I’ve gone over much of the basic claims the anti-Easter sites make use of, but not all, and I have no intention of doing so. Once you pick apart the basic claims the rest kind of falls apart on its own.
Most of this propaganda is aimed at making the Catholic Church look bad and hold up any Christian belief that’s not Catholic as somehow ‘higher’. I’ve seen the same stuff posted on Facebook and linked to sites connected to the following beliefs. Also this isn’t an attack on any particular person, and I apologize if it has come across that way. What spurred me to write this all was that I saw basically the same meme posted twice in a row on Facebook by two people with radically different, opposing beliefs.
Here’s where I got a lot of my information. Note, not all of this stuff actually refers to the “Two Babylons” book. Some of it is very good research and information. Most is regurgitating the same stuff over and over. Most of the stuff I reference directly was pulled from cited sources on Wikipedia, with a few complimentary articles from Encyclopedia Britannica.
- Christian Fundamentalists – Protestant groups seeking to go back to the Bible and trimming off anything that might have a pagan origin. When convenient anyway.
- http://www.truthontheweb.org/easter.htm – This article actually has more attributions than any other I’ve seen, but they still occasionally make use of The Two Babylons. Otherwise it’s good stuff and I used some of it for leads as to where all the stuff I’ve mentioned actually comes from.
- http://christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-t020.html – Again a lot of bad research. Just jumps right into the Ishtar connection. Hilariously they attribute Ralph Woodrow as their source of information. They make no mention that he retracted the book he wrote “The Babylon Mystery Religion”. Here’s his own statement: http://www.ralphwoodrow.org/books/pages/babylon-mystery.html
- http://www.ldolphin.org/ishtar.html – Old site.
- http://rcg.org/books/ttooe.html – Was good until he linked it to Babylon.
- Messianic Jews – Essentially Torah following Christians. I know it’s more subtle than that but that’s the basic idea.
- http://thinknot.info/easter.htm – He just adds stuff to what the Bible actually says.
- http://www.bibletruth.cc/Easter.htm – Again with the Two Babylons. I don’t actually know if this one is Messianic Jewish, but he’s at least Torah Observant.
- http://www.yhwhisel.com/Easter.html – Good source actually. He doesn’t get into any of the really out there stuff.
- Atheists – Mostly forum posts. Some were out there, some were pretty grounded.
- http://atheism.about.com/od/easterholidayseason/p/PaganChristian.htm -Decent information actually.
- Orthodox Judaism – In fairness to these guys they were using mostly official Catholic statements.
- Sadly I can’t find the site I ran into in my google search history. It was the only one that actually used official Catholic doctrine and broke it down without resorting to the Two Babylons. Also had some good historical information.
- Pagan Sites – I actually only found forums using the Two Babylons as reference. Many of the pagan sites were actually defending Christians for the customs.
- http://www.assyrianvoice.net/forum/index.php?topic=8232.0 – It sounds alright until they connect Ishtar/Easter and think Herod was about to celebrate a holiday called Easter.
- http://www.goddessgift.com/pandora%27s_box/easter-history.html – This site does a good job with the myths. Makes an Innana connection I hadn’t thought of that makes a bit more sense than Ishtar.
- Various Conspiracy Theory Sites – Most of this stuff comes from these. Let’s be real for a moment here. They also espouse various politicians are reptilian humanoids, but can’t even agree which ones. Serious credibility problems.
- http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message1828963/pg1 – I can’t even tell where this one is coming from. Might be a skeptical forum making fun, might be a group of honest-to-god believers. Seems to be both. I have no idea.
- http://www.retakingamerica.com/easter_and_ishtar.html – Was going to put this under Fundamentalist Christian, but nope. Firmly conspiracy theory site.
- http://www.davidicke.com/articles/religious-fraud-mainmenu-42/32426-the-babylonian-origins-of-easter-ishtar – David Icke. Need I say more.
- Other/Ebook – Usually these would fall into the conspiracy theory realm, but some of them don’t really seem to be that way. A lot of them are just e-books with various agendas that can’t find publishers.
- http://mystery-babylon.org/index.html – Not really a conspiracy site, but I can’t really figure out how to categorize this one.
- http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Hebrew_Roots/Neglected_Commandments/Idolatry/Easter – Again not sure what this is trying to accomplish.
- http://www.piney.com/His32.html – I don’t even… Mostly Hislop.
What you should immediately notice is that these sites are not agreeing with each other, or pushing the same agenda. Most use the Ishtar thing for vastly different conclusions. The fundamentalists want to return to scripture and not have any pagan customs, but they don’t necessarily want to celebrate Passover. The Torah following Christians use the information to go back to following Torah and celebrate the Jewish festivals as the only God-instituted holy days.
You’ve got Atheists that claim to just present the facts, and to be fair most do, to show how religion is just nonsense. The Orthodox Jews just want to show how Christianity is a pagan religion entirely that is only barely related to Judaism (hilariously the guy mostly responsible for dividing the Bible in old and new testaments felt the same way). Your basic Pagan site is trying to show either how pagan beliefs tie in with Christianity beautifully, or want to go back to the old ways. The Conspiracy sites are just nuts and who knows what they want, none of them agree with each other. The e-books are looking for a profit, or fit in somewhere else but I couldn’t really figure out where. There are so many more sites that do this from every perspective imaginable and they all use the same discredited book from the 1800’s, and another book from the 80’s that the author himself retracted and replaced (they never mention that though!).
Easter, Pagan Origins, and Arguments for and against.
First, it is entirely true most of our Christian holidays have pagan origins in some form or another. None of them are required by the Bible, they have come about as time has passed for various reasons.
There is a lot of subtlety in the arguments for and against these traditions. The arguments are all over the place, but I’ll focus on just a few. Here’s a few of the most common to the topic at hand.
“We shouldn’t celebrate Easter because of evil pagan origins that are against the teachings of the Bible.”
This is a valid argument. Easter as we celebrate it today is not referred to, brought up, commanded or otherwise required in the Bible. The Bible does talk about destroying old pagan ways. There are plenty of stories of the Israelites burning idols, destroying temples and otherwise purging these things from their lands (Gideon, Josiah, etc). If the pagan origins really bother you and you don’t think you’re worshiping God by doing them, then don’t. But you don’t need to implicate ancient people of baby killing or add words to Scripture to show your reasoning. You also don’t need to make the Catholic Church look bad either. Just like any other organization, it has no problem doing that without your help.
Early Christians might not have celebrated any holidays at all. We certainly have a few sects today that don’t celebrate holidays. It seems that the Jewish Christians were the ones that started celebrating Jesus’ resurrection since it coincided with Passover. And that’s fine.
“We should celebrate Passover instead of Easter because of the evil pagan origins and God commanded it, not Easter.”
So this is also a valid argument, and a little more specific reason, but not complete. Usually comes from the Torah observant, and more Jewish leaning groups. This is the one I agree with most. The basic reasoning here is always that Jesus said in Matthew 5:17
“17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”
Then he goes on to say:
“18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
“20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Then he goes on for the next two chapters tearing into the Ten Commandments and other laws and how easy they are to break. I never hear this part of it tied into the argument. He says that if you call your brother stupid that’s going to get you the same thing as killing him. Major commandment broke there. Look at a woman and have lustful thoughts? You’re an adulterer, you’ve broken a major commandment. I’ve done both in the same ten minute span. Divorce your wife for any other reason than she cheated on you? Well you’ve just made HER commit adultery as well as her new husband if she remarried. In context, you just made two more people break a major commandment not ten seconds after getting done with breaking the same one because you looked at the pretty assistant during your divorce hearings and thought about her naked. Also you probably called the opposing side stupid at some point. One can imagine a scenario where one divorce could cause an entire city to break the adultery law.
He even goes into WORRYING and how it’s wrong. You worry about stuff constantly? Yeah, you’ve broken a minor commandment. That homeless guy you didn’t give money to? That might be Jesus, or an angel testing you. You’ve screwed up if you didn’t help him out. Even if you think he was just going to buy drugs with it.
It’s really a beautiful sermon. He says the law won’t pass away, that unless you are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees you won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Then he goes on to talk about how everyone has broken the ever-loving crap out of the law with just their thoughts and won’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven or at least won’t be looked on very well when they do. Then he says it basically isn’t enough to just follow the law, you have to go further. No more eye for an eye, you turn the other cheek. No more just doing what’s required, you have to walk the extra distance instead of just the mile required.
I think what he’s trying to say is, “Yeah, the Law is important, it’s not going away, but it takes far more than that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ve just shown how every single person here has broken two major commandments and some of you have caused others to break them, how are you possibly going to keep the minor stuff? Even worrying about that statement could be a sin. You have to be better than the best we have to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
In Matthew 23 he backs that up by talking about how the scribes and Pharisees (that you have to be better than) are only righteous on the outside, but full of hypocrisy and iniquity on the inside. Pretty scathing.
“It doesn’t really matter where these customs came from, only the intent of the heart is what matters and we see these things pointing to Christ.”
This is a pro-Easter argument, and is also valid. There’s also an anti-Easter argument hidden away in there if you look for it. It manages to be the best and worst argument at the same time. The only way I can show this one is to show another situation in the New Testament, and circle back to holiday traditions. Keep in mind here the early Christians probably didn’t celebrate ANYTHING what with figuring Jesus was going to be back in less than a century.
See, in Romans we’ve got Paul eating meat sacrificed to pagan gods, and saying that’s OK until someone causes their brother to stumble because they think it is wrong and Paul thinks, “It’s barbecue, grow up.”. Well, there’s a major commandment broken, don’t eat meat sacrificed to pagan gods! But Paul says this in Romans 14:14.
14 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.
So there’s nothing unclean in and of itself, unless you think it is unclean. Then it’s unclean. In context with the rest of his epistles it’s safe to say that this can apply to more than just food. You’ve also got the same situation with Peter in Acts where God tells him to kill and eat all kind of stuff that wasn’t permitted.
The funnest argument I’ve heard about Paul eating the meat here was that “Well, he probably didn’t eat the meat that was actually sacrificed.” As if he could know which was which. I mean, if I squirt botulism over three pieces of meat and mix it in with ten then put it out on a counter and say, “A few might be infected with e. coli.” Would you risk eating any of it? Same thing, just with a spiritual ‘toxin’.
I know this has little to do with Easter, but it does have something to do with intent. If the intent of your heart is that the red egg symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for our sins. Does it matter if one of your ancestors used to bury a red egg in his field to protect it against lightning? Should you hide Easter eggs if it causes a fellow brother in Christ some concern because of the pagan origins of the custom? Absolutely not, to both questions.
Should you care?
I just made a good argument both for Torah observance, and that it isn’t even approaching enough. I just used Jesus own words to do so. I also made a case for faith in Jesus and nothing else really matters. I further go into John, and show how faith is enough (John 3:16) and I can back it up with Ephesians 2:8-9.
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
I could go back and forth in an infinite way with various verses, in and out of context, passages, commentary, etc. One can make a case for re-branding pagan traditions, staying away from them, strict Torah observance, not observing Torah at all and never stray from the New Testament. Heck you can make a good case on either side of the Torah thing just with Matthew 5. I’ve seen it done by two different people, mere days apart. I have heard multiple pastors, apologists and scholars defend or argue against eating pork by changing how they use a comma in the same verse and ignoring context. It’s simply amazing that four people can read the same text and reinforce their beliefs based entirely on punctuation and delays in speech in a language that didn’t even exist when it was written.
You can use the Bible as a ventriloquist dummy, and make it say anything you want. Have it apply to things the writers didn’t care about, or even think of. You can base an entire religious system on a comma. You can destroy an entire religious outlook based on half a verse, or reinforce it with the next half. With very little effort you can take a few things from other texts and change what it says entirely. You can take archaeology and discredit the whole thing, or say the author of a particular book was confused on a specific detail and argue for it again. One admitted translation issue, or minor historical inconsistency that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and it works out again.
The point is, if you think there’s something wrong with the traditions, or by practicing them you might cause someone else to have problems, don’t celebrate them. If you don’t see anything wrong with it, and the intent of your heart is good, and your conscience clear, those re-branded customs won’t hurt you either.
If you have to resort to harmonization, excuses, rationalizations or stretches of scripture to excuse one thing you do while condemning another thing you don’t by being strictly literal, then you have bigger issues than pagan egg laying bunny rabbits.