Recently, while researching an article, I had a bizarre experience. The thing shocked me into an interesting realization which, in turn, led me to write another article, namely, this one.
One reference I consulted for the article “The Second Eve ” is the book Theotokos, A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary , by Father Michael O’Carroll, C.S.Sp. I was looking up the entry for the French Mariologist Henri Barré, who was referred to elsewhere in the same book. Hurriedly, I found the entry: “Barré, Henri, C.S.Sp. (1905-1968),” and my eyes landed on something truly horrible:
B. did not waste his time trying to prove that Marian cult arose from the pagan mother goddess . . .
Now, the book I was using employs the convention of abbreviating the name of a person to the first initial of his last name. Therefore, Barré would be referred to as “B.” throughout the entry. Well, B.’s beliefs were obviously aberrant. As I skimmed the rest of the entry, I was horrified. The Immaculate Conception was attacked, and it was even denied that man had a free will. How could a man who was a Holy Ghost Father, a professor at the French Seminary in Rome, and a Mariologist of some renown attack such fundamental Catholic beliefs?
My horror did not last long. As I looked at the page more carefully, I realized that the entry for Father Barré was very short, only one paragraph of about twenty lines. The awful things I had read were contained in the next entry: “Barth, Karl (1886-1968).” Now, Karl Barth was a Calvinist whose blasphemies could be explained by some degree of consistency with his professed belief in an heretical system. Father Barré, it turned out, was O.K.
But it got me thinking. They prove too much!
Please allow me to explain. The effort of proving that the “Marian cult arose from the pagan mother goddess” may not have been something Karl Barth wasted his time with, but there were and are plenty of others who waste not only their time but also a whole lot of ink, paper, and money publishing the results of their misspent efforts. Even educated men, like Scott Hahn, have admitted, after their conversions, that they had believed and defended such absurd theories.
I recalled a whole slew of anti-Catholic diatribes I had read and heard: all those Chick tracts I had seen, the anti-Catholic web sites by Seventh Day Adventists, and the absurd claims of Jimmy Swaggart as I’d heard them from his own disciples down in my native Louisiana.
Then it hit me: most of these people reject evolution, but they “prove” the pagan origins of Catholicism in exactly the same way that evolutionists prove evolution. They prove too much.
In case the reader doesn’t have a clue of what I’m talking about, here is a sample. This gem is from Jack Chick, one of the more vulgar anti-Catholic polemicists. He writes about Nimrod (or “Nemrod” in the Douay Version), the founder of the Babylonian empire:
Nimrod developed astrology, and laid the foundations for black and white witchcraft. Shem (Cush’s great uncle, Noah’s son, and a righteous man), appalled by his nephew’s evil deeds, killed Nimrod. Before his death, Nimrod married and impregnated his mother Semiramis. After Nimrod was slain, Semiramis convinced the people of Babylon that Nimrod was a god (the sun god Baal), and that she was a goddess (the Queen of Heaven). Semiramis developed the Satanic religion of Baal worship, including confession (for blackmail and public fear), secret societies (prefiguring Masonry, Mormonism, Jesuits, and the Illuminati), and the idea that she, as the religious leader, was the only medium to God (prefiguring the Pope). Idols appeared featuring mother Semiramis and baby Nimrod (prefiguring the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus); her symbol was the moon (Isis, Diana), and Nimrod’s was the sun (Horus, Baal, Sol). Semiramis promoted baby sacrifices and celibacy for priests, foreshadowing Roman Catholicism. She invented death by crucifixion (crucifixes were originally occult symbols in Babylon and Egypt). Semiramis bore another child (by her son Nimrod, while claiming she was a virgin) named Tammuz, who she maintained was the reincarnation of Nimrod (Baal). This was the foundation of the virgin mother with child archetype that Satan used to corrupt many world religions.
It’s curious that all these “facts” about Nimrod come from a man who claims to believe in the Bible only as a source for religious truth. Holy Scripture says precious little about the founder of Babylon and nothing about Semiramis, whose name does not even blot the sacred pages. These claims are simply Jack Chick’s regurgitations of the “findings” of earlier writers, like Alexander Hislop (1807-1862), author of The Two Babylons , the subtitle of which is “The Papal Worship Proved to Be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife.” Another work in the genre is the 1966 Babylon Mystery Religion by Ralph Woodrow.
As can be seen in the Chick excerpt, attacks on the Marian doctrines and their origins are only one part of the offensive of these authors. The papacy, the Mass, veneration of saints, the sacraments, and virtually every other doctrine and practice setting Catholicism apart from Protestantism are claimed to be pagan in origin. One Seventh Day Adventist tract I read tried to link the monstrance we use in Eucharistic adoration with sun worship. Yes, if you look closely, the monstrance looks like a sunburst!
Of course, most of the historical claims of these apologists are lies, big lies. But some of the resemblances they point out do exist. Further, we could even grant to them certain of their lies simply for the sake of argument, to put their logic to the test.
Back to Evolution
And what is their logic? Catholicism resembles paganism in these common elements, so Catholicism must be pagan. Or, in one sentence: “resemblance equals a common origin.” For convenience, we can label this the “argument from resemblance.”
This is exactly how school children are slavishly taught to believe in evolution.
The biology books show the development of a fetus in the womb next to the various progressive stages of animal species from lower to higher. A resemblance. Evolutionists point to the virtual identity that exists between the DNA of a chimp and that of a man. Another resemblance. Yet another resemblance is that of microevolution with macroevolution. Microevolution is the observable phenomenon of species adapting to their environments, such as dogs in colder climates having thicker fur, people (e.g., Eskimos) in those environments acquiring a protective fatty layer around the eye, the colors of moth populations being altered by industrialization, etc. Microevolution is scientifically undeniable. It has been and is being observed regularly, but it only occurs within a species . Macro evolution is, pardon the expression, a horse of a different color. This is the subject of Darwinism and other evolutionist schools which propose a development from lower to higher species . This has never been proven, never observed. By the argument from resemblance, evolutionist biology texts infer macroevolution from microevolution. But the inference is not valid, since the premises established in one order do not prove conclusions in another. Using this logic, one could conclude that, eventually, our race will develop a bird-like capacity for flight. How? Well, men have been known to ascend upwards by jumping. We see this all the time. Over the years, there have been great developments in this area. Fifty years ago it would have been inconceivable that a man could hover above the floor of a basketball court as NBA players do today. As this art develops, longer and longer hang-times will result. Given enough time (perhaps billions of years), that hang-time could become as long as that of a sparrow. Sound silly? It is, but it is not nearly so silly as “proving” that men evolved from one-celled creatures from the fact that people in sunny climates develop darker skin pigmentation.
To summarize the evolutionist logic concisely: the fact that we resemble lower species, but seem to be more developed versions of them, is itself used as a proof that we evolved from them, without the thing being observed. Even less logically, the fact that microevolution resembles macroevolution is used as a proof for the truth of evolutionary theory.
It’s downright comical that anti-evolutionist Protestants advance an essentially evolutionist argument in their anti-Catholic diatribes.
Babbling No More
I mentioned earlier that one of the exponents of the zany “Catholicism is Babylonian paganism” theory was a man named Ralph Woodrow, author of Babylon Mystery Religion . His book was based on Hislop’s earlier work, The Two Babylons , and it spread the unholy libel far and wide, being translated into Korean, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and several other languages.
Happily, Mr. Woodrow has had the integrity to realize the error of his ways. Even though he remains a Protestant minister, he has rejected the intellectual dishonesty of Hislop’s book, accusing him of making up his own myths.
Here is an excerpt from an article by Mr. Woodrow, “Two Babylons: A Case Study in Poor Research Methodology .” The article thoroughly refutes the “argument from resemblance”:
Building on similarities while ignoring differences is an unsound practice. Atheists have long used this method in an attempt to discredit Christianity altogether, citing examples of pagans who had similar beliefs about universal floods, slain and risen saviors, virgin mothers, heavenly ascensions, holy books, and so on.
As Christians, we don’t reject prayer just because pagans pray to their gods. We don’t reject water baptism just because ancient tribes plunged into water as a religious ritual. We don’t reject the Bible just because pagans believe their writings are holy or sacred.
The Bible mentions things like kneeling in prayer, raising hands, taking off shoes on holy ground, a holy mountain, a holy place in the temple, pillars in front of the temple, offering sacrifices without blemish, a sacred ark, cities of refuge, bringing forth water from a rock, laws written on stone, fire appearing on a person’s head, horses of fire, and the offering of first fruits. Yet, at one time or another, similar things were known among pagans. Does this make the Bible pagan? Of course not!
If finding a pagan parallel provides proof of paganism, the Lord Himself would be pagan. The woman called Mystery Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in His hand (Ps. 78:8). Pagan kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown (Rev. 1:4; 14:14). Pagans worshipped the sun; the Lord is called the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ (Mal. 4:2). Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called ‘the bright and Morning star’ (Rev. 22:16). Pagan gods had temples dedicated to them; the Lord has a temple (Rev. 7:15). Pagans built a high tower in Babylon; the Lord is a high tower (2 Sam. 22:3). Pagans worshipped idolatrous pillars; the Lord appeared as a pillar of fire (Exod. 13:21-22). Pagan gods were pictured with wings; the Lord is pictured with wings (Ps. 91:4).
Beading a Dead Horse
To these comments of Mr. Woodrow, we can add some further reflections of our own, taken from a sidebar included with an article on the Rosary in From the Housetops # 47:
Anti-Catholic Protestants sometimes claim that the Rosary is a syncretic blending of Christianity with non-Christian religions. It is true that many religions (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism) use similar strings of beads as counting devices for prayers. So what? The fact is that all religions have common elements: holy books, buildings or other places set aside for worship, liturgy, music, vocal prayers, meditation, art of some sort (with only extremely rare exceptions), preachers, and many many others. To label Catholicism “pagan” because Hindus and Buddhists have prayer beads is logically equivalent to saying that, because Jimmy Swaggart (who advanced this claim against the Rosary) and Anton LeVay (Satanic priest) both use electronic amplification in their Church services, then Swaggart must be a Satanist.
There it is. The thing was well said by whoever coined the old scholastic axiom, Qui nimis probat, nihil probat : “He who proves too much, proves nothing.” And my apologies to Father Barré.