ANCIENT PAGANISM AT THE CROSS-ROADS WITH CHRISTIANITY 9-2-11
Isn’t it ironic that nowadays Paganism has become another subject of intense loathing among certain elements of America’s Christian-Right when Christianity has such undeniable historical roots embedded in it. Do you think they ever simply asked, for instance, where the Eucharist originated?–AB
Paganism At The Cross-Roads With Christianity, Joseph Wheless, Secular Internet, 9-2-11
At the time of the inception of “that newer form of Paganism later called Christianity,” the Greeco-Roman empires were characterized by religions in a great state of re-organization.
“Wonder- workers, miracle-mongers, impostors pretending to be gods and Christs abounded. Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Apuleius, Alexander, Porphyry, Iamblichus, — performed prodigies of divine power and were hailed as genuine gods.Just as were Paul and Barnabas (Acts xiv, 11-12), and, later, Jesus the Christ. ‘Of these Pagan and Jewish ‘Christs’ two will be briefly noted, for their essential Christian contacts and analogies.’ Beginning first are some analogies of Pagan priestly fakeries.”
The numerous “petty frauds of the Pagan priests were designed to dupe their credulous votaries. The ancient poets and philosophers, and modern histories of Gentilic religions, abound in these instances.”
“For examples of a few of the more common frauds of the Pagan priests, outdone a thousand-fold by the Christian priests and church, – as (out of the Catholic Encyclopedia) we shall see, — we may mention some well-known pious frauds of the Greeks and Romans prevalent around the beginning of the Christian era and forming the religious atmosphere of the times in which the new faith was born and propagated.”
False prophecies miracles and fraudulent relics were the chief reliance among the Pagans, and Christians, for stimulating the faith, or credulity, of ignorant and superstitious people.
‘The images of the gods were believed to be endowed with supernatural power. Of some, the wounds could bleed; of others, the eyes could wink, of others, the heads could nod, the limbs could be raised; the statues of Minerva could brandish spears, those of Venus could weep; others could sweat; paintings there were which could blush. The Holy Crucifix of Boxley, in Kent, moved, lifted its head, moved its lips and eyes; it was broken up in London, and the springs exposed, and shown to the deriding public;, but this relation is out of place, — this was a pious Christian, not Pagan, fake. One of the marvels of many centuries was the vocal statue of Memnon, whose divine voice was heard at the first dawn of day, ‘the sweet voice of Memnon’ which greeted the sun, as sung by poets and attested by inscriptions on the statue made by noted visitors, who credited the assertion of the priests that the voice was that of the god Ammon; the secret was discovered by Wilkinson: a cavity in which a priest was concealed, who struck a stone at sunrise when the worshippers were assembled, thus giving out a melodious ringing sound. Very famous was the Palladium or statute of Minerva, thrown down from heaven by Zeus into Troy, and guarded sacredly in the citadel as protection of the city, which was believed to be impregnable so long as the statue was in the city; Ulysses and Diomede entered the city in disguise and stole out the sacred statue to the Greek camp; thence AEneas is said to have taken it to Italy, where it was preserved in the Temple of Vesta. Many cities of Greece and Rome claimed to have the genuine original. Another miraculous statue of like divine origin was that of ‘the great goddess, Diana’ at Ephesus, which the Town-clerk (in Acts 3 xix, 35) declared that all men knew ‘fell down from Jupiter.’ Other holy relics galore were preserved and shown to the pious: The AEgis of Jove, forged by Vulcan and ornamented with the head of the Gorgon; the very tools with which the Trojan horse was made, at Metapontum; the scepter of Pelops, at Chaeronea; the spear of Achilles, at Pharselis; the sword of Memnon, at Nicomedia; the hide of the Chalcydonian boar, among the Tegeates; the stone bearing the authentic marks of the trident of Neptune, at Athens; the Cretans exhibited the tomb of Zeus, which earned for them their reputation as Liars. But Mohammedans show the tomb of Adam and Christians that of Peter!
There were an endless number of “shrines and sanctuaries at which miracle-cures could be performed.”
“Oracular temples full of caverns, and secret passages, — that of the Cumaean Sibyl has recently been explored, and its fraudulent devices exposed. The gods themselves came down regularly and ate the fine feasts spread before their statues. In the apocryphal History of Bel and the Dragon, interpolated in the True Church’s Book of Daniel (Chapter xiv), the Holy Ghost tells how this hero trapped the priests who stole at night through secret passages into the throne-room of the god and ate the good things furnished by the pious King and people. The gods came frequently to earth, too, and with the connivance of the priests kept amorous tryst in the temples with unsuspecting pious ladies, edifying instances of which are related by Herodotus and Josephus, among other chroniclers of the wiles of priestcraft.
All kinds of Pagan prodigies “were articles of popular credulity, affectitig [sic] the commonalty as well as many of the highest category.”
“The great Emperor Augustus, obedient to dreams, went begging money through the streets of Rome, and used to wear the skin of a sea-calf to protect himself against lightning. Tiberius placed greater faith in the efficacy of laurel leaves; both remedies are highly praised by Pliny. Caligula would crawl under the bed in thunder storms; the augurs had listed eleven kinds of lightning with different significations. Comets and dreanis portended the gravest crises. Cicero and Valerius Alaximus cite numerous instances of dreams being verified by the event. Livy relates with perfect faith innumerable prodigies, though he acutely observed, that ‘the more prodigies are believed, the more they are announced.’ The Emperors made numerous enactments against sorcery, divination, and all kinds of magic; the ‘Christian’ Emperor, Constantine, prohibited all forms of magic, but specially excepted and authorized ‘that which was intended to avert hail and lightning,’ …