A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered by noble descendants.
--Thomas Macaulay, History of England From the Accession of James II, p. 1526
In the final analysis, people get the religion they deserve. If they betray their indigenous deities, their Gods will turn their backs on them. Errant people lay themselves open to predation by alien interests who can gain control within their political, economic, and religious institutions, distort their indigenous culture, and subvert their capacity to survive as a people. Even Proverbs (29:18.1) states that, "Where there is no vision, the people perish [or cast off restraint]"
"SHADOW" CONTRIBUTORS TO EARLY CHRISTIANITY
I would be remiss to not mention other theories about the origin of Christianity. An excellent summary of them is found in The Essene-Christian Faith: A Study in the Sources of Western Religion by Dr. Martin A. Larson (Costa Mesa, CA: Noontide Press, 1822 1/2 Newport Blvd; 1989). One of the great gaps in the New Testament is the total omission of the Essene Movement, the third major force in Palestine besides the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Jewish historian Josephus (37?-100 AD), author of The Jewish War and a book on Jewish antiquities, provided detailed coverage of all three movements in his works. Interestingly enough, although Josephus provided a detailed history of Palestine from Herod's predecessors until the end of the Jewish War (66-73 AD), the closest he came to anything suggesting Jesus in Greek manuscripts of his work is the brief passage at the beginning of Chapter 7 "Judea under Roman Rule" of The Jewish War:
The territory of Archelaus was brought under direct Roman rule, and a man of equestrian rank at Rome, Coponius, was sent as a procurator with authority from Caesar to inflict the death penalty. In his time a Galilaean named Judas tried to stir the natives to revolt, saying they would be cowards if they submitted to paying taxes to the Romans, and after serving God alone accepted human masters. This man was a rabbi with a sect of his own, and was quite unlike the others. (page 133, New York: Dorset Press, 1970).
There was a Slavonic version of The Jewish War translated into old Russian around 1250 AD with passages about Christianity that have no parallel in the Greek version. According to the English scholar E. Mary Smallwood, the questionable Slavonic text gives "highly garbled accounts of John the Baptist and the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (neither of them referred to by name), and a picture of the early church as a faith-healing movement. There are basically three possible interpretations of them: that Josephus, who is likely to have been aware of the main facts of Christ's life and of the existence of the Church as a schismatic sect, wrote them; that they are wholesale interpretations (by whom? hardly by a Christian, since such travesties of the New Testament tradition would have done little to promote belief or to enhance the prestige of the Church); or that they are elaborations of shorter, less sensational passages written by Josephus." (page 470, Appendix F, Smallwood on The Jewish War).
Is a rabbi who encourages a tax revolt the same person as Jesus Christ who says, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's"? (Matthew 22:21-22) If Josephus is willing to devote over five pages to describe the Essenes in The Jewish War, why would he devote a few vague sentences to the "Greatest Story Ever Told," if in fact that is what he was talking about?
The Dead Sea scrolls also validate the existence of the Essenes but do not specifically mention the Jesus of the Gospels. Justus of Tiberias, a native of Galilee, wrote a history covering the period in which Jesus allegedly lived; although his works have perished, they were read by Photius, a 9th century Christian bishop in Constantinople, who said "He (Justus) makes not the least mention of the appearance of Christ, or what things happened to him, or the wonderful work that he did." (Jackson, 1988).
Dr. Madalyn O'Hair of the American Atheist [P.O. Box 140195, Austin, TX 78714-0195J has concluded that there was in all likelihood no historical Jesus, just a compilation of many myths from other religions that were spun around a largely fictitious story of a Jewish messiah and tenants of Judaism.
In 1988 American Atheist published a paper titled "Did Jesus Exist?" by Frank Zindler that explained a number of arguments and contradictions within the Gospels that cause him to doubt the existence of Jesus. Pagan Christs, by J. M. Robertson, first published in 1903, also doubts a historical Jesus.
Several points need to be made about the way in which Christianity infiltrated Rome and competed with mystery religions that had similar characteristics:
(a) The elements that pagan religions share in common with Christianity suggest the extent to which Christianity was a "copycat" or "fabricated" religion that stole ideas from them or filled a similar "niche" in the "psychological market" of the various peoples in the Empire
(b) The Italic invaders whose descendants created the Roman Republic were a semi-Nordic/Nordic people who traced their ancestry from the north: The same was true of the golden-haired Dorians and Ionians who were the predecessors of the Greeks of the classical era. As the Romans and Greeks became more prosperous, alien peoples were imported as labor or immigrated to share in their prosperity and interbred with them. As their prosperous civilizations reduced the rigors of survival, the dysgenic decay process described in Why Civilizations Self-Destruct by Dr. Elmer Pendell (Cape Canaveral, FL: Howard Allen, Box 76; 1977) set in and degraded the innate competency and fitness level of their population. This step down the evolutionary scale had already had a major impact prior to the alleged time of Christ. Hence it is not surprising that so many Romans gravitated away from the heroic Greco-Roman religion, which is a cousin of Asatru, to the more mystical religions of mercy. However, while the other pagan religions stressed sentimental themes, Christianity was unique in its use of sentimentality and mysticism to promote revolutionary themes, mass movement propaganda, and class resentment. (One might recollect how the beggar Lazarus goes to heaven and the rich man goes to Hades in Luke 16:19-31).
(c) Christianity was unique compared to the other religions of mercy through its attempt to graft its adherents to Jewish tribal history. Although the Jews are portrayed as accessories to the crucifixion, the New Testament also dignifies them as a special people chosen by God and as the heroes of the Old Testament. Furthermore, they can be saved through the Christian doctrine of redemption, and hence must be tolerated. Ultimately the Jewish people gained more than they lost with this theology.
[America First Books Editor's 2009 note: In other words, the role of the Jews as accessories to the crucifixion is a clever red herring that enables Jews to say with mock righteous indignation, "Who says the Bible brainwashes people to favor us?!?" --when in fact it really does. A phenomenon such as Christian Zionism, in which over forty million Americans insanely believe that Israel can do no wrong, and that the fulfillment of a globally destructive "Armageddon" scenario is somehow a "good thing" as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, would never be possible in a healthy white society that practices its very own indigenous white tribal religion purged of alien Jewish elements].
(d) None of the merciful pagan religions ever elicited the kind of hostile reaction that Christianity provoked on the part of the Roman emperors. Most Bible movies portray anti-Christian emperors as wicked people; however, ever since Sir Edward Gibbon offered the view in his classic work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that Christianity was a major cause of the fall of Rome, many intellectuals have taken a less moralistic viewpoint.
The Western Heritage, by Kagan, Ozment, and Turner (New York: Macmillan, 19B3), describes a pagan competitor of Christianity called Manichaeism. It was " ... an especially potent rival of Christianity. Named for its founder, Mani, a Persian who lived in the third century A.D., it contained aspects of various religious traditions, including Zoroastrianism from Persia and both Judaism and Christianity. The Manichaeans pictured a world in which light and darkness, good and evil, were constantly at war. Good was spiritual and evil was material; because human beings were made of matter, their bodies were a prison of evil and darkness, but they also contained an element of light and good. The 'Father of Goodness' had sent Mani, among other prophets, to free humanity and gain its salvation. To achieve salvation, humans must want to reach the realm of light and to abandon all physical desires."
Mithraism was another important competitor to Christianity transmitted into the Roman world in the first century B.C. It spread almost as rapidly as its arch rival Christianity. The deity Mithra was quite old, going back to the very ancient Vedas of the Indo-European invaders of the Indus valley. Mithraism was favored by a number of Roman Emperors prior to the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity. Considered to be a pagan "mystery religion", which had rituals that were often conducted in secret, it had a doctrine of heaven and hell, a battle between good and evil, the concept of the resurrection of the flesh, and other similarities to Christianity. However, it seemed to be restricted to males, was more state-oriented, and had degrees of initiation.
According to The Western Heritage, some other pagan cults of mercy thrived in Rome, such as the cult of Sarapis, which began as worship of an Egyptian combination of deities Osiris-Apis, and also a cult of Cybele, the Great Mother, that came from Asia Minor and Isis in Egypt. "In the troubled time of the 4th and 5th centuries; people sought powerful, personal deities who would bring them safety and prosperity in this world and immortality in the next ... Each [cult] had become popular by the third century by virtue of its universality and intensely personal qualities. Anyone, regardless of class, race, or condition, could join and observe and take part of the rituals ... which included dramatic reenactments of the suffering, death, and resurrection of the god. The mystery cults invited each initiate into a common fellowship and morality, encouraged prayer directly to the god without priestly intervention, and held out the hope of eternal life." (p. 235).
Christianity originated as a cult comprised of only Jewish adherents until it became reconfigured for export to the Gentile world. It is important to understand the resources available to Jewish people as well as their role in the Roman Empire during the formative stages of Christianity. Contrary to the impression created by the Gospels that the Jewish people were a pastoral people concentrated in Palestine, the bulk of them were actually quite the opposite: heavily urbanized, well-established in trade, and scattered about the Roman Empire and Babylonia.
According to rabbi Lewis Browne in Stranger Than Fiction (pages 160-161):
The scattering of the Jews through foreign lands--the Diaspora as it is usually called-- had already been in process for many centuries before the fall of Jerusalem (70 A.D.). Perhaps as early as the days of Solomon there were little colonies of Hebrew traders in strange lands. Certainly there were many after the destruction of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C., and still more after the destruction of the Southern Kingdom in 586 B.C. Indeed, some scholars say that from the last date on, there were always more Jews living outside the borders of Palestine than within them.
According to Isaac Asimov, "The Jews never really returned from Babylon en masse. Even after the rebuilding of the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, important communities of Jews remained in the cities of Babylonia. These persisted throughout Biblical times and well beyond. After the destruction of the second Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70, Babylonia became the center of Jewish intellectual life for a thousand years." (page 576, Asimov's Guide to the Bible, New York: Avenel Books, 1969).
The substantial Jewish presence throughout the Roman empire was noted by Romans such as Cicero (106-43 B.C.) and at times their presence was resented. Josephus devoted an entire book in rebuttal to an anti-Semitic tract written by a Greek named Apion (Robertson, p. 157). A large self-governing Jewish community existed in Alexandria, Egypt, where the greatest library in the world had existed since its founding by Alexander the Great. The library held works on the known religions of the day. According to Rabbi Lewis Browne, "One of the greatest writers of the Hellenistic world was an Alexandrian Jew named Philo, and his work influenced the thought of all early Christian scholars." (Browne, page 161)
Many Jewish leaders such as Saul of Tarsus (Paul) were very well educated and could speak many languages. Traveling back and forth to Egypt from Palestine was not. too difficult for anyone who wanted to access the great library. It was certainly far easier than Paul's journeys to Rome or the continuous intercourse between Babylonia and Jerusalem. In Matthew 2:14-15 we even read about how the parents of Jesus went to Egypt to flee Herod. In other words, if a group of people wanted to fabricate a religion, all of the intellectual resources were certainly available in abundance during the alleged time of Christ.
The Essenes provide an important element of the Christianity puzzle because they provided a highly disciplined and radicalized cadre that was spring-loaded to document and disseminate new religious ideology. The Essenes were an ascetic Jewish community, much like Christian monks in a later period, devoted to writing scripture and living an anti-materialist, faith-oriented interpretation of religion. They shared all of their property, swore themselves to lives of poverty, and supported themselves with various crafts. Their hard frugality and self¬supporting work caused them to accumulate considerable wealth, which was kept in common and cached in various areas of Palestine, much like the Dead Sea scrolls that they produced.
Dr. Martin Larson points out that the Essene concept was nothing new; the Greek philosopher and pagan Pythagoras, synthesized a religious system that emphasized renunciation, celibacy, and Communism in the 6th Century B.C. (Larson, page 11). Pythagorean communities spread across the Mediterranean. It bears mentioning that Buddhist orders based upon similar lifestyle principles spread from India in the centuries before the alleged time of Christ as well. According to Dr. Larson, . "About 105 B.C., the Essenes incorporated the doctrines and practices of the pythagoreans into their own system and superimposed these upon the Zoroastrianism which they had already adopted about seventy years earlier. By so doing, they became the transmission belt by which the principal elements of Egyptian, Persian, Indian, and Greek mystery religions became integral portions of the western faith."
John the Baptist, if he in fact was a real person rather than a fictitious character, was more than likely an Essene. Needless to say, there was no love lost between the Essenes and the nationalistic Pharisees and Sadducees. These latter groups viewed the Essenes as a subversive and traitorous fifth column whose focus on mysticism was subverting their worldly nationalistic goal of throwing off the Roman yoke and restoring an autonomous Jewish state. The Pharisees and Saduccees were looking for a hardy nationalistic hero similar to King David or Judas "The Hammer" Maccabeus. They had less love for a pacifistic, literal-equalitarian movement than what the John Birch Society in the 1960's felt for the Chicago Seven or the hippie movement.
We see a similar conflict and polarization today between secular Jews and Orthodox Jews in Israel. Many of the orthodox Jews insist on a strictly kosher lifestyle and communal values. Most Kibbutz's are deep in the red financially because of their inefficient communal operations. Many Orthodox Jews advocate pacifism. Some Orthodox Jews refuse military service, and even in Brooklyn today one can find Lubavitch Jews who believe that secular Zionism is wrong and that a supernatural return of a messiah should precede any physical return of the Jewish people to the promised land. As the saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
A problem with the Nietzschean-Ravage fabrication theory is that it typically takes too much control over media and other resources to pull off a big lie all at once. Paul himself could have hardly "theologized"vast segments of the Mediterranean within his life time. More often what happens is that propagandists will embellish a small truth and continuously add on to it over time with exaggerations so that the truth content slips from 100% down to less than 20%.
I observed a related phenomenon while working on a project that involved researching the antiquities of indigenous peoples. Tribesmen who lack a written tradition will usually provide reasonably accurate and realistic versions of events that occurred during their lifetimes. However, as they go back in time to the deeds of their grandparents and great grandparents, the episodes and personalities become increasingly fantastic and even supernatural in character. The accounts written about Jesus came long after his alleged lifetime and have many contradictions. According to John Jackson in Pagan Origins of the Christ Myth:
The dates of origin of the Four Gospels have been estimated as follows: Mark --A.D. 70 to 100; Luke --about A.D. 100; Matthew --A.D. 100-110; John --sometime between A.D. 100 and 160. That these Gospel stories are replete with inaccuracies and contradictions is obvious to all who read with a discerning eye. In Matthew 2:1, we are told that Jesus Christ was born "in the days of Herod." But in Luke 2:2, we are told that the Christ child first saw the light of day, "when Cyrenius was governor of Syria." There is here a discrepancy of at least ten years, for Herod died in the year 4 B.C. while Cyrenius or Quirinius, as he is know in Roman history, did not become governor of Syria until the year A.D. 7 ... Matthew 1:6-16 lists twenty eight generations from David to Jesus while Luke 3:23-38 tabulates forty three ...
There may have been an actual person who existed prior to the alleged time of Jesus who inspired the Christ myth. According to Dr. Larson's book The Essene-Christian Faith, "An Essene Teacher of Righteousness, born about 95-90 B.C., during the reign of King Alexander Jannaeus, "became the revered head and prophet of the Essene Order; he was slain or executed by the Jewish authorities about 70 or 69 B.C.; his followers believed that he was actually God himself, appearing briefly as a man among men and that he was resurrected and returned to heaven on the third day, and would, in due course, send a divine representative for the purpose of establishing the Kingdom of Saints on earth." Dr. Larson provides more details regarding this leader, based upon The Damascus Document found in Old Cairo in 1896 by Solomon Schechter, that tells the story known as the Toledoth Yeshu. According to Dr. Larson, although this legend is not found in the Talmud or the Orthodox Jewish tradition, it was known to Celsius, an anti-Christian Platonist who composed his True Discourse about 170 AD.
There are some interesting similarities between the life of Yeshu and that of Jesus. Yeshu's father went into self-imposed exile to Egypt when Yeshu was a baby. At an early age Yeshu engaged in an impudent discussion with Jewish sages, saying that Moses could not have been the greatest of prophets if he had to seek the counsel of Jethro, the pagan priest. Yeshu was able to discover the letters of the ineffable name of Yahweh in the Temple in Jerusalem, and by copying and then memorizing them, was able to cure cripples and lepers by uttering them. Some Jews worshiped him as a Messiah, others denounced him as a sorcerer. According to the story, he revived a corpse and used a millstone as a boat in the Sea of Galilee. Yeshu gained the favor of Queen Hellene of the Jewish nation, but met his demise when he was faced by an antagonist in court that worked feats of magic. Yeshu became "defiled" by this opponent, and both of them fell down powerless and forgot the letters of the ineffable Name. In order to relearn the letters of the ineffable Name, Yeshu returned to Jerusalem with 310 adherents on the eve of the Passover. He rode into the city on an ass and entered the Temple with his disciples, who had sworn not to reveal his identity. However, a follower, Judah Iskarito, betrayed him by bowing to him. He was seized by the authorities in the Temple and was subsequently put to death by hanging from a tree on the eve of the Passover Sabbath. On the first day of the week, followers went to Queen Hellene and said that Yeshu was the Messiah and had risen to heaven. The Queen demanded that the sages produce the body. A gardener, who foresaw the deception of Yeshu's followers, produced the body, which was tied to the tail of a horse and dragged before the Queen. Although the Queen became disillusioned, many of Yeshu's followers kept their faith. For thirty years the followers of Yeshu created commotion in Israel by claiming that Yeshu was indeed the Messiah and had risen to heaven. (Larson, pages 151-154).
The messianic aspect of the Toledoth Yeshu story is part of a continuing pattern in Jewish history. The messianic tradition goes back to Moses, portrayed in the Old Testament as a military-messianic leader who delivers his people from bondage. Then there are the leaders of the Book of Judges who fight the Philistines and other oppressors. Some leaders, such as Isaiah, were more messianic. Other leaders like Judas "the Hammerer" Maccabeus were more militaristic. "The Hammerer" led a revolt that resulted in recapture of the Temple in 165 B.C. This became the basis of the annual Feast of Lights called Hanukkah.
There were also Jewish leaders who continually added on to the body of Jewish scripture. The Old Testament was not enough. The Babylonian Talmud was created in the 5th Century AD. Even later came more mystical works such as the Zohar and Kabbalah. According to Lewis Browne in Stranger than Fiction, (page 258), the Zohar was created in the 13th century by "a Spanish Jew named Moses de Leon, who sponsored the book, claimed it had been written by a wonder-working rabbi eleven hundred years earlier, and that the manuscript had lain hidden away all the intervening years in a mysterious cave. In all probability, however, he had compiled it himself from stolen manuscripts lifted by him from Hindu, Persian, and Hebrew writings."
Brown mentions men like Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676), who "was one of the many 'false' messiahs' who appeared among the Jews generation after generation, excited them with wild and impossible hopes, and then came to some bad end." (page 264).
He also mentions Baal Shem Tov, born in an Eastern European settlement around 1700. According to Browne (page 287), "a strange and wondrous man was he --one who in his whole life and work seems to have been a true brother to that other 'Kind Master,' Jesus of Nazareth. And like Jesus, very little is definitely known about Baal Shem Tov, for he too left no writings. Only naive and confused legends remain to tell us of his life, and it is not easy to decide just what in them is fact and what is fancy."
The concept that the Toledoth Yeshu story was "doctored up" into the Gospels would be consistent with the later activities of men like Moses de Leon. It would also be consistent with the opinions of members of the Jesus Seminar about the fabricated nature of Scripture.
There is also evidence that a very good literary environment for "doctoring" existed during the first and second century AD. A number of writings from that period have been rejected by Christian authorities, such as the Gnostic scriptures and "The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden."
The latter phrase is the title of a volume (New York: New American Library/Penguin, first published in 1926 and more recently in 1974 in paperback) that includes such books as Mary, Protevangelion, I Infancy, II Infancy, Christ and Abgarus, Nicodemus, The Apostles' Creed, Laodiceans, Paul and Seneca, Paul and Thecla, and fifteen other books. Other books, such as Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, and 2 Maccabees appear in the Catholic Apocrypha but have been excluded from Protestant Bibles. An environment that generated so many books that were later declared counterfeit by various Christian churches leaves us with a question about the credibility of what is deemed authentic.
Speaking of counterfeit books, Isaac Asimov, in Asimov's Guide to the Bible, says that the Old Testament book of Esther "can only be described as a piece of historical fiction." Asimov notes that the Greek historian Herodotus makes no mention of the incidents described in the Book of Esther regarding the reign of Ahasuerus/Xerxes I (519?-465 B.C.). He points out that:
... Esther may have been written as late as 130 B.C. and it breathes the air of nationalism one would expect of that period in which the Jews were finally living in an independent kingdom again after having undergone a period of savage persecution. It is probably the chauvinistic nationalism of the book that made it so popular among Jews as to force its inclusion in the Biblical canon.
The book of Esther, incidentally, is also the basis of the annual Jewish Purim celebration.
Given that so much spurious literature originated between 200 BC and 200 AD, perhaps it would be a wonder if the story of Jesus were NOT a fabrication.
A SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF CHRISTIANITY
Dr. Marvin Harris, one of America's leading anthropologists, gives us another important piece of the Christian jigsaw puzzle in his book Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches: The Riddles of Culture (New York: Random House, 1989 paperback version). He interprets the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels to be a coded form of a military-messianic movement, which he attempts to define in anthropological terms.
For every pacifist saying attributed to Jesus, such as, "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9), one can find a militant phrase, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, I come not to send peace but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). Another example: "All that take the sword shall perish with the sword" (Matthew 26: 52) compares with "He that hath no sword, let him sell his garments and buy one" (Luke 22:26). Also: "Love thine enemies; do good to them that hate you" (Luke 6:27) compares with "And when he made a scourge of small cords, he drove them out of the temple ... and poured out the changer's money and overthrew the tables." (John 2:15). (Harris, page 190).
According to Harris, this ambiguity allowed Jewish people who lived throughout the Roman empire to interface more readily with Gentiles than when they practiced straight Judaism. (Harris, page 202)
The primary converts to this new religion --if not in number, certainly in influence-- continued to be urban Jews scattered all over the eastern Mediterranean. Contrary to legend, Christianity made no headway at all among the great mass of peasants and slaves who constituted the bulk of the population of the empire. As the historian Salo W. Baron points out, paganus, the Latin word for `peasant,' became for the Christians a synonym for "heathen." [The word "heathen," incidentally, means `from the heath or country'] Christianity was eminently the religion of the displaced ethnic urbanities. In cities where Jews had often amounted to one third of the population and more, this, so to speak, new variety of Judaism marched triumphantly ahead.'
Hence, we shatter another myth propagated by the Bible movies, namely that Christianity was spearheaded by the oppressed underclasses fed up with Roman wickedness. We can now better explain how Jewish apostles such as Paul could travel around the Roman empire and find support. We see all of the elements of any successful revolutionary effort: a highly disciplined cadre (such as the Essenes), an organizational nexus (the early disciples, led by Paul), revolutionary documentation and manifestos (the Old Testament, combined with the various forms of Essene and Christian New Testament literature), and a combination of money power and ethnic in-group cohesion and out-group antagonism held by Jewish communities as well as by various disaffected Gentile groups through out the Roman Empire. Certainly an important exacerbation of the ethnic antagonism was the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Much of the human interest material and parables of the Gospels came from over a hundred years of missionary experience on the part of the Essenes and other mystical teachers.
THE FIRST ESTATE FRANCISE THEORY
All of the aforementioned theories help to explain how Christianity could grow to take control of Rome. One remaining theory, which I call the "First Estate Franchise" theory, helps to explain how Christianity spread to Nordic countries.
The Christianization of Scandinavia required several centuries and encountered considerable resistance. The Vikings were a different people than most of the urban dwellers in the decadent Roman world. In many cases the Christianization process was a very bloody affair that was engineered only after considerable intrigue, persistence, incremental accommodations, and deception planning. An important factor was the ability of the church bureaucracy to continually fling missionaries and conquering armies at the heathens. It could also immediately supply the funds and expertise to build churches at each mission post, offer religious literature, provide "pre-packaged" ritual and vestments, and staff posts with dedicated. personnel. In contrast the heathens practiced a very intuitive and decentralized form of religion in which they had no bureaucracy or centers of learning with which to create effective counter measures to Christian propaganda and franchise expansion. The most effective intellectual counter measures began with the Enlightenment, which began in European universities in the 17th century, but this was too late to save the Vikings.
The Viking era began with the Viking raid on the Lindisfarne Priory, a Christian propaganda center, in 793 AD. Iceland succumbed to Christianity through a "democratic" process in the year 1000 AD, thanks in part to some muscle supplied by the King of Norway. The last hold out was the pagan temple in Uppsala, Sweden, that lasted until the twelfth century. The Viking era was effectively over in 1066 at the conclusion of a three way fratricidal war for control of England among Viking-descended kings and their armies. This war resulted in the triumph of William of Normandy and in the deaths of King Harald Godwinson of England and King Harald Hardrada of Norway. By this time all of the kings and armies involved in the power struggle had become Christianized.
The Saxons of Northern Germany were forcibly converted by Charlemagne in the end of the eighth century. [Editor's 2009 note: Charlemagne executed 4,500 Saxon pagan hostages at Verdun in 782 AD and chopped down their sacred groves. The Saxons retaliated the following year by massacring a Frankish Army, but later succumbed to Christianity after their leader Widukind got baptized in 785 A.D. The 782 AD hostage killings may be a more fitting commencement point for the Viking Age than the attack on the Lindisfarne Priory in 793 AD. Perhaps "Norse pagan freedom fighters" were reacting to Christian aggression against their kinsmen in northern Germany and elsewhere in Europe]. After northern Germany succumbed to bloody conquest, Denmark became the next major target for Christian evangelism. The Christian leaders continually sent missionaries to the Danes and established beach heads by building small churches in their trading centers. Once Christians gained monopoly power in cities, they used it to force baptisms on pagans in exchange for trade privileges.
Christian rulers pressured Viking leaders to convert in order to obtain treaty concessions or the financial backing to raise armies. A good example was Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway, who was supplied with a large sum of Danegold (protection money) by the English along with a new faith in 994 AD. He used his new muscle to pressure the Icelanders into conversion and impose his new faith on Norway. Norway quickly reverted to paganism after he died, but subsequent Christian kings such as the (not so saintly) St. Olaf were not above using torture and terror to force pagan conversions. King Olaf was killed in the battle of Stiklastader in 1030 fighting against an army of yeoman Norse farmers near Trondheim Norway. The farmers were unimpressed with his "Christian" leadership or the crosses worn by Olaf's men on their helmets. Unfortunately by then even the farmers themselves had become heavily infiltrated by Christianity. In order to fight Olaf, they had to accept both the support and hegemony of Christianized Danes. Worse yet, after the victory the Danes tried to tax the farmers so heavily that the Norwegian public began to view Olaf as a martyr and nationalist hero. This dignified Olaf's Christian trappings and helped to elevate him to sainthood. Some scholars put the year 1030 rather than 1066, as the end of the Viking era.
The clergy, or First Estate, helped the rulers and nobility, or Second Estate to stay in power. Their ability to collect tithes and taxes was unknown in the times of decentralized pagan religion. Christian ideology created a thoroughly indoctrinated and radicalized army of priests fanatically dedicated to supporting the system, complete with a centralized hierarchy. It was a ruthless system from the genetic viewpoint, because whole armies of very capable men were forced into celibacy and did not pass on their genes, thereby fostering dysgenic decay. The confessor system created a centralized intelligence network or "KGB" for each arch Bishop, who in turn whispered in the ear of their King.
The "value added" by this new form of religious domination was questioned by Soledad de Montalvo in "The Church's Holy War Against Hygiene" (American Atheist, Feb 1989): After Christians gained monopolistic religious power in Rome, they continued their "war against the flesh." The Roman baths and other measures taken by "clean living" pagans were neglected. Sanitary standards dropped precipitously through out Europe, as Christians were exhorted, "All those who have been washed [baptized] in Jesus Christ need no further 'purifications." Vermin infestation became prevalent. According to Montalvo, "Christians were forced to pay tithes to a rapacious clergy and the equally rapacious aristocracy and for centuries the ordinary standard of living in all Christian countries was actually lower than it had been in Neolithic times. Between the ninth and eleventh centuries, famines killed off half the population of Europe."
If anything, the First Estate became too effective and too powerful, a kind of sorcerer's apprentice that threatened to get completely out of control. The more secure dominion that European rulers gained initially was offset by terrible power struggles further down the line. In English history, Henry II's knights cut down Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral as a result of the First Estate vs. Second Estate power struggle. Henry VIII beheaded Sir Thomas Moore in another power struggle. The English struggle between the First and Second Estate ended with a victory for the Second Estate when King Henry VIII seceded from Rome and declared himself the head of the Protestant Church of England. Because Henry had the English Channel as a moat and a strong army and navy as well, the Pope could only retaliate by condemning Henry to eternal damnation. A subsequent Pope authorized the unsuccessful invasion effort of the Spanish Armada.
In France, the First Estate gained the upper hand in the 17th Century. Cardinal de Richelieu, made famous in Dumas' classic The Three Musketeers, became more powerful than King Louis XIII. The major break in the power of the Church had to wait until the French Revolution.
Which theory is more correct? The Nietzschean/Ravage conspiratorial theory? The theory that the Toledoth Yeshu story was the seed crystal behind the Gospel accounts of Christ? The theory of Dr. Harris that Christianity was really a military/Messianic movement in coded form to help Jewish communities adapt to gentile surroundings while maintaining a messianic dream? The "pagan Christ" theory that Christianity extracted elements of various pagan resurrection mythologies (some of which were Indo-European in origin) to become a superior form of "religious software" that would tend to spread on its own among Indo-European peoples? The First Estate franchise theory, that Christianity provided a valuable tool for rulers to dominate and control the peoples under them?
My best guess is: all of the above. Each provides, in varying degrees, insight into contributing factors behind the evolution of Christianity among different individuals and peoples at different times. However, each insight provides only a part of the truth rather than the whole truth.
Was the spread of Christianity politically motivated to help subjugate our ancestors? In part yes, but we have to remember that Julius Caesar and other pagan emperors ruthlessly rooted out the Druidic priesthood to subjugate Celtic peoples before Christianity was born. Even in pagan times, it was not uncommon for conquerors to try to substitute their gods for the indigenous gods of a subjugated people as a primitive form of psychological warfare and brainwashing.
Christianity is not necessarily the only dogmatic and intolerant religion around. Numerous pagan religions have existed that have been every bit as degenerate and decadent as anything identified by Nietzsche in Christianity, if not more so. A lot of religious intolerance is motivated by personal power agendas that are independent of the theology being defended or promoted. We also know that there is a strong instinctive basis behind human behavior, and that much of the impetus for the spread of Christianity was probably more semi-conscious than conscious. We also have to look at the way in which Christianity addressed the human need for love and community acceptance as well as appealed to the paranoid fears or power needs of certain individuals or groups. Christianity coincided with increased urbanization of Northern Europe, but then we have to remember that magnificent cities were created in pagan Rome and Greece, and the Vikings already had many substantial cities in place during the pagan period. Christianity also brought literacy to many lands, although we must remember that literacy was already developed in pagan Rome and Greece before Christianity took over those societies. Our Norse pagan ancestors had their own alphabet, the Futhark, that they wrote with for centuries before adopting the Romanized alphabet. Over three thousand rune stones that briefly describe individual Viking ancestors survive to this day in Scandinavia.
Rune stone in Sweden
Finally, we might ask whether Christian theology is a manifestation of some kind of alien, "oriental" or "Semitic" mentality. It clearly can not reflect a completely alien mentality, since there are elements of Indo-European religions that may have been "recycled" (or "counterfeited") in the fabrication of Christian doctrine, such as Zoroastrianism and the Pythagorean cult. To treat Christianity and the pagan Indo-European religions as if they are completely apart is to make a false dichotomy. If Christianity were totally alien, it would not have enjoyed any grass roots success at all among our own people.
Perhaps it stands to reason that the nature of Christianity and its origins are not only multi-faceted, but are also rather slippery and complex. And perhaps that is exactly the way the people who originated Christianity wanted it. If they were clever enough to be able to develop a new religion and create numerous churches throughout the Roman Empire within their lifetimes, they were also probably subtle enough to know how to cover their tracks with ambiguity, omissions, and dissimulation. In editing the New Testament, the early Church omitted the Essenes, gave us no information about the life of Paul after 64 AD in the Book of Acts, failed to tell us the complete life story of Jesus, and has made many other omissions that suggests some track-covering and yarn-spinning at work.
We who are in Asatru have the advantage over Christianity of having less "theism" to impair our intellectual freedom. We also represent the emotional and instinctive center of gravity of our people. When Christians of Viking descent pray to God, they really pray to God-an, our Odin, not an alien Yahweh. All such Christians are repressed Odinists. So long as our people live, Asatru shall live. Asatru is eternal.
But life is not simple, and every advantage often carries with it potential disadvantages. Our greater freedom to do good is also a greater freedom that can be abused and counterfeited to do bad. Our ability to function better without dogma and guidance from others is not necessarily a benefit for those people who by temperament hunger for dogma to find security and certainty in life. In order to effectively pass on our message of love and freedom to our people and resurrect their religious heritage, we will need to be good at many different things. We must continue to educate people to understand our viewpoint. We must create more religious literature, sustain positive community feeling, and develop institutions. Early Christians gained the support of powerful and wealthy people, and we deserve no less. We should also not be afraid to organize ourselves to fulfill important religious service functions that are routinely carried out by competing religious groups. Last but not least, we should not be afraid to listen to the loving voices of our Gods who encourage us to succeed in our noble cause and labor of spiritual love for our people.