"Like" the Patheos Pagan Page on Facebook to receive today's best commentary on Pagan issues.

I've recently read, and commented on, a piece written by my Patheos Pagan Portal colleague K. C. Hulsman, "Christ is NOT the Reason for the Season." While I would dispute a few of her details, on the whole it's a good article, and apart from those details, it's entirely factual to state that late December (the old date of Winter Solstice, in fact) being chosen as an arbitrary date for the otherwise unknown and uncertain birth of Jesus, and the appropriation of many non-Christian associations of the way the holiday is celebrated by Christians over the centuries, is something which Christians who insist that there is a factual element to their observances don't realize, and can't seem to get through their heads.

Of course, there are exceptions to this statement amongst some Christians, but we don't hear about them very much, with the pseudo-news forces of Fox and the like both complaining about those who say "Happy Holidays" rather than expressing a greeting specific to their preferred holiday, while also saying that those businesses that do wish people their preferred holiday greeting are "just doing it for the money." But, I leave that set of problems aside for the moment.

In reading and responding to the comments on K.C.'s piece, I've realized something.The in-built "persecution complex" that Christians have, and still resort to, whenever anyone raises an alternative religious viewpoint to their own is something that our spiritual ancestors—the Greek, Roman, and other Pagans and polytheists of Europe and the ancient Mediterranean world—inadvertently created.But perhaps I'd better back up a bit first.

The early Christians were a minority within a minority—a radical, reforming Jewish sect that was a small part of the overall Jewish population. With people like Saul of Tarsus, they began spreading their teachings to a wider group of people, the Gentiles—which is to say, "the Nations," meaning anyone who wasn't Jewish. When the Gentiles started taking to these teachings, they ran into difficulty with the civil authorities of the time. Despite Jesus' teaching about "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's," and the Imperial Cultus being a functioning reality during his lifetime, this teaching was interpreted in various other ways that did not include actually respecting Roman civil custom.

Of course, it is somewhat problematic to talk about "Roman civil custom" outside of "Roman religious practice," because there was little difference or distinction between them. In our post-"separation of church and state" era, we think of the Senate of a country as a law-making body, not as a religious authority, which is what it was in ancient Rome. Taxes were levied, roads were built, wars were declared, and many other functions of what we would consider civil society, were all carried out by the Senate in the name of various different deities who oversaw these functions. The Senate was, in essence, a kind of priestly body that took care of these matters of public welfare on behalf of the people and in the service of the gods.