Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today we get to the series promised two weeks ago! A cyberfriend of Adam’s Ale by the name Atlas has been proposing some very interesting and thought provoking statements as of late in the comments section. They are classic statements of persons who do not have a particular belief in the Church and have many reasons for it.

Atlas, I appreciate your comments and hope you will continue. This is not an effort to convert you primarily. But your comments reflect what a Christian often faces in the world and you have provided me with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on them.

There are other sites that deal more specifically with apologetics and do a fantastic job so this not going to become a solely apologetic blog. For now a will limit myself to Atlas’ comments and a note of thanks to him because it has been fun thinking about it! So, here’s part one:

Atlas said...
To start off, Linda, Easter evolved from a Pagan ritual that celebrated the return of the Sun at the winter solstice. On December 22nd, the days stop getting shorter, it remains in the same spot in the sky for three days (the Sun is Dead), then on December 25th, the Winter Solstice, the Sun Rises and brings with it the coming of Spring and New Life. Christianity overtly stole this ritual from the Sol Invictus and Mithraism. In fact, Constantine the Great was an official member of Sol Invictus and is believed to have spliced the Early Christian cult, Mithraism and the Sol Invictus Cult.

This is not an uncommon claim presented to Christians and if one were truly not well versed in matters of faith and history it might give one pause for concern. Subtle though it is the implication is on one hand that the Christian celebrations lose credence because they are just modified pagan rituals or worse, on the other hand, the Christian story is false, being just a Christianized continuation of the pagan story.

But in a concisely worded response the Catholic Answers website responds:

“The fact that when it was first celebrated the feast of the Resurrection coincided with pagan celebrations doesn’t mean it was derived from them. The Jewish Passover (on which Christ was crucified) also coincided with such celebrations, yet this didn’t mean it was pagan.”

There are some other false implied assertions in such statements also. One would be that everything pagan is bad or evil and that any similarities are thus likewise tainted. C. K. Chesterton wrote on this:

“Let me set about making the matter clear. There is one broad fact about the relations of Christianity and Paganism which is so simple that many will smile at it, but which is so important that all moderns forget it. The primary fact about Christianity and Paganism is that one came after the other. Mr. Lowes Dickinson speaks of them as if they were parallel ideals --even speaks as if Paganism were the newer of the two, and the more fitted for a new age. He suggests that the Pagan ideal will be the ultimate good of man; but if that is so, we must at least ask with more curiosity than he allows for, why it was that man actually found his ultimate good on earth under the stars, and threw it away again. It is this extraordinary enigma to which I propose to attempt an answer.

“There is only one thing in the modern world that has been face to face with Paganism; there is only one thing in the modern world which in that sense knows anything about Paganism: and that is Christianity. That fact is really the weak point in the whole of that hedonistic neo-Paganism of which I have spoken. All that genuinely remains of the ancient hymns or the ancient dances of Europe, all that has honestly come to us from the festivals of Phoebus or Pan, is to be found in the festivals of the Christian Church. If any one wants to hold the end of a chain which really goes back to the heathen mysteries, he had better take hold of a festoon of flowers at Easter or a string of sausages at Christmas. Everything else in the modern world is of Christian origin, even everything that seems most anti-Christian. The French Revolution is of Christian origin. The newspaper is of Christian origin. The anarchists are of Christian origin. Physical science is of Christian origin. The attack on Christianity is of Christian origin. There is one thing, and one thing only, in existence at the present day which can in any sense accurately be said to be of pagan origin, and that is Christianity.”

If you wish to read more of his grand thoughts on this go here.

Another problem is that for the assertion to be entirely true the entire Christian story must be false or the allegation makes no sense. To make that case one would have to first throw out all evidence of the contrary. This too is done a regular basis. Often only extra ecclesial evidence is accepted as untainted and even that which is secularly archived video tape (there were not many videos being made in Jesus’ day) is explained away.

In short, this statement designed to disturb the weak Christian only “works” by smoke and mirrors – winks and nods – innuendo and insinuation. But it is as insubstantial as a Fourth of July firework which may dazzle one for a moment and then becomes nothing more than some burnt pieces of cardboard on the ground.


Deacon Bill Burns said...

Mark Shea's new series on the Blessed Mother has quite a bit on the claims about so-called derivatives from paganism, as does The DaVinci Hoax, from what I recall. It's a standard "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy. Absp. Fulton Sheen has a great piece that demonstrates that Napoleon never existed and was simply derived from the myths of Apollo. In addition, many of the "facts" in some of the cases about pagan predecessors to Christianity are a bit muddled (for example, the whole Mithras issues).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Father, for taking the time to help us answer the objections of our non-believing friends. A sound-bite is quick and easy but the truth takes time.