Originally Posted by Omar Giggle
Hopefully this is a right subforum for this topic but I'd like to know why I am not worshipping Odin, Zeus or any other pagan god.
Here is what I have gathered so far: Jesus, a pretty rebellious and revolutionary person was born in Judea in around year 0 or at least a cult of that named person / god /whatever have been spreading since then. Apparently this new religion was very appealing to disenfranchised segments of population. Then comes Constantine the Great and makes the already widespread Christianity a official(?) state religion of the Roman Empire because of realpolitiks or whatevers. The actions of Julian the Apostate were just a futile and hopeless last dying breath of Paganism. Lot of the other rulers after Constantine also started to use Christianity as rallying cry or amalgam to rule their nice little empires, kingdoms and villages. And rest is history.
I'd like to know what people that are interested and knowledgeable on this subject have to say about this battle between Christian god and pagan gods. Book recommendations are also more than welcome. Thanks for reading.
Christianity emerged out of Judaism. (Remember, the popular reference is not Romano-Christian or Greco-Christian, but Judeo-Christian.
) The earliest Christians were persons of the Jewish faith in every way except for two things: they began proclaiming the Messiah had come and he was Jesus; the tiny community of believers, though still observing synagogue, also held their own liturgical gatherings centered on the eucharist. The latter was a continuation of Jewish tradition (especially Passover) but now with an entirely different meaning. Persons who believed the Messiah had indeed come were soon not allowed in local synagogues anymore. This was the initial break.
Christians would begin to disassociate themselves from Judaism in several ways, such as making their holy day Sunday rather than Saturday.
As has been noted earlier, it was Theodosius who established Christianity as the sole legal religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine had merely done what Marcus Aurelius had attempted to do with Sol Invictus but failed. Aurelius realized that the problems of the Empire were growing while people were becoming more disillusioned. He wished to find some way to unify the populations and reinvigorate them, so he attempted to establish Sol Invictus as the main religion, starting with the army.
By the year 100 Christianity had grown from a tiny sect to about 20,000 persons in the Empire. By 300, they numbered around 7 million in an Empire of about 55-60 million people.
Like the popular misperception about Constantine, there's also a popular misperception about Christianity in the Roman Empire. It was an urban religion. No one did more to spread Christianity than affluent Roman women. Greco-Roman society was extremely misogynist. It wasn't all that unusual for the lady of the house to be Christian while the husband remained pagan (at least until she converted him.) While Christianity was a haven for slaves and persons on the lower socio-economic scale, it was also accepted into affluent households. By Constantine's time, the Christians were the most united and strongest minority in a very fractured Empire.
Considerations of "Christianity vs. Paganism" often forget that the Christian West Roman Empire was completely overrun by pagan tribes. Christianity had triumphed over the paganism of antiquity, only to get swamped by new pagans. It's a complex story, but it would take at least 1,000 more years for Christianity to spread again through Europe and (as has been noted earlier) into the Baltic regions.
For this story I highly recommend The Barbarian Conversion
by Richard Fletcher, published 1997, ISBN 0-8050-2763-7. (Amazon and I don't get along, but if you are interested, just google the ISBN number or name of the book and you can find it along with reviews, etc.
A very significant thing occurred in the 8th century. After Justinian's wars with the Goths had ruined the Italian peninsula, the pagan Lombards arrived in north Italy. (The overrunning of the West Roman Empire by pagan tribes had been extremely destructive. During this conquest of the West Roman Empire, as government administration collapsed or vanished, in many locales the only source of organization and civil defense were local bishops. Also, much was being done, particularly by monasteries, to preserve what could be preserved from antiquity in regard to texts because of the rampant destruction. The English word "vandal" dates from this era.) The Lombards were aggressive and were intent on moving south to conquer much more of the peninsula, including Rome. The aged pope at that time made a wintery trip to visit the Frank king Peppin. The pact made between the two was the birth of modern Europe. Prior to this, Europe, from the Central and Western Mediterranean, was closely associated with the Eastern Roman Empire of the Eastern Mediterrean. After this, the entire political, cultural and religious association of Europe would shift from an emphasis on east-west to north-south.