The Strange Idea that Religion Evolved Towards Christianity

I tend to ignore Camp Catholic here at Patheos, and I daresay most of them are inclined to overlook that fact that this site is brimming with unapologetic capital-P, multiple-gods-worshiping, Pagans. Despite the fact that Catholics got most of their best bits from pre-Christian religion and culture, we tend to have a relationship that is less than cordial. In any case, I’m a live-and-let-live sort of guy, a peaceful polytheist content to serve my own community as best I can. However, every now and then someone waves a red flag in my general direction, yells “Toro,” and I feel the need to respond. I mean, how can you not when you see a headline like this…

Warning: Catholic not actually converting to Paganism.

Warning: Catholic not actually converting to Paganism.

Sadly, Marc “Bad Catholic” Barnes is not actually converting to one of the many permutations of modern Paganism. Instead he’s making a point about how anemic and wussy post-Christian secular culture is by praising the perceived he-man heroism of pre-Christian societies.

“The pagans, by which I refer to pre-Christian Western man, may have been unwilling to accept that strange doctrine of the Son of Man, but they willingly accepted that they were sons of men. They may not have known how to be Christian, but they knew how to be human. The post-Christian, having left Christ, is in the busy process of altogether leaving Man. With respect to those delivering our daily mail, one might say we are moving increasingly to the Age of the Post-Man.”

I would point out that Barnes’ view of pre-Christian cultures is not only Romantic, but reductive, a caricature of the complex lives ancient pagans lived (the ancient world had plenty of bureaucrats, poets, and pacifists), but I want to instead focus on another assertion he makes.

“The Pagan world awaited Christ as a virgin awaits her bridegroom. In her myth and legend she whispered of Christ. The post-Christian world leaves Christ as an adulteress. In her timidity and weariness she slanders His name. They are both without the fullness of Truth, but oh, how much happier the Pagans must have been.”

He, of course, quotes C.S. Lewis, because he’s the go-to guy who helped popularize the myth of religious evolution, but he’s far from the only one. J.R.R. Tolkein held this view, as did the artist John Singer Sargent, whose controversial “Triumph of Religion” mural series was inspired by the philosopher Ernest Renan. All believed that Christianity was a religious evolutionary endpoint. That more capital-T “Truth” and capital-L “Light” filtered into the history of religion until finally Jesus was born, the final Truth was revealed, and all other faiths would shrivel and die in the wake of that revelation, their theologies now obsolete in the face of the final sacrifice. This birthed the consistent idea that ancient pagans were silently longing for Christ, but just didn’t know him yet ( a sentiment repeated by Pope Benedict in 2007, when he intimated that indigenous populations were “longing” for the faith of the colonizers).

The problem with evolutionary religious theory is that it’s poetic nonsense, a selective reading of history and religion to suit a triumphalist idea. It came of an age where many people, still grappling with Darwin’s theory of evolution, started applying it to just about everything. This was not only wrong, but fed into the idea that Caucasian European Christians were the pinnacle of  human achievement, a destructive idea that still will not die (ironically, the misapplication of evolutionary theory on folk songs and customs helped jump-start modern Paganism, but that’s another story). Without going too far into it, it’s easy to see how many horrors and “sins” of the modern world actually began with the idea that there was one true way, and that all other ways were not fit for survival, respect, or preservation.

The truth is that polytheism, and other non-monotheistic belief systems, never went anywhere. They have survived just fine to the present day, though often victims of brutal repression and discrimination (and then accused of being “primitive” despite weathering these storms). The myth of a Christian end-point used by countless apologists of colonizers hell-bent on eliminating non-Christian religions in the “New World,” Asia, and Africa (the indigenous religions of Europe thought long dead). These surviving non-Christian religions aren’t “evolving” into Christianity, and the dominant monotheisms are still exerting massive political and cultural power to wipe them out.

Finally, returning to the pernicious idea of he-man warrior-pagans who were awesome and nothing like the girly-men of secular culture, I’d point Mr. Barnes to David Brin’s epic take-down of Frank Miller’s hero-worship of the Spartans, pointing out that it was the citizen-soldiers of Athens who truly saved Western civilization.

“Expressed repeatedly – with the relentlessness of deliberate, moralizing indoctrination – “300″ idolizes the same arrogant contempt for citizenship that eventually ruined classical Greece and Republican Rome, and that might bring the same fate to America.”

Yes, the ancient world had bad-asses living in it, warriors who performed amazing feats of bravery, but it was also full of humanitarians, early scientists and doctors, thinkers, and simple folk who only wanted to live the best life possible.  Barnes’ mocks the “Americanized silliness that seems to be under the impression that Paganism largely comprised of the eating of the proper roots at the proper times and idolizing liberal politicians..” without realizing that Ancient Rome was full of “liberal” politicians who helped build things like democracy and representative government (not to mention the “social safety net”). For every romantic superhero like Mark Antony, there was a Cicero, working hard to make sure the early forms of our government worked. Those men were often killed to make way for tyranny, but they also made our modern world possible.

The ancient world is far more diverse, complex, strange, and wonderful than anyone can truly imagine, but it was still human in the same way we today are human. Despite the assertions of the “Bad Catholic,” we have not lost that humanity, nor are we so far from the minds who shaped the world we live in today.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    This is why I <3 The Wild Hunt.

  • Soliwo

    A very, very good read. I see this in Dutch newspapers as well. And I remember Kaplan doing much the same, seeing our polytheists ancestors as models of manliness, forgetting there were women as well. It almost resembles ‘the noble savage’ syndrome.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TCCGNY7AD3K4ORTQRKUKPTFPKU Morri

    Well done, Jason.

    I only have one, single question for any Xian, and in 53 years, not one has ever answered it:

    “How do you reconcile the aggressive, cruel god of the OT with Jesus teachings?”

    • Kelly_aidan

      Morri, if you sincerely want an answer to your question, and are not merely interested in arguing, you need to take some basic college courses in religious studies. There are some very sophisticated answers to that question. However, if you are neither Jewish nor Christian of any sort in your faith, then I recommend you think upon what the zookeeper said when asked if a hippopotamus was male or female. He said, “That is a matter of interest only to another hippopotamus.”

      • BlackCat

         Because everyone lives near a college campus. Because everyone can afford, both in money and in time, to take multiple college classes to answer a single question. Because every college has a religious studies department. 

        Oh and of course, you’re not allowed to ask someone of a different faith difficult questions about their religion! Silly us for wanting to understand.

        • Robert Mathiesen

          I dare say Aidan’s point was that many questions, including Morri’s, inherently lack simple answers that can be expressed in comments on a blog, but require books and libraries of books.

          • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

            If a Christian cannot answer this, then perhaps they are missing the core of why they are a Christian rather than, say, Jewish, since Jesus was said to have established a new covenant with Yahweh.  

            I can explain why I follow my Gods, who, for instance, have a heiti like Bolverk (Evil Worker) without a library of books to do so.  Reading understanding of Odin’s myths and legends, including different reads of Bolverk’s coming into the employ of Baugi, His interaction with Gunnlod (I have seen this noted as either seduction or rape) helps my understanding of this myth, but ultimately, I need to develop my own understanding of this myth.  This kind of understanding requires 1) that I can read and 2) that I can reason for myself.  

            If Christians cannot answer so fundamental a question, without a college education or mounds of books, how can they possibly have anything greater to share with Pagans?

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Christians have been discussing this fundamental question for close to two thousand years now, with ever increasing subtlety and sophistication.  Even so, they have never been able to agree on which answer, out of the dozens that have been proposed, to that question is best — and it very much seems that they never will agree, even if they wrestle with it for many thousands of years more. 

            Myself, I’m something of a hard polytheist, and so I don’t have a dog in the fight.  But I do have a bias, which is that any question about the Gods that can have one clear, simple answer isn’t worth spending much time on, or taking very seriously. 

            And I don’t have to *explain* or even *posit* anything at all about any of the Gods.  Even the statement that “Gods exist” is far too limited and naive, and greatly misses the mark, though it is a little better than the opposite statement “Gods don’t exist.”  Iamblichus understood this well, and powerfully refuted Porphyry on this point, a very long time ago, back in the years around 300 CE.

            If ever, when I am a hundred years old or thereabouts, I suddenly discover that I am no longer learning anything more about the Gods, or that my own efforts to make sense of them and their deeds have come to their logical, final conclusion — in short, if I ever find that I have come to the end of all my striving –, then I will know that I have failed the Gods indeed.

            YMMV, of course, Sarenth; but I did feel the need to point to another approach here.

          • Ben VB

             It’s not unreasonable to say that a fundamental question requires a very detailed answer, or even that there is no answer at all. For example, to answer the fairly fundamental (in a sense … this is a comment on a blog, not a thesis :) ) question of why water boils faster in a metal pot than a clay one requires some advanced study if you want something more than the ‘because it works’-level answer of ‘metal conducts heat better than clay’. Or, for an example of an actually fundamental question, we have no idea how gravity works, and understanding any of the proposed theories requires a graduate-level education in physics.*

            That said, there are some reasonably understandable answers to this question. The best one I’m aware of is that God interacts with humans based on their current mindset; or, said another way, He doesn’t require us to be perfect before speaking to us but rather uses our imperfections to get His message across. Thus, His interactions with people develop over the course of the O and N Ts, becoming gradually more in line with His true nature—although here you get into the sneaky issue of identifying God with Goodness/Morality, which confuses things a bit. Baruch’s answer below also plays a part in this idea.

            At a certain point with a lot of these fundamental theological questions, though, most notably in the timeless ‘problem of evil’ question, the final answer essentially involves trusting that God knows what He’s doing. There are obviously various logic-based ways of coming to some kind of understanding so that it’s not completely paradoxical, but they often rely on some aspect of God (e.g. the Book of Job’s “solution” that God has a plan for the universe that individual humans can’t understand, so we should shut up and suffer evil patiently: this solution removes the paradox, but it sorta does so simply by stating ‘there is no paradox, but you can’t truly understand why there is no paradox’, which works but is rather unsatisfying), so there’s going to be some element of simple faith involved.

            * I’m in the process of obtaining said education, so I’m not just making this up :)

          • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

            I am not saying that our Gods, or that the Christians’ God does not require a good deal of thought.  I am not about to suggest throwing out the theological baby with the bathwater.  Thinking about our Gods, expounding on our relationships with Them, both personally and in an academic circles IS important; I never meant to suggest otherwise.

            However, what I do think that is missing, is that it seems to me that I see a good deal many more Pagans actively thinking about their Gods, their relationships with Them, and why They are the way They are.  I don’t think this requires a huge mound of books or a library’s worth of theologians to expound on; I think that people can think through their relationships with their Gods.  I also think it is vitally important that these relationships with our Gods are living things, not purely an academic purpose, though I see the use of academics in understanding our Gods.

            I think theology is accessible in a way that physics may not be to the common person.  A person can see the effects of gravity by dropping a ball; they don’t understand the mechanism behind gravity, unless, as you pointed out Ben VB, they have an education in physics.   

            However, a person can read a myth about a God they worship, reflect on it, relate to it.  They may not be able to tear apart the deeper meaning if they do not understand the text they are reading, or perhaps knowledge a theologian would have, such as historical context, which can give a deeper perspective to a given section.

            I don’t think there necessarily is one or even a set of clear, simple answer about our Gods or the Christian God, especially when you are asking tough questions about theology.  However, I would expect someone who is a follower of Christ to have at least grappled with, if not thought deeply about the questions of their God just as I would of a Pagan.  

            I am not asking for THE answer, but AN answer, and I think that anyone who worships a God and comes across a question like Mori asked should, in some way, shape or form, be able to give an answer to that.  I don’t have to like it, it doesn’t have to be intellectually satisfying to me, but I would hope they would think about it, given how such a powerful question not only shapes a person’s faith, but their entire life.

            That said, I would hope that well beyond my death I am still learning things about Odin.  My personal feeling is that I will probably never know everything about Odin, and I am okay with that mystery.  

          • Ben VB

             Sarenth: I completely agree with your point, then. There are a lot of folks out there who don’t think about things in any area, but it’s particularly sad when they don’t think about the most important part of their lives.

          • http://twitter.com/ashareem HRM

            For many self-professed Christians, the answer is as simple as “the Bible tells me so”, and they have no internal need to delve further into the matter.

        • Kelly_aidan

          If you cannot invest time and money in research, then you are not going to arrive at a well-informed answer. Life is hard, but that’s no excuse for claiming that sloppy amateur research is just as valid as professional research.

          One is allowed to ask any damned questions about anybody’s religion that one feels like asking. But then to spend 53 years refusing to believe or perhaps even understand the answers is pretty silly.

          Also, I am not obliged to give anyone a college course for free. It’s also a waste of time, since a person who is not paying tuition is almost never going to be aware that he or she is supposed to be learning something new instead of defending an obsolete map.

          • Guest

            So you’re saying that an informed understanding of Christianity is only open to those who have the means to obtain a formal education?   

          • Nick Ritter

            I might say that in order to gain an informed understanding of anything, one must at least have the will and means to pursue an informal education. There are books on Christian theology out there, available for purchase, including some of the big names like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. There are also more objective works: I might recommend Mircea Eliade’s three-volume series entitled “A History of Religious Ideas” as a place to start for anyone interested in an informed understanding of just about any religion whatsoever.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            A *profound* understanding of anything is only open to those who invest considerable time and money in either observation or research.  This investment doesn’t have to be in the form of a formal education.

            But yes, the world and human life are such that a great deal of very hard work and sacrifice is needed if one wants to understand *anything* deeply.  There’s no democracy in this, none at all.

            Any lazy person can understand enough to get by in life, more or less, and any person with the the disposition of a parrot can learn enough of the right noises to mimic a profound understanding. 

            Lots of parrots in this comment thread, as in most comment threads on most blogs . . .

    • KhalilaRedBird

      Speaking as one who honors and, to a large extent, continues to follow Jesus while rejecting the religion touted in his name, I suggest that Jesus taught that the  G_d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was far closer, more personal, and more loving than the stories and rules and hype of the day allowed folks to see.  He tried to open their eyes to the essence of Deity and shake off the crap that had been developed by the 1% to usurp more from the 99%.  He declared the essence of worship is to love G_d and your neighbor and yourself so thoroughly that none of the tripe being sold by the 1% in G_d’s name was necessary, important, or even wanted. 

      Once the 1% had shut him up, Saul of Tarsus (a 1%-er) made such a big deal of the resurrection that the actual teachings of Jesus became, well, nice, but…

      Anyhow, that’s how I see it, and why I will speak well of Jesus and deny Christ (the brand-name trademarked by Saul who became Paul now called saint.)

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Morri, the approach to your question is, alas, another question: Do you regard the Bible as written by God, or as written by men writing about God?

      If the latter, it’s pretty straightforward. The oldest stories after the creation narrative reflect the values of a Bronze Age tribal society, projected onto their God. The Gospels, as someone else mentioned, chronicle a possibly real man trying to show his people an approach to divinity that circumvents the ossified Bronze Age rules. (BTW the OT shows development in this direction; Noah is about forgiviness and it’s OT.)

      If one regards the Bible as written by God, then you do have to dive into the weeds and track the contortions of the many scholars who have tried to answer your question while retaining the written-by-God meme. Sorry.

    • Letish789

      Very brief response as to your question.
       The God of the old testament and the God of the new testament are one and
      the same.  Unfortunately, many protestant (shoot off Christian religions)
      pick and choose the verses they want to quote- completely taking the verses out
      of context of the times and the actual meaning.  They actually make God
      into a god that serves their interpretations or even their desires, instead of
      the other way around (Mind you I know many with very good intentions and love
      for God.  Very good people just not
      informed about the history of Christianity).  God IS.  God is NOT our
      daddy or the “Big Guy up there.” Those are very disrespectful terms.
      Yes, God loves us, but God has expectations- the Commandments.  This Father LOVES us and created us (in
      his image) for His pleasure. We were created for Him. (We will not be complete
      until we serve Him), but this (our) Father will hold us accountable.  It does not matter if you believe or
      not, He IS, and we will all be held accountable.  We all must choose. If we choose Him, we must walk the walk
      and follow his Word (not our own interpretations).  God is love, but God IS.  The apostles fell on their knees with faces to the ground in
      reverence for the one and only true God. 
      Although he is love, we should not take Him for granted and disrespect
      Him.  I have a couple of good book
      recommendations: first “Mere Christianity” by CS Lewis.  It’s a very easy ready and very
      insightful. Read Exodus.   It
      should also give you a glimpse of God.  That God that is all omnipresent
      and omnipotent is three different persons in one. Here’s a little bit from a b ook called, “Theology for beginners,” by FJ
      Sheed. “The heavenly Father has a Son; the Gospels tell of their relation. We
      must now look at it more closely. 
      A son is a distinct person from his father; there is no way in which a
      father can be his own son. But though they are distinct persons, they are like
      in nature- the son of a man is a man, of a lion a lion. In this solitary care,
      the Father’s nature is infinite; so the Son too must have an infinite nature.
      But there cannot be two infinite natures- one would be limited by not being the
      other and by not having power over the other.  Therefore, since the Son has infinite nature, it must be the
      same identical nature as the Father’s. 
      The truth, that Father and Son possess the one same nature, might remain
      wholly dark to us if St. John had not given us another tem for their relation-
      the second person is the Word of the first.  In the first eighteen verses of his Gospel we learn that God
      has uttered a Word, a Word who is with God (abiding therefore, not passing in
      the utterance), a Word who is God; by this Word all things were made. So God
      utters a word- not framed by the mouth, of course, for God has no mouth. He is
      pure Spirit.  So it is a word in
      the mind of God, not sounding outwardly as our words sound, akin rather to a
      thought or an idea.  What idea produced
      in God’s mind could possibly be God? Christina thinking saw early that it could
      be only the idea God has of himself…. God’s idea of himself is no something
      only; it is Someone, for it can know and love… The production of a Second
      Person does not exhaust the infinite richness of the divine nature.  Our Lord tells of a third person.  There is a Spirit, to whom Our Lord
      will entrust his followers when he himself shall have ascended to the Father……
      As we have already seen, there is one huge and instant difference between God’s
      idea and any idea we may form. His is someone, ours is only something…….….God’s
      idea is someone, and an infinite someone; between thinker and idea there is an
      infinite dialogue, and infinite interflow…….. [Father and Son] unite to express
      their love and that the expression is a third divine person…. The holy Spirit.…..
      It was left to Christ Our Lord to reveal to us that there is companionship
      within the one divine nature- not a number of Gods, but three persons within
      the one God.”  It goes on to expand
      on the three persons within one nature.” 
      This last book is a very deep book, but very interesting and worth the
      read.  Hope this answers your
      question. Hopefully, you have other questions.  You can go to EWTN.com and they have a question and answer
      section and a bunch of documents. 
      : )

       

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        Why, Letish, do Christians like you always assume that anyone who isn’t Christian can be convinced by you to become Christian through whatever explanations of the veracity of your religion (which are, most often by definition, ultimately circular arguments) you happen to offer, when we’ve remained unconvinced by the statements of your ostensible founder, that founder’s principle apostles, and many of the greatest theologians and evangelists of your tradition?  We have the same access to what you understand as the “Word of God” as you do, and yet we’ve found it irrelevant to our own experiences or interests; what makes you think that you’ll be able to explain it better than the best “explainers” of your religion?

        Here’s an explanation for you in the meanwhile:  you have a god, who is called IAO SABAOTH in some languages, who was particularly revered by the Hebraic peoples of the Near East.  That god had one particularly famous incarnate son (your own scriptures, specifically Genesis 6, quite literally state that there were other sons of that god IAO) whose name was Yeshua ben Yosef, commonly known in English as Jesus the son of Joseph, who was an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth, a philosopher, and a holy individual who became divine after his death.  There is another being known as the Holy Spirit that does some of the work of IAO (for he is incredibly discarnate) on the earth.  These are three gods among millions that have been recognized, worshipped, and interacted with since the dawn of humanity, all of which are still around and many of whom still interact regularly with people all across the world.  These three gods of yours are no worse than any other of those millions of gods, but they are also no better.  

        This is a perfectly sensible theological position from my own viewpoint (and completely and accurately reflects my viewpoint on your gods, I might add), and that of many other Pagan and polytheist people, which while very different and far more pluralistic than your own, does not deny the existence of your gods.  Why can’t Christians like you enter into discussions of this sort without first assuming everyone else is wrong, and second, that they are also stupid because of their wrongness?  If you can answer this question without relying on circular logic, then there will be very ample and fertile ground for further understanding between us.

      • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

        Why would I want to re-read Exodus? Most biblical scholars now agree it was written as a deliberate exercise in myth-making and historical revisionism during the Exilic period. The archaeology indicates very clearly that the “Israelites” were actually indigenous Canaanites who’d migrated into the hills. The Pentateuch can’t even get right which Canaanite deity they’re supposed to be worshiping – El or Yahweh.

        Better to read the oldest OT writings, which would be Hosea in the 8th century BCE. And there we see the real face of the Abrahamic God – a jealous husband and strict parent with a nasty sense of entitlement. And that, it seems to pagans like myself, is the nature of monotheism: an eternal infantile appeal to Authority.

        I note your remark “God is NOT our daddy or the “Big Guy up there.” ” and it is a little unfortunate that you then refer to him as ‘This Father” in the very next breath.

        As for the three persons in one, it all seems like a lot of unnecessary theological gymnastics. I note that in the Gospels Jesus of Nazareth refers to himself as the Son of Man. Never mind the diversity of belief in the first three centuries as to who and what Jesus was, and the fact that the orthodox view only came about via a highly politicized process that was lethal to the losers.

        • Thelettuceman

           You can’t blame the Pentateuch, or any of the other aspects of the Bible.  They’ve been subjected to so much revision before the exile by Babylon.

          • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

            Leaving aside whether the Pentateuch had even been written by that time, I concede your point. Blaming the Bible for the literary dishonesty (intentional or otherwise) of its authors is a bit like blaming a child for the sins of its…

            Oh. Wait.

        • Letish789

          You speak a lot of gibberish. : (    You people are so closed minded.  I know what choice you’ve made…. and just because you don’t think God exists, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t.  Really, you are very small, we are very small compared to Him.  I used the term “this Father” as an explanation.  You took it out of context, of course.  I didn’t bother reading all you typed because I don’t like to waste my time reading lies.  I read the truth- and again, it does not matter what you think.  Truth is objective NOT subjective.  Our limited minds cannot grasp the infinite God (or do you prefer I say- Our infinite God). He does not fit in yours nor anyone else’s box.  “I would rather live my life as if there is a God, and find out that there wasn’t than live my life as if there wasn’t a God and die to find out that there was.” (That’s a quote, which I agree with)

          • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

            Forgive me. I didn’t take your remark out of context; I pointed out that you appeared to contradict yourself in the space of two sentences or so.

            But I agree with you that the truth is objective. By which I mean, there is actual evidence for it. The evidence for when and why the Bible was compiled, and by whom; the evidence for who El and Yahweh were and how the two came to be worshiped together; the evidence for what the early followers of Jesus actually believed and practiced and why Christianity looks the way it does today… do you see where I am going with this?

          • Tony R

            I find it noteworthy that you declare the commenters to be closed minded and then admit that you haven’t really read their comments because you have already decided that they are “lies.” Why are you participating in this forum if you are not willing to engage in discussion?

          • Faoladh

            What makes you think that we don’t think your God exists? Did you read P. Sufenas Virius Lupus up there? If you’re going to ignore people who engage in the discussion, why should we pay attention to you?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

            “Did you read P. Sufenas Virius Lupus up there?”  Of course he/she didn’t.  You saw the comment about “gibberish”.  What that means is,  “You’re talking over my head but I’ll pretend you just don’t make sense in order to save face”.

          • Faoladh

            Yeah, I know. I try to give people the opportunity to see themselves for what they are, though, and give them a chance to repair their failings.

          • Damien

            I find it very hard to belive the apparent hypocrisy that you just made in that comment. You don’t even bother to read a well formed intellectual argument to what you wrote about your patheon and God. Yet you sit here and say that we are wrong I read every word you wrote so why not give us Polytheists the same respect we give you.

          • http://www.facebook.com/cosettefromjupiter Cosette Paneque

            People post carefully considered responses to you, which you can’t be bothered to read, and yet you accuse us of being narrow minded. The arrogance of Christians such as yourself never ceases to astound me. 

          • Nick Ritter

            “just because you don’t think God exists, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t. ”

            I’ll turn it back on you: just because you don’t believe our gods exist, doesn’t mean that they don’t. So be careful swinging that particular sword, because it cuts both ways.

            And, in case you haven’t been reading the same responses I have been, no one here has said, so far as I know, that your god doesn’t exist: just that we’re more skeptical than you concerning his press releases.

            There are a large number of pagans who accept the existence of the god you worship; do you accept the existence of the gods we worship? If not, who is actually closed-minded here?

          • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

            “no one here has said, so far as I know, that your god doesn’t exist:
            just that we’re more skeptical than you concerning his press releases.”

            Oh, nicely put! 

          • Northern_Light_27

             We think your god exists, that’s not the problem. The problem is that we think he’s one of many, and, well, he’s not *my* god.

            Also, you’d like us to read what you write while you won’t “subject yourself to lies”? Where in the world were you taught manners, lad, were you raised in a barn? A discussion forum is just that, it’s not a void in which you can rant and we’re all forced to listen in silence.

      • No Bod E

        Another inaccurate book in the bible is Numbers. Any genealogy that only follows the male line is going to be full of mistakes. After all, until recently, it has always been “Mama’s baby, Daddy’s maybe.”

      • RSAgray505

        Letish789…I can’t put much faith or hold to truth any religion that doesn’t teach balance between Man and Woman…Christians are condensending to the female side of our species catering only to the “Man in God’s like” theory..tells me that the entire of the religion is based on the perception that only males have a right to live and females are for breeding more men, which is not that disimular to the way that Muslim belivers live… 

        There is no description of the Holy Sprit, which tells me that the practitioners of Christ want to keep it’s followers entirely ignorant of humanity and their relationship with a God they love so much.  I agree with the “poster” here who suggested that the sacred bible was written by men, for god to serve their purpose, in reality, rather then the oposite.

        I am educated, but I didn’t think it necessary to use a bunch of words to describe the obvious truth that humaity isn’t “one size, fits all”  existence and followers of Christ should make a point to try understand themselves as human and get along with followers of other religions instead of just endlessly defending and justifing their own.

        • RSAgray505

          …Yeah I saw my misspellings, I was in a bit of a hurry with this post…”believers”..I’m human :D

    • http://www.facebook.com/thomjwillis Thom Willis

      Or rather, how do you reconcile the loving, caring, and nurturing God of the OT with the apocalyptic and torturous teachings of Jesus, (who was the first Jewish prophet to preach eternal damnation)?

    • kittylu

       Basically when the Roman empire embraced Christianity, the Christian religion shed its gnostic roots and embraced the very Pontius Pilate idea of violence against heretics.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        This is putting things backwards. Christianity (including the so-called Gnostics) was already an intolerant and exclusivist cult long before it became the official state religion of Rome. It was Christianity that corrupted the Roman state, not the other way around.

        • Thelettuceman

           Depends on how you view “corruption” within Rome, really.  Rome’s always been full of egocentric personalities that twisted policy for their own ends and purposes.  By our definition, that’s corruption.  Nero was one of the first true autocratic personalities in the Empire’s history, because he COULD be.  His lavishness, beyond his supposed madness, set the stage for continued excess by other emperors. 

          If you look at corruption in the sense of exclusive worship of a state-mandated cult which drove other religions underground and extinct?  Yes. 

      • Thelettuceman

        In regarding heterodox and heretical beliefs, the early Christian community followed more a sense of admonishment and chastisement.  When a community is a small, isolated, and fragile group of people, the idea of banishment and expulsion weighed heavily on the mind and proved to be a better form of compulsion.  Peter and Paul’s writings on the dealings with non-orthodox Christians focused more on dealing with the offender like a wayward member of the family.  A cousin or brother who had erred and were to be shunned until such a time as they realized their mistake.

        It wasn’t until Augustine’s era when the network of the Church grew so strong and wide-reaching that the idea of punishment against heretics and heterodox ideologies became less avoidance, and more direct confrontation.  The Christian religion shed its gnostic roots in a series of ecumenical councils that were provided by high-profile personalities (Constantine being one of them), yes, but it was individual theologians that provided the impetus to transition from a passivity in dealing with dissent to a more aggressive form of methodology. 

        It’s an interesting point that the methodology of dealing with dissent had already been in place in Roman legal circles.  The development of the three periods of Roman legal law is a direct line into the investigation of heresy.  The Empire embraced Christianity and took from it a very closed-minded, apocalyptic religious belief system.  And the religion took from the Empire a very strong legal system that had a procedural background in defining and finding  the truth.  The Church didn’t create the notion of torture for confession.  It had already been in place, and had actually been migrating up the social classes from slavery to citizens.

    • Kulasundari Devi

      Well, Christians have a very simple answer to this question, actually, and any basic serious theological inquiry into Christianity will put it quite simply. It doesn’t require lots of college courses -I’ll boil it down to a paragraph.

      Christians say that Jesus came to fulfill the law. The god of the OT is “a jealous god, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to those who love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:9 is typically quoted by people that ask this rather simplistic question, but they forget about the verse immediately following. This second part is what Christians point to as the whole point of Jesus. According to the canonical Gospels, Jesus came to fulfill the law [Matthew 5:17] (and Paul reflects the theological development of this concept, later saying, that to love your neighbor as yourself is all you need to do, that love is the fulfillment of the law [Romans 13:8-10]). When one fulfills the law, God is satisfied. Because Jesus fulfilled the law and died for the sins of all humanity, those who take refuge in him need only rely on the love of God, because they have automatically kept all of the commandments, therefore God will only show love to them, and will punish others.
      I think that rather than combatively asking Christians how they reconcile Jesus with the god of the OT (which is a rather pedantic question, IMO), we focus on something more constructive and ask more homophobic and anti-public-programs types how they reconcile their theology of hate with the theology of love that is so clearly essential to the core of the earliest teachings. Those teachings were expunged when Christianity became a state religion, along with female clergy.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        There
        are very many varieties of Christian, and there is no single doctrine
        that they all share without exception.  Also, a considerable number of
        ancient Christian Churches still exist today, especially in the Eastern
        half of Christendom, and they began to diverge from one another in their
        doctrines as early as the 300s.

        So it is inherently false to say that all “Christians have a very
        simple answer to this question,” no matter what question and what answer
        you have in view.

        If, however, you are taking the “no true Scotsman” approach, whereby
        Christians who give different answers from yours are not “true
        Christians,” then you have lost the rest of us before you even begin to
        expound your answer.  Don’t waste your time . . .

        • Kulasundari Devi

          You have a point. There is almost no single doctrine that all Christians share without exception…

          …except for the fact that this particular doctrine is the entire foundational point of Christianity itself. The core doctrine of Christianity is that Jesus died to redeem the sins of humanity.So yes, there is one single doctrine that all Christians believe without exception, and that is that Jesus died to redeem their sins (meaning, he fulfilled the law so they didn’t have to). This is precisely what makes Christians Christians.

        • Kulasundari Devi

          On further reflection, I’d like to note (in the interests of fairness and trying to consider your point as much as possible) that there are groups who consider themselves under the umbrella of “Christian” without believing in the divinity of Jesus. But as far as I know, all these groups still believe that his death was a sacrifice to atone for the sins of humanity, which is why they consider themselves Christian even without believing that Jesus was God, which proves my point rather than refuting it. But even then, this constitutes a rather small minority of Christians.

          I’ll concede that there may be individuals, or extremely small groups, that don’t believe that Jesus is God or that he fulfilled the law in his life and atoned for the sins of humanity in his death, but this would be a really tiny minority.

          The reason that this still doesn’t invalidate my argument, is that I didn’t say “all” Christians, but rather “Christians,” a general phrase meant to speak to the vast majority of belief in response to the specific question of the relationship between the OT god and the NT Jesus. 

          So though I’ve tried to take the time to seriously consider your response, what I’m left with is that it’s rather sophomoric to invalidate someone’s entire argument based on a perceived technicality of phrasing.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Actually, this doctrine (under the name of “vicarious atonement”) gave rise to one of the biggest theological controversies among 19th-century Protestant Christians in America, and it continues to divide American Protestant Churches even today.

          • Robert Mathiesen

             Also, your comment about “Christians” vs.”all Christians” is to the point, but I still think you underestimate the actual differences in theology between the various historic branches of Christianity.  After all, they can’t even agree among themselves as to which books belong in the Bible (or even the New Testament) and which are to be excluded.  All published histories of the Canon of Scripture — I do not know of even a single exception! — are very badly informed about the various Canons of the old Eastern branches of Christianity, and have not looked into the primary sources.  (This is not surprising, since many of these sources are in very obscure languages, and some have not yet even been edited by any modern scholar, but must be read in manuscripts or early printed books.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=518736223 Brendan Myers

    This is one of your best pieces, Jason. Well done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=518736223 Brendan Myers

    This is one of your best pieces of editorial journalism, Jason.  Well done.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    by which I refer to pre-Christian Western man

    And the women can go fuck themselves . . . .

    Really, does anyone need to read beyond this?

    • Escalonn

      “Man” is sometimes gender-neutral. Are you so easily offended? 

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        That use of “man” offends me, too, so she has company. “Gender-neutral” masculine nouns and pronouns are the English language’s contibution to patriarchy, marginalizing Woman to an appendage of Man. And it’s so easy to come up with truly gender-neutral alternatives like “humanity” or “humankind.” UUs started gender-balancing liturgy and curricula in 1977 and by now it’s second nature.

      • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca/ Makarios

        Tone troll is offended at someone’s taking offense.

      • RSAgray505

        I have never seen an implication of “Man” being “gender-neurtal” ever, unless it’s in an attempt to justify away a bad judgment…Woman and Man have always been seperate and alien entities instead of a complement to each other in the same species…Well, as far as western religion is concerned…God is somtimes considered “gender-neutral”…ask Him/Her

        • Folcwald

           For what it is worth, the first definition of ‘man’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is follows:

          “I. A human being (irrespective of sex or age).Man
          was considered until the 20th cent. to include women by implication,
          though referring primarily to males. It is now freq. understood to
          exclude women, and is therefore avoided by many people. 
          “In some of the quotations in this section, it is difficult or impossible to tell whether man is intended to mean ‘person’ or ‘male human being’.”

          And in the section on etymology it says the following:

          “In all the Germanic languages
          the word had the two senses ‘human being’ and ‘adult male human being’,
          though exc. in English it has been mainly replaced in the former sense
          by a derivative (German Mensch , Dutch mens , Swedish människa , Danish menneske person, human being: compare mannish n.). In Old English the words distinctive of sex were wer were n.1 and wīf wife n., wǣpmann wapman n. and wīfmann woman n.;
          both the masculine terms became obsolete by the end of the 13th cent.,
          leaving English with no means of distinguishing the two major senses.”
          In other words, there has been anbiguity about the scope of man as including either all humans or only male humans for a long time. The OED uses its words carefully, so when it says it is “freq[uently] understood to exclude women that means that sometimes it is not understood to exclude women, and we might expect someone who has a traditional frame of mind (as one might charitably say this bad Catholic guy does) to use the word more archaically, which is to say as meaning ‘human being’ and not exclusively ‘male human being.’It seems to me there’s enough in that article to get offended about without getting huffy over this.

          • Pagan Puff Pieces

            There is plenty in history, literature, culture, etc. that suggests very strongly that when people use “man” neutrally, they usually don’t mean “men and women” so much as “men (and women, too, technically speaking, since men have wives and daughters).”

            The article is no exception. So, yes, there is plenty more than simply using a neutral “man” to get huffy about, and the use of “man” is a pretty good indicator of how things are about to go down even before you get to them in the article.

             I don’t see anything wrong in getting huffy about simply being along for the ride in human affairs. Just let us know when you need us for a metaphor that ultimately ignores the experience and feelings of the women involved, okay guys? We’ll just be here keeping track of the roots you’re too macho to worry about eating to stay healthy while you go around acting like the world works like Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time.

      • StMartin

        I think somebody (5 somebodies, if we include the likes) has missed the (rather effective, I think!) use of sarcasm…

    • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

       Well said, Hecate-Demeter.

  • http://twitter.com/happydog1960 Mark

    Well said, Jason!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cole-Powers/100001606842739 Cole Powers

    You have disastrously and embarrassingly missed the point. 

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Oh no! 

    • Ursyl

      If people are missing the point, then the writer failed to clearly make his point.

      I sometimes have this discussion with my husband, and when he says “you don’t understand” I point out that he has just failed to explain.I just read that, and the first thought to cross my mind after was “wtf kind of Paganism is he talking about?”None of that made any sense to me, but then I don’t view the world through a millennia old set of books. *shrug*

    • Lynda

       Nonsense – disputing the point is not the same as missing it.  You mean he disastrously and embarrassingly (for you) failed to *comply* with the point.

      • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

         Could the point to be the charming torture of impalment?
        “The Olde Ways are Best”! Heh!

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Amusing that Bad Catholic, having praised the ass off his fictitious Pagans, finds a need to snark the real Pagans breathing the same air he does, because we and our scholarship give the lie to his fictions.

    Yes, Sisters, it’s a masculinist rant. Note he uses “contracepted” as a slam. “Real” Pagan men made babies, and it’s hard cheese for women who died in childbirth.

    Yes, Brothers, it’s a militarist rant. How in Hel does he know if PTSD afflicted classical warriors? He assumes not and uses that as if a fact to prove a point.

    Of course religion evolves, but the Christian who assumes the current success of Christianity means it’s the pinnacle of religious evolution, makes the same mistake as the Humanist who assumes human beings are, by their numbers and dominance, the pinnacle of biological evolution. A real Pagan knows Hubris when s/he sees it.

    • BryonMorrigan

      Or, as I like to put it:

      If Christianity is the “pinnacle” now, due to its current success…picture yourself in other eras of history.  In 300CE, Roman Polytheism was FAR more “successful” than Christianity, and less than 10% of the Empire prayed to the Middle-Eastern Immigrant “God.”  So does that mean that, in 300CE, Roman Polytheism was “better” than Christianity?  Why assume that this particular moment in history is the “finish line?”

      What arrogance…

      • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

         Yeah, like we are suppose to be the knuckle-draggers? What about all the Xtains who deny evolution and global warming and the age of the earth?
        The greatest acheivement of the Xtain world is the creation of the lobotomy, which is what they gave the world when they killed Hypatia and burned much of the knowledge of the Ancients.

        • BryonMorrigan

          …and furthermore, when the Christians were a tiny, persecuted minority, did they just hold up their hands and say, “Oh well.  I guess we’re just not a good enough religion.  Might as well pack up our $#!& and go home!”?

          Nope.  And once they gained power, the Christians performed more bloodthirsty atrocities on the various Pagans of Europe and elsewhere than ever was done to them.  In particular, the Saxons under “Charlemagne” (*) literally found out what “conversion by the sword” was like, long before The Taliban.  They did everything they could to eradicate every other competing faith on the planet, and did a bang-up job of almost succeeding.And now that the Christians have become the persecutors, and the Pagans the tiny, persecuted minority, are we to believe that we are simply to roll over and say, “Oh well. I guess we’re just not a good enough religion. Might as well pack up our $#!& and go home!”?  I’m sure the Right-Wing Christo-fascists would just LOVE that…but I have no intention of doing so.

          No surrender.  No compromise.  No mercy.—–

          (* I hate using the honorific title in regards to such a loathesome piece of garbage as Karl I, but I doubt you’d know who I was talking about if I didn’t…)

          • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

             Yeah, when Constantine gave the Empire over to the Xtains, they moved pretty fast to cut the legs out from under Paganism. I’m not going to bother directly responding to a comment I saw posted here somewhere, but the false analogy of Jesus and his followers to the 99% gets my goat. Now, you might be able to make such a claim of Simon Bar Kochba. But Jesus? He was was small patatoes.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Ironically that claim is also far more applicable to Barabbas than to Jesus!

            It is true that during the long period between the death of Jesus and the vision of Constantine that the Christian religion was mostly relegated to the most marginal strata of Roman society, the lumpenproletariat if you will (the “refuse of all classes”, including “swindlers, confidence tricksters, brothel-keepers, rag-and-bone merchants, beggars, and other flotsam of society”). Christians like to claim this as some kind of badge of honor, but it just means that their anti-social ideology was, quite naturally, most attractive to those who were themselves the most anti-social elements of society.

        • Druidwood

          It made sense to destory anything that came before them that way they could fill in the blanks and tell people whatever they wanted too. No worries about anyone finding anything if it was all destoyed.  Like you impliled knowledege is power and they told everyone they had the knowledege.  2,000 years ago they got away with it not so much these days.

    • Mia

      “makes the same mistake as the Humanist who assumes human beings are, by their numbers and dominance, the pinnacle of biological evolution”

      As an ecologist I loved this, so thank you. If anything it’s the bacteria, and related organisms, that have maintained first place in this world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Zac.Strix.Nebulosa.Kolb Zachary Kolb

    Having read the other article, I cannot for the life of me understand this need to play up some new telling of the “Noble Savage” mythos to our pagan forebears as a slap to the face of a world that is increasingly unsatisfied with and moving past some form of Christianity. This whole monopoly of the truth, or Truth as I’ve seen it so ludicrously touted, is hollow as a dried gourd.  

    As for any other points, Mr Pitzl-Waters already points out the beating heart of the issue, and exposes it fully and plainly for all to see and is very well pointed out.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      Having read the other article a couple times as well, I think Marc read the CS Lewis poem “A Cliche Came Out of Its Cage”, wherein Lewis desparages the Christians of his time for not having the wide-eyed “everything is mystical/divine” viewpoint of the “ancient pagans.” An interesting viewpoint, and Lewis did it better. Marc was just confused, biased, and hopelessly rambling.

  • Hotstreak12

    Just another Christian Apologist working his ass off to prove that Christianity is the “one true way”. Only his reason is that it is the (sic) logical end point and that all pagans are sinners desperately waiting for Jesus. Give me a break. 

  • Ursyl

    It’s not so much the polytheistic ancestors as models of manliness to the exclusion of women that I’m seeing and annoyed by, since he’s just following the old standard English usage that “man” = human, while “woman” = only us females, but the arrogant patronizing “noble savage” meme he’s using.

    Life was hard then; life is hard now, but in different ways. We’re less likely to eaten by a cave bear or lion, but our ancestors didn’t have to dodge inattentive/drunk/elderly drivers in their day. On a certain level, stress is stress. Whether it’s “starvation from crop/hunt failure” or “lay-off leading to home, healthcare, food loss,” the fear is the same.

    The very idea that religions that had entirely different paradigms from the ones in the Middle East a couple thousand years ago were secretly longing for Christianity is just one more layer of arrogance and ethnocentrism; entirely mock-worthy too, in my opinion.

  • http://piereligion.org/pierintro.html#cathfasc Slag310

    Thank you, that is the clearest statement on this matter that I have seen in a long, long time. I’m trying to point out some of the same issues that appear in the study of Proto-Indo-European religion, that is, much that has been said about PIE religion misrepresents it as thinly disguised fascism. Here is a link to a brief mention  http://piereligion.org/pierintro.html#cathfasc  of Catholic fascism and some links to a discussion of the development of fascism in the Roman Catholic Church. Please write more on this topic if you have the time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KveldulfThorsFreyrssonStormcloudWormwood Gary P Golden Jr

    looks like Jason poked the christian hornet’s nest and a few came out to see wha the hell was goin on…

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters
    • Michael Doubet

      If only he had thought to smoke the nest first, perhaps they would have all been knocked out for a bit, giving us some actual peace on earth. Or at least a delay in all the xTian whining and equivocating.

      • Mia

        The nest is too big to simply smoke out unfortunately.

      • http://www.facebook.com/KveldulfThorsFreyrssonStormcloudWormwood Gary P Golden Jr

         this Letish7879 is a TRIP…

  • Shakti_Luna

    Well done, sir. Well done. I must add also that I find it humorous that the original article makes no reference to the power and position held by many women pre-Christ in certain areas of the globe. As a goddess spiritualist I almost have to stop myself from laughing when such misogyny is in full view

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1650681499 Diotima Mantineia

    I have become happily used to the growing emphasis on
    gender-neutrality in our language over the past 40 years or so, but you will find none of that here – “…they willingly accepted that they were sons of men”.
    Oh. The parthenogenesis of the ancient world?  

     

    And, of course, the metaphor used for the “Pagan world” is a woman – first
    an inexperienced virgin awaiting her lover, who will, no doubt, “awaken” her, then as an adulteress – a “timid and weary“ woman who
    slanders Christ, no less.  The misogyny inherent in this religion is just breathtaking.

     

    The bit about “Americanized silliness” that involves eating
    roots and idolizing liberal politicians strikes me as simply an ignorant,
    insulting and entirely unnecessary slap at modern Pagans. How Christian of him.

    Thanks for addressing this, Jason.

  • Nicole Youngman

    This made me grin for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the social sciences went through their own process of figuring this out not so long ago. I have a lovely memory from 15+ years ago, when I first started teaching sociology, of sitting in on my department chair’s Sociology of Religion course just out of curiosity (he was a Methodist minister and an ardent pro-choice activist who worked with the clinic defense movement, which was how I’d met him in the first place). The very first lesson he gave was about debunking the idea that all societies somehow “evolve” from animism to monotheism (passing through polytheism and the like on the way). Given that this was a university in the FL panhandle, I’m sure the idea was more than a bit of a shock to a lot of the students.

    Aidan may have been a bit dismissive above speaking about how one should take college classes in order to properly understand Christian theology and the like, but even so, I was really pleased to find when I taught a Soc of Religion class of my own a couple of semesters ago that the best and most thoughtful students were the ones who HAD taken classes on the OT & NT (from a properly academic, non-fundamentalist perspective) and thus had a very good grasp of where those writings had come from–which made them wonderfully skeptical of taking any of it literally!!

    • fenris23

      Something along the lines of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-1hdqNDQ9E ?

      • Nicole Youngman

         Thanks, will definitely have a look at this!

  • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

    Oh, I think I love you.  So much.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    I guess it would be accurate to await Christianity like a virgin waits for her bridegroom: She’s really in a disadvantaged situation, with the choices made for her by circumstances out of her control and real consequences for choosing for herself. I suppose it would take a potential groom to read that phrase without feeling a sense of dread. Why not a lover and beloved?

    In which case… yeah, the husband and wife would wind up seeing other people on the side to fill the void.

    Surprised?

  • Ben VB

    In justice to Marc, I should point out that he doesn’t mention evolution at all. However, I am marginally obsessed with everything Tolkien-related, so I am here concerned with addressing Tolkien’s notion of what you’re referring to as ‘religious evolution’. Given Marc’s quotation history, I suspect he agrees with this view, but as he’s promised to speak for himself I’ll allow him to do so.

    My understanding of your argument is that Tolkien thought that the assorted religions of the world gradually changed, stole bits from each other, took developments from philosophy, etc., until eventually this ‘evolution’ spit out Christianity as the end goal of evolution, beyond which no greater religion can be evolved. My apologies if this understanding is incorrect; hopefully the below will be informative anyway.

    Firstly, the scientist in me is required to note that evolution by definition does not have an end point (barring the destruction of all the life in the universe or something similarly extreme), so making the argument that anything ‘evolved’ into a greatest form is silly. The Tolkienist in me is offended that anyone could think he made a silly argument, so I should confess to possible bias immediately. That said, I think that even someone who is not obsessed with Tolkien could conclude that he believed what I describe below as opposed to the view of ‘religious evolution’ I just summarised.*

    To put it briefly, Tolkien believed that Christianity was the one true faith. By this he meant that Christianity describes the deep spiritual aspects of the world, and it does so accurately. To put this another way, just as he believed that the trees he loved so dearly are a real part of the world and interact with the world in specific ways, so too God is real and interacts with the world. Because part of this interaction involved His coming down to earth and telling us things about Himself, we know some things about Him beyond what can be learnt from simple reason. We thus know that God created everything, and, importantly, that He created humans to be somehow like Him (in a literary way of speaking, ‘in His image’). Any artist will be reflected in his** work, as Tolkien noted many times: he’s very specific to deny allegory without denying real-life influences. Thus, Tolkien concludes that our interactions with the world are a kind of discovery of God: we investigate His creation and therefore learn about Him, just as we learn about Tolkien by reading LOTR; and we learn more about Him by learning more about ourselves, because we are created ‘in His image’. Tolkien thus concludes that while other religions are “wrong”, they have nuggets of truth obtained from this study of creation, whether or not the people who did said study realised that by studying creation they were studying God (this failure to realise is not unrealistic: work in electrodynamics led directly to Einstein’s special relativity, even though special relativity wasn’t remotely on the horizon of Maxwell’s mind***). This is why he feels comfortable asserting that the myths he studied and taught had value beyond their literary merit: from his perspective, stories about Odin were “not true” but still had value in that they described true things about creation, and, therefore, God. He would probably even object to my language here and insist on using the word ‘true’ to describe these myths. He could thus conclude that Christianity is the perfection of these older religions: not because Christianity developed or evolved—Christianity has always been the truth, even if no one knew about it, just as gravity obeyed an inverse-square law (on a macro level, anyway) before Newton wrote about it—but rather because Christianity contains the entirety of those nuggets of truth that these older religions had developed.

    Naturally, this is not a defence of Christianity; instead, working from the premise that Christianity is true, I wanted to explain Tolkien’s view on the issue to defend him from accusations of espousing ‘religious evolution’. I suspect Tolkien would agree that the ‘idea that religion evolved towards Christianity’ is indeed ‘strange’.

    * I’ve learnt that I have a strange sense of humour, so I should note that my general tone is somewhat facetious (although the factual claims are indeed factual). I am not, in fact, offended by your entirely excusable lack of knowledge … I sometimes forget that not everyone has read his stuff with double-digit frequency :)

    ** Judging from some of the comments here, I should note that I still cling to the old days in which people were intelligent enough* to differentiate between the same word with different meanings (third personal possessive pronoun, male vs. neuter).

    *** I’m not obsessed with Maxwell, so I don’t know all that much about him, so this is potentially somewhat exaggerated.

    • Dranu

      “the scientist in me is required to note that evolution by definition does not have an end point (barring the destruction of all the life in the universe or something similarly extreme), so making the argument that anything ‘evolved’ into a greatest form is silly.”Many sciences would not look to such a telos in many instances, but simply because it does not look to one does not mean it does not have one.  Even biological evolution (and every step in it) may be serving some ultimate end goal that it is moving towards.   If, like Tolkien, you believe in the logical possibility of providence, then it is not hard to say that the imperfect religions developed and found their ultimate form in and under Christianity.  Much as science aims at the end goal of a particular limited truth (limited to its field) and our understanding ‘evolves’ to that end, it is AT LEAST logically possible to say that the ends being evolved towards may be reached otherwise we obviously would not pursue them.As one of the great pagans said, if something is in motion/change, it moves because, and towards, an end. (Aristotle)  This is obvious of all deliberate human actions, but it is also true of all natural things.  This basic physics principle has not been invalidated in the slightest even if science must limit its scope to its particular field and ignore the existence (or non-existence) of such ends.  Science will often ignore such questions, because those questions are not what it may be looking for (though at times it does look for them and even assumes them).

      • Nick Ritter

        “If, like Tolkien, you believe in the logical possibility of providence, then it is not hard to say that the imperfect religions developed and found their ultimate form in and under Christianity.”

        This is missing a critical statement in the middle: that said providence comes, and comes only, from the god of Abraham. This is the hubris of the Judeo-Christian (including the Islamic) family of religions; the blind insistence, often in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence, that they alone are correct, that they alone have the benefit of “providence”, that they alone worship a true god. 

        In response to the narrative you posit above, one could just as easily posit a narrative stating that Christianity (and Islam, if you like) is a *setback* to the telos of human religiosity, one that human religiosity is just now beginning to recover from. As evolutionary ideas go, I think my narrative fits the evolutionary model better, as systems tend to evolve toward diversity and local relevance, as opposed to monoculture and global sameness.

      • Ben VB

        I was using the word evolution here to refer to the process of natural selection, or something akin to it, as opposed to just a generic form of the word change, so I don’t think we’re addressing the same point.

        That said, I think Tolkien would definitely have agreed that things can and do behave teleologically, an obvious example being humans seeking God. However, I don’t think he would have been comfortable saying that Christianity was the end product of some kind of process of change. Some of the rituals and customs might be, but the core of the faith is true, and thus unchanging.

  • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

     Give me a break. Let’s turn Paganism into something resembling any other patriarchal monotheistic religion. Let’s just forget about all this Goddess stuff. What a ridiculous step back! There’s so many issues at stake now, and so many challenges to our religion, and so much threatening our planet. So, let’s instead get wallowed in this he-man
    baloney. Contrary to this, take for example the fact that many of those “bad-ass” Ancients were vegetarians:

    “The obligations of law and equity reach only to mankind; but kindness and beneficence should be extended to the creatures of every species and these will flow from the breast of a true man, as streams that issue from the living fountain.”-Plutarch

    “As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap the joy of life”—Pythagoras

    “The Gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies; they are the trees and the plants and the seeds.”-Plato

    Or what about Porphry’s “On the Abstinance from Animal Foods”?

    I wonder how such facts fit into the fantasies of Mr. Barnes?

  • Persephone

    Please please PUH-LEASE — “Sons of Man”, “Age of the Post Man”,  “He-Man”??????????
      Can you “Men” (Mr. Barnes and his followers) PLEASE get your mind off of (a tiny appendage of) your anatomy for just a second?   Take a moment to acknowledge the fact that many Pagan religions are GODDESS-based and most others are Goddess AND God based.
    This is ONE of the many reasons why many women have left, or are leaving, the Monothesistic Abrahamic religions in DROVES.  We have had enough of the misogynistic Boys-Club BS.  The Bible is one of the most misogynistic spiritual books ever written.  I am so grateful to be in recovery from Catholicism and Christianity in all of it’s denominations.  Next to the Taliban it’s hard to imagine a more damaging spiritual philosophy.

    • JJPeachum

      So a man who leaves a goddess-based faith because he’s sick of women telling him what to do is a misogynist, but a woman who leaves a god-based faith because she’s sick of men telling her what to do is heroic.

      • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

         How nice of you to put your own sexist twist on the comment above, and building your own pet straw man out of it. Is that something they teach you to do in bible school? If you knew anything about Paganism and what goes on here, you’d know many of us have to deal with years of abuse–I mean real abuse, not “being told what to do”–thanx to your stupid Abrahamic monotheistic faith. I am fortunate, I have not had the horrible experiences some have had. But I can relate to it. And I havce seen it in my own Coven. Too bad they don’t teach you about empathy in that so-called religion of yours. Oh, I forgot, empathy is a tool of the Devil.

      • RSAgray

        Have you been told by so many women what to do JJ?

        • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

           Heh, maybe it’s more like they told him where to go.

      • Persephone

        To:  JJP (and cronies)
        At best the Christian Bible dichotomizes men and women — nullifying women as property.  And at worst it villainizes and brutalizes women.
        Here are some Biblical gems:

        Genesis 3:16: — Adam is to be Eve’s “master”.
        Genesis 12:13-19 Abraham prostitutes his wife.
        Genesis 16:2 — the maid of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, is required to submit to multiple rapes by Abraham
        Genesis 19:8: — Lot offers his 2 virgin daughters to be raped by the men of Sodom so they don’t “know” his 2 male/angel  visitors instead.
        Genesis 19:30-38 — Lot impregnates his two daughters while drunk. (but, oh — it was the daughter’s fault!); and I guess it was “OK” for Lot to f *ck his daughers since he already allowed them to be raped by 1/2 the city– why should he miss out on all of the fun?
        Genesis 20:2-12 Abraham prostitutes wife – yet again.

        Exodus 20:17 -  a Wife is property of the husband.
        Exodus 21:7-11 It’s OK to sell daughters. Female slaves can be used for sex.
        Exodus 22:18 — Kill “witches”. ( any woman with a mind of her own was obviously a witch.)

        Leviticus 12:1-5 — Giving birth is a polluting act– women are unclean after giving life.  for the birth of a boy child women are unclean for 7 days, but it is 14 days if a woman gives birth to a girl.
        Leviticus 15:19-32– Menstruating women are unclean.
        Leviticus 27:6 — Boy children are worth 5 shekels, girls are worth 3

        Deuteronomy 21:10-13 — a soldier can force a woman captive to marry him against her wishes
        Deuteronomy 22:13-21 — law requiring a woman to be a virgin when married or else be stoned to death by the men of her city
        Deuteronomy 22:23-24–  Stone rapist AND rape Victim.
        Deuteronomy 22:28-29 — virgin women who get raped must marry their attacker
        Deuteronomy 25:5-10 — widowed women are  ‘required’ to marry their brother-in-law
        Deuteronomy 25:11-12– dismember a woman’s hand for touching enemy’s penis (while she is defending her husband no less).

        Judges 19:16-30 — allowing gang rape of a daughter and a concubine (and subsequent death of the latter)

        Similar anti-women rants in other books of the Bible (and this is not an exhaustive list):  Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicle, Esther, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Hosea, Naham, Matthew, Luke, Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy, Peter, Revelations  etc etc etc…

        Oh and then there are the hateful early Christian church fathers, like Tertullian who penned:
        “In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die. . . . Woman, you are the gate to hell.”  

        Rape, incest, barbarity, and a double-standard morality code are all condoned and encouraged in the bible.  Who would want to willingly subjugate themselves to such mind, body, & spiritual flagellation?
        Yet you have the arrogance to ask if a woman should be considered a hero for not allowing herself to be a Christian scapegoat & doormat?  You bet your moldy bible  She IS a Hero!

    • Guest

      That is EXACTLY what drove me away from Christianity.  At the time, I didn’t know where I was going, wasn’t “lured away” by any “evil teaching.”  I just came to the concusion that Christianity had nothing for me — and in fact, didn’t like me very much.

      As a child I was physically, mentally, and emotionally abused in the name of Christ.  As a young adult, I thought that the actions of one person (actions that were mostly hidden from those outside the family) couldn’t be blamed on anyone but the perpetrator.  So I went back to the church.  It was when I read the Bible from cover to cover that I realized the abuse of girls and women is part of the foundational teachings of Christianity.  I had to accept it or leave.  So I left. 

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    An excellent post, Jason!  Thanks for bringing this to our attention and being the right “toro” for the job in the case of this particular red flag!  :)

    What I love about the evolutionary view of religion (apart from the fact that many anti-evolutionists espouse it!) is that it does assume Christianity is the end-point of this evolutionary process in terms of religion, from “primitive” superstitions and “magic” (as J. G. Frazer expressed it), to a more organized animism, to polytheism, to a more “philosophical” viewpoint, that then paves the way for Abrahamic monotheism (no evolutionary religionists say the same thing about the Sikh religion…though it might be an “okay for now” option for Hindus in their mind, minus the turbans); but, then it stops.  (Frazer, of course, says that it goes “magic, religion, science,” but heavens forbid that be taken seriously!)  Of course, evolution doesn’t stop, and history has proven that after the renaissance and the (so-called) enlightenment and the rise of science, monotheism gave way to deism, and has continued to evolve to humanism and atheism now…however, since those can’t be “valid” options, that part of the expected (and actually demonstrated!) evolution is ignored.

    [Incidentally, I seek not to validate or affirm Frazer, but simply to point out that any kind of evolutionary schema with these things inevitably falls into ridiculousness, apart from being profoundly disrespectful to adherents of any "non-pinnacle" religions...And, atheists also use this sort of schema because it validates their existence, but that's another issue entirely...!?!]

    Or, slightly differently, and to put it in terms some others have introduced below:  the only real telos that can be expected in any life process is death–thus, the only thing one can expect any religion to do is eventually die out.  (Though very few truly do entirely.)

  • A science teacher

    Honestly, we could say that paganism evolved into Christianity…. but that doesn’t mean Christianity is “better” somehow. The use of the C.S. Lewis imagery is wrong but…to add a bit of rabid scientist to the mix, it is extremely common for people to view evolution as a progression and believe that ‘new’ species are inherently ‘better’ than the old ones. 

    The truth is… fish have had a LOT longer to figure out how best to be fish than we have had to figure out this weird ‘hominid’ thing we have. 

    See http://www.stonemakerargument.com/6.html for a great illustration of this.

    In a way, Christian ideas did evolve from pagan ones… Feathers are to scales as Christmas is to Yule. But Paganism has been a faith for a lot longer than Christianity… and they also have to deal with the weird vestigial structures and stuff. ;)

    • A science teacher

      Just to clarify… When something “evolves into something else” the original thing does not cease to exist and change and continue to improve upon it’s own design. 

      If you think for the faith of a particular people as a thing, if they started off pagan and some were converted to Christianity… that Christianity ‘evolved’ from the paganism, although the paganism continued to exists and does not suffer from the growing pains of finding a new niche in the world.

      So I think a statement like that is fair but… the way it’s been presented is entirely inaccurate. Then again, I’m a nerd, what can you do?

      • Folcwald

         I think the point you make here is really important not just in the context of this argument but in general. Somehow or another, the ideology of progress, the idea that world is getting better and all things are inextricably moving toward some kind of end-goal has become mixed up with the popular conception of biological evolution, then when biological evolution becomes the metaphor for non-biological things (like cultural changes) the idea of progress is smuggled in with it. In my undergraduate class on evolution, the professor liked to say that an amphibian is not what happens when a fish tries to become a frog, it is what happens when a fish tries to remain a fish under changing conditions. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s not part of a forward movement toward perfection. It is merely a reaction to change.

        Christianity may have evolved as a reaction to some kind of change (I think it is well explained in Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals as “the slave revolt in morality”). Many things are the result of evolution. HIV, MRSA, antibiotic resistant Tuberculosis. That does not make them good, nor does it mean that they are the kinds of things we want around.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1186404199 Crystal Hope Kendrick

           Lol!  “Many things are the result of evolution. HIV, MRSA, antibiotic resistant
          Tuberculosis. That does not make them good, nor does it mean that they
          are the kinds of things we want around.”   That’s a gem.

  • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca/ Makarios

    And yet another Christian apologist indulges in a religious version of Whig history, presenting the pre-Christian past as an inevitable progression toward Christianity, complete with the smug self-assurance that typically accompanies it, and a gratuitous insult to other people’s religion thrown into the final paragraph. Great way to promote inter-religious understanding, Marc.

    This is one of the reason that I have given up on reading the Catholic blogs on Patheos. They’re simply too infuriating.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

       So… snide archetyping of some guy’s work (without reading it, possibly) is going to promote understanding? I think not. And as any wise person can tell you, fighting someone rationally is the best way to understand them. You do not speak of a single actual argument to say Marc is wrong. You do not actually go and analyze the literature. You have not bothered to read a Catholic blog. You have merely parroted labels (quite untrue ones, actually) and misunderstood the whole point of Marc’s post. good job. And by the way, Marc is being very complementary towards the pagans.

      AND YOU! PEOPLE WHO LIKED THAT POST! GO READ CHESTERTON AND TOLKIEN AND WEEP CAUSE YOU CAN’T BE SO HARDCORE AS TO MAKE ARGUMENTS!

      By the way, Marc is not smug. But you all make me smug, dammit, cause you sound like a perfect little bigots (must be the internet format, I hope) since you are too cursory to try and get the substance of the topic.

    • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

       Too bad I did not read your warning sooner. I’ve been reading some of the comments this dust-up here has caused on some of the other blogs. I don’t know what I find more funny/sad, the head scratching that goes on as to why we don’t embrace ‘the one true’ god, or the complete hatred directed at anyone who can remotely be described as having environmental concerns. Now, pardon me as I go wash my eyes out with soap.

  • Mia

    There should be an actual He-man image somewhere in this post.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    Firstly, who are you to say what the ancients believed, eh? I think the medieval and Renaissance writers (who idolized the pagan, quite nearly!) are MUCH more accurate in their understanding of The Pagan. In fact, the idea of Evolution (Darwinian) is definitely NOT the idea which fueled the gradual revelation doctrine or whatever one may call it. PAUL in the BIBLE tells ACTUAL PAGANS in actual PAGAN TIMES that they were about to find out who they had tried to worshiped but didn’t know. Also, Lewis and Tolkien are #1 Right and #2 NOT buying into the Darwinian fad, dammit. I think you do not even know what Christians make out the Pagans to be. Read Virgil (one of Lewis’ fav. books and also DANTE’s fav. book which underlies the Divine Comedy that he wrote… and I read all this so I’m not ignorant about it) Virgil talks about Pietas conquering Furor, the man of state and law having victory over barbaric anger and the He-man sort of type. It also depicts the passing away of the Ancient Hero (Revived, by the way, by Tolkien – proving that only the Christian keeps pagan things. Read Chesterton’s the Ballad of the White Horse.)

    Anyway, when you just toss out some of the most brilliant EPIC (i.e. in the Form of Beowulf, Gilgamesh, The Aeneid, the Odyssey, the Iliad, etc.) because you think their authors were dead wrong (I mean, Dante, Tolkien, Milton, Spenser, etc.) well… I gotta say I’ve got to disagree. You are not nearly classical enough. You are horribly modern. You suck at paganism.

    As for you charge of saying there are plenty of less than Christian religions still there, we say of course, although many of them are HERESIES which means they are devolutions of the Christian Faith. But the modern man (i.e. you) is farther from both paganism and Christianity than those two are from each other. I ACCUSE YOU to your digital face of being not a pagan. I will not believe it. If you had read Homer and Virgil, you would not be like this. Not if you read it as a pagan, or a Christian. If you’ve read it (at all) you’ve read it as a modern.

    “The ancient world is far more diverse, complex, strange, and wonderful
    than anyone can truly imagine, but it was still human in the same way we
    today are human. Despite the assertions of the “Bad Catholic,” we have
    not lost that humanity, nor are we so far from the minds who shaped the
    world we live in today.” 1) NO NO NO we are really different from the ancient pagans. Really. They had good politicians. Well… decent ones. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 2) Marc says we are human in every age. Just the sin is different. Anyway, it’s you that don’t like He-men. Not that anyone does especially.

    But whatever. Probably a whole lotta people gonna troll me or something, but the main point here is that you are not a pagan (old style), you haven not read pagan or Christian books, and you have not the slightest iota of historical accuracy where it matters most. If you aren’t gonna be a Christian, be a better pagan, dude.

    • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

       1)  Have I just forgotten English in all the wine I drank earlier or do you just, like, need to learn how to speak it?

      #2 Was anything you said supposed to make any kind of sense or, like the ‘Bad Catholic’ post, was it just some long winded nonsensical rant?

      And firstly, I’m so glad that you came to lecture all of us about what Pagans are because you read two books at some point! You get a cookie and gold star!

    • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

       “I ACCUSE YOU to your digital face of being not a pagan.”

      Oh noes, I’m so devastated.

    • No Bod E

      You are obviously unaware of how many Pagans used to be christians.  You would probably be suprised at how well we know the bible, christian teachings, and history of christianity. A lot of us probably know it better than most christians. You seem to be one who was taught bible verses but never actually read and understood the bible. dude.

    • No Bod E

      I believe I understand where you made your mistake. You believe what the church taught you about Pagans ie: Pagan=ignorant. You couldn’t be further from the truth. I have noticed that the ones who post on here(for the most part) are well read, and well educated.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

         THE CHURCH DOES NOT TEACH THAT. THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT.

        • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

           Look everyone, the Pagan curse is working! His caps-lock is to be forever stuck!

        • Jericho

          Actually, it does, at least in the sense that all people who are not of the Christian faith are just one solid explanation away from seeing the light and realizing the mistake it is to worship anyone or anything (or nothing) other than Jesus. This is the more diplomatic viewpoint as the other party line seems to be that we are pagan because we have been seduced by the devil, Satan, Lucifer, the dominant evil counterpoint to Yahweh.This last one is funny, particularly for me, mainly because I don’t believe in the idea of cosmic evil. One a separate note, I have to applaud your temerity in attempting to argue in a forum in which you are certainly the minority, however, I suggest refraining from the use of caps as many, including myself most of the time, will just overlook any post that is composed largely of caps and that ends with both sides missing out on the chance of debate. Cheers. 

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

            Thanks for the advice. No caps but for emphasis now on. : )

        • Robert Mathiesen

           “The Church” is not one entity historically, and does not speak with one voice.

          • http://www.facebook.com/joeclark1977 Joe Clark

            Actually, it IS one entity, historically (the various schisms are relatively recent phenomena), and DOES speak with one voice (the “Magisterium” which is the bishops in communion with the Pope).  Hope that helps.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            No.  The most significant schisms in the Church that are still with us today reach back into the 4th century CE.  There hasn’t been a unified magisterium in Christendom at any time since then. 

            And as for Popes, you do know that there are two of them, don’t you?  One heads the Coptic Church, aka the Church of Alexandria.  The other one heads the Church of Rome, of course. 

    • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

       OK, ok. Against my better judgement, I  read thru Montag*es post. It’s sort of like when you have an aching cavity, no matter how hard you try, your tongue just can’t seem to resist touching the tooth. Like most Xtain screeds, it makes no sense. But there is one important gem: “Anyway, it’s you that don’t like He-men.”

      Dammit, now the Xtains want to take our cartoons away!

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Vergil and Ovid, as a matter of fact, were acknowledged by Erasmus Darwin (Charles’ grandfather) as major sources of inspiration for his own theory of evolution (Charles grandfather and father had both been proponents of the idea of biological evolution).

      Erasmus Darwin was publicly attacked and humiliated for his blasphemous views on evolution during the wave of political and cultural reaction in England at the close of the 18th century. This left a lasting impression on the Darwin family, and was the main reason for Charles’ famous hesitation about going public with his own findings on natural selection.

    • Tony R

       I’ve reread your comments a few times and I’m not clear on what you’re trying to say here. Dante, Tolkien, Milton, and Spenser were all Christians and not the authors of the pagan epics you’re citing. Dante was a fan of Virgil because Virgil told the mythology of the founding of Rome. Dante then did the “Christian remix” that many Christian authors did (such as Milton) of trying to square his contemporary beliefs with his affection for the old times.

      Thus you have the example of finding noteworthy and influential pagan thinkers in one of the lesser circles of hell, because according to Dante’s Christianity — they were pretty good, but since they hadn’t been fortunate enough to live at an arbitrary historical period of time, they were condemned to everlasting torment. Even if the torment wasn’t quite as bad.

      That was a huge project of Christian literature during various literary eras, trying to reconcile affection for pagan imagery and practices with a religion that mostly condemned those things outright. So the old gods became demons. What you condemn others of, reading the past with modern eyes, was also true for those writers.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

         But you find Cato and Trajan in heaven. And the point is that this is hundreds of years before Darwin. And the point of the Christian authors is that there is something good and worth keeping of the pagans. They can even lead others to the truth, at least according to Dante, for one.

        • Tony R

          But what is “good and worth keeping” is determined by the Christian lens. That still leaves a number of prominent pagan thinkers in Hell, which not only indicates where Christianity believes they belong (again for not being born at the right historical moment) but implicitly reinforces this arrogant presumption that Christianity’s understanding of the afterlife is the correct one. Most of those pagans were not concerned about eternal torment or eternal bliss.

          I am still unclear about the point. My understanding is that you are implying modern day Christians are more “pagan” than modern day pagans? Though both of us exist in the same time period? Because Christian authors hundreds of years ago wrote works that determined what of paganism they wanted to retain? (And Christians hundreds of years ago destroyed the pagan relics, temples, and other artifacts that they disliked.)

        • Tony R

          I do agree with you that the Christian idea of hierarchy and spiritual progress “toward” Christianity predates Darwinism. I’d say that attitude is what contributed to the misapplication of Darwin’s ideas into Social Darwinism, the notion that there is an evolutionary teleology and that humanity sits on top of the pyramid. (In the case of Social Darwinism, only a very small privileged quantity of humanity.)

    • deerwoman

       “Firstly, who are you to say what the ancients believed, eh? I think the
      medieval and Renaissance writers (who idolized the pagan, quite nearly!)
      are MUCH more accurate in their understanding of The Pagan. [...]the main point here is that you are not a pagan (old style), you haven
      not read pagan or Christian books, and you have not the slightest iota
      of historical accuracy where it matters most.”

      My first issue with this statement is that by your usage of language, you seem to assume that there was some single, monolithic, world-wide set of beliefs/philosophy, etc. that come under the heading of “The Pagan.”

      I’m not sure which pre-Christian cultures you consider to fall within this heading of “The Pagan”, but while there could be said to be some commonalities amongst certain cultures (and truthfully, you could find commonalities among any set of human cultures separated in time and space simply by virtue of their being human cultures centered around the specific perspectives and abilities of humans), there is a great diversity of belief and practice in the pre-Christian and contemporary non-Christian cultures. To deny this seems rather simplistic. Greeks are not Egyptians; Celts are not Aztecs; etc.

      As to your statement of “who are you to say what the ancients believed, eh?” while it is true that some of our source material has been sadly influenced by later Christians who recorded information about pre-Christian religion (for example the Eddas), they are certainly not the only sources of valid information. Many of the ancients had their own written languages and have left us their own words. You already cited some of those sources (Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, etc.) but there are many others which exist at least in fragmentary form.  To suggest that modern Pagans are not familiar with these texts is just ridiculous and really displays your lack of knowledge on the subject of modern Pagan revivals.  The voice of the ancients can also be heard in myth, folklore, and rituals transmitted via the oral traditions. We also have archaeological records, etymology, etc. And, perhaps most importantly, if we want to know more about what the ancients believed – we can ask them and their Gods ourselves!

      • Faoladh

        Not to mention the various polytheists around to this day, from Shinto, many forms of Hinduism, and the Kalasha to the Mari El and even, in some sense, the Afro-Diasporic religions.

  • kittylu

    Don’t they remember the inquisition?  For so many Catholic families conversion was not a choice, and if people want to pretend that this happened a long time ago all you have to do is look at what the Franco regime did until 1979.  I worry that its starting to get crazy fanatical again.

    • InvictusLux

      You might be very surprised to know that the Inquisitions were extremely popular with the common people. This was the first time in Western History where there were actually standards of law separate from the King’s own civil courts (which were notoriously unmerciful and given to routine torture). 90% of those submitted to inquisition courts were released from charges on a simple plea of mercy and promises of repentance.  Inquisitions were only used as alternatives to the King’s courts. The secular court would have tortured anyone submitted to force admissions of guilt and executed anyone seen to be treasonous to the King’s religion. It was no different with the pagans – no religion but the pagan religion of the chieftain was permitted in those communities. Why hold a double standard? 

      Franco regime and even the Spanish Inquisitions were not even Church conducted. These were GOVERNMENT/CIVIL initiatives. The church just provided expert lawyers and administrators to oversee fair trials and evidence and witness based testimony.  The Spanish were fiercely patriotic and THE PEOPLE would not tolerate false converts of opportunity to extract wealth from their economies. The Jews in Spain were notorious for false conversions to Christianity to get access to Christian markets then end up trading with the enemy too (The Muslims who were constantly raiding, torturing and force converting Christians to Islam or kidnapping for slaves).  You can’t make anachronistic comparisons of history and try to take today’s multiculturalism and religious plurality and secularism as a standard – it didn’t exist then and was non existent in human history till recent times (and I doubt it will self sustain as the word is now rapidly re-balkanizing in to factions and ethnics as it all falls apart again).

      • BryonMorrigan

        You might also be surprised how popular the Holocaust was with some people.  Your “logic” could be applied in the same way to it, which really…if you were a compassionate, moral, person…should make you stop defending such horrible historical incidents.You are just an evil, immoral, genocide-apologist…

        I bet you just LOVE Bryan Fischer, eh?  Those Native Americans “deserved” genocide for not converting?

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

           “You might also be surprised how popular the Holocaust was with some people. “

          Totalitarianism is most dangerous when it enjoys popular support.

  • A.C. Fisher Aldag

    A sociologist / historian called Will Durant proposed this viewpoint of evolution to “superior” monotheism, back in mid-last-century, and Christians used it to justify missionary work, reservations, and other “Lady Bountiful” programs that were actually quite  harmful to various Indigenous cultures. 

    I also wanna point out that the “simple folk who only wanted to live the best life possible” included the non-intellectual Pagan artisans, craftspeople, inventors, and farmers who gave us such notions as crop irrigation, sanitation, paved roads, shipping and other transport of trade goods, metalsmithing, creation of fabrics, food storage, crop rotation, fermentation, animal husbandry and line-breeding, crop fertilization, and other concepts being used or re-discovered by modern people.

    Intellectuals and Christians may’ve written this stuff down and gave it names… Pagans and the working classes created or discovered these ideas and methods for us.

    • InvictusLux

      The concept of “pagan” was of course unknown to “pagans”.  Christians hold that all men are endowed with a desire to know The Creator (God) and to pursue truth and to embrace the ideals of Charity (goodwill toward all men and to God). In that sense early peoples all had an aboriginal inner light given by God and acted on to greater and lessor degree.  So in essence Christianity was present from “the beginning”.  Much of what we have today in both human experience and knowledge and traditions can be traced to what we today call “pagan” practices.  So in that sense you are correct. But what we do have today that our predecessors did not have is the full revealed truth. Pagan practices useful to advancing society were “Christianized” and taught. In the fall of the Roman Empire it was the Catholic Church, in particular monks and aesthetics who wandered about and taught the common folk how to plant and irrigate – how to read and write etc.  If not for the church writing down and preserving what the pagans could not pass on except by tradition we owe to The Church.  Essentially The Church preserved the useful aspects of paganism, Christianized them, and forwarded them down stream to us in history.

      • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

        “Essentially The Church preserved the useful aspects of paganism…”

        Ummmmmm…no. They just ‘preserved’ the ‘pretty bits’ that they liked and they baaaaawed about the bits they didn’t after doing their best to destroy them.

        • InvictusLux

          Actually the pagans  were very eager in most cases to embrace Christianity. They saw advantages to a more civilized and cultural lifestyle than perpetual petty squabbles with competing tribes and fickle standards of law based on how “the Chieftain” felt that day. 

          Once pagans got beyond the fear and superstitions they embraced Christianity warmly – with some persuasion by some key miracles to convince them (ref. St. Patrick and St. Boniface).  

          The Germanic pagans in particular become very strong Christians and remain so today.  One major conversion took place when Boniface miraculously cut down Thor’s Oak (aka  the Donar Oak ) with a single blow (or a sudden gust rose up at his beckoning to blow over the tree – story varies).  The pagans expected Thor to strike down Boniface with bolts of lightening but the felled tree miraculously broke into equal sections (and they later used the lumber to build a chapel that still has a refurbed church at the same site today). They all converted then and there.  

          It was common for the pagans to conform to the beliefs of their chieftain and it was the chieftain who converted – probably as much to do with the pragmatics of getting military allies and victuals from the Christian Kings to help them defeat competing barbarian and pagan tribes as it was conversion by conviction. To a pagan, one superstition is as fungible as any other irrespective of the fortuitous wind :D .  

          I can grant that “pragmatism” came from the pagans… :D

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

             Just like how the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia etc were so eager for imperial minded Europeans to come along and beneficently bestow ‘a more civilized and cultural lifestyle’ upon them?

            “One major conversion took place when Boniface miraculously cut
            down Thor’s Oak (aka  the Donar Oak ) with a single blow (or a sudden
            gust rose up at his beckoning to blow over the tree – story varies).
             The pagans expected Thor to strike down Boniface with bolts of
            lightening but the felled tree miraculously broke into equal sections
            (and they later used the lumber to build a chapel that still has a
            refurbed church at the same site today). They all converted then and
            there”

            And the fact that you apparently believe that story is a perfect example of why your opinion in this matter is pretty much worthless.

          • Nick Ritter

            “And the fact that you apparently believe that story is a perfect example of why your opinion in this matter is pretty much worthless.”

            Indeed. The legend of a saint’s life is hardly an objective source. The Hessians wanted to kill Boniface, as the Frisians did. Germanic paganism fought long and hard against the influx of Christianity: look at the 30-year Frankish war against the Saxons, and the centuries of Scandinavian violence against the Church and its agents that was sparked off when the Saxons lost. All of this Christian apologia for centuries of backstabbing, politicking, wholesale slaughter and venal greed, all to tell the lie that pagans accepted Christianity eagerly and without fuss, is a heap of worthless tripe.

            Even Christian apologists in the Middle Ages weren’t so sickly-sweet in mind as to believe that the narrative was about pagans “silently longing” to be Christian: instead, they knew it was conquest, and that the meaning of the narrative was that might made their god right. 

            Anyone can win a rigged game, though. Play fair and we’ll see who comes out on top.

          • InvictusLux

            RE: ”
            And the fact that you apparently believe that story is a perfect example of why your opinion in this matter is pretty much worthless.”

            To you perhaps.  Do you have a competing account?

            Sorry. I can’t be held responsible for the literary incompetence of the pagans. If they in-the-day knew how to read and write and archive texts maybe they could have written an alternative account? But the history bears out they converted to become Christian. Though I am sure some were false converts and just played both sides for personal gain before dieing off and fading into irrelevance. The facts are that the Christian Church stands on what is widely believed to be site of Thor’s Oak and Thor has yet to get angry about it. :D

            It must really be hard to be a neo-pagan and have to rely pretty much on accounts from the archives of the Catholic Church to give you the few available texts from the period.   I only recall one single textual piece from a  pagan king — and he was taught by Christians how to read and write when he converted then reverted back and went hostile. 

            Ironically,  I doubt if any  “real” pagans  could come back today would scarce recognize the modern day “wanna-be” neo-pagans as having anything much in common with their beliefs  and traditions at all; excepting for the general level of hedonism and romantic storytelling and embellishments of  the period

          • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

            How many times have I read a Catholic bemoaning how they are ‘more Pagan’ than actual Pagans?

            Far too many to count. 

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

            “To you perhaps.  Do you have a competing account?”

            A competing account to something that is obviously in the realm of propagandistic legend and not, you know, History?

            “I can’t be held responsible for the literary incompetence of the pagans.”

            Who do you think invented writing? Because it sure as hell wasn’t Christians.

            “Ironically,  I doubt if any  “real” pagans  could come back today would
            scarce recognize the modern day “wanna-be” neo-pagans as having anything
            much in common with their beliefs  and traditions at all; excepting for
            the general level of hedonism and their alleged talents for romantic
            storytelling and embellishments being retained in this period”

            Ooooooo scare quotes, “real” pagans and “wanna be” neo-pagans!!! Are the scare quotes around “real” meant to imply that ancient Pagans were somehow not real? Are the quotes around “wanna-be” meant to question whether so called neo-pagans are wanna-bes? You obviously don’t know anything about actual modern Pagans/ Heathens/ etc aside from some laughable stereotypes. And by the way, I’m pretty sure that the above quoted statement of yours in no way would be considered ‘ironic’.

          • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

             One of the funniest things I’ve read  below is:

            “Sorry. I can’t be held responsible for the literary incompetence of the pagans”

            Let’s see…the Pagans invented writing, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. Oh, and a little thing called ‘science’ that reared it’s ugly head in Greece at about 500BCE.

          • Vision_From_Afar

            “Thor has yet to get angry about it.”

            Oh, really?

          • Persephone

            InvictusLux  –regarding your comment:  “It must really be hard to be a neo-pagan and have to rely pretty much on accounts from the archives of the Catholic Church to give you the few available texts from the period.”
            Gee — do you think  that could be b/c the Xtians destroyed most of the pagan libraries of science, math, and philosophy?
            A notable example was the Great Library at the Serapeum in Alexandria. 
            The pain and ignorance that Christianity has brought into the world far outweighs any measure of good that can be claimed in its name.

          • Hotstreak12

             why is it that when you want to make a point about the triumphs about Christianity you only stay in the middle ages? in response to your crack about the “I can’t be held responsible for the literary incompetence of the pagans” First of all “YOU CAUSED IT’ when Christianity under

            Charlemagne stomped all over Europe either killing or sucking up all the pagan priests and priestesses (when said women weren’t being burned as witches), and forcing them to tell the stories THE CHRISTIANS wanted told, completely erasing all the old stories, and I’m positive whatever pagan stories were lucky enough to get written down in runes or whatever the writing was were actively sought out and destroyed by the priests and their pet knights ( Or as in the case with the old Celtic writing the forced conversion and teaching of Latin as “gods language” over all others caused it to be forgotten and unreadable). After all they did it to the Mesoamericans. Christianity DID NOT invent writing. The ancient Sumerians invented cuneiform and it spread from there. As for your talk about no martyrs. every pagan that the Christians killed on their march of conversion by the sword is considered a martyr just as every Christian thrown to the lions by the Romans is considered a martyr by you. Every post and reply you have made here is hypocritical, contradictory and an oxymoron, the same as your religion. Quit using the middle ages and the devastation your religion caused as proof that Christianity gave the pagans the civilization and knowledge they were pining for. We had that knowledge and civilization but with your religions help we lost it, and we are only now shoving Christianities boot off our necks to try to truly achieve it again.  Your comments made me so angry I’m posting this as both a post and a reply.  

          • Nick Ritter

            “The facts are that the Christian Church stands on what is widely believed to be site of Thor’s Oak and Thor has yet to get angry about it.”

            The primary temple of your god – you know, the one in Jerusalem – has been destroyed multiple times, and has Yahweh smitten anyone over that? 

            Why the double-standard? 

            Someone tried to use this story of Boniface on me once, as an example that Christianity is clearly better because it won. I’ll tell you what I told him: the story isn’t over yet.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

             Nick Ritter: “the story isn’t over yet.”

            Indeed. Christianity in Europe is a rotting, lifeless corpse. Meanwhile, Christianity in the U.S. is more animated, but after the fashion of a zombie, which is appropriate.

            Today Christians are denied the use of violence (at least on any large scale), which has always been their only reliable means for spreading their religion. As a result the expansion of their cult has been curtailed. Let us hope that the peoples of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia will now begin to return to the sacred traditions of our ancestors in ever larger numbers.

          • Robert Mathiesen

             Well said, Nick!

          • Eran_Rathan

            Apuleius wrote:Meanwhile, Christianity in the U.S. is more animated, but after the fashion of a zombie, which is appropriate.

            Excepting that they specifically _don’t_ want brains.

          • Harmonyfb

            Actually the pagans  were very eager in most cases to embrace Christianity.

            Actually, you’re incorrect. Christianity was enforced by vandalism and terrorism from the bottom (see also: murder of Hypatia) and by threats from the top. Here’s an example, collected by Sannion of the “House of Vines” blog:

            “The Emperors Valentinian and Martian to Palladius, Praetorian Prefect:
            No one, for the purpose of reverence or worship, shall reopen the
            temples of the Pagans, which have already been closed, in order that the
            honor which was formerly shown to their idols and their infamous and
            execrable rites may be removed from our age; for it is held to be
            sacrilege instead of religion to adorn the impious portals of shrines
            with garlands; to kindle profane fires on the altars; to burn incense
            upon the same; to slaughter victims there, and to pour out libations of
            wine from bowls. Anyone who attempts to perform sacrifices contrary to
            this our decree, and against the prohibition of the most sacred ancient
            constitutions, can be lawfully accused of the crime before any judge,
            and, if convicted, shall suffer the confiscation of all his property,
            and the extreme penalty, and the accomplices of the crime as well as the
            ministers of the sacrifices shall undergo the same penalty to which he
            was sentenced; so that, terrified by the severity of this our law, they
            may desist from celebrating forbidden sacrifices through the fear of
            punishment.” – Codex Justinianus 1.11.7

            …If any one by placing incense venerates either images made by mortal
            labor, or those which are enduring, or if any one in ridiculous fashion
            forthwith venerates what he has represented, either by a tree encircled
            with garlands or an altar of cut turfs, though the advantage of such
            service is small, the injury to religion is complete, let him as guilty
            of sacrilege be punished by the loss of that house or possession in
            which he worshipped according to the heathen superstition. – Codex Theodosianus, 16.10.12

            “Those who are polluted by the error or crime of Pagan rites are not to
            be admitted to the army nor to receive the distinction and honor of
            administrator or judge.” – Codex Theodosianus, 16.10.23

            If Pagans were so happy to convert, why did it take government closure of the temples and threat of loss of livelihood, forfeiture and/or death to keep Pagans from worshiping and sacrificing as they always had?

            The answer, of course, is that ancient Pagans had no intention of converting, but were being forced to do so.

  • Obsidia

    What strikes me is the difference in the experience of TIME between Pagan and Christian worldviews.  The Pagan sees Time as cyclical and spiral, turning around the same themes in ever more meaningful ways.  The Christian sees Time as moving toward one point that resolves all questions into one answer.

    Like the story of “Highlander,” “There can be only one” in the male-identified Christian world.  Females are simply helpmates, except for an odd Joan of Arc here and there.  But guess what, Joan of Arc was probably a Witch, after all.

    Evolution does happen, and I do see it happen.  However, it is not always about adapting.  Sometimes it is about creativity, art and, as Caroline Casey puts it:

    “To cultivate an ever-expanding repertoire of responses is to align ourselves with nature’s evolutionary drive.”

    In that case, Paganism is like Rock and Roll and will never die! 

    • InvictusLux

      Bunkum.  Christians were the very first to advance females as equal in dignity to males and side-by-side with men as co-partners. In fact, St. Mary  (the Mother of Christ) is in the orthodox Christian world view held as first Christian and highest Saint in heaven.No man will ever attain to her stature.

      • Obsidia

         Invictus wrote:

        >Christians were the very first to advance females as equal in dignity to males and side-by-side with men as co-partners

        Then what happened?  When my Dad died (he had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother), the priest who presided at his funeral would not allow any hymns to Mary to be played or sung. (Roman Catholic)

        Why are so many Christians against working “side by side with women as co-partners”???

        Um, no.

        • InvictusLux

          “RE: >  When my Dad died (he had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother), the priest who presided at his funeral would not allow any hymns to Mary to be played or sung. (Roman Catholic)”

          I can only guess on this one. Catholic Latin Rite clergy (the largest rite of Catholics in the West – aka “Roman Catholic”) conform funeral masses to a unique rite as specified in the GRIM ( General Instruction of the Roman Missal). Without doing some look-up I presume that the recommended hymns are not along the lines of Marian devotionals since the focus is on the gospel promise of resurrection and the penitential rights. Contrary, to Protestant myths which advance the misconception that we over venerate or even worship Mary, Catholics only reverence Mary officially two times a year on two special solemnity’s in her honor and of course coincidentally during the advent of Christmas.  It would be irregular to honor Mary at a funeral mass but I am surprised that the priest did not allow a special 2nd hymn after communion during meditation if it was a special devotion of your father’s.  It may have been that the particular songs requested were not generally recognized arrangements. I can only guess.  At the funeral wake services (the vigil the day before the funeral) there is much more latitude from the strict conformance to liturgical form and this would have been a better time to perform a special hymn.  Priests vary on strictness and its unusual actually to encounter one who will be rigid during a very emotional time. I am surprised there was not some accommodation to be honest.

          Re: > “Why are so many Christians against working “side by side with women as co-partners”???”

          You will have to cite some examples since I have not seen any of this in the Catholic Church. Albeit some fundamentalist “Christian” sects go overzealous on St. Paul’s admonition of some unruly women in his day “to conform” to ecclesial order during masses and not speak out of turn during the solemn consecration etc. Most of this sort of charge fall in the realm of polemics advanced by those either ignorant of Catholic/Christian teaching or who are actively trying to forward this false view for malicious effect for their own nefarious reasons. The Church garnered huge following from the early Christian women since it was the only institution on the planet (outside of the Jews within their own community) to take care of widows and orphans as universal vocation and calling as “Christians”.  There are 3 females doctors of The Church ( St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Catherine of Siena & St. Thérèse de Lisieux ) and scores of beatified female saints. Some female saints were so revered in their own time that it was not unheard of for bishops and popes to consult with them or even change their policies (e. g. moving the Vatican seat back from Avignon to Rome) based on their persuasion. 

          • Obsidia

             Here’s one example:

            Men can be priests.  Women cannot.  Therefore, not equal.

          • InvictusLux

            This is fallacy – especially when it was The Church that championed woman’s right from the very first century. It is a matter of spiritual facility and authority. It is only in current times that the feminists have advanced the silly idea that the priesthood is a “career path” and a position of power and achievement.  Priests give up everything to serve – most are run haggard running their parishes 24/7 and tending to administration and also purely clerical duties (mass, the sacraments and giving spiritual counseling etc.) 

            Today, the laity (both men and women) are called on quite a bit to support the church in various ministries (bereavement, marriage prep, Catechism teaching, organizing charities of every kind etc.). So there are plenty of opportunities “to serve” and lead that are gender neutral. It is only in the conduct of the mass and its sacraments that only ordained male priests and bishops can perform. This has been the teaching from day 1 of the Church.

            For reasons known only fully to God He choose to only ordain males into his priesthood – no females were called into that service or were present at the Last Supper (the formation of the priesthood) .

             God is spirit and has created us in His image as both male and female.  In scripture there is an unmistakable spiritual theme being advanced as early as Genesis of  the Divine and His relationship to His People (and His Creation and Church)  in the imagery of the gender relationships.  It is a complimentary love relationship in the complimentary roles of   mutual “Giving (Male) and Receiving (Female)”.   

            Our individual identity as male and female is a very important aspect to our core being at both a physical and spiritual level – one is not superior to the other (out of Adam’s side Eve was made to be at his side as equal).  The “Giving” aspect is associated with the masculine and the receiving is the feminine – the creative act is played out in this role relationship.  I can’t get too deep here without wtiting a wall of text  but suffice it to say that the priests are serving in the “giving” relationship with the Church in the “feminine” aspect. 

            The priesthood has nothing to do with dominance or power but rather repeating the Divine Pattern that God has revealed for whatever His ultimate purpose is (which we presume mirrors some aspect of His inner Divine workings of The Trinity). The Church has studied this topic deeply and come to the conclusion that it does not have the authority to admit women to the priesthood since it would not be valid spiritually and because The Church does not have the authority to question God’s Plan here. 

            The theology tells us that something mystical happens to a priest’s soul at ordination – it is reconfigured to emulate  Christ “Son of Man”  (a title he often used). As an aside something also mystical happens in baptism of both females and males – the soul is radically reconfigured and elevated to a form suitable to live in heaven if it retains its  grace (elevated to the Divine Nature itself if not dyeing unrepentant in “disgrace”).  In simple terms, just as a male lacks the natural (and spiritual)  facilities for being a mother or “receiver”  the female lacks the natural facilities for being a father or “giver “.  It’s not a matter of saying “we permit it”  - it simply that it can’t be done metaphysically by us. We would need direct revelation from God.  

            None of this diminishes the stature of women – there’s nothing subordinate in having complimentary but different roles.  None of this  impedes a female  from attaining tremendous spiritual growth and capacity of males. In fact I’m sure that some  female saints have far surpassed some bishops and priests in holiness and spiritual growth. Salvation does not depend on gender – and spiritual rank while also very real is likewise not limited by role or gender.  In fact priests are so busy tending to the congregation that they often lack time for their own meditation and deep prayer where lay members have more time for personal spiritual development.  And as I mentioned before no man on earth will ever attain to rank of St. Mary – she’s new Eve and ranks higher even than the highest arch-angles and cherubim. 

            I’ll give some scripture references to.

          • http://www.facebook.com/Zac.Strix.Nebulosa.Kolb Zachary Kolb


             None of this  impedes a female  from attaining tremendous spiritual growth and capacity that is subordinate to males”

            And you don’t see the conundrum here? So women’s rights are protected by the Holy See, so long as it is subordinate to men. Why not let women attain tremendous spiritual growth and capacity on equal standing with men? Are men and women not equal in the eyes of your god. If so, then the idea of men being subordinate to women and women being subordinate to men is a fool’s errand and is a blaspheme against god. If not, then do not pretend you stand for equality. Be honest for what you truly stand for, or a divine order where God is the head, the church is his bride, men are head of the church, women are the bride and that is how the hierarchy works. That’s what they taught me when I learned my catechism and they didn’t hide under the pretenses of equality. They were frank about the divine order of their god, and I see the same thing here just being hidden from view because the church tries to re-purpose the old message to keep the faithful from asking the harder questions.

          • Faoladh

            Oh noes! Priests have to *work* in order to exert the power they have! That means that they don’t really have any power at all, and those darned feminists should be grateful that they are excluded from such a position!

            What an absurd line of argument. It resembles the argument that excluding women from battlefield positions meant that the military was pro-female.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            @ InvictusLux

            Whether there actually were women at the Last Supper is by no means so clear from the Gospels as the Church’s teaching supposes. 

            Mark’s Gospel is pretty clearly the first of the four to be written, and it implies that other “disciples” were present along with the Twelve. Moreover, the word “disciples” is plural, so under the rules of Greek grammar women and men together may be meant. 

            John does not, if I remember correctly, use the word “apostle” at all anywhere, except to take a stab once at “pseudo-apostles.”  Elsewhere, including his account of the Last Supper, he always speaks of Jesus’ “disciples,” who are clearly not limited to the Twelve.

            Only Matthew and Luke, who are copying Mark’s text here, change the wording a little so that the “disciples” present at the Last Supper seem to be just the Twelve.  This may be an accident, or tendentious.

      • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

         That is completely historically incorrect. 15 centuries before your Jesus was born, women in Ancient Egypt achieved a state of near equality to men. That level of equality was not seen in the USA until the 1960′s.

      • Harmonyfb

        Christians were the very first to advance females as equal in dignity to males and side-by-side with men

        I wonder where that ‘equal dignity’ was when Hypatia was torn apart? (Since you seem to be a little light on history, she was a Pagan philosopher who was murdered by a Christian mob for essentially being an uppity educated woman (it may also have been triggered by Christians who came to speak with her being swayed by her oratory to stop being Christian.) She was stripped naked, dragged through the streets, and murdered in a Christian church. That mob may have been led by a Christian bishop, btw.)

        Christian propaganda is not a substitute for actual historical study.

        • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

           Jarmonyfb, well said. Let’s also not forget that the Bishop you mention (Cyril) who helped incite the mob who killed Hypatia,  was made a saint by the Xtain church. 

      • Ursyl

        False. The Celts had Queens who ruled in their own right. Women could own property, and keep it after a divorce. Differing forms of marriage also existed in which the wife might hold the higher status, or be equal.

        Christianity might have been an improvement for Greek or Roman wives, but it was no such thing for Celtic women.

      • Thelettuceman

         InvictusLux –

        There’s a book called “Proving Women: Female Spirituality and Inquisitional Culture in the Later Middle Ages” by Dyan Elliott.  The book goes through a very lengthy process of showing how women were, yes, indeed important in the spiritual circles of the church…and then goes into detail about how those spiritual processes were considered to be suspect and, eventually, criminalized.  Simply because “Female Spirituality” was something that needed to be behind closed doors.

        Read it.  I’m sure you’ll find TONS of writings on the equal nature of Men and Women in the Church.

  • Robert Mathiesen

    There are very many varieties of Christian, and there is no single doctrine that they all share without exception.  Also, a considerable number of ancient Christian Churches still exist today, especially in the Eastern half of Christendom, and they began to diverge from one another in their doctrines as early as the 300s.

    So it is inherently false to say that all “Christians have a very simple answer to this question,” no matter what question and what answer you have in view.

    If, however, you are taking the “no true Scotsman” approach, whereby Christians who give different answers from yours are not “true Christians,” then you have lost the rest of us before you even begin to expound your answer.  Don’t waste your time . . .

    • Robert Mathiesen

      This was meant as an answer to Kulasundari Devi above, but somehow ended up at the bottom of the queue.  I’m reposting it where it belongs.

    • InvictusLux

      Sounds like you are just taking the other extent to imagine you can speak for all “the rest of us” in advancing the absurd idea that no true calico-Scotsman could ever accept any gauche notion of plain-unadorned tartan (e.g. “orthodoxy”) teaching nor the pure rationality of (what should be) the plain objective-truth that conceptually “Truth” can not be subdivided to war with itself.   Your taxonomy of what it means to be “Christian” is just that – “YOUR” taxonomy. Don’t push the ugly rabble of pluralism on the “rest of us”.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        I’m looking at Christianity historically, not dogmatically, in all my postings here.  As a historical phenomenon, Christian doctrine is a fascinating subject, but as a guide to (my own) life, it is not of much interest.  If your mileage varies, that’s fine, too.  I wasn’t raised Christian.  My mother’s family were old-line California magical pantheists, but the study of the history of Christian doctrines has made me something of a philosophical polytheist.  (If you take double predestination seriously, then I am clearly one of the otherwise predestined.)

        If a Church has an unbroken history going back to the time of Christians of the first century CE, and it calls itself Christian, then it counts as a Christian Church, even if its teaching and worship have undergone changes throughout its history. 

        Obviously Christian are the Church of the East (which Western historians offensively term “Nestorian”), the “non-Chalcedonian” Coptic Church, Ethiopian Church, and Armenian Apostolic Church, the Greek, Slavic and Georgian Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church.  I even include — though it is quite controversial to do so — the gamut of diverse Churches that are called Protestant, which try to reconstruct the earliest form of Christianity, but with about the same level of success — due to the insufficiency, in varying degrees, of good trustworthy sources — as some Pagans try to reconstruct various forms of Ancient Paganism.

        • InvictusLux

          RE: > ”
          (If you take double predestination seriously, then I am clearly one of the otherwise predestined.)”

          Double-Predestination is a neo-Christian theory advanced in the 16th century by heretic John Calvin which essentially says “God created some for the purpose of being damned.” Apostolic Christians (Catholics and Orthodox) who can trace their apostolic succession (a pedigree conveyed by a chain of laying on of hands form apostle to bishop from generation to generation to grant the spiritual authority to teach and to confect the sacraments/mass) all reject this gloomy theological error. God certainly knows who will reject Him but He still grants all the grace to be converted to “partake” of the Divine Nature through the adopted lineage of the new race of humanity (Christ as divine-human is new Adam) without prejudice.  That’s an amazing benevolence that The Creator permits us to form our own destiny within the framework of His Providence by our daily choices. You can convert at any time irrespective of your past. In the words of Oscar Wilde who professed his faith literally with his dying breath once said this maxim: “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.”

        • InvictusLux

          RE:> “obviously Christian are the Church of the East , the “non-Chalcedonian” Coptic Church, Ethiopian Church, and Armenian Apostolic Church, the Greek, Slavic and Georgian Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Church. ”

          Correct. But a lot of people forget or never knew that the real name is not “Roman Catholic” – this was a latter derogatory term given by Protestants to mock  “the pappists” who were loyal to Rome. They have all forgotten that and its now ironically held by many Catholics as a badge of honor for stating our allegiance. The true name is simply “Catholic” and it has 23 separate Church Rites or traditions (one “Western” “Roman/Latin” and 22 “Eastern”) that include many Eastern Churches. 

          The Orthodox  (the East) are valid apostolic Christians who are in the same faith but just in political schism over the degree of authority of the pope – the theology is for all extents identical.  
          RE:>” I even include — though it is quite controversial to do so — the gamut of diverse Churches that are called Protestant, which try to reconstruct the earliest form of Christianity, but with about the same level of success — due to the insufficiency, in varying degrees, of good trustworthy sources — as some Pagans try to reconstruct various forms of Ancient Paganism.”

          The Protestants are now at over 37,000+ separate variations of “denominations” and most can only trace their lineage back a few hundred years – while old school Protestants (Anglican/Presbyterian, Methodists, Baptists) can only trace their linage back to the 16th Century Catholic Church.  Catholics consider them “Christian” and actually members of the Catholic Church if they are baptized according to trinitarian formula; but of course are in a “protesting” status and not in communion [and at grave risk]).

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Of course, the other ancient Churches (not in communion with Rome) also rightly call themselves Catholic, just as the Catholic Church also calls itself Orthodox.  And all of them also claim Apostolic succession.  So one always needed to distinguish the Church at Rome from the Church elsewhere, and the term “Roman Church” is very old indeed. 

            And the 22 Eastern rites authorized by Rome are by no means the same thing as the Eastern Churches I have been talking about.  Many of them were not authorized before the 16th century, and thus are not older than the Protestant movement.

      • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

         “Don’t push the ugly rabble of pluralism on the “rest of us”.  That’s a keeper! Perhaps for your peace of mind you should just leave, before you get  offended by such things here as ‘tolerance’. Worse yet, since we believe in ‘harm none’, we would not want to subject you to the pain of our open minded attitudes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=585826544 Adam Birch

    Wow!  Some of the comments being bandied about are really quite astonishing.

    I didn’t realize we were all just fools, stumbling in the dark!  Please, explain to me again how a god who can’t even program his creations not to eat an apple and thus fail beta testing can “save” me!  I’d love to spend more time being proselytized at.

    *Head explodes*

    Godless?  Really?  Let me just refer to my dictionary for a definition of duotheism.  Hmmmm…  How about pantheism?  Looks like mathematics might not be a strong point.

    Good grief, have some of the adherents to other faiths so lost their sense of proportion?

    As a quick last note to visitors from the other side of the conversation:  Breathe deeply.  Think for a moment.  Have a look outside.  Beautiful world, a decent distance from the sun, not too many colossal asteroids right now, coffee is good.

    There.  Now, you were saying…?

  • Kelly_aidan

    I see why Star turned off the comments on her blog. Life is too short, although it’s pleasant to hear from Bob M.

    • Robert Mathiesen

      And from you, Aidan.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

    Ok, my first attempt here was rather jumbled and irate, so I’m going to try and make this more coherent and simple. This is for the purpose of clarifying my earlier points in a more respectful (but still firm) way, and only addresses the points brought up by Mr. Jason’s post.

    The First point I want to show is that Mr. Jason is missing the point of Mr. Marc’s post:

    “”praising the perceived he-man heroism of pre-Christian societies.“The
    pagans, by which I refer to pre-Christian Western man, may have been
    unwilling to accept that strange doctrine of the Son of Man, but they
    willingly accepted that they were sons of men. They may not have known
    how to be Christian, but they knew how to be human. The post-Christian,
    having left Christ, is in the busy process of altogether leaving Man.
    With respect to those delivering our daily mail, one might say we are
    moving increasingly to the Age of the Post-Man.”
    I
    would point out that Barnes’ view of pre-Christian cultures is not only
    Romantic, but reductive, a caricature of the complex lives ancient
    pagans lived (the ancient world had plenty of bureaucrats, poets, and
    pacifists)””

    The main error here is that Mr. Jason assumes the pagans Mr. Marc is praising are the Homeric Heros, the angry warriors, the “he-men”. This, if by any remote chance true, is still an error when applied to Christendom in general. For the Christians are well aware that there is a problem with mindless battle-lust and testosterone. The pagans themselves, as Mr. Jason notes, do not idolize that all the time. Mr. Jason’s error is that he thinks Mr. Marc’s focus is only on those “he-men”. It is not. Historically speaking, the great heroes of antiquity that the Christians praised WERE the statesmen, the poets – although certainly not the pacifists, if by pacifists you mean never fighting. Anyway, it was not Achilles that Virgil praised. It was Virgil that Dante praised. It was Cicero (a man of action and of contemplation) that the Renaissance worshiped as a minor deity. It may be an American problem to worship spartan soldiers of 300. But it is the Christian act to pray for Trajan because of his mercy and humility before a soldier’s widow. The Christians simply do not praise the Barbarism of the Pagans, but their great civility.

    Moving On to the main problem I see here, Mr. Jason says that the idea that Pagans evolved to Christianity. The simple fact of the matter is, the idea of Paganism leading up to Christianity is entirely to old to be a modernist fad, especially a Darwinian fad. This idea is first found voiced by Paul, for Goodness’ sake! And the whole reverence-for-pagans as people trying to find Christianity was a very Medieval idea – and because they borrowed heavily of Pagan thought, they were entirely the opposite of modernists or Darwinists who believe in natural progress. They believed in the natural corruption of the world. They thought that in physical and moral stature, the pagans were far superior to modern men. So not only is the idea found centuries before Evolution, it was in an age profoundly opposed to it. It may be true that some modernist Christians TOOK that idea, and applied evolutionary theory to it. But it is simply BS to say they originated it. It is also BS to think Tolkien and Lewis, of all people, were going to think in terms of the modernist fad. They were the ones crying out loudest against it! They believed this because they were Medievalists (or even lovers of antiquity!!!) not because they were Modernists.

    As for the charge that pagans still exist, of course they do. Christians never said they could stop out Barbarism, or even Civilizations, so easily. But Christians don’t try to stomp out the idea of the Gods of antiquity. It is in fact BECAUSE of the Christians, that Barbarians did not wipe out the very memory of the Greek and Roman gods – the gods of Civilization depicted by Virgil, of all people, as opposing the Barbaric gods of Egypt (patrons of Mark Antony!) and the eastern hoards. But I digress. I think I’ll simply paraphrase G. K. Chesterton (in his poem “the Ballad of the White Horse”) and say the real problem with Pagans, at least in the west, is that only the Christians maintain the old things. In the east, the story is somewhat different, of course. But the East was a problem for the old Pagans, so I’ll leave it to them to fight it out. As to your argument that 1) the pagan religions are still fresh and 2) none of them are evolving.

    1) The same must be said even more so for Christians. and 2) I just told you that natural evolution was never a Christian doctrine. It was a pagan doctrine that all things fell from gold to silver to bronze to iron. We only said that would not be the end… we are still optimistic. We say that in the end, it is our God who has already risen physically from the dead. It is great Pan, and Balder the beautiful, and Thor and the defeated gods of Troy and Egypt who are dead and will die, and will never rise again. It was not Christians who forced this doctrine upon men. It was the pagans, and even more so the Barbarians, who thought this. It was Eastern pessimism that tried to kill the gods. We try to really find them, alive, and in their proper places.

    Mr. Jason concludes by going back to his pet theory about Mr. Marc espousing bad-asses (which I have already debunked). The only thing to add here is that Chesterton points out that Achilles was not great because he was a bad-ass, but a big Ass. I am not sure what you mean by  “liberal politicians” but at any rate there have been too many Christians copying Cicero and praising Lycurgus and so on and so forth that it’s a big bother to enumerate. Suffice it to say that there were Christians were much in favor of the Constitution of America, which drew heavily on antiquity. And of course it was the Christians (not Spartacus or Cicero) who ended slavery in the middle ages, and lead the abolition movement.

    But I stray off topic, and the post grows long. To sum, My point is that Mr. Jason misses the point of Mr. Marc’s post, and misunderstands (or is not aware of) a great portion of the Christian Heritage. His point about He-men is wrong. His point about Darwinian evolution is also wrong (like BS wrong). Mr. Jason does not address Mr. Marc’s point about the puniness of moderns (or postmoderns, whatever they are these days). I thus argue that Mr. Marc’s points are untouched by Mr. Jason, and Mr. Jason needs to go read some good Medieval literuature.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      ” I thus argue that Mr. Marc’s points are untouched by Mr. Jason, and Mr. Jason needs to go read some good Medieval literuature.”

      Good for you! Bravo! You sure showed me, etc, etc. Honestly, there’s nothing more tiresome than the argument that a critic “didn’t understand” the work. Tedious, really. It’s an insult that disguises itself as a counter-argument. Even more ironic is that you willfully misread my post while accusing me of misreading the “Bad Catholic’s” post. I’d respond at greater length, but I’ve obviously got a lot of “medieval literature” to catch up on…

      • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

        Also, “Mr. Jason,” really? My name is Jason Pitzl-Waters. You can all me Jason, or you can call me Mr. Pitzl-Waters, or you can even say “the author of The Wild Hunt blog,” but please dispense with the strange “Mr. Jason” nomenclature. 

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

           … Sorry, I guess? But I fail to see how that is relevant apart from etiquette, and the point of my post was the argument. But, as you wish, Jason.

          Actually, it was just a bother to write “Mr. Pitzl-Waters” every time : /

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

         But I did show how your Darwin argument was absolute bunk, if you don’t mind the expression, and I also showed that when Christians point to the pagans as good, he does not only indicate muscle-bound heroes. I fail to see how that is dodging your argument. You rather seem to be avoiding mine.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

          You did not seem to mind my (hot-headed and intentional) insults earlier,  which despite being unclear and a bit half-assed still brings up the points I made here… so I’m only an illogical insulter when I actually write coherently and politely.

          • Genexs

            Hmm, you’re digging yourself in real deep here, my friend.

          • Vision_From_Afar

            Or he tolerated you for a while, but you wouldn’t quit, so now he’s called you out.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      “the real problem with Pagans, at least in the west, is that only the Christians maintain the old things”

      And for anyone who buys that, here’s a few more:

      Arbeit Macht Frei.
      Black Is White.
      We have always been at war with Eastasia.
      We will be greeted as liberators.
      The public was never in danger.

      • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

         Don’t forget: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

           and Darwinian evolution taught the medieval that Christianity evolved from Pagan religion. Right. Please actually refute my arguments or be quiet.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

             So, here’s the deal: for years now I’ve read The Wild Hunt and every so often, when there is a post like this, I’ve watched Christians like you arrogantly strut in loaded with all kinds of assumptions about Pagans, ancient or modern. You all think that we don’t know anything about our own religion and think you understand what Paganism is about so much better than we do. You think that you can stroll in and shout ‘Glory Hallelujah!’ and we ignorant yokels will all throw down our swords and say, ‘Oh, wow, you Christians are so right. How could we be so stupid as to doubt your claims (which, incidentally, you can offer no proof for except ‘It’s true because the Bible/ the Catholic Church/ your fairy godmother, for all I know, says so’)”.
            But you know what? We’re not idiots, we’re not ignorant. There are no lack of people here who can run circles around your obviously deficient and biased knowledge of history, Pagan or Christian. I will refute your argument (if there is any cogent one to refute) when you can offer one that’s not so obviously based on questionable sources. You’re like a parrot who can only shout ‘Read Chesterton, read Chesterton’. I’m sorry, but there last time I checked if you want to argue history then bring out primary source material, show us the work of respected, objective scholars in the field, not the ravings of some Christian apologist.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

             First of all, I would appreciate it if you would drop the  arrogant
            attitude that you seem to have towards me. You have not actually taken
            any note towards the arguments I did in fact clearly state against
            Jason’s post. I understand that I’m ignorant of much of “paganism” but
            if you notice that has absolutely nothing to do with my arguments
            concerning Jason’s post (That is, Darwin did not inspire the idea of
            Pagan -> Christian, and also that Marc/Catholics are forgetting all
            pagans except he-men, which they idolize). My resources are not limited
            on Chesterton – which I only call on in a digression from my main point -
            and include Virgil (a pagan, definitely not questionable) the Bible
            (and I only use it to point out is says something, not if it is right or
            wrong), Dante (as an example of someone before Darwin who refutes both
            of Jason’s arguments by his existence), and of course various other
            historical data which you don’t seem to actually oppose with real
            sources. The opinions I present need not to be true, as it were, because
            my point it to show that those opinions existed.

            At any rate all you here have done is quibble about mythology (which I
            hand to you), accuse me of ignorance and arrogance (without citation of
            evidence) and say I have no points (did you bother to try and find
            them?).

            Do you want me to use MORE primary material? I mean, when talking of
            pagans, I use Virgil, when talking of medievals I use Dante, and you
            don’t point out any problems with what else I say about the renaissance,
            Tolkien, Lewis, etc. I think Chesterton is fine and right, but I only
            use him as a supplement and summary. I tell you to read Virgil. I tell
            you to read Christian documents when you wish to declare what they
            themselves say. I only ask you to be fair, when it comes to a bit of
            research. I may be wrong to venture into the trivia of Mythology. But
            I’m willing to admit that. Please either respond to my arguments about
            Jason’s post, or else concede defeat like an honest man, not about
            whether Christianity did or did not evolve form Pagan stuff, but about
            the actual substance of Jason’s accusations.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

         Talk to the Chesterton, man, talk to the Chesterton. Also, actually reply to everything else I say, if you want to refute me.

      • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

         Can’t forget, “Ignorance is Bliss”, that one has stood the church in good stead for centuries.

    • Nick Ritter

      “It is great Pan, and Balder the beautiful, and Thor and the defeated gods of Troy and Egypt who are dead and will die, and will never rise again.”

      You do not pay enough attention to the details of mythology, I think. Balder returns. The mythos of your religion is far from unique. Get over it.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

         Alas for my ignorance of pagan mythos, which reciprocates Jason’s ignorance of real history.

        But I will quite simply refute “The mythos of your religion is far from unique.” Not one tale tells of a Son of Man who was at once also God, God come to save humanity itself by taking its pains and evil, to die like a common criminal, by the betrayal of his own. Nothing has all that at ONCE and more. Not one.

        • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

          “which reciprocates Jason’s ignorance of real history”

          You can make personal attacks, or you can continue to post here, but you can’t do both. 

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          You are correct–only your religion, which has decried human sacrifice in all other religions that may or may not have practiced it in the past, has had the unique theological position to say that its main deity required a human sacrifice to no longer be angry at humans…and this despite the notable objection to human sacrifice in your main god’s previous career in the Hebrew Bible, except as a “just kidding!” incident with one of that god’s religion’s founding patriarchs.

          So, certainly, if you want to trumpet your uniqueness in terms of this fact, please feel free to do so.

          • Robert Mathiesen

             Jepthah’s daughter, too!

        • Nick Ritter

          “Nothing has all that at ONCE and more. Not one.”

          So, you’re bragging that your religion has practiced a quite *eclectic* series of mythological theft?

    • Hotstreak12

        “It is in fact BECAUSE of the Christians, that Barbarians did not wipe
      out the very memory of the Greek and Roman gods – the gods of
      Civilization depicted by Virgil, of all people, as opposing the Barbaric
      gods of Egypt (patrons of Mark Antony!) and the eastern hoards” Are you kidding me? The gods of Egypt were much more cultured than the gods of the Greeks. Horus there king didn’t screw everything in sight, and Osiris didn’t kidnap and rape his wife (no offense to Greek pagans) Egypt itself gave women an equality hardly seen in other parts of the ancient world, was around a thousand years before Greece and practiced science, medicine, art, and writing. You ranting Christians are like a stupid two year old trying to play chess with a grand master.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

         Hey, Hey, I’m only getting this from Virgil, a Roman Poet and Pagan. Take this up with the dead epic-writer, not me.

        But I’m tempted into saying this: of course Egypt is civilized, just like funerals are civilized. I’m sure that Greek Bacchantes and Roman Soldiers were much to rowdy or rough. But they are the inheritance of the West, not Orisis or Horus or “Barking Anubis” as the poet calls him. At any rate, we follow the Jews in NOT rubbing dung on our slivers, like the Egyptians, so don’t be too high-and-mighty about that.

        The question of whether the east or west is better is a fun debate, but not one I’m going to fight here.

        • Genexs

          Wow!  I never knew hallucinogens were so important in the Abrahamic faiths.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

             One word: Revelations.

          • Genexs

             Ezekiel saw the Wheel! Now, pass the peyote.

          • Nick Ritter

            I have always wondered what kinds of hallucinogenic plants grow on Patmos.

    • deerwoman

       “The main error here is that Mr. Jason assumes the pagans Mr. Marc is praising are the Homeric Heros, the angry warriors, the ‘he-men’.”

      To be fair to Jason, I do not think he was assuming anything in regards to the Pagans Marc was praising. In reading Marc’s original article, the examples he cites of worthy Pagan men are warriors, uber-masculine types and, “real men”.  He calls the current age a “flaccid” one “of Viagra, angst and gossip” which ultimately leads to his contrasting it with an age supposeldy comprising “qualities of Strength, Magnitude, Viciousness.” Marc specifically cites Wolf the Quarrelsome but the majority of the blog post talks about war and those who partook in it as “heroic”.  He praises the warriors of old who could kill others face-to-face without apparent psychological issues and puts down contemporary ones who suffer from PTSD. The machismo skew of the entire piece is palpable, right down to the world personified as a virgin awaiting ravishment by Christ and then as an adulteress in “her timidity and weariness.”

      Not to mention that the main image Marc chose to start off his blog is of a burly, hammer-weilding berserker sort of character, a graphic likely stolen from a role-playing game.

      • deerwoman

         Crap, sorry for the spelling errors!

    • Vision_From_Afar

      The main error here is that Mr. Jason assumes the pagans Mr. Marc is praising are the Homeric Heros, the angry warriors, the “he-men”.
      Marc’s first quote was of the heroic and/or sacrificial nature of “Pagans”, a CS Lewis poem taken slightly out of context. He also said, “The Pagans may have had false Gods, but they had real men.” In our modern context, a “real” man is the Nietcheian ideal of the Ubermench. The strong, muscled, intelligent, protecting, tough ideal. This correlates with the “critique the spear that kills him” quote from Lewis Marc used earlier in the post. “But the Pagans would have mocked our sin as cowardly stuff.” This hints that he considers the “Pagans” to be a tough, no-nonsense, aloof breed, again pointing towards the “he-men.” Then he follows it with a story of a particularly brutal and bloody killing committed by a “Pagan”, thus re-inforcing the “manliness” of his hypothetical, Romanticised “Pagan.” Sorry, but it’s quite clear who Marc is visualising in his post, and Jason is correct.
      And the whole reverence-for-pagans as people trying to find Christianity was a very Medieval idea – and because they borrowed heavily of Pagan thought, they were entirely the opposite of modernists or Darwinists who believe in natural progress.

      How else could the Church encourage their flock to follow in the footsteps of the “Godless”? Medieval people didn’t question much, but being told to do the same as a pagan would’ve stuck in their craw. The idea that “pagans are Christians who haven’t found the whole answer yet” is an old one, but it’s one born solely from the Chruch’s insistance on centralized, “We have all the answers” mentality. If you don’t agree, explain why the Chruch kept the servicies of Europe in Latin when 80% of those attending probably couldn’t understand a word of it? It’s because they didn’t want questions.

      So not only is the idea found centuries before Evolution, it was in an age profoundly opposed to it. It may be true that some modernist Christians TOOK that idea, and applied evolutionary theory to it.

      And somehow this excuses it’s mis-application? That’s a disingenuous argument.

      As for the charge that pagans still exist, of course they do. Christians never said they could stop out Barbarism, or even Civilizations, so easily. But Christians don’t try to stomp out the idea of the Gods of antiquity. It is in fact BECAUSE of the Christians, that Barbarians did not wipe out the very memory of the Greek and Roman gods – the gods of Civilization depicted by Virgil, of all people, as opposing the Barbaric gods of Egypt (patrons of Mark Antony!) and the eastern hoards.

      No, they never said they could, only that they would try. Christians don’t try to stomp out the idea of the Gods, merely the worship of them. It is, in fact, because of Christians that we no longer have the Library of Alexandria, one of the greatest collections of ancient knowledge ever concieved. What scraps of information we’ve discovered indiciate a knowledge and grasp of science that imply techniques we, with all our modern intellect, cannot re-create without more information. I’m amused at your characterization of “Barbarians”. What, exactly constitutes “Barbarian”? The Barbarians attacked, by the way, because the Christian Rome had become so corrupt that it appeared weak. The “Barbaric gods of Egypt”, as you so delicately put it, were overseeing the most advanced civilization the world had ever seen a millienia before Christians emerged. I would not be so quick to dismiss them.

      But I digress. I think I’ll simply paraphrase G. K. Chesterton (in his poem “the Ballad of the White Horse”) and say the real problem with Pagans, at least in the west, is that only the Christians maintain the old things.

      The sheer arrogance of this statement is astonishing. I’m not sure where to begin. Egyptians preserved countless artifacts, writings, carvings, art, etc. The Greeks and Romans preserved information and art in droves. I fail to see how Christians are the sole protector of “the old things.”

      As to your argument that 1) the pagan religions are still fresh and 2) none of them are evolving.
      1) The same must be said even more so for Christians. and 2) I just told you that natural evolution was never a Christian doctrine. It was a pagan doctrine that all things fell from gold to silver to bronze to iron.


      I’m pretty sure Jason merely pointed out that paganism isn’t evolving into Christianity. That is, in fact, a Christian doctrine, no matter how you phrase it and in whatever age you deign to claim it begins. I’m confused, how does degrading from gold down to iron bolster your argument? Are you sure that’s a pagan doctrine? Which pagans?

      We only said that would not be the end… we are still optimistic. We say that in the end, it is our God who has already risen physically from the dead. It is great Pan, and Balder the beautiful, and Thor and the defeated gods of Troy and Egypt who are dead and will die, and will never rise again. It was not Christians who forced this doctrine upon men.

      Balder will rise again. Thor’s not dead yet. I missed where the Gods of Troy and Egypt died (I’m also pretty sure Osiris already came back from the dead once). Yes, yes it was the Christians who forbade any worship of these pantheons, attempting to drive those Gods into the dusty tombs of history. Too bad it didn’t completely work.

      It was the pagans, and even more so the Barbarians, who thought this. It was Eastern pessimism that tried to kill the gods. We try to really find them, alive, and in their proper places.

      Who, again, are these destructive “Barbarians” that you speak so much of? Pagans weren’t the ones who threatened violence or banishment for worshiping their own gods. What do you mean, “find them, alive”? You spent an entire paragraph crowing about how they’re dead. “In their proper places”? Perhaps you feel that the only “proper place” for any God but your own is in academic text?

      Mr. Jason concludes by going back to his pet theory about Mr. Marc espousing bad-asses (which I have already debunked).

      And I have already counter-debunked.

      Suffice it to say that there were Christians were much in favor of the Constitution of America, which drew heavily on antiquity. And of course it was the Christians (not Spartacus or Cicero) who ended slavery in the middle ages, and lead the abolition movement.

      You’re aware that most of the big framers, including and especially Jefferson, were not Christians? Of course you are, you literate genius you. I don’t think you can really espouse the ending of slavery in the middle ages, as serfdom was slavery in all but name, and last I checked, the American Civil War was tought a wee bit after Medieval History.

      I thus argue that Mr. Marc’s points are untouched by Mr. Jason, and Mr. Jason needs to go read some good Medieval literuature.

      I thus argue that you, sir, are enjoying a particularaly Christian tunnel-vision when it comes to history. One fully equipped with a very rosey filter.

  • Nicole Youngman

    Ya know…in my not-so-humble opinion, things are an awful lot more interesting around here when we’re having discussions amongst ourselves instead of arguing with the xians.  It’s bad enough we get stuck doing that irl. A bit hypocritical of me to say as I’ve chimed in several times too, but…bleh.

    • Nick Ritter

      I think this sort of exercise is salutary, from time to time. It sharpens the wit to debate against these types, and it’s important to know that there are still people out there who think like they do. It is in debates like this that we can see their arguments and find holes in them, and that is always a benefit to us.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        In fact, since Paganism does not rely on violence and coercion we have to be all that much more focused on reason and persuasion. For Christians, “apologetics” is mostly an exercise in justifying their use of violence, coercion, and deception in the name of spreading their “gospel” (and much of that exercise is retro-active, ie, historical revisionism).

        It is not that we are interested in gaining “converts”, but we do need to respond to the constant barrage of lies about our religious traditions, both for our own sakes, and also for the sake of those who are sincerely looking at different alternatives and who need reliable information.

        • Genexs

          One element that I think helps us in this task is that we are more a religion of action than one of “faith”. Not that faith is always a bad thing. But relying on it to often involves tossing reason out the window. It becomes a crutch of support, especially when every fiber of your being and testable observation tells you you are wrong. The fact that we’ve seen their “miracles” brought up to counter some of our arguments here, is case in point. However, I found most enlightening that fact that some Apologists ranting here consider our literary heros from the past (such as certain Emperors and certain Greek philosophers and play writes) to be among the legion of the Damned.
          So much for interfaith “outreach”! Heh!

  • Francis

    History is full of people triumphantly converting from paganism to the Truth of Christianity – the only reason people leave Christianity is normally because it’s too hard, or they just want to justify the sinful things they’re doing. Christianity has thousands of martyrs – paganism has… umm, I guess this blog?

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Many of those Christian martyrs were created by other Christians, indeed, monotheists spend so much time fighting each other it’s a wonder they have managed to remain so dominant.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

         But the Tolerant Romans were the first to slaughter us. Well, except the Pharisees… but who cares, cause Christians are all dumb murderers? Nah, there are real Saints, and they’re good.

        • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

          Perhaps Christians should not have gone around destroying public works, attacking Roman Pagan priests, priestesses, people of learning (especially women), etc.  Christians, by-and-large, made it impossible for the Roman state to ignore them when the Roman state finally did go after Christians.

        • Robert Mathiesen

          In large part, Roman mob violence against Christians seems to have been fueled by a fear that early Christianity used magic regularly, and early Roman official prosecution of Christianity derives, in part, from Imperial Roman laws and judicial precedents against the practice of magic. 

          Consider:
          Magicians were thought to do the following (among other things):
          * meet secretly by night, often where the dead were entombed;
          * use corpses and parts of corpses, especially corpses of the executed and the untimely dead, as objects of power in their meetings;
          * eat human flesh and drink human blood in their meetings;
          * have a spirit or several spirits, who would assist them, which they acquired by means of secret rituals;
          * work miracles, or hope to, even up to raising the dead;
          etc.

          It doesn’t take a deep knowledge of early Christian life and practice to see how the Romans would have thought Christianity to be a cult of magic.  Christians also
          * met by night;
          * met where they had entombed some of their martyrs (i.e. where the bodies of executed criminals were carefully saved up, as the Romans would have put it);
          * ritually ate Jesus’ body and blood, even if only under the form of bread and wine, as a means of obtaining grace (i.e. power, as the Romans saw it);
          * had received the Holy Spirit in another ritual, and hoped for the aid of angels (i.e. spirits, as the Romans saw it);
          * worked miracles, and hoped to see the resurrection of the dead (i.e. hoped for a successful act of necromancy, as the Romans saw it);
          etc.

          The parallels could be made more extensive, but this should be enough.

          Roman persecutions and prosecutions of early Christians were not only about submission to the authority of the state, but also attempts to stamp out churches, i.e.  secret gatherings of magicians (as the Romans saw them).

          Jesus himself, according to John’s gospel, was brought before Pilate by “the Jews” on the charge of being “an evil doer,” the Greek for which charge renders rather well the Roman legal term “one who does *malificium*,” that is, one who does magic.

          See Morton Smith’s excellent _Jesus the Magician_, to which I devoted a long comment above.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

             I don’t think there’s really any evidence that supposed “mob-violence” against Christians was “fueled” by fears concerning Christian magic. Magic was a pervasive and accepted part of the religious life of late antiquity. As far as I know there is no evidence of “mob-violence” or any other form of persecution against Hermeticists and Theurgists at the time, whose spirituality was far more explicitly “magical” than the Christians.

            There is however clear evidence that hostility against Christians was fueled by criminal acts of sacrilege (including violence against persons and property) committed by Christians, often with the conscious desire of provoking violence against Christians in order to create “martyrs”.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Have you examined Morton Smith’s arguments in any detail?  I would be very interested in hearing what you make of them.  They seem convincing to me, but you may have judged them differently.

            To some extent, we may be quibbling over different eras.  From the 4th century onward, you are certainly correct, and for the 3rd century you are probably also right.  For the 1st and 2nd centuries CE, however, it seems not at all clear to me, and that is the period with which Smith is concerned here, as am I.

            And certainly the pursuit of “philosophy” could be used quite successfully as a defense against charges of magic back then (witness the “Apology” of your namesake in Antiquity), as it could once again in the later Renaissance.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Also, considering how much blood the “Church” has on its hands, maybe you should refrain from bragging about your martyrs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Zac.Strix.Nebulosa.Kolb Zachary Kolb

      Sinful things huh, like finding a spiritual center with an honest theology that doesn’t whitewash the nature of the gods behind strange, contradictory and counter-intuitive spiritual and philosophic conundrums, communing with the wonderful layers of the multi-verse and the myriad beings which inhabit it, finding their faith rewarded in the old gods of their ancestors who had long kept watch over them and given them strength when Iao did not or would not, or embracing gods and ways of spirit that told us that this human existence is not a sin, that love, pleasure, and asking the hard questions are perfectly valid and praise worthy aspects of human nature which the gods stand by?

      If pagan religions are sinful, when they create strong, brave, ethical communities, friends, lovers, veterans, states-people, leaders, teachers, police, doctors, nurses, engineers, musicians, theologians, clergy, and beloved members I am proud to stand beside as part of we small, mortal band called the human race…then I will gladly be a demon from blackest hell, as I am possessed of so much “sin”  and love for that “sin” that I could never be anything else.

    • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

      Never heard of Hypatia, I take it?  Or the thousands of Pagans Charlemagne put to the sword?  People convert from Xtianity to Paganism because they seek a religion intended for adults.

    • Robert Mathiesen

       Oh poppycock, Francis!  But if you usually talk like this, I’m not surprised that people who have left Christianity might not want to give you their true reasons.

      I was not raised Christian, but rather in my mother’s family’s old-line California pantheism.  However, my academic specialties — Slavic medieval philology — required me to develop a deep and sympathetic expertise in the history of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, its doctrines, its patristic literature, its versions of the Bible, and the history and practice of its liturgy.  Now my wife, as it happened, was raised Christian, and when we married I thought I would give her religion the best, most honest effort that I was capable of: baptism, eucharist, prayer, the whole nine yards.  I tried for maybe twenty years, until our children were grown, but I never had, or could find, any particular sense of Divine love or grace anywhere in Christianity — if anything, rather the opposite, and the more so with each passing year.  Eventually I received what I can only take as a very clear message, within the Church, from the Triune God of the Christians — almost a boot applied to my rear: “You are really slow to get it, man.  You not meant to be Mine at all.  Go and look elsewhere until you find Whose you are meant to be and also what you are meant to do with your life to serve humankind.  You still have enough time for that, but just barely.  Get moving.”  I went, and got moving, and eventually I did find.

      • Robert Mathiesen

         PS  To keep you from a possible odious surmise, Francis, since you mentioned people who leave Christianity to justify sinful things they are doing: yes, my wife and I are still married, and have been for 45 years, and it is a very good marriage indeed. 

        • Faoladh

          Really? It’s common in that crowd to go so far as to assume that leaving (whatever form the person doing the assuming means by) Christianity means that the leavers must be doing something lurid and “sinful”? Sad.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Yes, really.

          • Faoladh

            Sorry to hear it.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            @ Faoladh
            :-P

          • Faoladh

            :D

    • No Bod E

      Really. My ex was a “good christian”. He was also an abuser and child rapist. I live deep in the bible belt and I have found that the worst atrocities are usually done by “good christians”. Then they ” ask for forgiveness” (rarely from those they have hurt) and are “reborn” . Then they can go commit more atrocities. After all , they can always be forgiven. Always be “washed clean in the BLOOD of the lamb.” I’m sorry, I did not “leave” christianity so I could sin. I left be cause I could not be a part of something that was so hateful, abusive and judgmental.  I’ve found Pagans to be much kinder, friendlier and ethical than the christians I have spent my life around.

      • No Bod E

        Actually, he probably still claims to be a “good christian”. He is in prison now for the rape (of his own daughter, no less. Definitely christian).

      • Persephone

        re: your  comment: “I left because I could not be a part of something that was so hateful, abusive and judgmental.”
        You forgot to add ‘hypocritical] and “deceitful” to the Xtian list.  
        After all -the Catholic Church is well versed in child-abuse and rape  (as well as the ’7 deadly sins’).

        If it weren’t so true I would have laughed regarding your line about ‘asking
        forgiveness… rarely from the ones they’ve hurt’   That’s a good one – most would
        rather take the easy route and  talk to the puppet behind the curtain to
        ease their conscience.

        btw – I’m sorry for the pain you have suffered b/c of your ex.

        • No Bod E

          Thank you.

    • Folcwald

       The evidence of countless pedophile priests makes me think that those who want to sin actually flock to your church, not away from it.

      Today, the evidence of recent history shows a church where membership is decreasing, churches are closing due to lack of members and lack of funds (some of that because the people your priests gave special love to seem to be winning lawsuits), churches that remain open are often nearly empty, and the general feeling one gets from the church is desperation. History may be full of people converting to Christianity, but the present is full of people walking away and clearing their minds of the poisonous, soul-destroying, world-hating garbage the church has taught. Your church is well on its way to returning to the status of tiny, irrelevant fringe cult that it once was and that it deserves to be again.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joeclark1977 Joe Clark

        Good luck with that!  Christianity is the fastest-growing religion in the world today.  Oh, it may be true that the Church in the USA has been in its doldrums for the past few decades, but since when is the USA the center of the world?  Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) is taking off like wildfire in Africa and Asia.  I heard recently that China now has more Christians than Communist party members.  And those countries where Catholicism is dominant are also growing the Church by having plenty of babies.

        • kenneth

          The Africans and Asians don’t know you all like we do. They’ll figure it out soon enough. The Chinese in particular are gaining prosperity and education, the prerequisites for thinking for oneself. That is an atmosphere in which Christianity cannot survive long-term. 

          • Hotstreak12

             it’s only a matter of time before they go home to there old gods the Shen.

        • No Bod E

          Yeah, just what a world of 7 billion people need. That way we can blow through our natural resources even faster! You should try reading David Brin’s “Earth”

          • Faoladh

            Hahaha! Don’t waste your breath… er, typing time. Whatever. In any case, that sort would rather sh*t where they eat than listen to anyone they can class as “Green Dragons”.

          • http://www.facebook.com/joeclark1977 Joe Clark

            If I have eight kids and you have none, then they’re not really “our” natural resources, are they?  At least, not for long.  Hee hee.

          • Faoladh

            Once they are used, they no longer exist as resources, and so aren’t yours. For that matter, if they are used by your kids, they aren’t yours in any sense, either. Some might be renewed, given enough time, but the Laws of Thermodynamics apply to us all, regardless.

            It doesn’t really matter who has nominal ownership, at least in this sense.

          • No Bod E

            If you have 8 kids, it just means you are not smart enough to know what causes that and to do something about. Does your wife think you are just poking fun at her ?

          • Nick Ritter

            And if five of your eight children leave the church….

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

           Joe Clark: “Christianity is the fastest-growing religion in the world today …”

          In fact, Christianity’s growth has flatlined over the last several decades. The one place on earth that might prove an exception is China, although there are no reliable numbers. But if Christianity does in fact make some headway in China it will only demonstrate how Communist indoctrination serves as and ideal preparation for conversion to Christianity.

        • Harmonyfb

          Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) is taking off like wildfire in Africa

          Where it has been instrumental in the torture of children and the murder of women (see: http://www.steppingstonesnigeria.org/witchcraft.html). That’s not something to brag about.

          • Folcwald

             These people think the middle ages were good. If they don’t rejoice every time a woman or child is tortured or killed because some psycho preacher things she is a witch, they are not being consistent.

        • Vision_From_Afar

          So you’re proud of the strong-arm pressures that Christian missionaries use in 3rd world countries? (i.e. – Your faiths are witchcraft, kill those whom you once trusted. You want books or other help? Convert.)

          Of course Christianity is taking off in China, it is the perfect religion for the opporessed, as evidenced by it’s beginnings. Doesn’t help much for those churches in America starved for attendance…

          And as for those coungtries where Catholicism is “dominant” are only able to grow by having ensured-to-believe children?

          Your argument doesn’t hold water, sir.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      Francis: “History is full of people triumphantly converting from paganism to the Truth of Christianity”

      Indeed. The world’s 2B Christians can be separated into two groups:
      1. Approximately 1B Christians who are the victims (or the descendants of the victims) of forced conversions carried out over the last 6 centuries as part of Europe’s colonialist expansion in the Americas, Africa and Asia.
      2. Approximately 1B white European Christians who are descended from the victims of forced conversions starting in the 4th century and continuing up until the last open resistance to Christianization in Europe was finally stamped out in Lithuania in the late 14th century. Even after that there continued to be various kinds of Pagan survivals among populations that were nominally Christianized, and such survivals were often the target of violent persecution in the form of Inquisitions, Witch-Hunting, and so forth.

      Now in the 21st century, when Christianity is no longer able to carry out large-scale outright violence in the name of conversion, the spread of Christianity has come to a dead stop. The only major successes that Christian missionaries currently have come from poaching on each other’s flocks. This is especially the case for evangelical/pentecostal missionaries who have been very successful in chipping away at Catholic and mainline Protestant Christians in Africa and Latin America.

      • Fabius

        By the same logic I presume you oppose Islam’s forced conversion of the entire Middle East.

        Medieval conversions were often forced, and often part of peace treaties between Christian and Pagan rulers. Given Christianity’s very real weak starting point after the fall of Rome, both sides at least had an even contest to see which religion would prevail. Even in areas where it was forced, you don’t change a culture overnight by the point of the sword. People must have come to see something beneficial in it eventually. Guess they did.

        • Robert Mathiesen

           Of course, people came to see “something beneficial in it eventually.”  Even Patty Hearst, kept in isolation by her Symbionese Liberation Army captors, came eventually to think that they offered the world “something beneficial.”  Nowadays we call this phenomenon the Stockholm Syndrome. 

          Of all the many defenses ever attempted of Christianity’s long history of forced conversions, the “Stockholm syndrome” defense has to set some kind of record for the least compelling.

          • Fabius

            yeah, those damn Benedictine and Cistercian hostage takers, terrifying local populations into acquiescence through the preservation of literacy, the invention of the three-field crop system, and alms for the poor. Ending slavery in the ancient and early medieval world in Christian countries was all an elaborate ruse to enslave souls.

          • Robert Mathiesen

             I did not say that the medieval Church did nothing good.  I said that *your* argument was exceptionally poor.

            Or do you really want to *justify* the Church’s forced conversions by saying that the lot of the converted was thereby greatly improved?  If so, then, really, my first impulse is to echo Father William’s final reply to the young man who kept on pestering him with questions meant to show off the young man’s own cleverness.

          • Faoladh

            @2b9d434600cac9a479264de8360bc8ec:disqus : Ahahahaha! All I can (or rather, choose to) think of is Lewis Carroll, in regard to that.

          • Robert Mathiesen

             Gold star, Faoladh!

        • Faoladh

          Of course he does. Not to speak for him, but @ApuleiusPlatonicus:disqus has always been quite consistent in his approach to monotheism. Are you suggesting that we, pagans and polytheists, are perforce allied with Islam, just because it isn’t Christianity? I think that you have a grave misunderstanding of the nature of the world.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            In Fabius’ defense there are, sadly, many Pagans who look the other way when it comes to Christianity’s evil twin, Islam. I am not among them, however.

          • Genexs

             True.  You’ve taken a strong and welcome stand on this issue.  It would perhaps be nice if some of the newer posters here would take the time to check-out what you’ve actually written on the topic.  Naw, I guess it’s easier to hurl scripture, make assumptions, and heart Chesterton.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Well said, Apuleius.

  • Hotstreak12

     why is it that when you want to make a point about the triumphs about
    Christianity you only stay in the middle ages? in response to your crack
    about the “I can’t be held responsible for the literary incompetence of the pagans” First of all “YOU CAUSED IT’ when Christianity under

    Charlemagne stomped all over Europe either killing
    or sucking up all the pagan priests and priestesses (when said women
    weren’t being burned as witches), and forcing them to tell the stories
    THE CHRISTIANS wanted told, completely erasing all the old stories, and
    I’m positive whatever pagan stories were lucky enough to get written
    down in runes or whatever the writing was were actively sought out and
    destroyed by the priests and their pet knights ( Or as in the case with
    the old Celtic writing the forced conversion and teaching of Latin as
    “gods language” over all others caused it to be forgotten and
    unreadable). After all they did it to the Mesoamericans. Christianity
    DID NOT invent writing. The ancient Sumerians invented cuneiform and it
    spread from there. As for your talk about no martyrs. every pagan that
    the Christians killed on their march of conversion by the sword is
    considered a martyr just as every Christian thrown to the lions by the
    Romans is considered a martyr by you. Every post and reply you have made
    here is hypocritical, contradictory and an oxymoron, the same as your
    religion. Quit using the middle ages and the devastation your religion
    caused as proof that Christianity gave the pagans the civilization and
    knowledge they were pining for. We had that knowledge and civilization
    but with your religions help we lost it, and we are only now shoving
    Christianities boot off our necks to try to truly achieve it again. 
    Your comments made me so angry I’m posting this as both a post and a
    reply.

  • MertvayaRuka

    Would-be conquerors and apologists for conquerors, raging at “feminists” and “pluralism”, claiming credit for the ideas stolen from those they slaughtered, one hand outstretched offering salvation while the one behind their back promises damnation. Claiming to be champions of equality and liberty while pushing nonsense like gender essentialism and making excuses for the church’s role in supporting the fascist Franco. And you wonder why we refuse you, why we accept neither your “conquering light” nor your assurances of salvation backed by threats of eternal torment. You can’t even hold the mask of civility long enough to hide your desire for dominion and the longing for enough catastrophe and misery to make that dominion seem palatable. And you also can’t seem to hide your irritation that the old ways are clawing their way out of the grave your forefathers tried to bury them in.

    • http://www.meetup.com/wildthings11209/ Genexs

      Very. Well. Said.

  • Northern_Light_27

     I’m glad that your church fathers found things good and worth keeping about our Pagan ancestors. I imagine, as we revive and reconstruct their folkways and practices, that we might find a few things from your religion good and worth keeping. (And that’s not patronizing at all!)

  • Northern_Light_27

    I was hoping someone would point that out, and how breathtakingly racist that concept is– that concept, btw, which is the missionary impetus of multiple current Christian organizations. The historical implications are worth discussing, but the fact that it’s still going on today is an abomination. (And I hope I don’t mistype, since Disqus isn’t showing my hole post here.)

    • Northern_Light_27

       Wow, not only did Disqus give me a window that was about four lines long (I couldn’t see what I was typing and had to hope I didn’t mess up), but it broke threading. This happening to anyone else?

  • Lilu

    One of the best articles I have read about this subject matter in a long time. Thank you.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KDQFQTMD56CJAKMLXRFYUDNCPQ Montague

     First of all, I would appreciate it if you would drop the  arrogant attitude that you seem to have towards me. You have not actually taken any note towards the arguments I did in fact clearly state against Jason’s post. I understand that I’m ignorant of much of “paganism” but if you notice that has absolutely nothing to do with my arguments concerning Jason’s post (That is, Darwin did not inspire the idea of Pagan -> Christian, and also that Marc/Catholics are forgetting all pagans except he-men, which they idolize). My resources are not limited on Chesterton – which I only call on in a digression from my main point – and include Virgil (a pagan, definitely not questionable) the Bible (and I only use it to point out is says something, not if it is right or wrong), Dante (as an example of someone before Darwin who refutes both of Jason’s arguments by his existence), and of course various other historical data which you don’t seem to actually oppose with real sources. The opinions I present need not to be true, as it were, because my point it to show that those opinions existed.

    At any rate all you here have done is quibble about mythology (which I hand to you), accuse me of ignorance and arrogance (without citation of evidence) and say I have no points (did you bother to try and find them?).

    Do you want me to use MORE primary material? I mean, when talking of pagans, I use Virgil, when talking of medievals I use Dante, and you don’t point out any problems with what else I say about the renaissance, Tolkien, Lewis, etc. I think Chesterton is fine and right, but I only use him as a supplement and summary. I tell you to read Virgil. I tell you to read Christian documents when you wish to declare what they themselves say. I only ask you to be fair, when it comes to a bit of research. I may be wrong to venture into the trivia of Mythology. But I’m willing to admit that. Please either respond to my arguments about Jason’s post, or else concede defeat like an honest man, not about whether Christianity did or did not evolve form Pagan stuff, but about the actual substance of Jason’s accusations.

  • Fabius

    This doesn’t really address Christian attitudes about foreshadowing Christianity in paganism, as both sides are starting from faith-based assertions. Christians believe their faith is True and the full expression and explanation of reality and part of a divine plan leading up to the Incarnation. Pagans obviously don’t hold Christianity to be True (or “the whole truth), so of course they won’t buy this argument.

    It’s far-fetched to assume that modern paganism is going strong, and that the monotheistic religions are politically hellbent on wiping them out (Christianity at least, Islam might be another matter).  Religions always reflect the culture they grow up in, paganism as understood by the ancients and paganism today practiced by westerners or people heavily influenced by westerners can’t really be the same thing. At the very best, you’re striving to recover something once lost, and the reasons you do it and the forces shaping your religion won’t be the same, because your culture is fundamentally different.

    Given that it was Christian Europe which invented secularism and pluralism, the Western World is going about stamping out pagans in a funny way…

    • Robert Mathiesen

      “Given that it was Christian Europe which invented secularism and
      pluralism, the Western World is going about stamping out pagans in a
      funny way…”

      This raises a more interesting point than the one you tried to make above.  It was, of course, a nascent *Anti-Christian Europe* that invented secularism and pluralism.  Yet there would have been no point to a movement against Christianity in Europe if Europe had not already become Christian. 

      Is this enough to warrant a claim that Christian Europe *invented* secularism and pluralism? 

      One might as well claim that laws against murder by poison were actually *invented* by poisoners, and not by people who wished to stamp out murder by poison.  Absurd, Fabius, simply absurd!

    • deerwoman

       “Given that it was Christian Europe which invented secularism and pluralism.”

      This comment strikes me as especially strange. If I’m not mistaken, those values only returned to prominence in Western culture after the Enlightenment, which was motivated largely by a desire to throw off the immense power and influence of the Christian Church. In America, the founding of the United States as a secular nation with freedom of religion and lack of a state-sponsored religion enshrined in the First Amendment was hard won and was disputed by certain people who did wish it to be an explicitly  “Christian nation.” If anything, Christianity has fought to thwart secularism and pluralism at every chance, except in those situations where it was a minority religion itself. This continues today (a search through the history of The Wild Hunt will bring up many examples).

      “Religions always reflect the culture they grow up in, paganism as
      understood by the ancients and paganism today practiced by westerners or
      people heavily influenced by westerners can’t really be the same thing.
      At the very best, you’re striving to recover something once lost, and
      the reasons you do it and the forces shaping your religion won’t be the
      same, because your culture is fundamentally different.”

      I do agree with this statement for the most part. We are definitely striving to recover what was once lost (and what was deliberately destroyed and obscured by the rising power of Abrahamic religions) while also considering what resonates with us in the modern world. Pagans take varying approaches as to what extend they wish to adapt ancient practices to our current times. Pagan religions are organic rather than revealed so this revival and reconstruction does not invalidate them, at least in our own view. In fact, many of us would see this as a profound strength. Had pre-Christian European Pagan traditions survived more intact, they would have doubtless changed on their own somewhat, and we can see through history that even before the arrival of monotheism that they did change and adapt to new cultural interactions and new landscapes, etc.

    • Faoladh

      That same line of argument can be turned on any religion. Christianity today is not the Christianity of an hundred years ago. Islam today is not the Islam that was the center of learning in the medieval world. And so on. It doesn’t make any of those religions less legitimate.

      However, when you say that it was Christian Europe that “invented” pluralism, that is better stated as “reinvented”. Pluralism is the nature of polytheism, which was the state of Europe long before Christianity came to it. And “secularism” was once called “atheism” by the polytheists (meant, of course, in a somewhat different sense than we now use the term), and was another thing that was discarded at the point of Christian swords (bizarre thing, too, as Christians were once called “atheists” for their policy of denying to their neighbors the rights to their own gods).

      So, no, Christians did not “invent” these things. They only realized, long after the fact, the value of them.

      • Robert Mathiesen

        Just a minor footnote, but maybe it needs to be said in this context: a large fraction of the most impressive medieval scholars and translators who wrote in Arabic and bore Arabic names, were in fact either Jews or Christians or Pagans from Harran, and not Muslims at all.

        • Faoladh

          While true, it was under that Islam (again, to labor the point, not the same as today’s) that such learning was encouraged. My point is that there is a difference between attitudes and beliefs of then and of now.

          • Robert Mathiesen

            Absolutely!

  • Nick Ritter

    If folks queue up to be martyrs, breaking laws with the intent of gaining martyrdom through their punishment, are those who enforce the law to blame?

    There were excesses, and I ask the above tongue-in-cheek; but only partially. Early Christians did seek martyrdom, and they broke laws to do so, including the defiling of temples. I’m sure that’s quite alright with you, of course: no doubt you would defile a temple personally if you had the chance. But I ask you: if the law forbids one from defiling someone else’s temple, from destroying the images of someone else’s gods, and you go ahead and violate that law, are you not deserving of punishment?

    • Faoladh

      There’s a name given to martyrs in the modern day. They are called “suicide bombers”. Some people revere them, and no doubt will one day call them “saints”.


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