Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Christian Epiphany

I just recently had an epiphany about Christianity.

It started a few years ago when I was talking to a friend about the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My friend said that he saw how Judaism and Christianity were similar to each other, like two brothers, but that Islam, he said, was like a distant cousin, very distinct from the two. At the time I concurred with him, but now I actually disagree. As I see it now, Judaism and Islam are a lot more similar to each other, and it is Christianity that's the distant cousin.

Think about it.

In Judaism and Islam, there are many dietary restrictions, like being forbidden from eating pork and fasting. It is forbidden to make engraven images of prophets, saints or god. God is purely monotheistic and immaterial, having no bodily forms. Houses of worship have no images, just words or calligraphy. Christianity on the other hand, has no dietary restrictions (not eating meat on Friday for Catholics during Lent was commutated). Engraven images abound on stained glass windows, statues, paintings, and crucifixes etc. And god is triune, coming in three forms that are separate and distinct yet all are one. That's considered blasphemy is Judaism and Islam.

It's Christianity that is the oddball of the three Abrahamic faiths when you really think about it.

This brings me to my epiphany. While watching a documentary recently about Indian shamans who are worshiped as gods by their followers, I thought to myself how odd it is for religions to be centered around people - mortals of flesh and bone, some of whom have died and are still worshiped as gods. I mean, who could worship a god that dies? And then it struck me. That's the same thing that Christians do! Christians worship a man - Jesus - as god, a man who they believe was divine and mortal.

All of these Indian religions now make more sense given this new perspective. And when Christianity is seen through this phenomenon of people worshiping other people as gods, a practice that goes back beyond the dawn of human civilization, and one that thrives in modern day India, I've been able to see it in a much different light. Christianity follows in the footsteps of those religions who had god-kings and demi-gods who were human or who took human form. In some ways, it's no different from the countless sects and religions throughout the world that worship shamans and mystics and that cling to their every word as manifestations of divine wisdom.

You can't have your faith and eat it too.


  1. It seems to me that you're being a bit blithe with your distinctions; there have long been sects in Christianity that rebel against the humanizing of the sacred or sublime. The earliest Christians appear to have been heavily influenced by Platonism and Gnosticism, both of which explore corporeal transcendence, the iconoclasts fought hard to dismantle any kind of idolatry in the Christian Byzantine Empire, protestants have largely distanced themselves from the corporeal-godliness seen by Catholics in the idolatry of Mary and the saints, etc.

    But you are completely correct that Christianity inherited or co-opted much (all?) of its traditions and mythos and rituals and whatnot from what had occurred previously (and some of which transpired later -- you don't sustain the success that Christianity has attained without also evolving.)

    1. It's true that early Christianity had many sects, some of whom did not see Jesus as divine, some of whom saw Jesus as fully divine but human in appearance. What prevailed, the early Catholic church, took sainthood to the extreme in idolatry, probably because of the pagan Roman influences. I always wondered how someone could worship a god that could die, and seeing how many Indian faiths as well as pagan faiths do just that, I see now how Christianity follows down that line.

  2. It's almost as if religions tend to be founded by a guys who just want to be worshipped.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...