Among the accusations made against the early Christian community is that they were atheists, cannibals and practiced incest. Today these claims seem so outrageous on their face as to be utterly ridiculous. But in the Hellenistic Roman culture they were widely believed by people who hadn’t made the effort to truly understand the Christians’ beliefs.
Sadly, throughout the world today millions of people hold outrageous and utterly ridiculous opinions about the beliefs of other religions because they haven’t taken the time to try to understand them. Instead they just grab onto whatever nonsense suits their pre-existing bias and accept it as truth.
For centuries many Christians believed Jews sacrificed Christian children as part of their religious ceremonies. Today millions of Muslims believe Christians worship three gods and endorse sexual immorality. Christians, in America at least, commonly believe that Islam teaches that Christians should be murdered and that killing Christians is a ticket to paradise. My guess is that very, very few in our disfunctional Abrahamic family have taken the time to get a true understanding of the faiths other than their own.
The Greeks and Romans believed there were many gods, so they had no trouble believing the Christian god existed. But they were baffled at the Christian insistence that there was only one God. Because the Christians denied the existence of the other gods, the Romans called them atheists.
When the Greeks and Romans heard Christians refer to their wife as their “sister” or their husband as their “brother” they concluded that the cult included some kind of weird incest theme.
And of course they concluded that the ritualistic eating of flesh and drinking of blood at their meals meant the Christians were cannibals. To understand the symbolism of the eucharist without declaring it to be cannibalism one must take a few moments, set aside cultural and religious bigotry, and listen sympathetically.
Of course the early Christians weren’t atheistic incestuous cannibals.
Maybe we should learn a lesson from their experience.