An excerpt from Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons:
As Langdon moved toward the first recess, he passed the tomb of one of Italy’s Catholic kings. The sarcophagus, like many in Rome, was askew with the wall, positioned awkwardly. A group of visitors seemed confused by this. Langdon did not stop to explain. Formal Christian tombs were often misaligned with the architecture so they could lie facing east. It was an ancient superstition that Langdon’s Symbology 212 class had discussed just last month.
“That’s totally incongruous!” a female student in the front had blurted when Langdon explained the reason for east-facing tombs. “Why would Christians want their tombs to face the rising sun? We’re talking about Christianity… not sun worship!”
Langdon smiles, pacing before the blackboard, chewing an apple. “Mr Hitzrot!” he shouted.
A young man dozing in back sat up with a start. “What! Me?”
Langdon pointed to a Renaissance art poster on the wall. “Who is that man kneeling before God?”
“Um… some saint?”
“Brilliant. And how do you know he’s a saint?”
“He’s got a halo?”
“Excellent, and does that golden halo remind you of anything?”
Hitzrot broke into a smile. “Yeah! Those Egyptian things we studied last term. Those… um… sun disks!“
“Thank you, Hitzrot. Go back to sleep.” Langdon turned back to the class. “Halos, like much of Christian symbology, were borrowed from the ancient Egyptian religion of sun workship. Christianity is filled with examples of sun worship.”
“Excuse me?” the girl in the front said. “I go to Church all the time, and I don’t see much sun worshipping going on!”
“Really? What do you celebrate on December twenty-fifth?”
“Christmas. The birth of Jesus Christ.”
“And yet according to the Bible, Christ was born in March, so what are we doing celebrating in late December?”
Langdon smiles. “December twenty-fifth, my friends, is the ancient pagan holiday of sol invictus – Unconquered Sun – coinciding with the winter solstice. Its that wonderful time of year when the sun returns, and the days start getting longer.”
Langdon took another bite of apple.
“Conquering religions,” he continued, “often adopt existing holidays to make conversion less shocking. It’s called transmutation. It helpes people acclimatize to the new faith. Worshipers keep the same holy dates, pray in the same sacred locations, use a similar symbology… and they simply substitute a different god.”
Now the girl in the front looked furious. “You’re implying Christianity is just some kind of… repackaged sun worship!“
“Not at all. Christianity did not borrow only from the sun worship. The ritual of Christian canonization is taken from the ancient ‘god-making’ rite of Euhemerus. The practice of ‘god-eating’ – that is, Holy Communion – was borrowed from the Aztecs. Even the concept of Christ dying for our sins is arguably not exclusively Christian; the self-sacrifice of a young man to absolve the sins of his people appears in the earliest tradition of the Quetzalcoatl.”
The girl glared. “So, is anything in Christianity original?”
“Very little in any organized faith is truly original. Religions are not born from scratch. They grow from one another. Modern religion is a collage… an assimilated historical record of man’s quest to understand the divine.
“Um… hold on,” Hitzrot ventures, sounding awake now. “I know something Christina that’s original. How about our image of God? Christian art never portrays God as the hawk sun god, or as an Aztec, or as anything weird. It always shows God as an old man with a white beard. So our image of God is original, right?
Langdon smiled. “When the early Christian converts abandoned their former deities – pagan gods, Roman gods, GReek, sun, Mithraic, whatever – they asked the church what their new Christian God looked like. Wisely, the church chose the most feared, powerful… and familiar face in all of recorded history.”
Hitzrot looked skeptical. “An old man with a white, flowing beard?”
Langdon pointed to a heirarchy of ancient gods on the wall. At the top sat an old man with a white, flowing beard. “Does Zeus look familiar?”
The class ended right on cue.
I love this excerpt. I don’t know how much of it is true. But still, it proves two things for me.
(1) Christianity is man-made and therefore, the post of “God” has been imposed upon. It has been transmuted to suit the converts’ requirements and acceptance of Christianity and nothing else.
(2) Christianity too gives some form of importance to image of God and so on. It is not only the Hindus who worship images. So they have no right to point fingers.
Imagine how opposite Hinduism is. I am clearly being biased here, or so you might think. However, any logical person would arrive at the conclusion that Hinduism, unlike Christianity, had never changed its fundamental precepts to suit the needs of the converts. It has been sincere through and through. Unlike Christianity, Islam or Judaism, God in Hinduism has never been seen as being separated from the Universe that was created by God. Indeed, everything is God, the Universe is God, the energy that holds everything together is indeed God. Hinduism is simply brilliant.
I am fascinated with Hinduism because it made me see the world as it is, with the things we superimpose upon it.