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OT Re: FW: Dinosaur Calendar Project

I found this post quite interesting, especially the point about shepherds 
tending their sheep in August (rather than December).  However, I disagree with 
a few of the assertions raised...

dale mcinnes" <wdm1949@hotmail.com. wrote:

> The problem we face today is identical to that of these early 
> Christian sects. They remained small and scattered because they 
> were actually AVOIDING 25th Dec. celebrations. The 25th Dec. 
> celebrations day was also known as SAVIOR DAY to the Romans,
> Egyptians, Greeks and Persian Pagans, going back to
> Neolithic times.

The major problem with this "Savior Day" scenario is that throughout the 
history of the Roman Empire there was no definitive pagan religion.  There were 
a great many diverse pagan religions encouraged or tolerated by the Roman 
state.  Alongside the classical polytheistic religion adapted from the Greeks 
(Jupiter, Venus, Mars, etc), there were many other pagan cults, many of them of 
'eastern' origin: Mithras, Isis, El-Gabal, Zoroastrianism (along the frontier 
with Persia), etc.  

Sun worship became increasingly popular in the Late Roman Empire; but AFAIK 
this is the only pagan religion in the Roman Empire that placed such great 
emphasis on the Winter Solstice.  It was my impression that Christians adopted 
Dec 25 as their holy day because of the specific precedent set by solar 
worship, as the Festival of Sol Invictus, given how prevalent solar worship was 
at the time.   

> Until the Christians adopted
> 25th Dec. as their celebration "Savior Day" as well, and
> went into competitive overdrive, they remained surprisingly small and
> ineffectual. Once the Christians gave up trying to destroy that special
> day and adopt it as their own, the Pagans found it a little easier to
> adopt Christianity as one of their own as well. The Christian Faith was
> then naturally selected for domination over a large chunk of the world.

This is an intriguing argument, but I'm afraid I don't believe any of it.  The 
reason why Christianity 'took off' as a world religion (at the expense of 
paganism) is because of the systematic and relentless promotion offered to the 
Christian Church by the Roman Empire in the 4th century onwards.  Beginning 
with the Emperor Constantine I and his sons, and followed with increased fervor 
by the next imperial dynasty (House of Valentinian), the Christian Church was 
especially favored by the Roman imperial administration, both morally and (more 
importantly) financially.  Under the Christian emperors the Roman state became 
increasingly intolerant of pagan cults (as well as Judaism).  

Although the Western Roman Empire collapsed in the 5th century AD, western 
Europe had been thoroughly Christianized by this time, with various Christian 
states (mostly Roman Catholic) emerging in its place.  The Eastern Roman Empire 
lived on as the Byzantine Empire, until the 15th century, as an Orthodox 
Christian state; this version of Christianity was passed by the Byzantines on 
to the Russians and Bulgars, among others.  The Western world inherited many of 
the traditions of the Roman empire, including Christianity.  Thus, Christianity 
became a major world religion.