Taking over a Religion
In the most general terms, if one country is trying to dominate or subdue another then the points or foci that rebellion centres upon are strong leaders, strong national identity and the nation’s religion. I know it is commonsense but from those three foci hang all endeavours, both for and against domination.
Usually the strong leaders are either executed, exiled/imprisoned or they go underground. The strong national identity is virtually impossible to overcome, so it is generally ignored and continually ridiculed or belittled over the years. Eventually the sense of identity weakens, but even so, this may prove inadequate. This was seen upon the re-emergence of the old USSR and Yugoslavian states today and the state of Israel in the 1940’s.
Religion, however, is another matter. Looking at the examples from history we can see three prongs of attack.
The first involves the least effort and applies to just about any and all takeovers. The conquering nation brings in their own religion and belittles the existing one. Because the new country has succeeded in their take over then the existing old religion’s gods have proved inadequate to the task of defending the host nation. They must be weaker than the new country’s gods, so for everybody’s sake leave the old and embrace the new. One example of this is seen in America where the New World shamanism took a major knock and the Bible Belt grew as a consequence. I know that is a bit simplistic, but another example is Elijah battling with the old religion of the philistine priests of Baal, or the Christian Evangelism sweeping over the African continent in the wake of Imperialism. In England, Morris Men have been laughed at and the old religion declared as really nothing more than superstition.
If that is insufficient then the action hots up. If the practices and ideas of the old religion are proving too stubborn to eradicate then they are incorporated into the new. The propaganda or spin is that “you almost got it right, but in fact we also have these same ideas and gods but in a new and improved form”. Hence festivals such as Christmas, Easter and so many of the Saint’s days are reinvented, whilst the worship sites are rededicated to the new improved version of the god. The populace have no focus to their rebellion for their focus is now the new religion, practice or worship site. That is just good psychology. This is seen not only in the Christian religion taking over the Wiccan or Old Pagan worship in the UK, using new saints etc that closely resembled the old, but the Romans taking over the most civilised Greek culture and religion. Of course it is not all bad news for if there are ideas that are recognised as being of real worth then the new worship and understanding may be able to embrace them to the good of the new, incorporating the best of both! [Perhaps not!!!] Hence ‘Harvest Festival’ and the like.
If all of that is not working then the last trick is to call the old religion evil. Not only was it not strong enough to defend the old nation, not only are the practices old fashioned and slightly askew, but in reality the old gods had enslaved ‘you’, not letting you grow and stand up for what you really think and can do. They are EVIL and to be shunned and fought against. Hence there was not Satanism until Christianity. Hence the image of the Devil is that of the Goat or Horned One, the Baal or Pan of earlier religions. Fear is a very effective weapon in the domination armoury. As a consequence, look at the most taboo of the present religion and you will probably find the most sacred of the previous old religion!
Trying to unravel the various threads to see what is of value from the past, as well as not throwing away the good in the new, is a daunting task. It is a very brave person who stands up against the religion of the day and says otherwise. Yet I understand that this is a task that every person who begins to mature in the spiritual way must undertake for themselves. God is bigger and better than any human can even begin to conceptualise. The Divine is there to be revealed to everyone who seeks, albeit in their limited ability and way. I despair of the dogma and entrenched positions that people of all religions take, yet anything else may exacerbate their insecurity. We all need to address the spiritual poverty as best we know how or are able to make. Thank goodness Truth and God do not depend upon our efforts exclusively!
I hope this answers some of your questions and may help your thinking in whatever way you delve, but remember this is only my beliefs and who am I?