How Much Pagan Is Too Pagan?
“As Christians, how should we approach an activity, tradition or object that has pagan origins? God’s Word gives us a clear path forward.
Bad news: That thing you love? It has pagan origins.
Worse news: Pretty much everything has pagan origins.
What does God expect you to do about it?
“Do not inquire about their gods”
Just before the Israelites entered the Promised Land to claim their inheritance, God gave them a warning:
“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’
“You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:29-31, English Standard Version).
The Promised Land was filled with pagan nations who served false gods, and in the names of those gods, the people had done “every abominable thing that the LORD hates” — up to and including the ritual sacrifice of their own flesh and blood. In no uncertain terms, God was letting the Israelites know that foreign religious practices were utterly incompatible with the worship of the one true God.
Worshipping God means worshipping Him the way He wants us to do it. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (verse 32, ESV).
The problem with Christmas and Easter
That’s why Christians who study passages like these conclude they aren’t supposed to celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter.
It’s fairly common knowledge that these holidays are built around a smorgasbord of pagan religious customs. The trees, the lights, the rabbits, the eggs—they’re all pagan practices with a new coat of paint.
The argument in favor of these days is almost always that they’ve been repurposed—that, yes, those customs were pagan once, but now they glorify Jesus Christ.
But God does not accept repurposed worship. He does not accept a new coat of paint on “every abominable thing that the LORD hates.” If we worship Him by willfully adopting repurposed pagan customs, He rejects that worship.
If we persist, He rejects us.
Does God hate groves? What about raisin cakes?
But it’s easy to wonder how far that prohibition extends. Historically, God’s people have always been in the minority—which means that just about everything around us could have a pagan origin.
There are two important principles to extract from God’s instruction in Deuteronomy 12:
- Do not incorporate pagan customs of worship into your life.
- The worship is the problem. The objects involved might not be.
God said, “Do not inquire about their gods,” and “you shall not worship the LORD your God in that way” (verses 30-31, ESV). Those are the boundary lines. God isn’t telling us to throw out everything pagans have ever touched. He’s telling us to throw out their methods of worship. For example:
Pagans often used groves of trees as sacred sites for the worship of their gods, which often included ritual prostitution (Hosea 4:13-14). Does that mean Christians should avoid orchards or never plant trees of their own? No. God gave His people groves (Joshua 24:13). The trees aren’t the problem—the problem is what the pagans were doing among the trees.
Pagans also baked raisin cakes and gave them as offerings to their gods (Hosea 3:1). Should Christians avoid adding raisins to their baked goods? Again, no. There’s nothing spiritually wrong with adding raisins to cakes. There is something wrong with baking a raisin cake as an offering to God. It’s not the way He tells us to worship Him.
Should Christians avoid yoga or not?
But those are ancient examples. Here’s a more modern one:
Yoga is an incredibly contentious topic in Christian circles. It originated in India and plays an important role in Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Practitioners of these religions believe they can use yoga to expand their consciousness, bring their spiritual energies into alignment, overcome suffering, and attain enlightenment and oneness with the ultimate reality of the universe. Many times, these goals are pursued through various stretches.
These are, without a doubt, pagan spiritual practices that Christians should absolutely avoid.
But what about the stretches themselves? Is stretching a problem? Are yoga stretches something Christians should avoid?
The difference between forbidden and acceptable
It’s the same principle as the groves and the raisin cakes:
God has no problem with you stretching your muscles.
He does have a problem with you doing stretches to try and realign your spiritual energy or tap into a cosmic consciousness.
And there’s the dividing line:
Are you including forms of pagan worship in your life, or aren’t you?
Groves are fine. Raisin cakes are fine. Stretching is fine. We don’t avoid eggs just because they play a role in Easter traditions. We don’t avoid gingerbread just because it’s a common part of Christmas.
(Of course, the Bible tells us to be careful not to “wound” or “defile” our consciences. If we’re uncomfortable with something or feel it will send the wrong message to others, we should stay away from it—see 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14:23.)
What God does have a problem with and, in fact, forbids is taking those individual pieces and using them the way the pagans did. We don’t worship in the groves. We don’t bake the raisin cakes as offerings to God. We don’t stretch to align our chakras. We don’t paint eggs and try to find them during Easter. And we don’t decorate gingerbread houses for Christmas.
God doesn’t tolerate using those pagan symbols to worship Him.
Next time you discover that something in your life has pagan origins, ask yourself: “Does this thing have its roots in a form of worship God forbids? And if so, am I allowing it to have spiritual influence in my own life?”
If the answer is yes, then our only option is to get rid of it. When it comes to worshipping God, even a little pagan is too much pagan.”
(Read more about this subject in our article “History of Wedding Rings.”)
Suggestions welcome. This article was written at a reader’s suggestion. If you’d like to suggest a topic for future editions of “Christianity in Progress,” you can do so anonymously at lifehopeandtruth.com/ideas. We look forward to hearing from you!”
Commercialized Holidays, Is There an Alternative?
“We sincerely hope that in the very near future you and your children will learn more about God's Holy Days and begin observing them rather than Halloween and other days of pagan origin that are of no value for teaching spiritual truths.
The claim is now circulating that money spent on observing Halloween is second only to that spent on celebrating Christmas.
Actually, all popular holidays are now commercialized. Money is driving this artificial popularity. Without holiday advertising, retail profits would plummet.
But as it is, lots of people spend lots of money on holidays.
For Halloween, mega-bucks are spent on candy, costumes, carnivals, decorations, booze and extravagant high-tech haunted houses.
MSN Money reports (9/15/09), "Halloween is now, behind Christmas, the second biggest retail holiday in America. Americans are expected to spend over $7 billion this year on costumes, candy, attending parties and much more. Over the past three years, the popularity of Halloween has tripled …"
Of all the holidays in the Western world, Halloween—a holiday that celebrates nothing positive or noble—is having the greatest increase in popularity!
Surge in adult partying and masquerading!
Adult partying on Halloween has been rapidly increasing since the 1980's.
Halloween is now the third biggest adult party day of the year—behind only New Year's Eve and Super Bowl Sunday. Money spent on adult costumes may now be surpassing money spent on children's costumes!
For decades, adult partying on Halloween has been popular among those who actively subscribe to in the gay lifestyle. One participant, in an online article titled "Halloween: The Great Gay Holiday" says "Halloween's appeal to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered communities … has a lot to do with … our propensity for cross-dressing and gender-bending… and our special capacity to have fun. [We] cherish it…" (posted October 27, 2008, The Bilerico Project).
The origin of Halloween
The ancient Celts regarded November 1 as the start of a new year, also as an annual holiday called Samhain.
October 31 was New Year's Eve! That night was considered the night of the dead, when spirits of the wicked dead were believed to haunt the living. People would leave offerings of food and drink at their front doors to appease the unfriendly ghosts and demons. So the origin of "trick or treat" is the pagan belief that evil spirits had the equivalent of a modern protection racket—"you give food or we break your leg!"
Church leaders adopt pagan practices
To Christianize the pagans Roman Christianity took the easy approach of relabeling pagan days and practices! They reasoned that the converts could continue observing their old ways if they used them to honor the God of the Bible. That is how many pagan days and practices acquired Christian labels!
And it is how the pagan festival Samhain came be relabeled as All Saints Day or All Hallows Day. Thus, the night before became All Hallows Even, later contracted to Hallowe'en — and is now just Halloween. Its purpose was to placate the not-so-hallowed spirits—the demonic or evil spirits. That is why a witch's costume is so popular for Halloween evening.
Does it matter to God?
To those who don't consider what God thinks, the origins of Halloween would probably seem irrelevant. What would matter most to them is, "Is it fun?"
But for those who believe in God's Word it's a different story! The Bible says specifically that God detests pagan religious customs (Galatians 4:8-10).
According to the Bible our ultimate destiny depends on pleasing God. And the only real authority on what pleases God is the Bible.
God's Holy Days rather than unholy holidays
Four of God's festivals that God originally gave Old Testament Israel and were kept by Jesus Christ, Paul and the early Church occur in the fall.
These special festivals that have been observed by God's people down through the ages—including members of the United Church of God—are the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day.
God designated these deeply meaningful days to teach important truths about His great master plan as well as for worshipping and enjoying fellowship and wholesome activities with other likeminded believers.
The Day of Atonement pictures, among other things, the momentous time when Christ will remove the worldwide influence of the real evil spirits — Satan and the demons (Revelation 12:9; 18:2; 20:1-3).
We sincerely hope that in the very near future you and your children will learn more about God's Holy Days and begin observing them rather than Halloween and other days of pagan origin that are of no value for teaching spiritual truths.
To get started in that learning process, simply request, download or read online our free, highly informative booklets: Holiday or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? and Is There Really a Devil?” From: https://www.ucg.org/beyond-today/blogs/commercialized-holidays-is-there-an-alternative
Are Acid-Blocking Drugs Safe?
Do the benefits outweigh the risks for acid-blocker drugs (proton pump inhibitors like Nexium/Prilosec/Prevacid)? What about baking soda?
See video at: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-acid-blocking-drugs-safe/
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
Dyspepsia is the medical term for upset stomach. After eating, your stomach may hurt, or you feel bloated, nauseous, overly full, belching. “Despite the high prevalence of the disorder, there are no approved treatments for” it in the Western world. This leads people to seek out alternatives like baking soda, which the manufacturer promotes for use for “upset stomach.”
The problem is that “[i]t contains sodium bicarbonate and [therefore] has the potential for significant toxicity when ingested in excessive amounts,” potentially resulting “in serious electrolyte and acid/base imbalances.”
The labels were modified in 1990 to include the warning, “Do not administer to children under age 5,” because of reports of “seizure and respiratory depression.” Even just “a pinch” may be too much for an infant, and even just a few large spoonfuls could be fatal in a child.
Another new addition is the “stomach warning,” stressing the importance of not taking the product “when overly full with food or drink.” Why not? Well, if you’re familiar with scholastic science fair volcanoes, they’re baking soda and vinegar, right? Baking soda and acid, like what’s in your stomach. “This warning was added at the request of the [FDA] because of multiple case reports of spontaneous gastric rupture,” where people’s stomachs burst.
But, exploding stomachs aside, even just sticking to the suggested dose may still cause adverse effects. So, baking soda cannot be recommended, especially in “young children, pregnant women, alcoholics, and those who are on diuretics”—common blood pressure medications sometimes referred to as water pills.
What about acid-blocking drugs like Nexium or Prilosec? They work better than sugar pills, but not by much—helping 31% of dyspepsia sufferers, compared to 26% helped by placebo. In other words, 5% better than nothing. These so-called proton pump inhibitors “have…been extremely lucrative for the pharmaceutical industry,” raking in billions a year, but now that we have these massive computerized databases of patients, we can start to evaluate some of their “possible long term adverse effects.” For example: possible increased pneumonia, bone fractures, intestinal infections, heart disease, kidney failure, “and even all-cause mortality.” “The latest concern [to surface] has been the association between [the use of these drugs] and [the] risk of dementia.”
The problem with all these studies just showing associations, though, is that you can’t prove cause and effect. Maybe taking the drugs didn’t make people sick. Maybe being sick made people take the drugs. So, maybe it’s not that these drugs are the cause of these infections, fractures, death, and dementia; it’s just that they may instead be a marker for being sicker. But, there are potential mechanisms by which these drugs could have some of these effects. For example, here’s the death data. The longer people are exposed to these drugs, the higher their apparent risk of dying prematurely. But, like how could suppressing acid production in the stomach increase mortality, which is mostly like heart disease? Well, suppressing acid isn’t the only thing these drugs do. They may also cause a reduction in nitric oxide synthase, the enzyme that makes the open-sesame molecule that helps keep our arteries healthy.
In terms of dementia, a key event in the development of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of these plaques of a sticky protein called amyloid beta. And if you just stick Alzheimer’s-like cells in a petri dish, and drip on increasing levels of the drug Prevacid, the cells start churning out more amyloid. And the same thing with Prilosec or Losec, Protonix, and Nexium.
Now, just because something happens in a petri dish or mouse model doesn’t mean it happens in a person. But, most studies to date have found this link between dementia risk with the use of these drugs—including the largest such study to date, involving tens of thousands of patients, that concluded that avoiding the chronic use of these drugs “may [help] prevent the development of dementia.” Though an alternative explanation of the link is aluminum exposure, which itself may play a role in dementia. So, maybe those using acid-blocking drugs have heartburn or something, and so are also using more aluminum-containing antacids, and that’s actually the real culprit? We still don’t know.
What we do know is that there’s “an almost cultish faith in [stomach] acid suppression” as some kind of medical panacea, which “has led to progressive escalation of…dosage and potency” of these drugs, all the while “mounting evidence” suggests these drugs may cause a variety of “adverse effects” and are “overprescribed.”
How overprescribed? “[T]he rate of inappropriate use of these drugs” is about half. Half the people on the drugs shouldn’t even be on them. “These rates are…worrying, because they mean that [these drugs] are prescribed for” things they shouldn’t even be prescribed for, meaning there aren’t even proven benefits to outweigh the risks." From Video at: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-acid-blocking-drugs-safe/