Religion in America
Paganism, in its various forms, and the Roman Catholic Church with its cousins the Protestant Churches make up the two major religious forces in America today. Where did they come from and how did they get here?
Origin of Paganism
Paganism is simple. It began in the Garden of Eden when Satan disguised as a serpent deceived Eve, who then convinced Adam to join her in disobedience to the Creator. Thus, started the practice of worshipping the creature in whatever forms instead of the Creator. Demons, humans, plants, animals, the sun, stars, planets, the moon, fire, rocks (carved as idols), rivers, the sky, clouds, covetousness, licentiousness, and stubbornness comprise the creation people worshipped over the millennia. The name given to worship of creatures is called pantheon. Rome has a building named the Pantheon and housed a plethora of gods, which the Roman Catholics converted to a church. One of the worst practices of paganism was the sacrifice of humans to appease the gods. Radical environmentalists are one of the modern practitioners of paganism. Hinduism and Buddhism are major proponents of paganism.
But, most of Americans fall into the Protestant or Roman Catholic category, with the latter being the largest single religion in the land. There are some small religious groups that remain outside these two groups, such as Judaism.
Roman Catholic Origins
The Roman Catholic Church began about seventeen hundred years ago in its present form. They will claim their beginning to the apostle Peter, but the basic tenets and practices became solidified in the time of Constantine from the late third century into the early fourth century.
To understand how the Roman Catholic Church began, we must go back further to the time of the apostles. The earliest converted Christians were no more than practicing Jews who believed Jesus (actually, Yeshua) was the Messiah. Their tenets included baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit, the law being written on the heart, the new Passover ritual, the ending of sacrificing and swearing, faith in Jesus, monotheism, Sabbath and Holy Day keeping, and keeping the Law and Commandments. You know what they believed; you have read the newsletters.
But few Jews accepted Jesus as the Messiah; so the apostles, particularly Paul brought the Gospel to the Gentiles, the pagans. Many received the message and converted to Christianity.
Paganism Sneaks In
But, as time went on, most people entering the church never became fully repentant of paganism and fully converted to Christianity.
One Simon Magnus tried to enter the Church to receive its powers of the Holy Spirit. But, his attitude was easily discerned, and he was rejected from any participation in Christianity. Some records seem to indicate that this Simon was the one who went to Rome to establish his brand of Christianity, which was from the outside looking in, that this Simon was the first bishop of Rome or Pope, and that his remains might be in St. Peters crypt in St. Peters Basilica.
At first, small pagan practices found their way into the church. The apostles warned Christians that paganism was slipping in and to be very careful of idolatry. Christians heeded, but the onslaught of paganism continued to seep into the Church. Many believers left and met together in the homes of people they trusted were untainted by paganism. These small groups continued throughout the ages mostly hidden from the rest of the world. They blended in with Jews whom they mostly resembled, or hid their religion from all outsiders.
The Church went on without most of them. A few stayed and tried to keep the Church pure, but it was a losing battle. By the end of the first century, as the early writings show, many tenets began to change. Yet, some argued then that a changing world needed a changing church.
Three major streams of thought made up the pagan mixed church. One was the Scriptural Truth that there was one Person, God, and Jesus was His Son, a man. Two, was that Jesus was divine, the creator two persons in the one Godhead. The others believed in Trinity, three persons in the one Godhead, a ruling triumvirate the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. All three concepts co-existed one God, dual persons in a Godhead, and three persons in a Godhead. Trinity was the favorite because there were many threes in paganism Nimrod, Semarimis, and Tammuz being the most important as the basis for other trinities. Until
In the late, third century, you know the story, Constantine had a dream of a cross. The dream impressed him so much that he instructed his army to have a cross in front of the troops like a banner. He felt that it would bring him good luck. In a major battle with the cross-standard leading the way, his victory was decisive. Of course, the Roman army was virtually invincible in those days. Determined to find out about this cross, he instructed his staff to find out about it. They came back with the information that it sometime was a symbol of Christians, whom the Empire had been persecuting for the better part of a hundred years. They found a leader of the Christians, a bishop, who instructed Constantine in the ways of Christianity, but not the Christianity of the Apostles, but the new evolving Christianity. He loved the story of Jesus, the miracles and healings. He decided to participate in this new religion.
He could do anything in religion he wanted. He was the Pontifex Maximus, the head of the Roman religion. In the old days the father was the head of the religion for the family. When the family began to crumble in later years, the Caesar took over the role of ruling religion. Constantine like all the Caesars was also a demigod. He thought of Jesus as being divine because of his works, it fit in with his religion, besides, the bishop thought the same way in all likelihood; two of the three factions thought Jesus were divine.
The Christmas Conversion
Impressed with what he learned of Christianity, he wanted to convert the Roman people to Christianity. They demurred; they refused to give up their gods, particularly Saturn and his feast of Saturnalia, during the waning days of December. Constantine convened a group of bishops and asked their help in converting the Empire. After much debate and consultation, they had an idea. What if they changed the name of Saturnalia to Christmas, Christs Mass, the Mass being a new ritual that some of the churches were engaged in. The bishops left the practices of Saturnalia alone, the gift giving, family gatherings, parties, but added the story of Christs birth to the mythology already present. Now, Christmas became the birthday of Jesus. His actually birth was unknown, probably around the fall festivals.
The Empire became converted, since they could have their gods and keep them. The bishops aided them by making many of the gods into saints. The Roman Catholic Church was born. Two major tenets had yet to be finalized.
The Council of Nicene
The Council of Nicene sought to resolve, among other things, the controversy over the one Person of God, dual persons in a Godhead, or three persons in a Godhead. Constantine leaned toward the duality. He brought all the bishops, free of charge to the city in Turkey: the formally persecuted, the maimed by persecution, and the rest to decide the question. With much Bible and other arguments, they decided to make Trinity as the basic tenet of the new Roman Catholic Church. They also made Easter a Holiday pertaining to the resurrection. This day worked well with the pagans because that day was the feast of Astarte, the Babylonian prostitute goddess. (N.B. Easter is a corruption of the word Astarte. It is found nowhere in the Bible, except a mistranslation of Passover in one version once.)
The two other groups were given the option on going along, leaving the church, or going far away for safety purposes. Most changed their beliefs and stayed. The few ran for their lives, but remained true to monotheism or dualism. They were now called heretics and open to a new persecution.
Most of the true Christians never became involved with Constantine and considered the Roman Catholic Church as another pagan religion, the Babylon Mystery religion as Paul called it.
These hidden groups were of no consequence. The Roman Empire was now Christianized, as it were. The Roman Catholic Church was almost complete. One last major tenet needed to be set. The Pontifex Maximus decided two years before his death to make Sunday, instead of the Sabbath, the day of worship because his favorite god was the Sun god. Besides, all things Jewish were bad because the Jews killed his god, Jesus.
With the exception of the tenet of going to heaven, the reign of Constantine saw the Roman Catholic become the religion of the Empire and all its conquered lands. The bishop of Rome became the pope, the Pontifex Maximus with the power of infallibility on doctrine. Trinity, Sunday worship, Christmas, Easter, papal infallibility, and going to heaven made up the basic tenets of the Roman Catholic Church then and today as well.
In the Middle Ages, the mid thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas attempted to paganize Roman Catholicism further by trying to merge Aristotles brand of scientific rationalism and naturalism with the traditions and faith of the Roman Church. This made the Roman Catholic Church an interesting blend of basic emotional practices Christmas, Easter, going to heaven with an intellectual patina derived from the Greek triumvirate of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle an elitist philosophy exemplified by the parable of the cave in the Republic.
The Protestant Reformation
Protestantism began with Martin Luther in the early Sixteenth Century with his publishing the 95 theses, apparently attached to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral. He was somewhat more Biblically oriented than the Roman Catholic Church, which viewed the Bible as an interesting book, but only to be paid attention to if it agreed with their traditions. The Roman Catholic Church liked the stories in the Bible, but little of its theology.
Luther began the great schism that enveloped Europe. The Roman Catholic Church began to clean up some of the abuses and became leaner and meaner, as it were.
One of Luthers pupils was John Calvin, who was even more Bible oriented. A biographer of Calvin did remark that if Calvin wanted to go back to the Church of the Scriptures, why did he keep Sunday worship instead of the Sabbath. His preaching and teaching caused such a great consternation in France that he was exiled to Switzerland, where he became the mayor of Geneva. There, he implemented his teachings. His major premise was that if a person kept the ten, well, I guess, most of the Ten Commandments, well, eight of the Ten Commandments and worked hard, he would be successful. All unsuccessful people were either lazy or disobedient to Gods Commandments. These lazy miscreants should be scorned and deserved whatever punishment their depravity earned. Obviously, he felt that the role of government was to promote religion and business. He did such things as improve the harbor for transportation and trade. Building and improving roads were major tasks of his government.
Calvinism became Puritanism when his ideas reached England. The greatest proponent of Puritanism was Oliver Cromwell. Poor old Oliver, actually, poor old England and Ireland. In his misguided zeal, he killed the king and many more in government and took over Parliament. Like his mentor, Calvin, running government was crucial to his plans. But, unlike Calvin, he overthrew the government, murdered his enemies, and tried genocide on the Irish.
His brief reign of terror made him the most hated man in English history, according to Churchills history. These Puritans became somewhat unpopular after the crown and Parliament were restored. A contingent escaped to the Netherlands and from there to the American colonies where their venom manifested itself in witch burning and other atrocities.
Civilizing forces forced the Puritans to sublimate their propensity to promote their brand of religion and inclination toward cruelly. Actually, they seldom had opportunity to govern at all, much less with their hidden agenda after America was born.
Today, in America the Roman Catholic Church is the largest religion in the country.
The group of churches grouped under the heading of Protestantism are actually larger than the Roman Catholic Church. Individually, Lutherans have the least ritual, which is called a Low Church as opposed the rite filled Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, Episcopalians in America, called High Churches. The Baptists and Christian Conservatives have their roots in Calvinism through Puritanism.
An interesting group of Protestants are very Daniel oriented. Counting the numbers found in the book of Daniel, they discovered that the world would end in the mid nineteenth century. They made a mistake. It didnt. But once started, religions never die out. They corrected themselves and said that the mid nineteenth century was the time of cleansing. Several groups emerged from these people; the best known, I guess, would be the Seventh-Day Baptists. As their name implies, they keep the Sabbath or seventh day as the holy day instead of Sunday. Unlike the rest of Protestants and Roman Catholics, they do not believe in Trinity, but duality as the "heretical" group at the Council of Nicene. They believe that Jesus, as the Word, was the Creator who became a man. The Father was the other part of the duo, but was not as important as the Word-Jesus. They use John 1 as the basis for their belief.
Like Trinitarians, Dualism ignored the almost two hundred scriptures that talk about God being One, only, one true, the single, the God, the I Am, none other, etc..
Another religion does not have a Judeo-Christian or Islamic association. These belong to no organized group of worshippers, but rather hearken back to purely pagan practices. They directly worship creatures without the trappings of rites and traditions. You would best know them as environmental wackos, the save the Earth types.
You may notice that all the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism: Trinity, Sunday worship, Christmas, Easter, Papal infallibility and going to heaven are nowhere to be seen in the Holy Scriptures because the doctrines come from outside Biblical sources. Since any writing, by interpretation, by tortuous twisting of sections of the writing, and by choosing a phrase here and there can be made to say anything. Thus, some say all these tenets are Biblical, and they will show verses to prove it to those unversed in the Word.
The choice a person has to make is whether to follow the Truth found in the Bible despite what religions say or do. Knowledge of history and the Bible will reveal to the person anxious to know the Truth, what and why Our Father wants us to believe, and how to act in accordance with His will.
For the Sabbath Christian Church