The mystery religions had several things in common: secret rites of initiation, ceremonies (such as some form of sacrifice) designed to bring initiates into communion with the patron deity, an emphasis on death and rebirth, rituals providing purification and forgiveness of sins (such as confession and baptism in holy water), sacramental dramas providing initiates the exaltation of a new life, and the providing of a feeling of community among believers. Clearly, there was much in common between the mystery reli- gions and early Christianity. Incidentally, the popular god Mithras was said to have been born on December 25 in the presence of shepherds.
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Another influence on Roman thought was Judaism. The Jews believed in one supreme god who, unlike the rather indifferent Olympian and Roman gods, was concerned with the conduct of individual humans. The Jews also had a strict moral code, and if an individual’s conduct was in accordance with this code, God rewarded the person; if it was not, God punished the person. Thus, individuals were responsible for their transgressions. It was from this mixture of many influences that Christianity first emerged as another religion in the Roman Empire.