What is Paganism? Part IV: Interfaith Recognition

Gus diZerega

In many ways, the most convincing evidence supporting the definition of Pagan religion that I have discussed in this series is traditional Pagan peoples’ reactions when they meet modern NeoPagans in interfaith work.A few years back it was trendy in some Religious Studies circles to argue that NeoPagans were so different from indigenous and African Diasporic religions that we should not all be lumped together as "Pagan." Enmeshed within theoretical categories decisively shaped by secular a … [Read more...]

What Is Paganism? Part III: Pagan Religion from a Historical Perspective

Gus diZerega

As is well known in our community, the term “Pagan” was not initially a religious one, and when it took on a religious meaning, it was in contrast to “Christian.” Over the years it has gradually solidified to refer to religions that are not Abrahamic and not Buddhist. Hindus seem to go in and out depending on the writer and the context. So at first, it seems to be a catch-all in historical terms, a kind of linguistic wastebasket into which religions not granted equal status with the “great” ones … [Read more...]

What is Paganism? Part II: A Spiritual Taxonomy

Gus diZerega

Biology arranges all of life in taxonomic ranks based on what are believed to be important similarities.  The term mammalia is a class, the class of all mammals. Within this class there are orders, such as primates. Within the order of primates there are families, such as hominids. Within a family there are genuses; if we follow the line leading to us, within the hominid family our genus would be Homo. And within the genus there are species, as in our own narcissistically named Homo Sapiens.  S … [Read more...]

What is Paganism? Part I: The Basics: Religion, Spirituality, and Stories

Gus diZerega

I was recently involved in an intense discussion arising over an article linked from The Wild Hunt. The article complained about a friend’s statement describing Paganism to an interfaith audience, and I responded by defending him. After that the discussion took off in the direction of “Who is a Pagan and how do we know?” I continued until, in my judgment, we were getting too testy. Best to stop.But most of the issues discussed were important.Afterwards I realized I had accumulated what co … [Read more...]

Faultlines Book Release, and Why Pagans Should Work with Other Religions

Fault Lines

Last month, my new book Faultlines: the Sixties, the Culture War, and the Return of the Divine Feminine was published by Quest. Clicking on the title and linked web page give a pretty good sense of what it discusses, as does a post I just put on PaganSquare. Auspiciously, the date of publication was my birthday, but I was on the road from then until a few days ago, without the peace and quiet to write much. Now that I am back home, I want to focus here at Patheos on the book’s implications for P … [Read more...]

Does America Need a Civil Religion?

Gus diZerega

From the editor:Gus diZerega is featured in Patheos' new Public Square, a discussion space designed to bring people together at the intersection of 'current concern' and 'ultimate concern.'Our opening topic: Does America Need a Civil Religion? The late sociologist Robert Bellah argued that American civil religion had become an "empty and broken shell" by the turn of the twenty-first century. Is it a concept worth reviving? Would re-imagining it help us move beyond the culture wars toward … [Read more...]

Samhain 2013

Skulls and Marigolds

This year marked a watershed in my life.  I attended two weddings, but also a memorial service for one of my longest-time friends, and later, a funeral. My generation has become the oldest, the family elders. For me, from here on the funerals will outnumber the weddings and the deaths the births, until my time comes as well—that final initiation of our physical existence.It is from this perspective that I approach one of my most beloved Sabbats, Samhain.Here in California today, the time … [Read more...]

A Personal Note on Abortion

Gus diZerega

My previous columns have all given theoretical arguments rebutting claims that women should not have final control over deciding whether or not to carry a fetus to term. I argued that respect for life could not justify such claims, that the pre-existence of entities seeking birth or rebirth could not do so, and that there are no very firm grounds in the Bible to consider a fetus a human being. These columns also demonstrated the leadership of the pro-life movement is not pro-life in any coherent … [Read more...]

The “Pro-Life” Movement’s Hidden Subtext

Gus diZerega

The most vociferous and sometimes violent opponents of women’s right to choose claim they act in the name of Christianity and of life.  The truth seems to me to be very different.Interpreting scriptureI expected anti-choice zealots would be able to easily quote biblical passages clearly condemning abortion. I was surprised that instead, the citations they offered were always open to multiple interpretations, and even more surprised that their anti-choice interpretations historically had b … [Read more...]

Pagan Abortion Ethics: Pre-existing Spirits Seeking Birth

Gus diZerega

Because abortion is so powerful an issue today, and because those attacking a woman’s right to choose whether or not to give birth claim an undeserved moral high ground, I will offer several more columns on the subject.  The issues at stake are complex and exist at many levels.  As much as possible, I will try and explore them beginning with comments from women bothered by the morality of abortion.Last week over at PaganSquare, I explored why most people emphasizing the moral weight of a zyg … [Read more...]


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