Matters of Paganism

Does anyone know of articles or books that tackle the myth that Christianity is a stealer of pagan rituals and customs. I’m just looking into it for some personal homework. I spent time looking into pagan religions and I never saw anything that would have it that Catholicism took away and stopped others besides Christians from performing those rituals. Like in the case of Easter.

The argument by atheists and pseudo archeologists that Jewish and Christian customs and rituals are derivitive from various pagan beliefs and customs, is pure horse manure.
These things usually arise with college undergraduate discussions and are fomented by self-styled intellectuals on campus.
No reputable scholar of modern times has espoused these views other than some minor State Teachers College faculty members in order to sell more textbooks each semester.
Should you want to do some realistic study on the subject, I suggest that you seek out a Dominican or Jesuit priest, make an appointment with him, and present your question to him. I am quite sure he can provide you with not only an answer, but an appropriate bibliography.
If you cannot find either type of priest, go the Newman Center at your local college or university campus and ask to speak with their Chaplain. He should be able to help you.

A discussion:

Some links to the Catholic Encyclopedia regarding pagan myths and Christianity:

May God inspire and guide you.

it is also the argument used by a number of very anti-catholic groups such as seven day adventist which do not celebrate those holidays because they claim they were borrowed from pagans.

I didn’t think that real historians ore any archeologist worth their salt would conclude ideas like that. I actually see that argument from Atheistic and Agnostic com-boxes.

I’m afraid it is not a myth. Now please let me explian, they core tennants and traditions are not pagan at all, but some traditions are pagan at least partialy.

Christmas trees come from the northern european traditional holiday of Yule, which is December 21st. infact if one reads the bible they description of shepards in the field actualy points to Jesus’s birth as being in late summer or early fall. early christians usualy didnt have a set day for Jesus’s birth or used January 6th. the western church moved this to December 25th because it is also the date of the birth of Mithras, the Iranian prophet who was called the “Son of Rightiousnes”. Esentialy this date was chosen to ease the transition of pagans to Christianity by presenting them with a similar holiday at the same time of year.

Also, Greek philosiphy played a major role in the early church.

Per Sandra Miesel and Carl Olson (The Da Vinci Hoax) the Mithra-birthday is being discounted in more cutting edge scholarship that suggests 12/25 (or 1/6) was arrived at because it was common in ancient thought to assume that a great man’s death date was the anniversery of his conception date–so 15 Nisan (Jewish calender Passover) + 9 months = 12/25 (or 1/6)

In regards to borrowings–I think we both can agree they received a “baptizing” pretty complete change of significance once adopted and adapted by the early Church–similar to a certain ancient Indo-European (and American Indian) symbol’s sudden evolution from a symbol of the turning of the seasons to the mark of hatred and genocide (yes, I am refering to the swastika)

BTW, The Da Vinci Hoax happens to be an excellent refutation of the “Christianity/Catholcism” is a white-washed pagan religion idea

Interesting, i had not herd this before.

and you are very correct on the borrowing of traditions, in fact most of them arnt borrowed by Christianity itself as by Christians. The church dosn’t say you must have a Christmas tree, it is simply a German folk tradition that spread first to America with immigrants, then worldwide after WW1. Because Christianity allows gentile conversion a person can maintain their own culture while being Christian, and as such allot of pagan stuff passed from religion into folk lore. Honestly while there are a few Pagan things associated with Christianity it is through the local peoples traditions and not the religion itself.

Yeah that is more in getting to what I was proposing in the beginning. It’s just a fact hunter that you aren’t barred or anything from practicing your own rituals because the Holy Catholic Church decided that they weren’t “yours” anymore. Your right even though the Church doesn’t say we need a Christmas tree, it’s symbolism reminds us of the important time that it is. We have the Celtic Cross because the pagans(not using this naming for offense) in Ireland worshiped the sun, and it was a way of explaining God to them.

I read that much of the “fluff” that comes with Christian holidays all originated with Paganism. Christmas trees, Easter eggs, Easter rabbits, and Halloween has Paganism written all over it. But those are all just symbols, and can very easily change meaning. Before Jesus’s sacrifice, and the rise of Christianity, a cross was nothing more than a means of torture/execution. And these days, the holidays have been essentially secularized to the point where all is left but the fluff.

The true meaning of the holiday is still very Christian.

There isn’t much doubt that the early Church in the West attempted to incorporate events on the Pagan calendar and other such things into the Christian calendar. Fertility feasts were replaced with the feast days of saints, and so on. It was standard practice for Catholic missionaries to attempt to explain Christianity in terms of what the Pagans already knew for centuries… one wonders if the widespread slaughter of the native Americans in the 16th century could have been averted if this attitude and respect for native practices was observed there as well.

Note that this does not represent a warping of Christian truths to accomodate Pagan beliefs, it was simply a way of making the faith more understandable by explaining it in terms of their existing culture. Many people would have utterly rejected it otherwise. So the best way to “answer” these accusations is that Christian truths were in no way rejected or modified. Certain aesthetics of newly converted peoples were incorporated into the Church, but this is no more problematic than the fact that Our Lady of Guadalupe appears aesthetically different from Our Lady of Lourdes.

Here’s the guidance Pope (and Saint) Gregory the Great gave to his missionaries to Anglo-Saxon England:

When Almighty God shall bring you to the most reverend Bishop Augustine, our brother, tell him what I have, after mature deliberation on the affairs of the English, determined upon, namely, that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed, but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let holy water be made and sprinkled in thesaid temples - let altars be erected, and relics placed. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that the be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts and, knowing and adoring the true God, may the more familiarly resort tothe places to which they have been accustomed.

And because they have been used to slaughter many oxen in the sacrifices to devils, some solemnity must be substituted for them on this account, as, for instance, that on the day of the dedication, or of the nativities of the holy martyrs whose relics are there deposited, they may build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, no more offering beasts to the devil, but killing cattle to the praise of God in their eating, and returning thanks to the Giver of all things for their sustenance; to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are permitted them, they may the more easily consent to thee inward consolations of the grace of God.

For there is no doubt that it is impossible to efface every thing at once from their obdurate minds., because he who endeavors to ascend to the highest place rises by degrees or steps and not by leaps. This the Lord made himself known to the people of Israel in Egypt: and yet he allowed them to use the sacrifices which they were wont to offer to the devil in his own worship, commanding them in his sacrifice to kill beasts to the end that, changing their hearts they mad lay aside one part of the sacrifice whilst retained another: that whilest they offered the same beasts which they were wont to offer, they should offer them to God, and not to idols, and thus they would no longer be the same sacrifices.


I still think there would have been killings of native Americans. I know the Jesuits were made real progress in converting the Indians of the Dakotas. I think that there were still soldiers and other people who in the end chose ceaser over God. There are stories of Black Robes or Priest in like South Dakota who were really like by the Indians.

In my view the Christian Faith, in its early years, did appropriate some of the aspects of the pagan religions and philosophies of the time. A knowledge of the pagan myths and especially of the pagan philosophies (Platonism, Stoicism, and so on) was seen as a good thing by the Church Fathers, provided that pagan knowledge was correctly understood as being in need of the Christian Faith to be understood. Consider how many of the Church Fathers (Justin, Augustine, and so on) had a pagan education; also consider Paul, who had an education in Judaism and paganism. Paul’s home city of Tarsus was a home of Stoicism and the cult of Mithras. To assume that paganism wasn’t appropriated to some extent, in a positive context, is a bit naive imo. The Christian Faith took the higher aspects of paganism and Christianized them, that is all. :slight_smile:

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