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The Origins of Modern Religion

The Origins of Modern Religion

Photographed by Maddison Hill of Ella Bussa, Arylon Wilks, Victoria Adamus, & Sofia Serratos
Styled by Joelle Beauchamp
Hair and Makeup: Brynn Beauchamp
Photography Assist: Connor Payne

By: Joelle Beauchamp

I was brought up under Christianity by a God-fearing mother who loved to share her faith, and a father who had left the Catholic church behind, after being fully involved for much of his younger life. This dynamic of my parents’ faith raised many questions regarding what was being preached, the stories that were told, and the values that were held to such a high regard. As I began to move away from the faith I was raised in, questions began to form in my head about the truth, or the basis of the book that was preached as the ultimate truth, and the ultimate guide to living life as a Christian.

Questioning my faith was nothing new to me; I had always questioned it, as it was not a conscious choice I made, but rather one that was made for me when I was young. Some of the stories that were told, the choices that were made in the Bible did not make much sense to my developing mind, and I made the decision to continue to question my faith, instead of following blindly, until I knew that the faith that I practiced made clear sense to me. The one question that always intrigued me was the basis of this faith, where did this book begin, why is it held in such high regard as a guide to life, a ‘how-to’ life your life to please a man living in the clouds? Is there another universe in which a different book was found millions of years ago and is the basis of modern religion?

This past year, I had the opportunity to visit Rome, and on my tour through the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, the questions continued to arise, and somehow, the religion I had already left made less sense.

To begin this analysis of modern Christianity, we must first discuss Paganism. Paganism is often paired with practices of witchcraft, Celtic traditions, and the honoring of several Gods. Paganism, the original religion, at its root, honors “organic vitality and spirituality of the natural world” (BBC, 2006). Paganism has been made to represent the worshipers of the devil, people who practice ‘black magic’ and many other horrible accusations. Paganism began in the fourth century by early Christians that practiced polytheism, or the worship of multiple gods, as well as other religions besides Judaism. The religion was based on the beliefs that nature is sacred, and that the natural cycles of life, such as birth, growth and death carry profound spiritual meanings. In contrast to modern religions, Pagans saw the world as a place of joy and life, rather than sin and suffering, and treat the Earth as a place that harvests the joy of living. Pagans believe that a divine being is among us in the natural world, guiding actions and helping those along the journey of life, rather than a guiding force from a faraway place in the sky, judging one’s actions and deciding your perpetual destiny.

For centuries, Christians had been killed simply for their beliefs, until Constantine and Licinius, the two emperors of the Roman Empire, signed an edict in A.D. 313 that allowed religious freedom for Christians. Before this year, Paganism was the dominating religion in the Roman Empire. After this decree was signed, the two emperors, pushing that good Christian faith that is so often preached, vowed that no one, Pagan or Christian, should be persecuted for their faith.

This decree took a major blow in A.D. 391, when the proclamation by emperor Theodosius put an end to peaceful faiths cohabitating. He named Christianity the official religion, and announced punishment by death to anyone that practiced Pagan practices, as well as to anyone that practiced Christianity in ways other than he saw fit (Cricket Media, 2019).

These beliefs, from as early as 391 A.D., continued to garner the belief of Christian superiority, specifically over the Pagan beliefs, and Christianity was used as a physical and metaphorical agent to bury Paganism. The Sistine Chapel, built in 1473, was built over the remains of a historic Pagan temple, signifying the true burying of Paganism by Christianity.

As my curiosity grew, I began getting deeply enthralled with the stories that Christians hold so dear to their faith. Stories such as Christmas, the 25th of December, the Holy Trinity, holidays celebrated, Adam and Eve, and so on.

Throughout all of history, Egyptian, Roman’s and Pagans worshipped the Sun Gods, all of which were said to be born on the 25th of December, were born of virgin mothers, and were eventually killed and resurrected. The notion of the Sun God changed to the Son of God when Christianity came to fruition. Egyptian, Roman and Hindu faiths all revolve around a holy trinity, made up of several beings and figures.
One story I found to be incredibly interesting, of which I was informed of during a tour of the Vatican Museum. Have you ever heard of a woman by the name of Lilith? According to early Jewish lore, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, pre-Eve. Lilith was created of dust and Earth, the same way as Adam, and was essentially, his equal. Unfortunately, Lilith was a modern woman, and refused to lay beneath Adam, and chose instead to assert her equality to him, which neither Adam nor God appreciated much. Lilith incurred the wrath of God and fled, where she was doomed to a life as a succubus, a temptress of innocent men, a breeder of evil spirits, and a child-murdering monster. A classic feminist, Lilith became the symbol of chaos, seduction, and ungodliness. When Eve was created from Adam’s rib, making her lesser than him, a jealous Lilith tempted Eve with, yes of course, an apple, causing her to be banished from the Holy Land, and sentenced to a life as a mere mortal. Are we seeing a connection here to the modern roots of the patriarchy?

Another interesting connection are the various holidays that Christians hold near and dear. December twenty-fifth was the last day in a week-long celebration in ancient Rome, known as Saturnalia, leading up to the birthday of the Sun, following the winter solstice, sound familiar? This celebration involved exchange of gifts, specifically clay figurines of Gods displayed on altars in the home, banquets, and parties with family and friends. Easter was derived from the name of Eostre, the goddess of the Spring. This holiday was typically celebrated by the exchange of eggs and sweets, said to celebrate fertility and rebirth (Through Eternity, 2019). Birthday of the Sun, birthday of the Son, rebirth of humans, rebirth of Jesus, are we sensing a pattern here?

All religions have some connections to others, as there was never a reigning person that came down and implanted these beliefs and traditions into humans’ minds. Through my time in the Christian church and living in a country that accepts few other faiths besides Christianity, it shocks me to see people preaching Christianity as the ultimate faith, while it was built on the basis of other religions that were attempted to be buried.

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