CHAPTER XXX, from the third volume of the Story of Civilization: Caesar and Christ, A History of Roman Civilization and of Christianity from their beginnings to A.D. 325
Copyright by Will Durant. See the book at Amazon
I. THE WAR OF CHURCH AND STATE: A.D. 64-311
IN pre-Christian days the Roman government had for the most part allowed to the rivals of orthodox paganism a tolerance which they in turn had shown to the official and imperial cults; nothing was demanded from the adherents of new faiths except an occasional gesture of adoration to the gods and head of the state. The emperors were piqued to find that of all the heretics under their rule only the Christians and the Jews refused to join in honoring their genius. The burning of incense before a statue of the emperor had become a sign and affirmation of loyalty to the Empire, like the oath of allegiance required for citizenship today. On its side the Church resented the Roman idea that religion was subordinate to the state; it saw in emperor-worship an act of polytheism and idolatry, and instructed its followers to refuse it at any cost. The Roman government concluded that Christianity was a radical- perhaps a communist- movement, subtly designed to overthrow the established order.