What is the difference between Christianity and Paganism?

by CruithneLaLuna 16 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • CruithneLaLuna

    Recently I had the opportunity to read the first three or four chapters of a very interesting book: The Jesus Mysteries : Was the "Original Jesus" a Pagan God? I regret that circumstances prevented me from completing my reading. I may choose to purchase a copy of this book for my personal library, and so that I can finish reading it.


    If anyone doesn't know it already, amazon.com quotes media reviews of books, and indivuduals may add their own evaluations. (I've reviewed a few books at amazon.com, and one of my acquaintances has reviewed more than 200 books for them....)

    From the back of the book jacket, here are some of the controversial ideas this book advances, stated in question form:

    What if . . .
    * there were absolutely no evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus?
    * for thousands of years Pagans had also followed a Son of God?
    * this Pagan savior was also born of a virgin on the twenty-fifth of December before three shepherds, turned water into wine at a wedding, died and was resurrected, and offered his body and blood as a Holy Communion?
    * these Pagan myths had been rewritten as the gospel of Jesus Christ?
    * the earliest Gnostic Christians knew that the Jesus story was a myth?
    * Christianity turned out to be a continuation of Paganism by another name?

    The review by Publisher's Weekly states:

    " This is at once a wonderful and a terribly flawed book; at times it is absolutely on target, and yet it yields to such vitriol and inflated language that it will be easily dismissed. The authors postulate that Christianity as we know it, regardless of the teachings of its founder, ultimately distilled and usurped the greatest wisdom inherent in pagan traditions. Specifically, they charge that Christianity looted the traditions of the Osiris/Dionysus cults - borrowing, synthesizing and domesticating what was most sacred to Greco-Roman civilization. Freke and Gandy assert that Christian history is "nothing less than the greatest cover-up of all time. Christianity's original Gnostic doctrines and its true origins in the Pagan Mysteries had been ruthlessly suppressed by the mass destruction of the evidence and the creation of a false history to suit the political purposes of the Roman Church." The authors compare the revolution of the imperial Christian church (which finally suppressed pagan worship) to the Communist revolution in Russia, arguing that both saw enormous bloodshed and suppression of all dissent. This kind of polemic detracts from the usefulness of this study. The book's great tragedy is that many of its most scholarly kernels of insight, such as the authors' discussion of Secret Mark or their tantalizing analysis of the Lazarus material, will be lost to responsible discussion. In sum, this is a disappointing, sensationalist polemic ."

    I often (usually!) find myself disagreeing with Publisher's Weekly's reviews, and this one is no exception. It appears likely to me that this review was written by someone whose religious toes got stepped on by the facts as brought out in the book, and their too-obvious implications - or someone who is trying to anticipate the reactions of such people, and to "speak for them," in effect. Again, I've only read a portion of the book, but I thought the authors showed admirable objectivity abnd restraint. They assert that they both came from Christian backgrounds, and began their research with pro-Christian biases. Their conclusions, they say, are those that are simply most reasonable in the light of the evidence they present, and I found no exceptions to that rule in the chapters that I read.

    Literalist Christianity, a.k.a. (self-described) "orthodox" Christianity, will find itself under attack by the authors' thesis and research, and it is to be expected that resistance, in the form of negative reviews and otherwise, will flow from that camp.

    For me, The Jesus Mysteries presents a new, alternative, rational explanation of origins of Christianity, that appears to be very soundly and firmly based in a balanced consideration of historical fact - "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," rather than merely the half-truths, lies, and distortions that have been passed down as "history" to serve the purposes of the worldly and religious powers of Christendom.

    To me, considering the work of these authors, and accepting the bulk of their conclusions as valid, does not invalidate or demean Christian tradition, although it certainly requires a reinterpretation that abandons an entrenched insistence on taking literally anything in the New Testament or in orthodox Christian theology.

    As a person who has spent some time struggling internally with the supposed sharp distinction (underlined and emphasized by orthodox Christianity, and particularly sects like the JWs) between monotheism and polytheism, I particularly appreciate the authors' analysis of this issue, wherein they view Paganism through a monotheistic lens (using the words of classical philosophers and historians) and Christianity through a polytheistic one (quoting the Bible itself, as well as expressions of mainstream Christian theology), ultimately showing that the apparent dualistic division between the two approaches to Divinity is largely artificial, and much blurrier than is commonly supposed.

    As I understand it, the authors conclude that the only essential differences between Christianity and the Mysteries of classical Paganism are 1. unreasonable, superstitious insistence on a literalist interpretation of the basic teachings (NONE of which are unique to Christianity); and 2. The insistence that we humans have exactly one chance for salvation by choosing the one and only right way in this life, with eternal blessings or cursings to follow as a result of that choice.

    The removal of these peculiar features would leave the world with essentially a Gnostic form of Christianity - a religion that would be a tool for spiritual growth, and a source of motivation to moral and ethical excellence, but that would not be dogmatic and exclusionary in nature, and that would not be a suitable tool for the control of the many by the few.

    I fully realize how difficult it will be for someone who is still in the JW religion but having a few (though possibly serious) doubts, or someone who has recently left the faith after being sincerely convinced that it was "the Truth," or even someone who has left the JWs and turned (or returned) to orthodox Christianity, to approach material like this open-mindedly. I myself would not have been comfortable reading this book until fairly recently (having left the WItnesses in early 2000).

    Love and regards,


  • stillajwexelder

    Yes I also have slowly come to the realization that there is little difference between Christainity and Paganism -- in Egypt for example --Horus was worshipped as the son of God (Osiris) and there are many more examples.

  • Silverleaf

    I recently read "The Jesus Mysteries" and was amazed by it. It answered a lot of questions and raised a few more. What fascinated me was the apparent fierceness with which the early Literalist Christians tried to stamp out any opposing beliefs. It showed me, at least, that literalist Christianity is more of a weapon by which to subjugate people and control the masses than a religion. It surprised me that such dangerous thinking took hold so completely and spread all over the world and that this ignorance still exists today. It was refreshing to find authors who were not afraid to tell the truth as they found it. Of course they will be labeled as demonized heretics by the faithful, but the mindset of fear and repression that led to the literalist movement will probably never be completely erased.

    It was a great read.


  • Sirona

    I enjoyed that book. However, I could see some flaws in reasoning in various places. Overall I think the book gave some good evidence to backup it's claims, but it is far from perfect and some arguments seemed to be a bit far fetched for my liking. Those ideas I have just put down to a "maybe".

    Bear in mind, I'm pagan so I'm not saying that to defend Christianity.


  • hooberus
    What if . . .
    * there were absolutely no evidence for the existence of a historical Jesus?

    This claim is false, not only is there evidence for the existence of Jesus but also ancient evidence for his crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. See my thread "The Crucifixion in History" under Bible research

    As for "pagan similarities" much of the evidences for these comes from items which are 1. not parallel, or 2. from post-christian primary source material.

    The following link discusses some of the evidences used in the Jesus Mysteries Book.


  • Leolaia

    This book sounds a lot like Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle. I don't think many scholars doubt that "pagan" mystery religions played a significant role in the development of the mystical Jesus of Gentile Christianity, such as what we find in Paul, John, and later Christian writers. Few scholars tho accept the additional stipulation that no historical Jesus lay at the core of Christianity. I personally find this argument very unconvincing. It pretty much assumes that Jesus was an invention of Gentile Christianity but this fails to account for the very existence of normative Jewish Christianity which had no conception of this "mystical Jesus" and which followed and prized the words of Jesus which the Pauline church paid very little attention to. James the Just's claim to authority as the leader of the Jerusalem Church as the blood brother of Jesus makes no sense at all if no historical Jesus existed -- and his conception of Jesus drew on none of the mysticism of Paul (in fact, the evidence suggests that James viewed Paul as a heretic). The Nazoreans and Ebionites, the descendants of the original Jewish followers of Jesus, were in fact condemned as heretics by the catholic Gentile church because they dared to hold onto their traditional teachings and failed to accept the Pauline and Johannine theories on the redemption and the divinity of Christ. The Islamic view of Jesus as a great prophet, but not God, in fact derives from the traditional Jewish Christianity of Judea and knows nothing of the developments of the Gentile Church. The claims of Doherty and Freke & Gandy, if I understand them correctly, would seem to be biased against the Jewish Christians who had little connection with the mysteries of Gentile Christianity and who viewed Jesus as a very human prophet whose words were passed through oral tradition and written gospels, and who were very unlikely to draw their traditions from Gentile Christians whom they viewed as the real heretics. All the evidence I've seen suggests that the direction of influence originally was from Jewish Christianity to the Gentiles, and not the other way around.


  • Frannie Banannie
    Frannie Banannie

    I believe the differences between all religions boil down to how their members relate to Hank and Karl, and of course, Hank'sass.

    Atheism - Hank doesn't have an ass to kiss.

    Weak Atheism - Who is this Hank person, anyhow? I've never seen him. I think
    you guys are just making him up!

    Strong Atheism - There is no such person as Hank, and there is nothing
    outside of town. Take me off this list.

    Christianity - Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you
    leave town. If you don't, He might kick the s*** out of you.

    Christian Fundamentalism - Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million
    dollars when you leave town. If you don't, He's going to kick the s*** out of
    you. Read Karl's list, it's important. Only eat wieners on buns, without

    Catholicism - Hank will give you a million dollars when you leave town, if He
    feels like it. We think that if you kiss His ass you're more likely to get
    the million, but it's completely up to Him. Oh, and He might kick the s***
    out of you before He gives you the million dollars. If you want to help other
    people kiss Hank's ass, you are not allowed to eat wieners, not even in a
    bun. Karl has Hank's phone number, so nobody is allowed to question Karl's
    decisions, no matter how strange they may seem. By the way, we have old,
    elaborate buildings that you can use to kiss Hank's ass.

    Protestantism - It's OK, you don't have to kiss Hank's ass -- but you'll want
    to, if you trust Him. If you don't trust Him, He's going to kick the s*** out
    of you when you leave town. If you do trust Him, He'll give you a million
    dollars when you leave town.

    Mormonism - If you kiss Hank's ass, after you leave town He'll give you a
    million dollars. Plus, if any of your relatives have already left town, He'll
    give them a million dollars, too! By the way, we have new, elaborate
    buildings that you can use to kiss Hank's ass, if you give us money.

    Christian Science - Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when
    you leave town plus free health insurance right now! If you don't kiss His
    ass, you'll have to pay all the doctor bills.

    Quaker - Hey, there's no need to pay any attention to Karl or his list. If
    you wait for it long enough, you'll eventually get a phone call from Hank.
    He'll let you know how to get a million dollars, what the moon is really made
    of, etc. You can kiss his ass over the phone, if you like.

    New Age Christian - You are Hank. You have a million dollars, but You've
    forgotten it because of the trauma of Your Catholic upbringing. My new
    workshop series will help You remember where You hid it.

    Jehovah's Witnesses - Everybody in town should kiss Hank's ass, but only 144
    are going to get a million dollars after Hank burns the town down, which we
    think will be Real Soon Now. Then he'll kick the s*** out of anyone who
    didn't kiss his ass, and send the rest to a nicer, newer town. Here, have a
    pamphlet; it describes what we think we mean. We'll be back tomorrow to tell
    you why everyone else is kissing Hank's ass wrong.

    Exodus Ministries - We love you, and we want to help you heal yourself of
    this terrible sickness of eating wieners The Wrong Way. Let us teach you to
    enjoy wieners only in buns, without condiments. Then, and only then, will you
    be allowed to kiss Hank's ass and collect your million dollars when you leave

    Pentecostals - Kiss Hank's ass as often as you possibly can. He'll give you a
    million dollars when you leave town, and might even teach you a new language
    or two before you leave town, as long as you don't mind garggle frunning
    doowaddeck beeble.

    Presbyterians - You only have to kiss Hank's ass every now and then and it's
    OK to forget all about Hank when you're home. You may have bun-less wieners,
    or wieners with condiments, but please - don't over do it.

    Episcopal - Hank gives everyone money when they leave town. How much money
    you get depends on how often you visit our big, elaborate buildings and sit,
    stand, or kneel while kissing his ass.

    Anglicanism - A while back, our mayor wanted to throw away his half-eaten
    wiener and eat a different wiener, but still on a plain bun, no condiments.
    Karl said no, so the mayor recruited his own helpers and set up his own
    elaborate buildings in which one may kiss Hank's ass, and allowed himself and
    others to eat other wieners (but still only one at a time.) We know, this
    doesn't have much to do with Hank, but hey, if it's good enough for the
    mayor, it's good enough for us.

    Confucianism - Kiss the asses of your relatives who have left town, and
    someday your progeny will kiss yours.

    Taoism - All asses and all dollars are all part of something important. We'd
    tell you more but you should figure it out yourself.

    Hinduism - You can Kiss Hank's ass, Sue's ass, and/or Bob's nose. If you
    leave town and nobody gives you a million dollars, you will probably end up
    coming back to town to kiss someone else's ass.

    Buddhism - Hank left a million dollars in your house. You can find the
    million dollars, but only if you forget that it is in your house.

    I Ching - Persevere to kiss ass -- riches will follow. No blame.

    Shinto - Hank is in the woods by the park. You should take a hike and kiss
    his ass. If you become famous you might want to change your name to "Hank"
    after you leave town, and then you can come back to the woods and the townies
    will kiss your ass.

    Zen Buddhism - What is the sound of one lip kissing ass? If you answer this
    question correctly, you can win a million dollars, but even before you get it
    you won't want it. Would you like some tea?

    Islam - Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave
    town. If you don't, He's going to kick the s*** out of you.

    Islamic Fundamentalism - Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars
    when you leave town. If you don't, we're going to kick the s*** out of you,
    and we might even make you leave town early.

    Nation of Islam - We have stars on ours, so we can kiss Hank's ass properly.
    Those without stars on thars are bad people; they will never get a million

    Shi'A Islam - A long time ago, Karl died. Then his father-in-law tried to
    make his own list, but we know Karl's wife hid the real list and gave it to
    her son. Listen to Karl's wife's son, or we'll kick the s*** out of you.

    Sunni Islam - Baloney. You know Karl's father-in-law's list is the real one,
    and if you don't admit that, we'll kick the s*** out of you.

    Neo Pagan - Get Hank to kiss your ass.

    Scientology - You will be just like Hank once you learn how to kiss your own
    ass (for a small fee, we can show you how to do this), and then you can give
    yourself a million dollars. If you make fun of us while we're kissing our
    asses, we might kick the s*** out of you or sue you for having fun at our

    Wicca - Many years ago some people were forced to leave town early, and took
    all their teachings with them -- secrets about Hank, His Girlfriend Barbara,
    methods to kiss their asses and vice versa. Since then, those of us who kiss
    ass the old fashioned way have had to make some stuff up, but we think weâ??re
    on the right track. You can join our various ass-kissing groups, some quite
    different from others. Weâ??re pretty lenient on the wieners, buns, and
    condiments issue. We mostly disagree about what the Moon is made of, or
    whether thereâ??s a million dollars outside of town.

    Satanism - What the heck, kiss knaH's ass.

    Heaven's Gate - Kiss Karl's ass, and -- oh, wait, Karl just saw Hank's limo
    drive by. We're leaving town NOW to catch it.

    Amway - Do whatever you like with or without Hank, the important thing to
    remember is to kiss lots of ass. You kiss my ass and recruit people to kiss
    your ass in return, and so on. When you have enough people kissing your ass
    you'll get lots of money, and before you leave town even! Honest. Remember,
    you must teach your ass kissers not only to kiss your ass, but mine, my
    up-line, his-up-line all the way to Rich and Jay! Any condiments you use must
    be purchased from me.

    Other - Explore Hank's ass in other ways. You'll be glad you did.

    Judaism - OK, so don't kiss Hank's ass, see if I care. He wouldn't give you a
    million dollars even if you did. And if He's going to kick the s*** out of
    anyone, it'll be here, in town.

    Unitarianism - Hank 101: We help you explore all of the different people
    named Hank that may or may not be out there, and how to maybe get your
    million dollars, if it exists. Various methods of kissing Hank's ass are
    discussed, with extra credit for completed experiments.

    Rastafarianism - Hank was just here last week and I was kissing His ass, but
    for some reason He left town without giving me a million dollars. Oh well --
    guess I'll smoke some weed.

    Gnosticism - Hank was a powerful con man who made a lot of trouble while he
    was here, left town a while back and doesn't have a cent to his name. There's
    a rumor of Somebody Else with loads of money Somewhere, whose ass is
    certainly worth kissing, but you can only kiss it after you leave town.

    Baha'i - It's true! When you leave town Hank will give you a million dollars.
    Everything that you hear about Hank has some truth to it; eventually we'll
    all come to some agreement and everybody in town will be much happier. Oh,
    one more little thing: Hank definitely doesn't want you to eat wieners unless
    they're on buns, without condiments.

    Zoroastrianism - Don't bother kissing Hank's ass. Since our parents met Hank
    before anybody else he's not interested in people (other than us) kissing his
    ass. He's planning on coming back and cleaning up the town someday, after he
    gives away money and kicks some s*** out of people who leave town.

    Unificationism - Hank went a little crazy after a gardening experiment went
    bad, so one of his split personalities started the whole Kiss Hank's Ass
    thing. Then a couple years later, another personality manifested Itself,
    claiming He was Hank's son Chris. He got the s*** kicked out of Him and was
    thrown out of town and said because He got thrown out you should kiss His ass
    now. Then he gave Karl a phone call and told him that as long as we start to
    treat each other real nice, He'll come back really soon and give everyone in
    town a million dollars. You should give Karl a lot of cash in the meantime
    because since we aren't ready for Hank to come back to town right now he
    needs help in getting the message out and stamps aren't free.

    Deism - Hank helped build this town, but the list was entirely Karl's
    creation. Hank may have left clues around town about what he wants; Karl's
    list is most likely bogus. Don't take anybody's word for what Hank wants
    unless Hank tells it to you personally. Oh, and don't worry about the million
    bucks until after you've left town.

  • Sirona
    Neo Pagan - Get Hank to kiss your ass.

    LOL! V funny frannie,


  • Panda

    Religion is religion no matter what label you put on it. The differences in religions is generally of cultural /historical traditions of the adherents. That's why the Catholicism of Rome, Spain , Egypt or Mexico are all slightly different, absorbing the cultural differences are a very sane way to get proselytes. In fact the Jews had originally done this but then outlawed "mixing" culture ie., religion.

    Jesus' history is far removed from us in time. As we get the chance to study the 1st century history of Israel we also need to go further back into Hebrew history. The idea of One God was well suited to the nomadic life of the Hebrews. The dietary laws are an excellent clue to the lifestyle of the Israelite ancestors ie., nomadic. For example, pigs are not a good choice for nomads. It had nothing to do w/ disease, and everything to do w/ keeping the folks on the move. Also, women are not going to do well healthwise on the move, so lets make women dirty! The Israelites took the ideas of moving with their herds (Canaanites) to sacking cities and establishing nomadic trade roots.

  • gaiagirl

    It is absolutely true that Christianity has stolen many beliefs and practices from the older religions. There does however, seem to be a basic difference in the overall worldview of Pagans and Chrisitians. There are probably exceptions to this general observation but: Christians see themselves as separate from the natural world, not part of it. The Christian view of the natural world is a very complex machine, set in motion long ago, and slowly running down. One Christian bumpersticker I saw said "Earth Will Burn, Save Your Soul Instead". Attitudes such as this lead to environmental destruction, i.e. "What difference does it make if we don't practice conservation? Armageddon (or the Rapture, etc) will take care of everything." Christians also are largly unwilling to accept responsibility for their own actions. In their view, humans were originally perfect, but made an error generations ago, and therefore are weak, and susceptible to influence by evil spirits. When a Chrisitian commits some atrocity, they 'were led astray by Satan'. Also, any cruel act against someone not sharing "Christian beliefs" can be justified on the grounds that "God hates the unbeliever". Pagans, at least those I know, see themselves as an integral part of the natural world. The Pagan view is generally of an organic living, cosmos which grew from a 'seed' or 'egg' (astronomers would refer to a singularity), and which still lives and grows today. In accord with this view, Earth is sacred, and honored, as a literal parent who contributed every atom making up our bodies, and every bit of food with which we are nourished. Pagans see humans as beings who make choices. The consequences of actions, good or bad, return to the individual, thus engaging them in a meaningful way with reponsibility for their actions toward other humans.

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