Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book: Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity, by James O'Donnell

O'Donnell, James. 2015. Pagans: The End of Traditional Religion and the Rise of Christianity. New York: Ecco / Harper Collins.

This is a fun read about an interesting period that I did not know much about. The author has two main points in challenging the traditional narrative: First, he argues (along with some other recent literature) that paganism was much more heterogeneous and local than the usual view of a monolithic pagan opposition to the rise of Christianity. Second, he argues that pagan alternatives more faded away than put up any real fight against the Christians, once the latter had the power of empire behind them. Also quite interesting is the discussion of the fading out of blood sacrifice among the traditionalists both before (to some degree) Christianity really shows up on the scene and in a manner that is largely intellectually and socially separate from it.

This is a book by an academic aimed at both academic and non-academic audiences, though I would not have minded if the book were a bit more academic in style than it is. Having said that, some readers on goodreads did not like the slightly snarky tone. I did.

Recommended if you are into such things.

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