Pagans by James O’Donnell

Pagans is an incredibly fascinating history of western religion. O’Donnell takes a deep dive into the Roman faith and the elements that evolved to be incorporated (and redefined) by the rise of Christianity.

I grew up in the South – where what church you went to was a standard, introductory question for anyone you meet – nurtured by the best and worst parts of the Christian faith. I went to a Christian high school and had a mandated chapel service five days a week, youth group on Wednesdays, and bible classes required in my curriculum. I always thought of myself as someone very educated in all things Christian (to be clear, I still do). Although I do not practice worship, I think that religion can offer many benefits for a lot of people.

I picked up this book because it looked like one with information that I had never heard of before – and I was right! Anyone has probably heard about the discrepancy between Jesus’s birth date and Christmas (and his crucifixion and Easter) but O’Donnell covers so. much. more.

In a style that is informative and interesting, O’Donnell is able to tell the history of religious change in the west without a condescending or holier-than-thou tone that I think can be appreciated by the devout and atheists alike.

It’s short and not a hard read, but, admittedly, unless you have an interest in religious studies, western history, or the Bible, you will probably be unamused.

If you’ve read anything that made you consider your own spiritual beliefs, let me know – you can send an email to or reach out on social media, always @hollyandoates.

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