Senglea - Malta
The study of burials and the origins of burials has sparked interest in Christianity as a cult of the dead. Christianity is heavily involved with death and this affinity arises from a clear association between the Church as a place of worship and the cemetery as a place of burial.
Early researchers often made broad generalisations about the cult of the dead, ancestor worship and the saints as a manifestation of earlier, pagan, deities. From the early studies we can perceive a lack of empirical knowledge, broad generalizations and a lack of methodology. A cult of the dead is, however, evidenced in this blog and the more I submit pictures and words the more I become aware of the affinity of Christianity, death and the nature of Christianity as a cult of the dead. Just look at the proximity of the living and the dead in many villages and centres of population.
I’m not suggesting that Christianity is merely another “mystery religion” and I’m not suggesting that Christianity is ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’, instead I am saying that Christianity has an agenda that is not always clear and explained. It is as if the cult of the dead went on to fuel a world religion rather than a religion forming a cult of the dead. This may be pure semantics although we apparently have a cause and effect here. In some parts of the world, such as South America, the earlier cults of the dead from indigenous cultures are even clearer and have a synergy with Christianity
Paganism has many more links with Christianity than people would often like to acknowledge and this affinity is stronger with Catholicism than more puritan religion, although the cult of the dead is more evident in puritan sects than Evangelicals would like to acknowledge.
It is time to see the cemeteries beside the Church as centres of ancestor worship, history and art rather than just cemeteries. Why else would Christians pay so much time and attention to burying the dead so close to the living. The work of Edwin Chadwick shows how bad the situation was in he 19th Century. In this period the living sank wells for water beside cemeteries and actually absorbed the dead through drinking water, they sat in pews above the dead and they walked past stinking burial grounds to gain access to the Church. The pollution of the environment by this obsession with death is apparent and evident and shines through Chadwick’s work.
Over the next few months I want to return to the idea of Christianity as a cult of the dead and see what happens.