Recently a blogger not worth naming make the statement that Paganism is merely Protestantism playing dress up. Seems patently absurd. Of course Progressive Protestant Christians are indeed taking on the trappings of Paganism: the Wheel of the Year, the Divine Feminine and positive affirmation style magic. However, that’s like saying I have a beard because a bearded guy mugged me. It just doesn’t work that way.
I have developed a stock phrase that some people find charming to answer the “Jesus Question”:
I accepted Jesus into my heart years ago and he hasn’t complained about his roommates yet.
Cute, huh? It’s an answer that puts people at ease and diffuses uncomfortable situations. Of course, all this really means is that I have never formally evicted Yeshua ben Joseph from my life. I have never been formally unbaptized. I know some Pagans have done just that. Oaths are a serious business among us and there is a lot of discussion about the age of consent for making such dread oaths. Those of us who have received a baptism into the Christian faith after the age of 13 can sometimes find that yoke uncomfortable, and so formally extricate themselves from that obligation.
I have sat down with family members to explain my faith and just when I think I’ve made it clear to them comes the “Jesus Question.” But you still believe in Jesus right? And I sigh in exasperation and say No, I don’t. That whole concept that you can do whatever you like as long as you believe in Jesus is irritating. For Christians you have either accepted Jesus or you are struggling against him. There is no third path in their eyes.
I reject Jesus Christ and his teachings. I reject Yahweh/Jehovah/El and his laws. I reject the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost and any other magical instruments of the Christian faith. I reject the angels and the archangels and the cherubim and seraphim. I reject Satan and the concept of demons that tempt me to sin. I reject heaven and hell. I reject the notion of Original Sin. I reject the concept of the creation. I reject the concept of sin entirely. I reject that the Bible is anything more than an anthology of Middle Eastern wisdom texts and mythology. I reject the Christian notion of forgiveness. I reject the idea that the Jewish Messiah has come. I reject Christian eschatology. I reject my baptisms heartily.
I should print the above paragraph on a card to hand to someone for them to glance at as I explain my faith to them. Yes, really, I’m not remotely Christian. I can’t speak for every Pagan, but that is the reason I’m not a Protestant Christian. I reject Jesus.
My faith is not merely a softened stance on scripture. I’m not looking for an easier form of Christianity. I’m not looking for Christianity at all. This isn’t ultra-liberal Methodism I’m practicing. This is something else. I know you have been conditioned to believe there is nothing else, but there is. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
I do not even believe in the big mystic One. A single unifying deity or force that ties all faith and all people together. I believe in multitude. I believe in legion. I believe in a mighty host of the universe working with and against each other. I believe in the holy power of the Many.
Christianity won because it was the Borg. It was organized and ruthless. It bulldozed everything in it’s path. Pagan religions were not organized in such a fashion, and saw the danger only when it was too late. For Pagans, human life is sacred. Doesn’t mean it is too sacred to end. Doesn’t means wars didn’t happen as they have always happened and as they are still happening. Doesn’t mean violence does not occur, particularly to the poor. That is still commonplace today. But you will notice there are few Pagan martyrs. We do not embrace early death as willingly as the Christian faith. We do not seek out death, that is for certain. We do not have a tradition of suicide by centurion.
Only two religious cults were ever banned in ancient Rome. The Bacchanalia and Christianity. Both were banned for public safety. Both incited violence in the streets. But while the Bacchanalia created the kind of violence that only the high-spirited stumbling drunk perpetuate, the violence of the Christians was sober and premeditated. They sought martyrdom. They set themselves against their civic duties (unlike the Jews who had similar concerns over the civic requirements and found a peaceable solution), incited strife, and pestered priests, temples and the army. They attacked temples and priests. They even stole temple furnishings and stones with which to build their churches. And then they wrote the history with self-admitted bias.
One of the most famous pagan martyrs is Hypatia. She did not attack Christianity, did not provoke or incite strife. She taught Christians as well as pagans. She made no great stand for the Gods or for reason. She was simply killed in the market by monks for daring to be a pagan woman who taught men.
Most of the heathen men, women and children Olaf I tortured and slaughtered were no great martyrs. They did not pester priests, or destroy Christian churches, or seek a martyrs death. They did not seek him out, Olaf I came to them. When they refused to give in to his tyrant demands and turn against the faith of their fathers and mothers, he killed them in gruesome ways. Braziers of hot coals on the belly or a snake down the gullet.
Our martyrs were not men and women who made great stands for their faith to put on a public spectacle and gain a seat among the elect in heaven. There is no reward for martyrdom in Paganism, only an afterlife that’s a bit gloomy. No, they were simply murdered in cold blood for refusing to bow to a tyrant in priest’s robes.
It is true that Pagans today are not the same as pagans of old. We have a lot to learn, particularly about our own history. We have to learn how to be separate yet united. We have to learn from the other indigenous religions of the world. We have to learn to survive in a world infested by the Borg. We have to learn that resistance is not futile and assimilation means death. We have to learn to live. We cannot be the same as the pagans who saw their fate sealed with the death of Julian the Faithful, or those who hid and lived for centuries in fear.
We cannot be the same as the ancients. It is not a desirable thing for us to once more be sitting prey for a predatory wolf we underestimate and ignore until it is too late. We must learn from the ancients, we must evolve, we must adapt and we must thrive. We must build alliances and networks. We must be willing to stand together when threatened. We must protect our rights.
I reject Jesus Christ. I reject Jesus Christ. I reject Jesus Christ.
There. I’ve said it three times. We’re officially divorced
(For a good look at what really happened between Christianity and pagan religions in antiquity check out God Against The Gods.)