Refusing to Paint With Broad Strokes

Christine Kraemer has been very busy since officially taking over “Editor” duties here at Patheos Pagan. Not only does she have her own blog, but she’s brought in a lot of new writers the last two months. I’m already enjoying John Beckett’s Under the Ancient Oaks, and we’ve got another polytheist onboard over at Dalliance With Deities. After a few dark months when I felt like only Aidan Kelly and I were writing at Patheos Pagan on a regular basis we’ve suddenly got all sorts of stuff going on.

Out of all the new blogs and columns here at the channel the one that has stuck with me the most has been Sam Webster’s Pagan Restoration. I’ve lost sleep wrestling with some of Sam’s ideas and proclamations, and the fact that he’s garnered 83 comments for his first column means that he certainly has touched a nerve. (Though it’s unlikely that anyone else has lost sleep over the the thing-I wish shutting off my brain was easier.) I have little doubt that Sam is smarter than I am (he’s finishing his PhD, I’m going to watch hockey this evening), and he’s certainly a better writer, but I can’t help myself when it comes to a rebuttal.

Out of nine paragraphs, one in particular garnered the most comments:

While I believe there is a place for cooperative behavior with Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, I will leave it to those who are interested. My task is to criticize the Abrahamics, to challenge their preeminence and point out when the emperor is wearing no clothes. I don’t think too much of their theology, their morals, or their God, and plan to talk about it. And, no, you can’t worship Jesus Christ and be a Pagan.

A lot of what Sam (can I call you Sam? Professor Webster?) writes here is spot on. I think a lot of Pagans make the mistake of thinking that anyone involved in a spiritual pursuit is a part of our “greater community.” I was on a Pagan Panel at small festival one afternoon and the question of community came up. One of the panelists talked about Islam as a part of his “greater community.” I completely disagree with such thinking. Unless you have a personal relationship with some folks at the local mosque you aren’t even on their radar, which is fine. That’s not a slight, we just operate in different spheres and communities. We can get along with many of the folks in those faith communities, that doesn’t mean we are suddenly best friends. “Cooperative behavior” is a great turn of phrase to describe some of the interactions we have with people outside of our faith traditions.

Where Professor Webster loses me is in the rest of the paragraph. “My task is to criticize the Abrahamics . . . .” But why? It’s one thing to point out the instances where their story is broken, and another thing to criticize just to be contrary. It sounds like someone is picking a fight, and that’s different from educating or providing constructive criticism. Task is a big word. It sounds like a missive from the gods, gods that in my own experience have usually been worrying about other things.

It’s important to remember that a great deal of Christians are our friends, and are fighting the same battles we are. There are Progressive Christians in favor of gay rights and religious freedoms, not all of Jesus’s followers are looking to turn the country into a theocracy. I often feel like we (and many atheists too) need to tread carefully. A lot of deeply religious Christians are our allies, you don’t keep those folks by pissing them off.

I’m not a big fan of Christianity either but to say “I don’t think too much of their theology, their morals, or their God . . ” is a pretty big statement (I do admire the courage though). Christian theology has never made much sense to me, but Pagan theology doesn’t make much sense either sometimes. We can’t even agree on who is a Pagan and who is not, let alone a shared theology. Most Christians can’t adequately explain the Trinity because it’s a big ball of mush, but we are eating from a similar bowl of mush. I don’t think most practitioners give much thought to theology anyways. The Big 3 Monotheistic Faiths seem to serve their followers well, and for a lot of people it’s the hope and comfort faith brings, not questions of theology, that are the drawing card.

I’ve also met some extremely moral Christians, so much so that I admire them. I’m not a fan of the Mormon Church, but I’ve met some amazingly nice and generous Mormons over the years. Christian Morality (I can’t speak to Muslim Morality because I don’t know very many Muslims) is capable of great compassion. To throw an entire religion under the bus is extremely short sighted. I don’t think much of people who treat women as second class citizens either, but I’m not going to paint with such broad strokes because some members of a religious community are idiots.

I think Jesus and Muhammed would both be pretty disappointed with the messes many of their followers have made in their names over the centuries. What we tend to forget are the moments between worshipper and deity. Jesus/Yahweh/Allah . . . . I’m sure all three of those god-forms have provided comfort, peace, and joy to all of their followers. Monotheism and the “one way or the highway” type of thinking it inspires probably does bring out the worst in a lot of people, but there were wars and atrocities long before monotheism, and there will probably still be wars if it goes away or wanes in popularity.

As for “you can’t worship Jesus Christ and be a Pagan” I just don’t think that’s true. Last I knew, we didn’t have an “approved list” of deities somewhere. In addition to Jesus, I’ve met Pagans who worship Buddha, Kali, Native American deities, all kinds of things outside of European/Middle Eastern pantheons. I’ve said this before and it bears repeating, certainly traditions have the right to pick their deities, but to judge someone’s Paganism by who or what they worship?

Christianity has a long tradition of standing next to paganism. While the term “Gnostic” means all sorts of things, there were groups that today we label “gnostic” who worshipped a whole cosmic hierarchy of gods. Jesus and his Dad haven’t always been worshipped in isolation, and I’m sure there were many ancient pagans intrigued by Jesus who also worshipped at pagan temples. Traditions like Voodoo crafted a cosmology that at least superficially embraced Catholic Christian imagery in order to keep their loa alive. Much of the Western Magickal Tradition has been influenced by the grimoires of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, magickal practices that were essentially Christian. Groups like the Golden Dawn, a direct precursor to the Pagan Restoration, had many committed Christians among its ranks.

I have no use for Jesus in my own rites, or the saints, or even angels, but I’m not going to take away someone’s Pagan card because they worship differently than me. I will never claim to have ownership over the truth. There’s plenty of room under the Pagan umbrella for people who worship Jesus alongside other deities.

What I want most from followers of the Big 3 monotheistic religions is to be left alone. You don’t have to accept my faith as legitimate, you just have to accept my right to believe as I choose. It would be great if temples to Dionysus began popping up all over the world again, but if they don’t that’s fine too. There are already plenty of Pagan Temples out there for me to worship at. The most sacred places to me will always be outside in the heart of nature; standing amongst the Redwoods, or on the ocean’s shore, watching Her soul pump and beat among the waves.

Despite my criticisms, I look forward to Sam’s next column. I like anything that makes me think and challenges my opinions and assumptions. That’s what good writing does. I don’t think we all have to agree on everything anyways.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • lucystrawberry

    “As for “you can’t worship Jesus Christ and be a Pagan” I just don’t think that’s true. ”

    Well since we still cannot define what it means to be a pagan, why not?

  • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

    “I have little doubt that Sam is smarter than I am (he’s finishing his PhD, I’m going to watch hockey this evening)”

    The Finn in me feels obliged to point out that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with an evening spent watching hockey. ;)

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I think Mr Webster (not PhD yet) sounds more tolerant than myself.

    Why can’t you be a follower of Yeshua/Jesus and a Pagan? Probably because Christianity says so. He’s their ‘god’, after all. The fall-back definition of ‘Pagan’ is someone outside of the Abrahamic umbrella.

    I think that we are moving past ‘Pagan’ as a useful term. Sure, it is handy for solitaries and eclectics, but more and more, the individual religions that have traditionally been included under the modern ‘Pagan’ umbrella are distinct enough and numerous enough to stand on their own.

    Would I term the ceremonial magics of the middle ages as pagan? No, I would describe them as forms of Christian mysticism.

    Mind you, I do the (seemingly) controversial method of describing religions based on their theology rather than their practice. Because, to me, that is what is important.

    There are loads of different forms of Christianity. All have their own forms of practice, but they all share a basic theology, and that is what unites them.

    When you talk about Christians finding “hope and comfort faith brings”, that hope and faith are based on shared theology – God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit plugging the gaps.

    Why, in comparison, are Pagans (big umbrella) so scared of theology?

    • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

      Hmm. “Christianity” doesn’t actually say anything; Christian churches, denominations, and traditions do. It would be more accurate to say that the majority of Christian denominations and churches are exclusivist, but there are American Christian churches that are not (I’m thinking the United Church of Christ, which is the most progressive Protestant denomination, and left-wing congrgations of the various American Protestant denominations, including congregations in the Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches). Many individual progressive Christians are also not exclusivist, and we have an entire channel of them at Patheos. http://www.patheos.com/Progressive-Christian

      > There are loads of different forms of Christianity. All have their own forms of practice, but they all share a basic theology, and that is what unites them.

      Many conservative and progressive Christians would say that they do not share a basic theology, which is why fundamentalists hate the ecumenical movement (and some do not consider Catholics or Mormons to be Christian), and progressive Christians sometimes wonder if they should call themselves Christians anymore. They share a tradition and a history, not a theology.

      These things are always a lot more complicated than they look from the outside. :)

      • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

        Mmh, in my country all Christians are pretty much agree they all share a Christian theology (apart from some grumbling towards Catholocism) but perhaps it has to do with church-going Christians being a minority up here.

        • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

          Yes, Americans are a bit crazy that way. Our Protestant denominations split over differences as tiny as whether they wanted organ music. Ever since the Puritans came over, the Christians have been denying that the other Christians are Christian. Did you know that the Puritans referred to the Pope as the Whore of Babylon? :D

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Perhaps ‘theology’ is the wrong word. Deities/deity might work better.

        Doesn’t matter which denomination, all forms of Christianity acknowledge the teachings of Jesus (called Christ) as revealed through the Bible.

        Sure, some operate a ‘take what you want’ attitude to the Bible, but there is always that little commandment, isn’t there? “Thou shalt have no other god before me.” YHWH is a jealous god, after all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

          Yes, although whether you understand that document as revealing divine truth, or a historically situated document that holds some wisdom but must be challenged and adjusted according to contemporary circumstances and new knowledge, makes a big difference.

          Some take the Old Testament and its “jealous god” more seriously than others, and they tend to be on the more conservative side of the political spectrum. The whole point of the “New” Testament, though, is that it formed a new covenant between God and his people — one that completely superseded the given at Sinai, with its Ten Commandments. Jesus called God “Abba,” which basically translates as “Papa” or “Daddy.” The relationship with God that he teaches is grounded in older Jewish tradition (being that he was a Jew), but is very different in tone. Jesus emphasized that “loving God with all your heart” and “loving your neighbor” were the core of the Law. The tribal concern with maintaining racial and ethnic cohesion (which is what the “jealous god” thing is about) doesn’t apply to Christianity, which isn’t a tribal religion — it’s one that wants to be universal, which is why it tends to ends up syncretizing with the local religions so often.

          One of the problems with contemporary Christianity is that many Christians don’t know their own theology, even the theology of their own denominations. A strict reading of the NT pretty clearly weakens the OT as a source of authority.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            The most common interpretation of the Bible: New Vs Old argument I have encountered over here (including from those well qualified to discus the matter) is that anything in the New Testament that conflicts the old supercedes it, but anything that is not mentioned remains.

            Also find plenty of people that largely ignore the teachings of Paul (for various good reasons.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    Thanks for responding to Sam! One of the things I most want from Patheos Pagan is active dialogue between the writers.

    I have mixed feelings about the way responses to Sam’s post focused so heavily on a sort of casual rhetorical statement. On the one hand, it led to some genuinely useful discussions in the comments about being careful not to hide behind Christian privilege and looking more seriously at the differences between Pagan and Christian theologies (no, there isn’t just one theology for either tradition — Christianity is as diverse as Paganism, if not more so, since it includes so many more people). On the other hand, I think that discussion detracted from looking at Sam’s many other valid points, such as how to reconnect the present with the past of ancient religions and the issues that arise from that (being that we have very different attitudes toward such issues as slavery, war, violence, and women’s rights than ancient peoples did).

    And in general, glad to hear you’re excited about all the new contributors. I am too.

    P.S. Read Agora on Friday 2/1. I think you’ll like what you see from our guest contributor.

    • http://twitter.com/Panmankey Jason Mankey

      He had to have known that “casual rhetorical statement” would result in lots of comments. He was throwing down a gauntlet. He could have certainly worded things in a less aggressive matter.

      Even in the paragraph I picked out for criticism, I found things I agreed with. I just profoundly disagree with anyone who makes the “you are not a Pagan” type comments. We can all certainly attempt to define Pagan, but there’s no grand poo-ba determining who and who is not a Pagan. Only the heart can decide such things.

      • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

        I have to agree with pretty much everything you’ve said, both in your article and in this comment.

      • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

        I recognize your first reaction. I felt a strange mixture of admiration for his boldness, and an uncomfortableness with his cockiness or just plain certainty. I think simple, clear statements often work like this. We humans like things to be clear and obvious, but than we realise that these things are never that.

    • Jay

      Sam shot himself in the foot with just that one line. If he wanted people to talk about the rest of the ideas he presented in that piece, he would’ve cut that one line. I can’t help but feel he was trolling for comments.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

    > Where Professor Webster loses me is in the rest of the paragraph. “My task is to criticize the Abrahamics . . . .” But why?

    Oh, and — this is actually a standard strategy for developing new theological traditions, so intellectually and historically, Sam is in good company. A great many of the classics of Western theology are written specifically against another writer or text — and sometimes we don’t even have the text that was being written against anymore, because the challenger won the debate so thoroughly that no one preserved it.

    • http://twitter.com/Panmankey Jason Mankey

      I’ve read Celsus/Origen, and there’s nothing wrong with calling out hypocrisy or challenging a particular writer. Look in the archives I challenged a Catholic writer on Patheos for his ridiculous comments about Paganism, but I’m not actively seeking such confrontations.

      Sam also paints with broad strokes, “I don’t think too much of their theology, their morals, or their god” Lost in that statement are the good Christians, the ones who ended child-labor and established the 40 hour work week in this country. I’m a bleeding heart, and as I said above I admire Sam’s courage, it’s just not how I roll.

      • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

        One can say that they do not think much of Christian theology or morality as for example described in the Bible, without saying that individuals Christians are immoral.

        • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

          Except, at least to me, most of that statement seems awfully personal. One could argue that not thinking much of “their theology” is intended as a comment against the Christian organizations that create and maintain the dogma of Christian theology that so often causes Christians as a whole to look bad.

          However, saying that one doesn’t think much of “their morals” is dangerously close to a personal attack against the individuals of the faith, considering that even within Christian circles, morals tend to be highly individualized. Two people from within the same church may have very different ideas of what constitutes morality.

          Then, not thinking much about “their god” assumes that “their god” actually backs the hateful behavior of a *limited* number of individuals and groups who call themselves Christians.

          Basically, yes, that statement, by saying “*their* theology, *their* morals, *their* god,” is grouping all Christians together, and saying that nothing Christian is moral or useful, from their perception of Deity to their personal moralities.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I’ve said on many occasions that I have nothing against Christians. It’s their gods that I have an issue with.

          • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

            Again, that’s making the assumption that the Christian deity is actually the kind of deity some of them make him out to be. Personally, I have no problems believing he’s looking around and facepalming and saying “This is not what I had in mind, guys.”

          • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

            If find this troubling. Since I have little interest in Christianity (and friends who happen to be Christian), I do not want to tell them what their god did have in mind. I am fine with Christians defining their god as they please, even if he is shaking is head.

            Do I belief there is a single God of any kind? No. So clearly, I do not accept Christian theology one bit. And it is very hard for me to even imagine what there remains of God the Father if I eliminate this monotheist presumption. But then, since I do not accept Christian theology, I do not see God the Father and Jesus as the same persons anyhow.

            So … I’ll just leave it to the Christians to define their god. Even if it makes no sense to me (or possibly to their god), it also makes little sense for Pagans to tell Christians what their god is like. But, I am completely tolerant towards any attempt of Pagans to incorporate aspects of Christian traditions or even Jesus himself. I am reasonably sure though that most Christians would not acknowledge a ‘Pagan Jesus’ as being the same as their God.

          • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

            I’m not telling anyone how to define their own god. I did say “Personally” and “I” …

            I do understand what you’re saying, and in a way, I’m actually saying something similar. To me, anyone saying they have a problem with Christian theology, morality, and deity as a whole seems to be trying to define not only the Christian god, but the entire faith, and apply the same definition to Christians in general. That is what I protest.

            The bottom line is that the statement that was made gathered as much attention as it did because it came off as inherently hostile toward Christians in general, and those who would define themselves as various brands of Christopagans as well. I’m not one of them, but I do have a problem with the statement, the way it was phrased, and the possible intentions behind it.

          • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

            I did not mean to imply that you were defining someone else’s god. Sorry for that. What I mean is, that I do not really get why we need to find a theological common ground with Christians. And yes, you’re right about us thinking rather similarly. He was indeed addressing Christo-Pagans more that Christians. I am fine with people who want to include Jesus or his father in their pantheon, but I do not think this theological merging should be a goal for us pagans in general. I guess I am rather sensitive about this too, because sometimes it seems that a lot of Pagans are scared to disagree. Well, this discussion about Sam’s post certainly proves me wrong here! ;)

            You know what I thought was the strangest part of his essay? He said (more or less) that it was his task to criticize Christianity. And I kept thinking, is it not our task to build up our own traditions first? To think of critiquing Christianity as a necessary task … that sounds rather odd to me.

          • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

            I agree with your comments about his statement that it was his “task to criticize” the Abrahamic religions. I think that’s the main reason so many people latched on to that, and the comment about Jesus in Paganism rather than anything else in his post: it’s very, VERY easy to read that statement as hostile. He may or may not have meant it to be, but it still easily comes off that way.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I was raised in the (Anglican) Church. I’ve made my own mind up on the matter.

          • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

            I was raised in the Baptist church.

            Again, I said “Personally” and “I.”

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            You said:
            “that’s making the assumption that the Christian deity is actually the kind of deity some of them make him out to be.”
            I made up my own mind about him, rather than follow what others said.

            (To sum up my stance: YHWH is a deceitful little desert djinn with little to offer someone with no interest in a subservient, desert existence.)

          • http://www.celestinetarot.com/ Celestine Angel

            Ah, I see. Thank you for the clarification.

          • http://paganlayman.wordpress.com/ Soliwo

            Yes, it is close, but still not the same. It would depend of your definition of Christianity. I have a problem with Christian theology and moral code. I will often just call this Christianity, which is not accurate I agree. What I do not mean to do is go after Christians as a group/ or community. The problem that I encounter is that an attack of Christian morality (in theory) is immediately seen as a personal attack, which to me it isn’t.

            Of course, when in my country The Netherlands, Islam is called an ideology rather than a religion, in a climate where there is already talk of ‘the islamization of Europe’, a ‘tsunami’ of Muslims’ etc, such a similar attack would get an entirely different meaning. I hardly believe Sam is encouraging the marginalization of Christians, especially as he seems to be addressing a mostly pagan crowd, and his critique does not seem to have any political implications.

            I do not really agree with Sam Webster, but there is an important difference here. Doing battle with Christian theology/ morality, is not the same as declaring war on the Christians.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1197543165 Eric Devries

    He speaks about unity while making sweeping divisive statements, I find it hard to take him seriously. He seems entirely too impressed with himself. Some of the most deeply ethical and moral people I know are Christian and as part of my practice I worship Christ. I don’t call myself Pagan anymore but I know plenty of Pagans who do worship Christ, especially those who are involved with syncretic faiths. I also know Pagans who are Unitarian Universalists. I think he made a sweeping statement not many months back about how humanist Paganism that stirred up similar controversy, it seems to be his MO.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    After a few dark months when I felt like only Aidan Kelly and I were writing at Patheos Pagan on a regular basis we’ve suddenly got all sorts of stuff going on.
    Well, what am I, a bag of oats? ;)
    But, apart from that (and if I am, indeed, a bag of oats, I’d appreciate hearing so from you when we meet on the panel at PantheaCon–and then perhaps you can ferment me into something more ecstatic!), I am largely in agreement with you regarding Sam’s recent piece.
    One of the things I’ve long advocated–in my column here as well as elsewhere–is to have our own theologies of other theological systems (i.e. religions). Disagreeing with or critiquing another religion on certain points one doesn’t agree with is one thing; accepting another theological viewpoint as “true” only in order to refute it is another altogether. Sam, and many other modern Pagans, seem to do this constantly with Christianity and with other religions as well. As polytheists, we can see the singular deities theorized by modern Judaism, Islam, and Christianity as different deities who are “one among many”; there is no need–like Muslims–to assume that all of them have the same god who is the only god. Way too many Pagans make that mistake, I think; and, seeing each of those religions’ gods as different and separate, which they are (even in historical and theological terms), allows them to exist within a polytheistic theology, and also to not have any requirements on our worship or acknowledgement of them. They’re singular deities among many, and they may not appeal to someone, so one can ignore them…but likewise, one can’t prohibit others from worshipping or acknowledging them either.
    This notion of “Abrahamics” as a religious bloc is something that has only been a reality recently, within mostly monotheistic interfaith contexts; for centuries before that, Jews have not viewed Christians as being of a similar religion or having a similar deity (Jesus kind of screws that up for them); likewise, Christians have not seen Muslims as being of the same general religious area, and while Muslims have agreed that Jesus is a prophet, because he’s essential to Christian (soft) monotheism, they’ve never accepted the Christian view of a singular god because, again, it has Jesus in it. Far too often, modern Pagans take (whether we are aware of it or not) the Muslim view of the monotheistic god as true, which it both isn’t, and we aren’t required to as polytheists.
    Anyway, that point may be very clear to you, but repetitio mater studiorum est, so…!

    • http://twitter.com/Panmankey Jason Mankey

      You are certainly no bag of oats, though I’m always down with fermentation. No offense was meant, and I’m very much looking forward to meeting you at Pcon.

      One of my professor friends always gets annoyed with the phrase “Judeo-Christian” for the reasons you cite above.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        I kid, I kid…! ;) And yes, it will be fun to meet and chat at the great con’ of Pantheas.
        (Also: right after our panel, a friend of mine is leading a procession around the con’ that will be called the Furious Revels, in the tradition of Krampus and other such festivals in Europe. I’m certainly going to be in that, with horns on…how about you? It is not on the online schedules, but it will be in the book. I’ll have part of my costume on under my regular clothes for our panel so I can switch quickly for it! But, given your interests and the title of your blog, I thought you might like to be in on that especially!)

        • http://twitter.com/Panmankey Jason Mankey

          I’m in, with horns on, though I’m not much for costumes.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      The point of the term ‘Abrahamic’ is that it describes all the various religions that acknowledge the god of Abraham (YHWH). Generally as the principle/only deity.

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        While I understand what you’re saying, and know that’s how most people use it, what I’m saying is that it is not descriptively or theologically useful, either to us or to the religions concerned in their insider perspectives, apart from the Islamic perspective, outside of a few interfaith instances that are recent. Just because each of those traditions considers Abraham an important figure, or even a founding figure, doesn’t mean they have the same understanding of Abraham (and his descendants) himself (or themselves), or of the god he worshipped. Thus, it’s flawed and dishonest to use the term as if there is a similarity or even unity between them–just as it would be flawed and dishonest to assume that all “pagan” religions (according to several monotheistic understandings of the term) have the same theologies and are all equally mislead by false gods or demons, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, and all forms of modern Paganism as well as ancient forms of polytheism, African and Afro-Diasporic religions, Native, Central, and South American religions, etc. We can squeeze some of these more or less neatly under the modern Pagan umbrella, but to assume that even those have the same theologies is stretching it greatly…

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I tend to define by pantheons, which is partly why I have some issues with the term ‘Pagan’.

          Instead of Abrahamic, there is also the phrase ‘People of the Book’, meaning those who acknowledge the teachings of the Old Testament.

          I get that the three paths have divergence, but they do have the same source and same deity-figure, regardless of those deniers who say that Allah is a moon-god rather than an Arabic form of YHWH.

    • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

      Well, what am I, a bag of oats? ;)

      As someone who eats oatmeal for breakfast every day, I find this question……. makes me want to go make breakfast.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chkraemer13 Christine Hoff Kraemer

      > Disagreeing with or critiquing another religion on certain points one doesn’t agree with is one thing; accepting another theological viewpoint as “true” only in order to refute it is another altogether.

      Helpful distinction. Write an article? :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

    “I have no use for Jesus in my own rites, or the saints, or even angels, but I’m not going to take away someone’s Pagan card because they worship differently than me. I will never claim to have ownership over the truth. There’s plenty of room under the Pagan umbrella for people who worship Jesus alongside other deities.”

    This paragraph so sums up my thoughts on this matter. Just as I don’t want anyone (of any faith) telling me what/who to believe in, so do I not want to tell others that their faith is “wrong”.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I’ll happily tell the Jehovah’s Witnesses that knock on my door that they are wrong when they go on and on and on and on and on… about their ‘One True God’ (TM Pat. Pend.)

    • kenneth

      My feeling on Christo-Pagans is that I won’t presume to judge the validity of their beliefs or try to “revoke their pagan card.” At the same time, I’ve found that their syncretism is usually enabled by serious misunderstandings about the nature of the two faith systems. I also refuse to circle with them in a situation where I would be part of invoking Christian deity, saints, angels etc. I see it as a healthy live and let live stance.

  • Michael York

    What Christine concludes with concerning the desire to be left alone by the Big 3 monotheistic religions is a desire I share as well. All any of us is asking is to be allowed to believe and practice as we choose. I too would more than welcome the re-appearance of temples to Dionysus, but we can more than get along for the time being without them. We still have the sea and even the woods, and at the present juncture it is these that we seek to protect.

    Sam’s desired task to criticise the Abrahamics I expect arises from the perspective that the Abrahamics have several aspects that are indeed criticisable. For one, it is thanks to the Abrahamics that much of our pagan heritage has been lost – from Theodosius’s closing of all pagan temples and chopping down the Oak of Dodona, and Justinian’s seizure of the Academy to the construction of churches over pagan shrines in Europe and Latin America or mosques over demolished Hindu temples in India. Indeed, if we are to have bona fide interfaith, it cannot be without criticism from one aggrieved party to another. It is not a question of criticising just to be contrary but to be constructive both for inter-religious conversation and, especially, for an increased development of pagan self-identity. And this is indeed a ‘task’
    rather than something to be undertaken lightly or casually.

    And if we critique Christianity, etc., it is just as important that we engage in self-criticism as well. Yes, thank the gods that there are Christians who are our

    friends and allies. I think, however, that Sam has recognised precisely that
    Christian theology, morals and ‘God’ is together a big issue and hence calls
    for a big statement. It is also precisely because the Christian Trinity is such
    a “big ball of mush” that it has produced the rich theological tradition it
    has. Theological discussion is not for everyone, but Sam is attempting to
    address the issue for those who are interested. Whether pagans and/or adherents
    of the Big 3 Monotheistic Faiths are drawn by theology or not, it is still what
    underpins, informs and differentiates one religion from the next. I do not
    think Sam is throwing “an entire religion under the bus” – at least literally,
    but when paganism has been itself historically so thrown under the bus, it
    takes a Herculean effort to get back out from under and into the game.
    Certainly the Jesus/Yahweh/Allah god-forms “have provided comfort, peace, and joy” to many – and that part is indeed laudable as Christine maintains, but they
    have also wrecked the lives of many, many others, and I believe that that is
    the issue for Sam. His statement about worshipping Jesus and not being a pagan
    is purposively provocative. I tried to present some contrary feedback on this
    on Sam’s site wherever that is, but there is an underlying nuance to the
    statement which not only generated a lot of discussion but also provides a
    handle for addressing a much deeper issue than any superficial denial.

    I am glad that Celestine clarified her statement as a personal one. For some of us, the Christian ‘God’ is an anti-god – a case I attempted to make in my *The Divine versus the Asurian.* Leoht’s “deceitful little desert djinn” with nothing to offer beyond the desert or not is spot-on. As Leoht says, it is the Christian gods with which s/he has an issue. Or as Soliwo puts it: “Doing battle with Christian theology/morality is not the same as declaring war on the Christians.” For this last, we need to turn instead to Nietzsche and his expose on the morality of resentment.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      (He.)

      My stance is not a popular one (although I argue that it fits the earliest accounts of YHWH fit the criteria for my description well), but I laid it out in the spirit of honesty and openness. That’s the basis for interfaith dialogue, isn’t it?


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