Polytheism is the Future

pouring offering high res

Editors' Note: This article is part of the Public Square 2014 Summer Series: Conversations on Religious Trends. Read other perspectives from the Patheos community here.This summer Patheos has featured a weekly series titled “Conversations on Religious Trends.” Each of Patheos’ eleven channels has addressed an issue of particular concern to its tradition – the Pagan Channel was asked to write on the failure of the environmental movement.For the final week, the editors asked represent … [Read more...]

The Four Centers of Paganism

Centers of Paganism

Welcome to Under the Ancient Oaks, a thoughtful little blog on the Patheos Pagan Channel.  I’m John Beckett, and as the header says, I’m a Pagan, a Druid, and a Unitarian Universalist.  Earlier this week I felt called to respond to the misogyny in our society after the killings in Isla Vista, California.  Apparently what I had to say resonated with a lot of people, because traffic on this blog is up.  A lot.  More people read Dude, It’s You in its first 24 hours than visit in a typical month. … [Read more...]

Heaven Is For Real – A Pagan View

Yukon mountains

The movie Heaven Is For Real opened yesterday.  This essay is an update of a 2012 post inspired by the book version of Heaven Is For Real and other books on the same subject. One of the good things about internet news and social media is that it’s easy to find people and things you like. The downside is that you can miss things outside your interest zone that are generating a lot of attention in other circles. Since I mainly hang out in the Pagan, UU and liberal corners of the internet, I was a … [Read more...]

Why I Am a Devotional Polytheist

Cernunnos pendant 4

I have mixed feelings about the current arguments around the definition of “polytheist.”As a Big Tent Pagan – and as a Unitarian Universalist – I don’t much care what the person standing next to me in the circle believes about the Gods.  I care that they honor the Gods, but whether they honor  Them as distinct individual beings or as aspects of the Divine or as representations of natural forces or as metaphors and archetypes isn’t really my concern.  Make your offerings and embody Their virtu … [Read more...]

A Pagan Faith

The Cove at Avebury

Mention faith in the Pagan world and you’re likely to get a negative response.“I don’t need faith – I have experience.”“My gods don’t ask me to believe – they ask me to do.”“Don’t say ‘faith’ when you mean ‘religion’ – my religion isn’t based on faith.”These complaints are valid.  The conflation of belief with faith and faith with religion is a result of the dominance of Christianity in the West and in particular the influence of Evangelical Protestantism in the contemporary Unite … [Read more...]

Martin Luther King Jr. on Mystery Religions


In observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day I’m presenting a revised version of a post from 2009 on my old Blogger site.A query from Stephanie on the Ethical Witches list in Austin turned up this paper by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. titled “The Influence of the Mystery Religions on Christianity.” King wrote it around the beginning of 1950 while he was a student at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania.King’s expertise was as a preacher and a civil rights leader, not as a historian … [Read more...]

Polytheism Redux


I spent yesterday working on a post about how the success of my “themes not goals” approach means I’m now setting goals for 2014.  But before I could finish it there was a rash of posts on polytheistic theology and I feel the need to respond.Much of this discussion is contentious and some of it has become personal.  If you want to catch up, read this post by Morpheus Ravenna, this one by Rhyd Wildermuth, this one by Alison Lilly, this one by Traci Laird, this one by Anomalous Thracian, and th … [Read more...]

Purpose and Will

desert road SW Colorado

An old friend from college (who is not Pagan) read my last post and asked what made me think we’re here for a reason.  Here’s the part of my post he was referring to: Beyond all of this, you can trust your true will.  You’re here for a reason.  Maybe you have to discover that reason or maybe you have to create it (that’s another one of those questions that are beyond the gods), but there is something in this life you need to accomplish, or learn, or facilitate.  You can do this great work not be … [Read more...]