Historians, early artworks, Bibles, manuscripts, Dead Sea Scrolls, Gnostic Gospels, letters from early church fathers, etc., indicate that for the first 300-400 years A.D., many early Christian sects were gentle and loving. They were usually open, tolerant and unstructured: a poor man’s or slave’s religion.
Rome considered Christianity to be simply another bothersome Oriental Mystery cult, like those of Mithra or Isis, then the most popular in the Empire.
Faced with a crumbling empire, political corruption and a series of ruinous wars with barbarians, the old Roman Empire hovered on the brink of disaster. The religious contortions undertaken by the ruling body in Rome to maintain its earthly power led the political leaders to crack down on healthy diversity in the field of individual cults and religions.
To save itself politically, the formerly pantheistic (meaning tolerant of different worships) government of the empire changed its policy.
Starting in 249 A.D., various emperors launched a string of bloody persecutions, which included the troublesome Christians. By 306 A.D., it was clear that this was not working. Emperor Constantine called off the executions and began to patronize the Christian clergy, which promptly adopted a dogma lifted from “Mithraism,” among other religions: “Royal Blood by Birth,” or the “Divine Right to Rule Other Humans.”
The ambitious Constantine saw that while underground, the church had developed into an intolerant, tightly-knit hierarchy; a well organized network second in influence only to his own. By combining church and state, each was able to double its power and seek out the crimes/sins of all its political rivals and enemies with the full support/blessing of the other.
Columbia History of the World, Harper & Row, NY, 1981.
Constantine soon converted to Christianity and declared one mandatory, monistic, state-empowered religion: the Roman Catholic Church (R.C.Ch.); literally, the Roman Universal Church (“catholic” is Latin for “universal”). This was now the absolute and official religion of the empire. In one sweep, all secret societies were outlawed which might have threatened his (and Rome’s) mandate to rule the known world, as they had for the previous 400 consecutive years.