Christians complain a lot about the "persecutions" they allegedly suffered in ancient Rome. Given that they were trying to destroy the heathen spiritual values that had made Rome great in the first place, it is not surprising that the heathens tried to defend themselves.
The Christian apologists also try to imply that heathenism somehow just melted away before the Christian religion, as if the heathens somehow saw "the error of their ways" and leapt to accept the Christian god as soon as he was offered to them.
What the Christians dont like to remember is the very real persecution they inflicted, as soon as they could, on heathens who chose to retain the faith of their forebears.
Here is just a small sample of the atrocities that led to the Christian destruction of heathen Europe:Roman Empire 315 CE. Christianity becomes legal.
From now on Pagan temples
are increasingly destroyed by Christian mobs. Some famous temples that are
ruined include the Sanctuary of Ęsculapius, the Temple of Aphrodite in Lebanon,
the Heliopolis, the Temple of Serapis in Egypt, and many others. Christian
priests such as Cyril of Heliopolis and Mark of Arethusa become renowned as
"temple destroyers" .
Pagan priests are increasingly murdered, together with their heathen congregations.
356 CE. Pagan services are punishable by
death. The Christian Emperor Theodosius even murders children caught playing
with the remains of heathen statues.
Pagan philosophers are cruelly murdered. Perhaps the most revered heathen martyr is Hypatia of Alexandria, daughter of Theon the mathematician. Urged on by St Cyril of Alexandria, a mob of Christian fanatics dragged the world-famous philosopher from her chariot, stripped her naked, hauled her to the church, and there murdered her by scraping the flesh from her bones with sharp oyster shells. Her mortal remains were then burned before the screaming Christian hordes.
The slaughter of the Saxons
c. 550 CE. Germanic beliefs are outlawed in the Frankish kingdom. All heathen temples and symbols are ordered to be destroyed. Heathen songs, dances and holidays forbidden under pain of extreme punishment.
719 CE. Frankish Christian missionaries ravage Frisia with fire and sword.
January 774 CE. Charlemagne vows to convert the Saxons, or, failing that, to wipe them out.
780 CE. Charlemagne decrees the death penalty for all who fail to be baptised, who fail to keep Christian festivals, who cremate their dead, who are hostile toward Christians, etc etc.
782 CE. 4,500 Saxon nobles are beheaded in one day at Verden on the Aller for refusing to convert.
804 CE. The last heathen resistance in Saxony is put down. In thirty years of genocide, from 774 to 804, two thirds of the Saxons have been killed.
The British Isles
597 CE. The Augustinian mission arrives in Kent. Its aim is to convert heathen kings, who will then force the new religion on their followers. The situation is confusing, because kings seldom live to a great age, and their successors often repudiate the alien faith.
616 CE. Athelfrith, heathen king of Northumbria, defeats a huge Christian crusade at Chester.
617 CE. Athelfrith slain at battle of River Idle. His neurotic rival Edwin becomes king, and is subsequently converted to Christianity, forcing his subjects to give up their old faith.
653 CE. King Sigibert foists Christianity on heathen Essex.
654 CE. Penda of Mercia, the last great heathen Anglo-Saxon king, is slain by Christians at the battle of Winwęd. Only Sussex and the Isle of Wight hold out (for a short time) against Christianity.
Late 8th century onwards. Heathen Scandinavians settle all parts of British Isles.
1066 CE onwards. William the Conquerer is still passing laws against paganism. Its last redoubt, in practice if not in theory, is the Border counties which form a buffer between England and Scotland.
1603 CE. James VI of Scotland becomes also James I of England. He crushes the Borderers and destroys their separate culture.
994 CE. Olaf Tryggvason adopts Christianity in exchange for accepting a vast amount of protection money from the English. Through a brutal campaign that tolerates no opposition he "converts" Norway to Christianity. With Norway fall Shetland, the Orkneys and the Faroes.
c.1000 CE. Olaf holds prominent Icelandic pagans hostage and demands that Iceland accept the new religion. Iceland falls.
After 1000 CE. On the death of Olaf Norway returns gladly to paganism.
1016 CE. Olaf the Stout, later called St Olaf, seizes the throne of Norway. He murders, blinds and maims heathens. Heathen temples are ruthlessly robbed and destroyed.
Twelfth century CE. The great temple at Uppsala in Sweden is destroyed by Christian fanatics.
It is impossible to estimate the numbers of
Eastern Europeans murdered by crusading Christians. The Teutonic Knights, for
instance, conquered heathen Prussia in 1226. All Prussians who refused to
convert to Christianity were murdered. The Lithuanians were a heathen tribe who
were attacked by the Teutonic Knights throughout the 13th century. They held out
successfully, with the help of religious refugees from Prussia and Lettonia,
until a monarchy emerged. King Mindaugas betrayed the ancestral religion of his
subjects in 1251, after which Lithuania was forcibly converted to
It is equally impossible to estimate the numbers of pagans murdered in the New World by Christians. Columbus planted a cross wherever he went, vowing to "do all the mischief that we can" to natives who refused to convert. The Christians brought with them skills of torture that had been refined on their own people in Europe for hundreds of years.
One Indian chief, Hatuey, fled with his people but was captured and burned alive. As "they were tying him to the stake a Franciscan friar urged him to take Jesus to his heart so that his soul might go to heaven, rather than descend into hell. Hatuey replied that if heaven was where the Christians went, he would rather go to hell." (Source: D. Stannard, American Holocaust, Oxford University Press 1992.)
That same sentiment must have been expressed time after time in Europe in the period when Odinists were offered a choice between converting to Christianity or being tortured, maimed and killed. The 4,500 Saxon nobles callously slaughtered by the Christian fanatic Charlemagne on one day in 782 must have had similar thoughts. The Norse Sagas record occasions when Christians tortured entire Odinist families in the hope of forcing parents to convert, thereby sparing their children further pain. Sometimes the children were stronger than their parents, urging them not to yield and thereby bring disgrace on their ancestors.
It is clear that Christianity prevailed over European heathenism solely because Christians resorted to torture, murder, and other clear breaches of the law that applied in those times, while the heathens upheld the prevailing "rules of engagement" that they considered to be honourable.
Most of this article was
originally published in the Australian Odinist journal "Renewal".
For a sample copy of "Renewal" in Australia send a long s.s.a.e. to PO Box 4333, University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3052, Australia.
People outside Australia seeking a sample copy of "Renewal" should send an IRC.
The painting on this page shows Odinists defending themselves against Christian persecution. It is by J. C. Dollman