5000 years ago, the Ancient Egyptians had a god called ‘Horus’ who, we are told,
was born of a virgin, walked on water and healed the sick. He was crucified and then
resurrected after 3 days.
3200 years ago, the ancient Greeks had a god called ‘Mithra’ who, so they say, was
born of a virgin on December 25th. while a star shone in the East. He had 12 Disciples
and he performed miracles. He died for 3 days and was then resurrected.
2500 years ago, the Romans had a god called Dionysus. They tell us he was born of
a virgin on December 25th.. During his life as a travelling teacher, he turned water
into wine and was called ‘Holy Child’.
2000 years ago, the Jews came up with the god Jesus. He has all of the above!
How has this sameness come about?
Coincidence? What’s the chances of that? The most likely explanation is that the
common elements of those stories make gripping tales that people like to hear. We
know that our brains are adapted to seek solutions so we love stories (especially
ones with a happy ending) and we have an instinctive need for a powerful, loving
god, father-figure to worship in the hope that he will look after us. Can’t you imagine
a camp fire surrounded by ignorant goatherds open mouthed in wonder as the priests
tell tales of virgin births, walking on water, turning water into wine, resurrection
and the like? There wasn’t much entertainment in those days!
Newly arrived missionaries have a vested interest in signing up a ‘flock’ - a congregation’s
donations are the priests’ source of income - they don’t want to have to work for
a living! It makes a change of faith much more palatable if the major elements are
similar to the previously held beliefs of the community. No wonder priests are willing
to merge their new religion with the one before. Don’t you think that’s probably
how these commonalities have come about?
This is how Christian festivals came to coincide with their Pagan predecessors -
Christmas is held on the midwinter feast of Saturnalia, Easter on the spring festival
of Eostre, Michaelmas on the autumn one of haverfest. Christianity also plundered
Judaism for acceptance - Pentacost follows the Jewish tradition.
Unfortunately, since people can choose what they believe, the raciest stories fly
further, hang around longer and are more difficult to refute. As Jonathan Swift said:
“You can’t reason a man out of something he wasn’t reasoned into”