At the time of Constantine, Rome was fragmented with diverse religions. Except for Christianity under the eastern empire, Rome enjoyed freedom of religion, but this was also a hotbed of conflict and dissention. With few exceptions, like Gnostic Christianity and the Eleusinian Mysteries, these religions were fundamentally authoritarian, each saying it had the ultimate authority. It should not be hard to see how this is a problem. Today, we have Indonesian Islamics forcing mutilation of Christian women, and history is full of religious wars, persecutions and massacres, all stemming from one side claiming absolute authority, and the other side better believe or else. Rome was facing the same kinds of conflicts. Pistic Christians were burning the books of Gnostic Christians and eastern emperors were persecuting both Christian groups, because they would not bow down to the Cult of the Genius of the Emperor. Constantine had just unified the eastern and western empires, and was faced with the problem of unifying the divers religions of Rome. He called the First Nicean Council to resolve this problem. This much is described in Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church has even gone as far as to boldly proclaim their intentions in the name selected by that council. "Catholic" means "universal".
Gibbon went on to say: "The Church of Rome defended by violence the empire which she had acquired by fraud; a system of peace and benevolence was soon disgraced by proscriptions, wars, massacres, and the institution of the holy office." - The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, page 453
Gibbon provided a great deal of detail. A vote was cast in the council, to decide whether women had souls. The women won by one vote. Among early Christians, however, it was the women, as much as the men, who had visions and were accepted for that ability. (pg. 356) Early Christians refused government work, especially the military. Any converts from the military were urged, as much as possible, to avoid killing. Constantine hinted that no Catholics would be passed over for promotion in his government. Within 70 years, everyone in government was a Catholic, including the military. Gifts of the Spirit were commonplace in early Christianity, but it was not long before the knowledge of these Gifts was forcibly suppressed.
What do you suppose was the template for this utterly complete turnaround in the teachings and practice of Christianity? Can we conclude Constantine hated Christians? That does not compute, as it was Constantine who put an end to the persecution begun by Nero. These changes did not pop out of a vacuum. They came from teachings and traditions of other religions of Rome. These religions had to be represented in order to fulfil the claim of a "universal" religion. One such tradition was a source of dispute when a man named Heirocles accused the council of plagiarizing the Library of Apollonius of Tyana to produce the New Testament. The Catholic Church has made efforts to erase this, and other damning evidence, as recently as 1929, when the papacy bought Encyclopedia Britannica and began editing the content.
Likewise, icons were rejected by early Christians, including crosses ( http://www.the-gnosis-site.com/crosses.htm ) and the Sabbath was observed on Saturday. It was Constantine, who in 321 AD, enacted a law making Sunday, the Sabbath. ("Stowe's Bible Astrology" by Lyman E. Stowe, pg. 69) Sunday, the day of the sun, was observed by every variant of sun-god worship, and December 25 was observed as the birthday of the sun, and every variant of the sun-god, including Mithras, Tammuz and Sol Invictus. When Constantine declared December 25 to be Christ's birthday, the Church of Antioch wrote asking: how- come you suddenly know when Christ was born, when we have not known for 300 years?
Other changes came later, such as the doctrine of priestly celebacy, unknown to early Christians, but common among other religions of the time.
All of this has been well documented. If you bothered to read books on Christian history not on your church's approved list, you would have run across much of this. Sources such as "The Two Babylons" by Rev. Alexander Hislop, "Vicars of Christ" by Peter de Rosa, and J.M. Robertson's books are in dispute, but draw conclusions which are completely logical in the context of more respected historians. It was not enough for Constantine to simply create a religion in his own image, and declare it true by fiat. Religious freedom continued in Rome until Constantius attempted, unsuccessfully, to outlaw polytheism. Constantine needed something compelling. He capitalized on an idea found in almost every religious tradition (although often persecuted, sooner or later): reincarnation. It is no accident that there is a striking similarity between the names of the disciples and the names of popular Roman dieties. Matthew was Mitras, Thomas was Tammuz, John (Ioannes in Latin) was Oannes (also known as Dagon), Peter was Jupiter, James was Janus, Mark was Mars, and Paul was Apollo. Christ was the overgod who was supposed to pull them all together. The scenario was the incarnation of all the major dieties, all of them bowing down to worship the overgod, Christ, the king of kings. This was the core of the great synthesis, the compelling idea that inspired many conflicting religions to suddenly begin debating the fine points of the new religion, Catholicism.
The renaming of the statue of Jupiter, to the statue of Peter, was mentioned in "The Two Babylons", pg. 207-210. Hislop also explains here, the real importance of Peter's presence in Rome (Contrary to later claims, Peter was never bishop in Rome). It has to do with a book which was part of the Elusinian Mysteries, the book Pet-Roma, the book of the Grand Interpreter, supposedly made of stone. It was this interpreter who was supposed to carry the keys of Janus and Cybel. This later became Peter (the Rock) of Rome, to whome Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom.
Like many notions of the early Catholic Church, this one became obsolete when there were no pagans left to assimilate. Arianism had been rejected by the Nicean Council, only to be revived again by Constantius, then suppressed again. The bare cross had a lamb added, to fool followers of Apollonius that this was the same religion. Later, a man was put on the crosses, to entice holdouts in the Cult of Prometheus. Reincarnation, itself, is a danger to any authoritarian religion, because it teaches responsibility to the God within, instead of the "appointed" agent in the seat of power. For this reason, it was suppressed in both Buddhism and Islam, after the Buddha and Mohammed both teached the idea. It was clearly discussed by Christ's disciples, but every effort has been made to obfiscate that fact, long after the Bible took the shape which Constantine gave it, and after burning every Christian book that did not fit his ideas for the new religion, and he even destroyed 300 years of the history of Greek philosphers, perhaps to erase memory of Apollonius, whose writings he used.
We are a long ways from understanding what the earliest Christians actually taught and practised, because so much has been destroyed to cover the tracks to kings and popes who tried to rewrite history to fit their needs. Many buried writings have been coming to the surface in the last 100 years. Shall we just discard these as heresy? Or do we face the fact that the "Bible" which we have so long claimed to be the ultimate authority, was actually assembled and editied by generations of pathological liars, murders and control freaks?
"..and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, that they might get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness." 2 Thes. 2:10-12
"What are among the moral convictions most fondly held by barbarous and semi-barbarous people? They are the convictions that authority is the soundest basis of belief; that merit attaches to readiness to believe; that the doubting disposition is a bad one, and skepticism a sin; that when good authority has pronounced what is to be believed, and faith has accepted it, reason has no further duty" -- Thomas H. Huxley
"Religion may in most of its forms be defined as the belief that the gods are on the side of the government." -- Bertrand Russell
"Ask and you will recieve, Seek and you will find.... If you do not ask, you will not recieve, if you do not seek you will not find."
Do you seek the truth of your existence? Or just a comforting illusion? Your choice.
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You have a lot of opinions which deserve fuller examination - especially those based on The Two Babylons. However, before discussing the origins of the Catholic Church, can we finish the initial question? I am referring to your assertion that "the Catholic Church taught reincarnation." You offered two proofs:
1. "Otherwise, there would have been no grounds to condemn it in the Fifth Ecumenical Council in 553 AD."
2. "From the beginning of Catholicism in 325 AD, the major ancient Pagan gods were taught to be incarnated as Christ's disciples. Matthew was Mithras, Thomas was Tammuz, John was Oannes (Dagon), Mark was Mars, and Peter was Jupiter."
Because of your sense of honesty you acknowledged that the first statement was incorrect, that the Fifth Ecumenical Council does not mention reincarnation. After reading the full text of the decrees of the Council, you admitted, "I had recalled the council specifically rejected the doctrine of the pre-existence of the soul. I am now only seeing mention of parties who accepted reincarnation, in part or whole." (cf. correspondence w/ John)
The second statement (I am sure you recognize) does not refer to reincarnation as such, but to syncretism. Still it is interesting. I have two questions. Are you saying Constantine introduced reincarnation into Christianity? ("Constantine needed something compelling. He capitalized on an idea found in almost every religious tradition (although often persecuted, sooner or later): reincarnation.") Second, was he the one, according to your thesis, who identified the apostles with Roman deities?
Fr. Phil Bloom
P.S. Do you know who made the earliest recorded reference to the Catholic Church? Clue: He lived two centuries before Constantine.
Letter from a "Christian" Who Believes in Reincarnation
Early Christian Teaching regarding Reincarnation