothers and sisters before or outside of the Judeo-Christian tradition) had not previously used. As I said, Protestants have the same problem, but in a misguided attempt to get rid of “pagan” influences they have thrown out most of the earthly symbols that give liturgy a sense of divine mystery, and have retained a very verbal, intellectual remnant, what might be called “lecture as liturgy”.

Remember that God pronounces His creation as good, and uses His creation for His purposes. Christ made mud out of dirt and His own spit to cure a blind man. For God’s creatures to use His creation to worship Him is not an affront to Him, it is what He desires.


#15

[quote=VociMike]By the way, the Easter - Ishtar connection shows a typical cluelessness on the part of the accusers. Church documents are written in Latin, not English, and in Latin the word used is not Easter but Pascha.

You’ll find mountains of such accusations, for segments of the Protestant world have had 500 years to come up with (invent?) this stuff. They range from reasonable (but wrong) to outright slanderous lies. Rest assured that Catholicism has an answer to all of it. But rather than take anybody’s word, continue to investigate for yourself.
[/quote]

Thanks for the information. I had no idea what the Latin word was. (Actually, I had no idea the original word was Latin.)


#16

[quote=Robert in SD]There’s a great article about this very topic in the most recent edition of *This Rock *magazine. It makes the same point above - i.e. a pagan practice is not historically linked to a Catholic practice just because it appears to be similar. If that’s so, then Protestant churches are “pagan” for the same reasons… “prayers offered to god” “sacred texts” “wedding rings” “altar calls” all have pagan counterparts, but that does not make the protestant churches pagan in nature.

The conclusions of those protestant writers and “scholars” that the Catholic Church is “pagan” is just sloppy logic.
[/quote]

More good information, thanks. I’ll look for the magazine.


#17

[quote=DeFide]It’s not automatically done. Sometimes it’s too much of a reach. Practically speaking, it is far more effective to give pre-existing symbols in a culture new Christian meaning (when appropriate) than just leaving it for people to backslide into pagan habits.
[/quote]

Oh, ok, thanks. So it’s not just anything that’s accepted and given a Christian connotation. I take there has been some things that have been rejected because they just couldn’t be seen as Chirstian. It is interesting to note, though, how all religions seem to have some elements in common. Otherwise, how could the Church possibly take pagan symbols and practices and accept them in a Christian context?


#18

[quote=Deo Volente]Grace & Peace!

Jew_Man_73, I’d also refer you to Origen’s letter to St. Gregory the Wonderworker on pagan philosophy–he uses the image of the Hebrew children coming out of bondage with the gold of Egypt that will be used to adorn the temple as an example of what should be the church’s attitude to pagan philosophy. If there is truth in it, then it is fitting for the temple. If gold can be drawn from it, so much the better.

The idea behind this is baptism–all things can be baptised, purified, and brought into the temple. For proof of this, look to the writings of St. Dionysius the Areopagite and discover there Neo-Platonic philosophy baptised. Look at Origen. Look at Clement.

Just my two.

–Mark

Deo Gratias!
[/quote]

Thanks. I’m not familiar with Origen, so I’ll definitely look him up.


#19

[quote=CARose]Hey JM,

Good to hear from you! This exact question was discussed at the last class of the course I just finished. Basically, you want to realize that all truth is God’s truth, so one needn’t worry about studying science or other cultures and being taken from God if you continue to seek the fullness of the truth.

St. Augustine stated that the seeds of the Universe were all created at the beginning by God, including you, me, all Pagans, the planets, plants and animals. Truth will never be contradicted by Truth, so a Catholic can always pursue truth with humility.

God gave bits and pieces of the truth to various cultures, while giving a much clearer picture to his chosen people, the Jews, who ultimately received the fullness of that truth in the form of his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. But he did give bits of the truth even to pagan cultures. It is up to us to test everything and then hold fast to that which is Good. (St. Augustine)

This is something that the Catholic Church has been especially good at doing, finding that which is good in the truth as heard by other cultures and incorporating it into the fullness. Again, remember that we have been called to share the truth of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This has been very effectively done by recognizing how close a culture is to the truth, while in some cases being dangerously off course. A small correction, such as in Mexico, how Our Lady of Guadalupe so closely resembled a Goddess who required human sacrifice. The Queen of the Heavens is Mary, whose offspring will crush the head of the serpant under his heal, and offered himself as the only perfect sacrifice pleasing to God, the Father. So, yes, the sacrifice of a child is required, yet it is God’s Child, not ours.

Mary’s appearance in Mexico rang true to the people because her coming was foreshadowed in the Goddess they knew. The truth of Mary’s message of Love had to speak directly to their hearts.

I hope this helps,

CARose
[/quote]

Good to hear from you again, CARose! Thanks, this does help. Our Lady of Guadalupe sounds intriguing. I’m going to see if I can find more information about her. Your post reminds me of somethign my RCIA instructor was saying the other day. She made a comment about all world religions containing truth, and that Catholics should study other religions to find the truth in them. Is this what she was getting at? I didn’t really understand what she was getting at. (She has a very high regard for Judaism, by the way, and has visited synagogues before. :slight_smile: )


#20

[quote=Gottle of Geer]…continued & ended]

The first thing is, not to be too impressed, & not to panic.

The problem is, that different groups have different ideas about what is pagan and about how to react.

Some groups insist that the name Jesus is pagan and intolerable - we must learn Hebrew and Aramaic instead of using a form of Greek origin.

Some regard carpets as pagan, but think we should not be too bothered about it.

Some regard instrumental music in Church as pagan: therefore, utterly intolerable

Some regard the AV (aka KJV) as pagan for allowing the word “Easter” into it - some, who regard Catholicism as warmed-over Babylonian religion (about which, their remarks show that they know absolutely nothing), regard the KJV as superior to the texts it is translated from.

Quite a lot of these groups (not all ) regard the CC as a satanic abomination spewed out from the bowels of Belial, more or less. Some would say the same of all Protestant groups. Some, belong to one or other of the Protestant groups so regarded, and still, regard the CC as the nose-bogeys of the evil one (and that is when they are being polite).

They might not be sure whether to blame Pre-Reformation Christians for inventing the Trinity - or for not worshipping the Trinity properly; for regarding Hell as a reality - or for regarding Purgatory too as a reality: but at least they have some amusement-value.

There is a lot to be said on this issue ##
[/quote]

Wow, thanks for the information. I’ve heard alot of good and bad things about Tim Lahaye. The good: He’s a renowned Bible scholar of prophecy and church history. The bad: He’s an anti-Catholic who teaches misinformation. I read the book, and some of it sounded convincing. I must admit that some of it also sounded suspect. A Southern Baptist friend of mine recommended it to me. Most of my Christian friends are Protestant, and don’t think much of me going to a Catholic church. A few of them find the doctrine of transubstantiation to be blasphemous, because they believe it advocates idolatry and cannibalism. I don’t kow how to respond to that.
By the way, I also read in this Tim LaHaye book that the Rosary is idolatrous and pagan, because it comes from ancient Babylonian prayer beads, and because the apostles never used rosaries. Can someone please tell me where I can read up on the history of the Rosary?


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