Why Millennials Love Paganism

You may not have noticed it, but there’s an article making its way around the internet entitled Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church by Rachel Held Evans, one of my favorite Christian writers. I don’t think there’s anything all that ground-breaking in the article, but a lot of the things she mentions are some of the very same reasons people convert to Paganism. I’m not a Millennial (these horns are 40 years old) but when I’m on the road I often end up hanging out with a lot of folks in their 20′s and early 30′s. They are my friends, peers, drinking-buddies, circle-mates, and everything in between.

I’m not going to pretend that I speak for Generation Y, but gods do I see them at festivals and read them on-line. I have no idea if Millennials make up a large percentage of Modern Paganism, but it sure feels like they do. I’m not a Pagan Proselytizer, people are free to believe whatever they want, but spirituality is changing and I think Paganism is well equipped to benefit from those ongoing changes. I’ve quoted a little bit of Evans’s article with my responses below the quotes.

We want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

There has never been a war between science and faith within Paganism, we’ve always been believers in truth. Heck, I’d say that science consistently proves many of the things I believe as a Pagan. One of the advantages that comes from being able to recognize myth as myth is that we don’t go off half-cocked getting metaphors confused with actual history.

Generally I think it’s easy to see what Pagans stand for. Go to any gathering and it’ll hit you right in the nose, it’s inclusion. Ideally we accept people of every race, size, shape, gender-identity, and age.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

It helps in that regard to not constantly have to reference a 2000 year old book. We live in the year 2013, what we do and practice reflects that reality. We can’t recreate 100 BCE, and we are smart enough to realize that you can’t solve everything by reading the words of a bunch of dead guys.

As Pagans we are open to all sorts of questions, and prefer to give answers that don’t contain repression and denial of the self. I for one just want people to be happy, and if you get there through a different path than me that’s completely fine. Live, love, and celebrate. If that’s not a part of your Pagan practice you might be doing it wrong.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

One of the things that Evangelicals don’t seem to understand is that people are tired of obstacles separating them from other faith communities. I’m not a Buddhist, but I want to walk a religious path that validates the choices of my Buddhist friends. I don’t walk with Jesus, but I’m fine with those that walk hand in hand with the hippy from the Galilee. People are tired of hearing how their friends are wrong, Paganism takes that antiquated rhetoric away. I’m not saying that everyone should roll the religion dice each morning (today I’m an Atheist Hellenic Thelemite!), but Paganism has never shut out wisdom, no matter where it comes from.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

I want my circle to look like the world around me, and I’m not alone. A Pagan world without LGBT folks is not a Pagan world.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

I don’t want my life to be “holy,” (I’m not a monk) what I want in this life is to seek the divine. I want to experience sex as a sacred and pleasurable act without any ridiculous outdated taboos. I want to live my life in a way that’s for the betterment of everyone on this Earth. Since the divine lives within us all (“Thou Art Goddess” “Thou Art God”) I want to do my best to treat everyone around me in a way that honors the sacred inside of them (even when it’s hard to see).

Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.

No, like every generation we long to touch the sacred. For centuries touching the sacred was limited to Jesus and his Dad, but those days are over with, and people are waking up to the many and varied sacred currents that are around us all. Some find that connection to the sacred within the Earth and the change of the seasons. Some of us find it in more personal deities, gods and goddesses that come to us without centuries of misguided close mindedness. (Give me Pan rutting around in the woods over a god that would kill an entire country’s firstborn.) There will always be people who long for Jesus, and many good things (and some very bad) have been done in his name, but it’s getting harder and harder to lock out the Divine Feminine. Jesus might be calling, but I think She is too.

I long for the day when the majority of Christians sit at the same table as the rest of us, comfortable in the knowledge that there are many roads that all lead to the same source*.

*Don’t take that as a slight on Rachel Held Evans, she’s gone out of her way the last couple of years to bring an understanding of other faiths to her readers. Heck, she even interviewed me once.

Pagan Festivals and the .25%
Finding the Common Ground at PantheaCon
Paganism: A Tribe or Tribes?
Maybe I Don’t Need a Temple
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.

  • John

    Another outstanding post, Mr. Mankey.

  • Mandy Meyette Kramar

    This is a good one Jason. I think there is a lot of truth spoken here whether one is Pagan or Christian. This is why I had such a wonderful time chatting with you at camp. I look forward to many more chats.

    • JasonMankey

      And to think, Karinny was worried about me talking to you. It was great talking to you as well, it’s a shame I met you after I moved out of Michigan.

      • Mandy Meyette Kramar

        What do you mean Rin was worried about us talking?? But ya, I don’t think I was ready to meet you when we were at your house that one time. I remember meeting your lovely wife, she was very kind, but I think when we met you were on the run to the store or something and we didn’t actually properly meet. But I think you would have just had me running away scard back then. I just wasn’t ready. Wish I was though.

      • Jason Hatter

        OMG, Karinny let you talk to a first time festival goer? ALONE?

        I need to have a talk with that woman… ;)

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I know Pagan evangelism (sharing knowledge of faith) and proselytism (attempted conversion of faith) are frowned upon, but I think it would be handy if we could get the monotheists to accept the existence of gods other than their own, even if they do not honour them.

    I used to be a polytheistic Christian, in my teens. There was no harm in it, and it allowed for a lot more tolerance and less judgement of other beliefs.

  • mother wolf

    I really liked this, Jason. I’ve been a Pagan because that’s what comes naturally and feels right – what I believe without trying. But I’ve never looked at mainstream religions and Paganism together like this. You lay out so clearly how Paganism avoids so many of the serious problems inherent in scriptural, revealed religions. I wish members of other faiths would read this. It would surely challange their perspectives.

  • chris

    I really liked this article, I just wish more pagans would read post like this one, I have seen too many pagans trying to use their religion and or spirituality as a status symbol, or try to put other down for their beliefs with words such as “Fluffy Bunny Pagan” etc, Paganism is acceptance, it’s about letting each and every one of us choose our own path. This article sums up what a lot of us pagans believe in, I just wish more pagans would chose to not let Christians turn them like them.

  • Lee Johnson

    Christ can’t be Christ if He’s only one of many paths. It’s either take up your cross and follow Him, or do your own thing. But it can’t be take up your cross if you wanna, or don’t/do your own thing to get in touch with the sacred.

    Islam and Christianity both stand or fall on exclusive truth claims.

    • JasonMankey

      I don’t know about that. I think certainly in a lot of traditional churches that’s the case, but I’m not sure it’s fair to limit Jesus in such a way. There are many interpretations of Jesus/Christ, there were once over 200 different gospels!

      Islam and Christianity fall when they stop meeting the needs of their practitioners, exclusivity has nothing to do with it. Is the message resonating, or is the message being lost in a sea of verbiage dedicated to issues like homosexuality and abortion? (Two things Jesus never spoke about.)

      Jesus has long been a figure with a role in many faiths as well. He’s revered in Islam, there are Jews who respect his teachings, and I’ve even seen him interpreted as incarnation of the Hindu Krishna.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        The most common stance I came across, considering issues that Jesus didn’t talk about, when I was still a good little Christian was that Jesus amended the existing scripture. If he didn’t mention it, then what was laid out in the OT stood.

        One issue that he did talk about was exclusivity:
        John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (KJV)

        Essentially condemning everyone to damnation, unless they accept Jesus as their messiah.

        Either that or he was really protective of his dad and we read it more like “If you want to get my dad, you’ll have to get through me, first!” (A bit yobbish for most interpretations of him, I think.)

        • Shell

          Even when I was Christian, I always saw this as “the rules won’t get you in, only the part of Divinity that once went through what we went through gets to choose who does and who doesn’t”, with that applying to all peoples of all religions, because Jesus did have a lot to say about having your heart right and even more about ignoring the rules in favor of loving eachother.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I guess that depends on denomination.

          • Anna H.

            It does. There are plenty of Christians – and I used to be one of them – who interpret this quite validly as the “Christ Consciousness” within each person (what other spiritual systems call the Higher Self or Buddha Nature) being the bridge between our everyday personality-driven selves and the Divine. Which is still something I believe, albeit phrased differently. But yes, that particular verse can and does have many varying interpretations, not all of which support Jesus’ alleged claim to spiritual exclusivity.

  • Suriel Brugmansia
  • Grotoff

    Never shutting out wisdom is an excellent principle, but we need to recognize that some faith claims are irreconcilable. Christianity, Islam, Judaism… if any one of these religions is right then the others are wrong. Wrong. If any one of the monotheisms is right, then pagans are wrong as well. These various god-claims just not reconcilable. We need to recognize that.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      There is another to look at it. It is probably even more controversial, though.

      It is entirely possible that the polytheist view is right (I believe it is), in which case the Abrahamic god can well exist, but that the claims to being the sole god are fallacious.

      • Grotoff

        The various polytheisms generally do not make exclusive faith claims, which is why I excluded them. But if the polytheists are right, then Abrahamic god’s followers are wrong. For more than two millenia they have have argued that theirs is the only god. It’s their foundational principle.

        Even monolatrism can be reconciled with polytheism, but never with monotheism.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          The controversial part of that is that it is not saying that their god does not exist, but that he does not exist in the manner claimed.

          We could ask who initially made the claim of monotheism…

          • Grotoff

            Most religious scholars date dominance of the cult of Yahweh from the return from exile in Babylon. The Jews, identifying themselves as foreigners in a land with an entirely different pantheon, transformed Yahweh into their single god and put the blame for their exile on the worshipers of other gods.

            To be clear, if any other god but Yahweh exists then all the Abrahamic faiths are wrong. “There is no god but God” and all that. It would be cold comfort to a Christian to tell him, “Your god does exist. It’s just that everything you think about him and the universe is wrong.”

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Actually, I was more asking if it was the men or the god that first made the claim.

            Either the people were lied to by their priests or they were lied to by their god.

          • Grotoff

            So you are saying that Yahweh decided that he didn’t like sharing worship with other gods, and told his people that he was the only one? That sounds like a classic douche thing to do, and totally consistent with his purported genocidal tendencies.

            As an atheist, I am skeptical. But from a polytheistic perspective, I can see your case.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I made the suggestion that it is possible, not that it was the case.

            (But, yes, that is my belief, as a polytheist.)

  • John W. Morehead

    Jason, thank you for this. As an Evangelical in relationship with Pagans I especially appreciated your comments related to my religious community. There are some of us pursuing a new way of engagement, a more respectful and civil way of relationships and conversations. My efforts are through the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, and a Pagan chapter will likely be starting soon. For more visit http://www.religious-diplomacy.org.