Then and now religions shared common dimensions that provide society with a doctrine, narrative, ethics, ritual, experience and a social institution. These six dimensions that Ninian Smart derived spell out the framework for comparative study of religions1. The six dimensions hold true when comparing the daily routine Roman religious thought to modern Christianity. Interwoven into the core of both cultures is a strong unifying spirit that built a strong communal bond for its people.
For the Romans, their religion was the religion of the state. It is referred to as s a state religion because for the Romans their “state religion” had “ensured and could continue to ensure the preservation and prosperity of their state.2” Because of Rome’s centuries long military domination and military expansion, the state religion was almost self perpetuating within Roman culture. As a function of the state, the religion was protected and woven into the core of Roman daily life. As such, the vast majority of the state officials were part of the state religion’s priesthood.
Modern Christianity however is different in this regard. While the United States of America bases the majority of its legal principles on Judeo-Christian Law, the Constitution of the United States ensures that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” 3 so there are no functional “state religions”, Christianity is still the dominant religion in the United States. Christianity’s reach in American society is solely based on its gospel and the teachings of the Bible.
Rome’s state religion was polytheistic. The average Roman believed in multiple gods such as the “Deities of the Environment.” The best known of all this multitude of god known as the Olympians are Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Venus, Apollo, Diana, Ceres, Mercury, and Neptune4. Modern Christianity is a monotheistic religion giving reverence to only a single higher power. This God however does take on three forms known as The Trinity. The Christian doctrine states that God exists as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
In ritual the Romans and Christians share a common thread of worshiping in a temple and the celebrating their deity in masse gatherings and festivals. Both the Romans and Christians in their gatherings had different chants, prayers or orations they recite. This of course is to show reverence to their deity. The similarities stop there. Romans participated in animal sacrifice and blood ritual. Christians do not have a blood ritual, but they do have varying ceremonies during masse throughout the Christian calendar. Every masse involves the congregation receiving communion from the priest.
Romans and Christians shared a rich narrative for their followers. Romans shared stories, a mythology, for every one of their gods. These stories were shared orally and in written text, passed down generation to generation. This fermented the communal spirit of Roman state religion. To Christians,...