Is There A Pagan Influence
On The Catholic Faith?
Paolo Ramadori

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The portions in dark blue were added later, in August, 2000, when this letter was formatted and posted. In this section, we overview several books from the Prometheus catalogue (simply because Prometheus publishes many books along these lines and reviewing their catalogue is relatively easy in lieu of my owning more than a few books on this subject. The added portion also reiterates the point that almost all of Christianity is of Pagan origins, and that the Protestant claim that only Roman Catholicism contains these elements is false. One review even suggests that Roman Catholicism has influenced modern Paganism, not vice versa.

From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Paolo Ramadori"
Subject: Re: GREETINGS!
Date: Friday, February 11, 2000 3:33 PM

Almost the entire Christ myth is of pagan (non-Jewish) origin, blending the dying and resurrecting god of Mythraism and other Roman myths with the Gnostic picture of a holy being descending to an evil world to enlighten the elect.

When Christianity became the official religion of the dying Roman Empire, even more pagan elements were brought in, because the people just wouldn't give up their old ways.

Any of several books detailing the origins of Christianity should help you in your studies, the Pagan (non-Jewish) origins of Christianity and particularly Roman Catholicism is firmly established. Thus, most studies will come to pretty much the same conclusion.

The books by Rabbinical scholar Hyam Maccoby show the Jewish elements of the biblical Christ, which are conspicuous by their absense. By having a solid foundation of what is and is not Jewish, one can easily identify the Pagan (non-Jewish) elements. We have posted overviews of two of his works, Revolution in Judea: Jesus and the Jewish Resistance and The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity.

I highly recommend the new book Deconstructing Jesus by Robert M. Price (published in 2000). In describing and defending his model of "Jesus agnosticism," Price overviews almost the entire Jesus Seminar work and peeks at many other peripheral models. Price's Bibliography and references should point you toward seeing the Pagan origins of Christianity itself. With this, you might end up seeing Protestantism as a religion that has stripped various elements from Roman Catholicism. In this sense, Roman Catholicism would differ from Protestantism only in the fact that it retains more Pagan elements than does Protestantism. I have read this book. It had such a powerful effect on me that within a few chapters, Price's "Jesus agnosticism" model had overthrown my long-held views derived from Maccoby's works.

The compilation Jesus in History and Myth edited by R. Joseph Hoffmann and Gerald A Larue contains works from many Jesus Seminar participants. This Jesus Seminar is important in that you can investigate the various elements of the accepted Gospel tale that these scholars reject as mythical, and often find these elements to be of Pagan (non-Jewish) origin. I have not read this book, but intend to read it eventually.

Mythology's Last Gods: Yahweh and Jesus by William R. Harwood shows what happened when biblical scholars began applying critical methods of documentary analysis to the Judaeo-Christian Bible. I have not read this book, but it is available on Prometheus.

The Christ by John E. Remsberg is a classic overview of the Gospel stories with much information on its Pagan origins. I have read the print edition of this book and found it to be quite the page-turner. A somewhat corrupt e-text copy lives used to live at Internet Infidels, but alas, is no more. It is available as a reprint on Prometheus. We have our own edition of it posted if you are interested in reading it.

The Christ Myth by Arthur Drews alleges that there is no historical Christ and that the entire Christ myth is derived from both Pagan and Jewish mythology. I have read this book and found it quite compelling in my pursuit of Price's "Jesus agnosticism" model. Some of Drews's information is unique, particularly his notion of the Jewish origins of the dying and resurrecting god, but he, like the others, paints quite a provocative picture of the Christ we all know and love.

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Christian Myth by Dead Sea Scrolls scholar John Allegro suggests that Christianity evolved out of the Messianic theology of the Essenes, the Jewish sect that wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. This information is reiterated in some of Hyam Maccoby's works as well. Maccoby suggests that only certain elements of the Christ myth came from the Essenes, and this viewpoint is shared, in part, by Robert M. Price. Most of Allegro's work, though, documents the infighting among Dead Sea Scrolls scholars and the attempts to suppress the group's findings; thus, this book reads very much like a spy novel. I have read this book.

The Great Deception by Gerd Lüdemann documents the gap between the "Jesus of history" and the "Christ of faith." Very scholarly and translated from German, this book is a tough read, and I read parts of it but not the whole thing. Lüdemann recently renounced his membership in the Church and is now openly flaunting his atheism.

The Historical Evidence for Jesus by G. A. Wells, like all of Wells's Jesus books (which I have read), concludes that there is absolutely no compelling reason to think that a historical Jesus existed. Wells has "squarely faced the question of whether a man named Jesus lived, preached, healed, and died in Palestine during the early years of the first century of the Christian era -- or indeed, at any time. Building on the biblical studies of Christian theologians, Dr. Wells soberly demonstrates that we have no reliable eyewitnesses to the events depicted in the New Testament." (From the Prometheus review of this book.) If Robert M. Price is an "Jesus agnostic," G. A. Wells and Arthur Drews might toyingly be thought of as "Jesus atheists"!

The Jesus Idea by Arnold M. Rothstein, like Deconstructing Jesus, by Robert M. Price, advocates what Price calls "Jesus agnosticism." Rothstein examines Jesus as an idea of salvation, not as a historical figure. This idea was gradually modified over time. The author shows that "we know next to nothing about the actual existence of Jesus, all efforts to recover the history of this individual ending in failure." (From the Prometheus review.)

The Mystery of the Kingdom of God by Albert Schweitzer is a classic study on the origins of the Passion of Christ which I have yet to read.

The Old Faith & The New: Westminster College-Oxford Classics in the Study of Religion by David Friedrich Strauss revolutionized the study of Christian origins. He advocates inductive reasoning (the New Faith) as our only hope of finding solutions to human problems. I have not read this book

The Origins of Christianity: A Critical Introduction edited by R. Joseph Hoffmann seeks to show that during the third and fourth centuries. the historical content of the Gospel stories took a back seat to the lessons of morality the priests sought to impart to the church. I have not read this book.

In an inversion of what I have been discussing here, The Supernatural, The Occult, and The Bible by Gerald A. Larue describes the Roman Catholic origins of modern Paganism and occult practices. I have not read this book, but think it might be right up your alley in pursuing your specific question regarding Pagan elements within Roman Catholicism.

You may want to check out "The Story of Religious Controversy" by Joseph McCabe, a former Roman Catholic Priest who became a civil rights leader and aan outspoken and very prolific critic of the Church. I have not read all of this book, but have read several chapters.

There are some books out from a Protestant perspective, most notably "The Two Babylons" by the Late Rev. Alexander Hislop, which is still being reprinted and distributed in some of the more evangelical and fundamentalistic Bible stores in America. I found what appears to be a complete e-text copy at:
http://www.biblebelievers.com/babylon/00index.htm
This book comes from the perspective that what Evangelicals call biblical Christianity (Reformed or Calvinistic Protestantism) is the One True Faith. Thus, it paints biblical Christianity is being of non-Pagan origins, and compares it with the additional Pagan elements found within Roman Catholicism. It does, however, detail the pagan (non-Christian) origins of many of the elements that are unique to Catholicism. I cannot vouch for the author's scholarship or integrity, but this might be a good start at investigating this question in a more detailed way.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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