'Why does it matter?' One may rightly wonder what real good it does to bring up the past, whether or not one finds for him or herself that much, if not most, of what we Christians do every Sunday as a matter of fact has its roots, not in the Greek Scriptures, but in something far more ancient? 'If what we do on Sundays has Pagan origins, does that necessarily mean that we should discontinue those practices?' For example; it's fairly well-accepted, though not well-received in certain circles, that the Christmas celebration has its roots in Paganism. Does that mean we should not join with countless others in celebrating the Coming of the Light? ( For those of my readers who were not aware of this fact, the birth of Jesus is celebrated on the late date it is, in order to coincide with the Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest day of the year & signals the Coming of the Light, when the days ( daylight hours ) begin to lengthen ) Just because the Christmas Tree is rooted firmly in the soil of Pagan tradition ( Yule ), are we being un-Christlike because we enjoy its festooned branches around this time of year? Should we ( could we? ) change the date for our celebration of the birth of the Christ-child? Jesus, according to much research, was more rightly born in the Fall, anyway, at the time of harvest, in August or September.
The word 'Pagan' does not inherently denote 'wrong'! Although a 'Pagan' could not ( technically ) be called a 'Christian' & in that sense is perceived by most, if not all Christians, to be 'wrong', even to be equated ( ignorantly ) with a 'heathen'. The word 'Pagan', in its simple meaning, refers to one who dwells in the country. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe the etymology would go something like this; Pagans were those, back in the day, who lived far enough away from the bigger cities & towns that they were undisturbed by the influx of Roman Catholicism when it first reared its ugly head ( yes, I said it! ) As such, they retained the faith of their fathers & were thus distinguished from those who accepted this new religion. In modern times, much as in ancient days, just because one adhered to the Old Ways, rather than accepting the new way of doing things, that one, depending on the person, of course. was not necessarily wrong, just different!
The 'God' of Christianity, according to the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, is 'the One, True God'! In the same sense though, a Muslim would probably tell you that 'Allah' is 'the One, True God' & Mohammad is His prophet ( Jesus was also JUST a prophet ). Is one ( religion ) right while the other is wrong? Or are they both simply perceptions of the One that IS? Not to repeat myself over-much, sounding like a broken record, but why are we basing our faith on the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures rather than the Q'ran? Why not on the Scriptures of the Ancient Far East, as opposed to the Ancient Near East? To explore the manifold reasons 'Why?' would take far more research & space than I have time ( or patience ) for, although there might need to be a blogpost on that subject in the future, maybe even a book. Suffice it to say, therefore, that the differences are largely cultural!
Again, a 'Pagan', just because he or she does not follow the tenets of 'Christianity', is not necessarily a bad person, or even 'wrong'. When a person, no matter what religion ( if any ) he or she follows, does what is right, how can you rightly say they are wrong? It should be obvious that it is not what one believes that makes the person, but what one does! Beliefs DO matter, insofar as one practices what he or she professes to 'believe', but it should also be clear as day that, what one practices IS what they truly believe, no matter what they profess! Pagan beliefs do not the person make; if however, whether Christian, Pagan, or Muslim ( even one of those Far Eastern religions ), one practices what is wrong, then that person's religion IS wrong. 'What IS 'wrong'?', you ask; well, put simply, 'wrong' is to take away another person's right, whether it's the right to life, right to property, or right to liberty & happiness. Much more could be said on this subject too, but maybe that's for a future post as well!
So, 'why DOES it matter that modern Christianity is rooted in Paganism?' Does it make a difference in how Christians practice their religion? Well, yes & no; as far as how the origins of Christianity have affected how many Christians tend to view 'Paganism' itself ( or really, anyone who is not 'Christian' ), it sure as hell DOES matter, but insofar as Pagans simply have a different ( some might say 'better' ) perception of 'the One that IS', it does not, or should not. Paganism does not worship a different 'God' than Christianity, it simply acknowledges 'the One that IS' in Its myriad forms. For that matter, not unlike the Far Eastern religions, it also recognizes the 'God Within' each & every one of us!
Is Christianity simply an improvement on Paganism? One might well proffer that suggestion, though that is questionable at the very least! For one thing, as a religion, Paganism does not incorporate 'a' holy book ( as our 'Holy Bible' ): rather, Paganism observes a living 'Holy Book' ( some call Her 'Mother Earth' ) & Paganism, rather than being an institutionalized ( organized? ) religion like Christianity, it is more just a way of life, though, like Christianity, it does have its peculiar rites & liturgies. Another way in which it could be said that Christianity is NOT an improvement on Paganism is the purposeful omission of the Divine Feminine! However, She cannot be totally hidden from sight, but upon careful examination, can be glimpsed in the One the Roman Catholics call 'Mary, the Mother of God'!
Charles Haddon Shank