Chris Aldridge's Blog & Website
History is ripe with crafting, especially by those who have the privilege of writing it, and Christians have taken the reins for 2 millennia. Among the most common claims are those of Christian and Jewish persecution at the hands of mean old Pagans. It bothers me because, for one, it's either false or exaggerated, and two, it's used by some modern Christian leaders to arouse hatred against anyone who doesn't follow into the kind of society and government they want.
Top Egyptologists now agree that there is no evidence that the Jewish or Hebrew people were enslaved by Egypt. They did not build the pyramids; paid workers did, and the construction of highly religious state monuments would not have been given over to slaves. It would have been assigned to people heavily steeped in the state religious order, not slaves who were outsiders. The people who built the pyramids were, one, Egyptians not Jews, and two, were not slaves. Of course, the Jewish people may have indeed had contact with Egypt. If you read the Old Testament, the adoption of ancient Egyptian religious ideas cannot be denied, but the Jews were likely a warring power that was eventually ousted from the Egyptian kingdom, and if there were some captive Jews in Egypt, they were likely not mainstream slaves or servants. However, despite these facts, modern Jewish and Christian leaders continue to propagate the story of Exodus not as myth or belief, but as historical fact. But to be fair, some modern Jews have acknowledged that Exodus is in the realm of myth. It simply isn't factual history, not only because there's no evidence for it, but because we have evidence directly to the contrary. The alleged travel doesn't even make sense. You can use Google maps to see that it takes about a week to walk from Egypt to Israel. Why did it take Moses and the Hebrews 40 years? There's a reason that Moses and the story of Exodus haven't made it into a single reputable history book to this day, because they are baseless.
The Jewish people have most certainly faced real persecution in their history, but it wasn't from Egypt. In fact, their greatest persecution ever in the history of their world came at the hands of a professed Christian named Adolf Hitler who had 6 million of them murdered.
"My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter against the Jewish poison." - Hitler, April 12th, 1922 at Munich.
Moving onto Rome is a far stickier subject, but nevertheless, something the Christian church has exaggerated. The evidence for Jesus is smoke-screened enough for me to question if he even existed, but let's just say he did and he was simply a religious leader. Chances are, he wasn't punished for his religious beliefs. He was probably executed because he attempted to overthrow the Roman government. Rome was ripe with new religious cults popping up literally by the day. Rome did not mind accepting new Gods into its Empire. The idea of a new or non-Roman God was not, in itself, automatically rejected. In fact, when Rome conquered an area, one of their acts would be to invite the God of those people into the Roman State. While some may have been at odds with one another sometimes violently, even the Jews eventually excommunicated the Christians from their community in 90 CE. But the 313 Edict of Milan gave everyone freedom of religion, including Christians. However, the problem was that the Christians did not want religious freedom. They wanted religious dominance, and refused to allow Jesus to be worshiped alongside other Gods.
But the Christians had a problem. They weren't having much luck converting the general population, so instead, they appealed to leaders in government, who came to admire Christianity because of its ability to control massive amounts of people. Once governments had been Christianized, the forced conversions began, one of the most famous being under the rule of Theodosius I who outlawed the old Pagan and Polytheistic religion, closed down temples, and killed adherents who refused to convert. The Vatican itself likely sits on top of the Temple of Mithras that was there before, and what temples they didn't destroy, they reserved for the purpose of converting them into churches. The only non-Christian religion that remained legal in Rome was Judaism, likely because it was the predecessor. It must be made clear, on the basis of hard historical fact, that the ancient religion left through the immense force of government, not the people. If the early Christians just wanted to be free to practice their religion and nothing else, and most people willingly converted as they would want the world to believe, then why did they feel so threatened that they had to eradicate any religion that competed? Obviously, this would have led to conflict between Christians and the people they tried to impose upon, and would undoubtedly create "persecution" of Christians and their attempt at a religious dictatorship in Europe.
One of the greatest heroes of early Christianity, Paul, was also known for having his hands soaked in the taint of persecution himself when he spent two years in Ephesus warring against the Temple of Artemis and massively burning ancient Greek and even Jewish texts. He eventually fled to Macedonia after the local population rose up against him because of his criminal activity. The Christians couldn't remain safe in many places due, in large part, to their refusal to respect the rights, freedoms and properties of other human beings who didn't agree with them. Their establishments would go on in their early history to continue the persecution of non-Christians and Pagans, one of the most tragic being the brutal murder of the renowned Hypatia of Alexandria at the hands of a Christian mob assembled by the local Bishop. The more and more the Christians gained control, the more violent things became against non-Christians.
One of the biggest claims of persecution from early Christians was that they were punished for refusing to give tribute to the State religion of Pagan Rome. This is a dishonest statement. Everyone at that time was required to pay proper homage to the State, not just Christians. It wasn't as if it said that only Christians had to do it. It was law, and no matter what your religion was, you were not above the law. I agree there should have been more religious freedom than that, but there wasn't an organized effort to only pick on Christians. Anyone who didn't obey the law was reprimanded. It would be like me refusing to pay my taxes and then claiming that the State came after me because I'm Pagan. When in reality, it's because I didn't obey the law, and it wasn't like the Christians ushered in a Utopian time of freedom when they took over. They persecuted far worse anyone and anything that didn't accept their religion or its laws and church. Only in recent history in places like Rome and Greece have followers of the old religion been able to safely be open about their beliefs without being persecuted by the Orthodox powers, and to this day, some individual Christians still carry out violent attacks on Pagan and non-Christian gatherings and properties in various places around the globe.
As an historian, it would also be false for me to sit here and write that there were never any early Christians who were persecuted simply because of their religion. Of course there were. There have always been people who faced oppression for their beliefs, even Pagans at the hands of their own States. Everyone should have the inalienable human right to believe and live the way they want. But the idea that the Christians were the holy peacemakers of the world who never hurt anyone, and the Pagans were the evil monsters who wanted to kill them all and subjugate mankind to barbarism, belongs in a Christian fiction novel, not in a history book or on the podium of any legitimate speaker.
In the Goodness of the Gods,
* LaBorde, Sharon, Following The Sun: A Practical Guide To Egyptian Religion, 2010. Print.
* Ellerbe, Helen, The Dark Side of Christian History, Morning Star Books, 1995. Print.
* Jones, Prudence, Pennick, Nigel, A History of Pagan Europe, Routledge, New York, New York, 1995. Print.
* Burkert, Walter, Greek Religion, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1985. Print.
* Spivey, Nigel, The Classical World: The Foundations of the West and the Enduring Legacy of Antiquity, Pegasus Books, New York, New York, 2016. Print.