Periodically an article will catch fire in Pagan social media circles and get shared half to death. The current article coming up ad nauseam in my Facebook feed is one involving writer Joseph Atwill (author of Cesar’s Messiah) and his upcoming lecture about an “ancient confession” suggesting that Roman aristocrats “made up” Jesus and Christianity. This information is being shared with a great bit of glee in some Pagan (and atheist) circles, with very few folks pausing for a second to wonder why such an important development is being presented P.T. Barnum style and not in a serious academic journal (or even a book or magazine article).
There’s nothing wrong with writing about Jesus or being interested in Jesus, he’s impossible to escape, and Christianity has impacted many of our lives in various ways. I have a healthy interest in the origins of Christianity (that appetite extends to the origins of nearly all religious systems), and I’ve written about Jesus here a few times too. What bothers me about the excessive sharing of this one particular article is that many people certainly shared it out of spite. Would eighty people have shared an article entitled: “Ancient Confession Found: Judas Confesses to Betraying Jesus?” Of course not, because it would be pro-Christianity or at least a pro-Christian interpretation of history.
Seeing this kind of link shared again and again in the Pagan Community troubles me for other reasons as well. The biggest one is that it often feels as if we Pagans are far more likely to share an article that undermines Christianity than we are to share something written by Pagans for Pagans. That bothers me as a Pagan writer of course, but it also bothers me as a Pagan because I feel as if it hurts Pagandom long term.
When I mentioned this observation online today I had a few Facebook friends remark that when they go to Pagan festivals the campfire talk inevitably ends up about Jesus. As David Salisbury said “it just puzzles me and all I can do is think ‘wait..aren’t I at a PAGAN festival?’” My friend and long-time Pagan festival veteran Kenny Klein commented about this too. He wrote:
“It’s always been like this. I used to speak to PEI about stuff like this all the time: if you put 3 Pagans in a room together they will always talk about Christianity.”
I understand the need to process the transition out of Christianity, but when you’ve been away from it for ten or fifteen years isn’t it time to let go? What good does it do to belittle another faith? Besides, stuff like “Roman aristocrats made up Christianity” is bad history, and you don’t have to take my word for it.
I had a friend remark that a Christianity based on a giant lie would give him a feeling of vindication, especially after having had a horrid and abusive experience growing up in a “Christian” family. I certainly sympathize with that, and I understand the emotion of payback, but people who believe in Christianity are going to continue to believe in Christianity. We could find a letter signed by Jesus denying that he’s the son of Yahweh, and it wouldn’t matter. Sharing something putting down Christianity might make you feel better, but it doesn’t solve any problems, and most likely increases tensions. I can’t expect someone to see my faith as legitimate if I’m telling them that theirs is false.
What bothers me the most about a Pagnadom far more interested in talking about Christianity than Paganism is that I feel we are losing a big opportunity. We’re losing a chance to better understand each other. Since the conversation is more about “why they are wrong” instead of “why this is right for me,” I’m missing the chance to hear my sisters and brothers talking about how they experience ritual and the gods. Think of all the new traditions and rites that we might come up with if we were more focused on us instead of them! When I’m around the campfire I desperately want to talk about Pagan things! I want to discuss The Long Lost Friend, magick, Gerald Gardner, Aphrodite, and a whole host of other topics far removed from Christianity.
Not even making its way into this plea is the fact that we’d rather share the propaganda of someone outside of our tribe than the writing of someone who is a part of it! We should all spend more time supporting Pagan writing and helping our authors (and *cough* *cough* bloggers). I’m not upset with the idea of sharing information about the origins of a religious movement separate from our own, I just wish we’d spend a little more time sharing information about us!