I was chatting with a friend recently over tea about the ultimate conspiracy theory – he won’t remember that this is what we were talking about because I didn’t use the word conspiracy in the conversation but that is in fact what it is – if you are anything like cynical as I am.
The conversation began with a question about how much of the bible is true and of course I replied that the Christian bible as we know it, was ‘created’ (for want of a better term) by the council of Rome in AD 382, when it was determined which of the available books of the Jewish Old Testament and those of the possible New Testament were to be included as the final version of the ‘written word of God’ …. see what I mean by conspiracy? Remember the Dead Sea Scrolls?
We then moved onto why Christianity …. and of course, I had yet another answer! Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire when Constantine decided that a good way to unify a disparate grouping of people would be to have a single religion that all were to believe in. At the time, another potential rival to Christianity for this honour was Mithraism, a cult that was widespread throughout the Roman empire because of it’s links to the legions. Incidentally, my first dissertation was on Mithraism in the City of Rome – I’ve re-read it recently and have to say I’m positively embarrassed by it, but I got a good first degree so what the heck! (My thesis for my MSc was much better in my opinion, but then it is only an opinion!)
Of course, the easiest way to spread a religious doctrine is to incorporate the ‘local traditions’ and so we end up with such things as 25th December being the date of birth of Jesus Christ – when it was originally the date of ‘birth’ of Mithras, close to the winter solstice (a powerful time in the pagan calendar), and also close to the Saturnalia and the date of the Deus Sol Invictus – both ancient Roman/pagan celebrations.
I could go on at length about how Judeo Christian religions are simply ‘copy cat’ dogma, stealing from other, more established religious systems but that could get me into trouble – especially with my Mother (sorry Mum!). If you want to know more, email me and I’ll point you in the right direction for more information and then you can make your own mind up.
Needless to say, the famous quote by Marx that “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” often springs to my mind whenever I have conversations such as this with friends, relatives or the Jehovah’s witness that comes to my door – not that I would want you to think I am sad or anything!