How this really happened.
Q: How many Pagans does it take to change a light bulb? A: Six. One to change it and five to sit around and complain that light bulbs never burned out before those damned Christians came along.
Wicca is NOT about confronting or combating Christianity. Rebuking their beliefs or soiling their historical legacy is not our purpose, nor should it be the purpose of any religion. Those who are turning to Wicca simply because they wish to leave Christianity, or they object to Christianity, or they just want to shock their Christian family should look elsewhere. Religion, ANY religion, is about belief, not negating another’s belief.
The “We’re Better than Them” theory.
Pushing someone down is always easier than lifting yourself up, but it’s also childish and shallow. It encourages no deeper understanding of one’s own beliefs, but merely supports fragile egos in basic displays of frequently erroneous one-upsmanship. Raymond Buckland stated:
Christianity was a man-made religion. It had not evolved gradually and naturally over thousands of years, as we have seen that the Old Religion did.
First, as a Wiccan, why should I care about the flaws in another religion? Second, all religions are man-made. At best, they are man’s interpretation of divine will, but that still leaves their shaping squarely in the hands of man. Third, Christianity most definitely has evolved. It originated in Judaism, was transformed by a very dynamic catalyst in the form of Jesus, and then continued to develop over the next two millenia. Evolution has created Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox Christians, all of which differ from the Church of the early centuries. Religions that do not evolve go extinct, just like organisms, because they must adapt to their environments.
The Purpose of Christianity or Get Over Yourselves
Some have gone so far as to claim the driving purpose of the development of Christianity was to subjugate women, who in pagan cultures were much more powerful and respected and therefore feared by misogynistic male Churchmen.
Hello. Reality-check time.
The purpose of Christianity was, is, and always will be to honor what its followers believe is the one true God and his son, Jesus Christ. Certainly it was manipulated at times by certain persons, as will be the case in any organization, including Wicca. But the actions of its members are separate from its purpose, and the motives behind the more offensive actions were much more complicated than simply to subjugate women, gain a “religious monopoly” or any other accusation easily thrown. Saying that “our” suffering was the driving force behind the development of an entire religion is extraordinarily egocentric.
Myth: The Theft of Pagan Holidays
What I hate about this issue more than anything is that almost invariably there’s at least an implication that the Christian holidays aren’t valid because they were borrowed, stolen, however you want to describe them. And I will admit to ascribing to this sort of spite once upon a time. I was in college and, having religious issues with my mother, threw out – probably for no particular reason – something about there being no point to Christmas since it wasn’t likely when Jesus was born anyway. (The first recorded celebration of Christmas doesn’t occur until 325 C.E., which coincides with that of a mystery cult solar deity honored in Rome at the time.)
My mother’s response: Does the date matter?
Christmas is a celebration of an event. The day the event happened is inconsequential. And honestly, as someone whose own birthday was constantly interrupted by school concerts and who therefore had to celebrate her birthday on other days, I should have known better. Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, not about December 25. The fact that the Church had to invent a date is not proof that the event did not happen. It simply proves that they did not know when the actual birth was, which shouldn’t be surprising as the Bible is rather lacking in specific dates.
That’s the last time that particular form of stupidity has come out of my mouth.
The suggestion that the policy of celebrating Christian holidays on the days of pagan ones and building Christian churches on the sites of former pagan temples was meant to trick pagans into Christianity is insulting to everyone involved. Pagan people were not stupid. I just can’t envision them nodding their heads like sheep as the Christian priest tells them “Oh, the new building? Never mind that. We just thought the place needed freshening up. Continue to worship as normal. Oh, but your gods now would just to just be called “God”. You don’t need to bother with all this Zeus and Hera stuff.” Or in other words:
We’ve replaced these people’s pagan gods with Folgers Crystals. Let’s see if they notice.
Certainly the Christian missionaries were attempting to convert, and certainly the overlap of holidays and locations helped ease the transition, but it was not an overnight process, nor were the formerly pagan communities without a hand in all this. Religion is an evolving thing. Even when new ideas are accepted, old ones are not easily set aside like last week’s newspaper, and the Church was wise in recognizing this fact. These people brought their old traditions into the new religion, and the new religion accepted them within limits. Just because people did not leap 100% one day from paganism into Christianity does not mean that they had to be tricked into it.
Instead of thinking of all of Europe as having had the Christian religion forced upon then, perhaps we should consider why Europe so accepted Christianity. Wiccans have this idea that the Christians came in force, tore down the temples, and converted the pagan masses at the point of a sword, and it’s just not true. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, its followers were still in the minority: about 20% in fact. There was no Christian army, just missionaries who had nothing backing them up except their faith. They were trying to save pagan souls. We may see that as a mistaken outlook, but that does not mean their intentions were any less honorable. They preached and hoped people would listen.
You know, like how Wiccans make websites, hoping someone will take them seriously.
Is it so hard to believe that people might have converted because they actually saw merit in the religion? Life was going to hell with the fall of the Roman Empire, and Christianity offered a lot of solace, not to mention an explanation as to why life was sucking so badly. As Christianity continued to gain powerful followers, other important figures started looking toward it as well, if nothing else to win allies.
Only much later did an organized Church, seeking wealthy patrons, approach pagan leaders, knowing that conversion to Christianity would bring large donations to churches and monasteries. These attempts, however, were peaceful. There were no rampaging Christian armies forcing large-scale conversion. The wars that were fought were over land, not religion, in the first thousand years of Christianity, although pagan kingdoms were a more tempting target since Christians were not supposed to war with Christians. The Crusades, those most famous of Christian holy wars, didn’t start until 1076 C.E. and concerned the retaking of the Holy Land, not the conversion of infidels.