Posted by Christopher Johnson | Wednesday, June 16th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 41 Comments
For some reason, Church Times recently gave column space to a pagan:
In a world where differences between religious groups are often stressed, too few of us realise how many similarities there are between Christian beliefs and Paganism.
Though many of us are aware of the pagan roots of some Christian traditions, such as the Yule log and holly
Granted, this is not a particularly bright pagan as you will soon see. The Yule log and holly are “Christian traditions?” Really. Those must be traditions in Christian churches that celebrate Christmas Eucharist with fruitcake and egg nog.
there are deeper rooted similarities than these Christmas trimmings. History has too many examples of conflicts over real or imagined religious differences; so a greater understanding of each other’s religion might bring a heightened sympathy between us.
No. No it will not. Because it’s impossible to have “heightened sympathy” for a religion and its adherents when you think that religion is ridiculous and stupid.
The Neo-Pagan religions have many names, including Paganism, Asatru, Wicca, Witchcraft, and Druidism. While Paganism stresses a bond with nature and an acknowledgement of the natural cycle of life in the world, there is no one tenet of faith that all followers acknowledge as central to their religion.
Which was probably invented in the last 50 years or so, give or take, by some liberal intellectual nerd desperate for poontang. Of course, that’s just a theory.
Paganism celebrates the cycle of the year, and there is no central religious text; so it would have been accessible to peasants who could not read. Its emphasis on the changes that ordinary people could see around them in the trees and earth would have made sense to them.
Remember, folks, that an apology for paganism appears in a Christian journal. A Christian journal. That is all.
Modern-day Paganism is described by the Pagan Federation as “a spiritual way of life which has its roots in the ancient nature religions of the world. . . We celebrate the sanctity of Nature, revering the Divine in all things; the vast, unknowable spirit that runs through the universe, both seen and unseen.”
Going to get to what we have in common any time soon? Like how there’s only one God and stuff?
Paganism usually includes many deities. Often, however, Pagans see the different deities they worship as part of a greater whole, much as Hindus do. This does not necessarily make Pagans who believe in the One Divine monotheistic: the Pagan Foundation suggests that this belief makes followers “henotheists — believers in a supreme divine principle, rather than monotheists, believers in one true deity beside which all other deities are false”.
Apparently not. So you guys are Episcopalians then?
Some of the links between Christianity and Paganism are well documented. Christmas takes place in midwinter partly because similar Pagan festivals were celebrated around that time. Indeed, Christmas as a holiday was banned by the Puritans in the 17th century for being too Pagan in tone.
Actually, the Puritans banned Christmas because they kept getting altar rails and elaborate vestments and prayer books and and stained-glass windows and ties and fruitcakes and cheap bottles of crappy egg nog and socks and Christmas sweaters and whatnot as Christmas presents every year.
So they eventually got hacked off and banned the whole shooting match. A lot of people don’t know that.
The festival celebrated by many modern Pagans in winter is Yule, which recognises the winter solstice, the darkest point in the year. At Yule, according to Pagan tradition, the sun is reborn. It is easy to see the link between the birth of the Sun God and the birth of the Son of God.
If you majored in or teach Women’s Studies, perhaps. And you know that whole Trinity thing them Christians got going there?
Many branches of Paganism refer to the threefold Goddess — Maiden, Mother, and Crone — which has obvious parallels with the Holy Trinity. It is probable, however, that this Neo-Pagan idea was adapted from Christianity. The first definite reference to the triple Goddess as Maiden, Mother, and Crone is in Gerald Gardner’s seminal work Witchcraft Today (Rider, 1956). Although Gardner maintained that he was describing an ancient tradition, it almost certainly did not pre-date Christianity in that form.
Unless it actually did.
Yet the threefold Goddess herself has a long history. There are images of a triple goddess figure in shrines in Çatal Hüyük in Turkey, which existed about 7500 BC/BCE to 5700 BC/BCE. There is also a trinity of Goddesses — huge figures hewn out of rock — found in a cave, which date from even earlier.
You Catholics and Orthodox aren’t going to like this next part.
Some Pagans see a strong link between the more ritualistic worship of Christians — for example, lighting candles, burning incense, making the sign of the cross on oneself, asking saints for intercession with God — and the way in which Pagans often perform rituals.
Told you. Bag. Of. Effing. Hammers. Since I represent the Puritan end of things around here, would you mind if I take a crack at this one? Thanks, I really appreciate it. And I’ll do my best.
Saints are actual people who used to live on the Earth and now live in and enjoy the eternal Presence of the living God. Pagan deities don’t exist and never have.
So I don’t know, maybe I’m being dogmatic here, but I have to think that maybe there’s the TINIEST DIFFERENCE between asking a saint to put in a good word for you upstairs and praying to a figment of someone’s imagination for health, wealth or poontang.
The practice of directing rituals to “appropriate” deities is similar to asking saints for intercession — the Protestant Reformer Erasmus made this very point, suggesting that instead of praying to a god of healing, Christians now prayed to the patron saint of healing.
The Protestant Reformer Erasmus. No further questions, Your Honor.
Equally, the lighting of a candle and directing of thoughts to one person or issue is used as a basic form of magick by many Pagans.
Right. They light candles, we light candles. They pray, we pray. They pray using words, we pray using words. Christianity and paganism are exactly the same.
There is a misconception that “magick” implies an intention of compelling a Deity to do one’s bidding, but it is considered by Pagans to be more about “opening the world to possibilities”. This may be done through chanting, drumming, lighting candles, dancing, and singing — perhaps not so different from many church services.
Our pagan has inadvertently stumbled into an actual point; broken clocks and all that. If you don’t really believe in God at all but want, for whatever reason, to be considered “spiritual” than thinking that you can “open the world to possibilities” through “chanting, drumming, lighting candles, dancing, and singing” makes perfect sense.
And perhaps our pagan is right; perhaps paganism is really “not so different from many church services.” Not from those of the Episcopal Organization anyway.
Because when words like “Jesus” and “God” have become nothing more than professional jargon and when you’ve put your “theology” entirely in the service of the world, all you can give people is a floor show that will hopefully convince them that they’ve just been through actual Christian worship.