CAUTION: This article and the information it contains is not for Christians who simply believe and look forward to enjoying a peaceful Easter, which is such a beautiful, spiritual holiday. If this is you, please stop reading now.
If you are still here, this article is for Christians and non-Christians alike who may be open-mindedly looking for simple facts about the origin of Christianity, and want to understand for themselves how Christianity may have come about, and maybe what Jesus was really trying to tell us, beyond the myths and legends of the Christian institution, and what that institution has become.
In addition, this is for the parents of Christian children who want to be relatively certain that their children are getting the straight story, because if they aren't, they will certainly be disillusioned when they become teens and learn differently from all the various sources that are out there now. The following are the opinions of POCM, so information in this article should be checked out further for yourself before making any concrete conclusions.
POCM claims "ancient Pagans (prior to Jesus) believed in various levels of divinity, with miraculous powers, coming down and going up to its home in the sky. Divine beings cared about people, listened to and answered their prayers. Gave them the power to prophesy. Even gave them a better deal in the eternal life that comes after death."
POCM references ancient sources and invites people to decide for themselves if the Christian godman story is similar to Pagan godman stories. In other words, POCM suggests that the original Christian Church fathers collected all the current myths and spiritual ideas of the time and created a Christ myth. POCM says, "The ideas came first. The facts came later. The facts were made up to fit the ideas. . . . although we imagine that the meaning of Jesus comes from the facts about Jesus, the truth has to be the other way around. Back at the very beginning, the facts about Jesus were adjusted to fit with the meaning of Jesus."
In other words, Jesus was not the only one who professed to be the son of God in those days. This has relevance because the main sticking point of Christianity, and one that makes Christianity so divisive regarding other religions, is their belief that Jesus is truly the son of God, and therefore no other religion has relevance. But what if Jesus was not the son of God? Then Christians may pay more attention to what he taught about compassion and caring, rather than His authority of being a divine. This would make a big difference in Christian attitudes and foster an openness, rather than judgmentalism, toward other religions. It would be a peaceful thing, and Christians could truly become Peacemakers, as Jesus suggested in His Sermon on the Mount.
POCM goes on to say "real Pagan-Christian similarities are not details of the myths. Each ancient religion had its own myths. No other Pagan godman was born on December 25th, in a manger, with a virgin mother named Mary, and shepherds outside singing. What Pagan religions shared with each other and with Christianity was not myths but religious ideas-basic notions about the shape of the universe, the human soul and its eternal destiny, and about Gods and their powers and place in the universe. The Christian and Pagan myths are similar because they were made up to fit religious ideas that are similar. There is no consistent, reasoned analysis of the evidence that can pick out Christianity as fundamentally different from other ancient Pagan religions. Christianity is an ancient Pagan religion."
POCM explains below the reasoning behind the claim that Christianity borrowed ideas from the Pagan culture around it:
"When Osiris is said to bring his believers eternal life in Egyptian Heaven, contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God, we understand that as a myth.
When the sacred rites of Demeter at Eleusis are described as bringing believers happiness in their eternal life, we understand that as a myth.
In fact, when ancient writers tell us that in general ancient people believed in eternal life, with the good going to the Elysian Fields and the not so good going to Hades, we understand that as a myth.
When Vespatian's spittle healed a blind man, we understand that as a myth.
When Apollonius of Tyana raised a girl from death, we understand that as a myth.
When the Pythia , the priestess at the Oracle at Delphi, in Greece, prophesied, and over and over again for a thousand years, the prophecies came true, we understand that as a myth.
When Dionysus turned water into wine, we understand that as a myth.
When Dionysus believers are filled with atay, the Spirit of God, we understand that as a myth.
When Romulus is described as the Son of God, born of a virgin, we understand that as a myth.
When Alexander the Great is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we understand that as a myth.
When Augustus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal, we understand that as a myth.
When Dionysus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we understand that as a myth.
When Scipio Africanus (Scipio Africanus, for Christ's sake) is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, we understand that as a myth.
So (why) when Jesus is described as the Son of God, born of a mortal woman, according to prophecy, turning water into wine, raising girls from the dead, and healing blind men with his spittle and setting it up so His believers got eternal life in Heaven contemplating the unutterable, indescribable glory of God, and off to Hades for the bad folks, (why is that) not a myth?
And (why), in a culture with all those Sons of God, where miracles were science, where Heaven and Hell and God and eternal life and salvation were in the temples, in the philosophies, in the books, were dancing and howling in street festivals, (why do) we imagine Jesus and the stories about him developed all on their own, all by themselves, without picking up any (material) from the culture they sprang from, the culture full of the same sort of (material)?
POCM answers these questions by looking at what ancient people wrote about ancient religion. What the ancient evidence will show you is that ancient western culture had conventional ideas about Gods and their powers and place in the universe. Christianity adopted those ideas.
According to POCM, "Christianity is a product of its time and place. Christianity is an ancient Pagan religion."
But what about Jesus the man, aside from Christianity the institution. What was Jesus trying to teach us? (Recommended reading: "The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore")
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-nine years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit www.AYearToEnlightenment.com