Following is part of my review of a book entitled Ancient Mystery Cults by Walter Burkert, which I did for my Church in the NT class. I'm turning it in today, so I have no idea how good it is, but it's an example of what I'm up to today. If you haven't noticed, I really like this class, and I would highly recomend Beaton. (Beaton, if you read this, I expect extra credit.)
(what is an ancient mystery cult? click here)
The third charge, that the cults represent a change in religious attitudes, requires a slightly more nuanced refutation. The charge largely stems from the idea that Christianity is simply the most successful of the ancient mystery cults. If this is so, then the shift to what we are experiencing today would have happened with the advent of the mystery cults. However, by painstakingly giving us an intimate glimpse at the reasoning and habits of the cultic worshipers, we can see that the likes of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are profoundly different than the cults. The lack of systematic theology, the lack of trans-national unity, and the secretive ways of these religions, show that they have little in common with Christianity, and other global religions. This, together with the proofs of an origin at a later date than was originally thought, show that the true shift in religious attitudes came with the Christianization of the Roman Empire, not with the advance of various mystery cults.