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Is neopaganism at odd with science?

Discussion in 'Neopagan or Revival Religions' started by Tyho, May 4, 2015.

  1. Tyho

    Tyho Member

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    Hi,

    Reconstructionism, witchcraft, Gaia reverence, polytheism these are all beliefs that modern science, which is inscreasingly materialistic, tell us are superstitious, outdated and irrational.

    I have never heard about a single scientist of renown claiming to be polytheist or defining him/herself as pagan.

    So i guess that begs the question, is neopaganism at odd with science?
     
    #1 Tyho, May 4, 2015
    Last edited: May 4, 2015
  2. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    Depends. Neo paganism (not paganism) is so broad that there are people who are humanistic neopagans. They practice rituals and such without relating the source to anything supernatural, deities included. Then you have atheistic pagans who disbelief in deities but believe in nature.

    I assume paganism (polythiestic belief) are somewhat at odds with science innthatbthe deities are real. I just dont know how they are seen outside the monotheistic lens.

     
  3. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    What a strange question. Religion in general is not at odds with the sciences, much less a contemporary religious movement like Neopaganism that flat out embraces and accepts the scientific consensus on things. At most, I see some occasional derailment into pseudoscience from the community, and then, it seems like more of a spill over from New Age cross pollination.

    It's worth noting that nothing about the sciences says that reconstructionism, witchcraft, Gaea reverence, and polytheism are "superstitious," "outdated," or "irrational." There are long-standing prejudices in Western culture that were ingrained as part of the historical Christian campaign to eradicate indigenous religious traditions. The sciences are about describing what is using a very specific way of knowing the world, not prescribing such condemnatory judgements.
     
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  4. Theweirdtophat

    Theweirdtophat Well-Known Member

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    I remember a quote from one of the Thor movies.

    "You're ancestors called it magic. You call it science. I come from a place where they are one and the same."

    Energy is energy and really a lot of the famous scientists were into that so called superstition that scientists love to use, which is ironic as many scientists have idolized the particular thinkers, i.e. Leonardo Da Vinci, George Washinton Carver, Isaac Newton, ect. All of which practiced or had an interest in the mystical, magical and metaphysical.
     
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  5. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    If any scientists say that, it's likely owed most to influence from older Christian anti-non-Christian propaganda; during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Catholic Church saw itself as the "rational" ones, and probably would have used "scientific" if the word existed. This attitude towards pre-Christian traditions bled into Enlightenment philosophy and unto modern scientific thinking.

    Personally, I don't directly dispute the scientific consensus on anything. I think of the Gods as interpretations rather than explanations, so the study of nature is, quite literally, the study of Mother Earth, the Goddess often referred to as Gaia nowadays. The only point of "contention", if you can call it that, is the question of whether these things being studied have wills of their own. The scientific consensus should be silent on that issue, because there's no evidence that these forces do, and all indication that they can operate on their own without a sentient willpower.

    But none of that means I can't believe in the Gods, or in other wights.
     
  6. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    "Magic's just science that we don't understand yet." - Arthur C. Clarke. A line used in the movie also. :)
     
  7. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    What I'm about to present is pure conjecture, but I'm actually convinced that many of the "magical charms" we have from ancient times weren't expected by the people chanting them to actually have any effect on their own, but rather were used as mnemonic aids, particularly for medicinal work.

    After all, in cultures that lacked writing, methods to heal certain ailments had to be remembered. Verse that's chanted to a beat can serve this purpose very well. Many of the surviving charms do seem to involve healing, or serving other corrective purposes. Seeing that many people were very localized in specific locations, with very little movement, and very small populations, people would have very quickly noticed that the village healer's chanting isn't really helping anyone, if chanting was expected to be the only thing needed in addition to rune-carved trinkets.

    But if they were chanted by village healers as a way to remember exactly what procedure to use for what ailment, what herb to use where, and when to bind what at which stage of the procedure, then it makes sense that they'd have the kind of power that they did. The chanting could also have the effect of inducing an altered state of consciousness in both the patient and the healer, thus the patient might be able to withstand the lack of pain-relievers and the healer might be able to focus more effectively.

    This is just my own conjecture, and isn't supported by any significant research, but it does make sense.
     
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  8. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    You're not wrong. All the ancient Hindu texts were formatted and spoken in several structured meters in Sanskrit. You'll find a good explanation in the Wiki article Vedic Chant. In fact there is a linguistics professor who has theorized that Sanskrit is too logical and structured to be a naturally occurring language. He posits that it was developed and structured by the rishis, poets, &c from the everyday spoken language, exactly for the purpose of memorization.
     
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  9. Riverwolf

    Riverwolf Amateur Rambler / Proud Ergi
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    The Vedic chants are this way for certain; that's definitely not conjecture.

    What I mean is that it was this way elsewhere, as well.
     
  10. Politesse

    Politesse Amor Vincit Omnia

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    Ethnographic studies have confirmed that outright rejection of science is rare in Neopagan communities. I know that Adler, Luhrmann, and Magliocco, off the top of my head, all did survey study of this question.

    Of course, that doesn't mean that Pagans necessarily interpret science in quite the same way an atheist would. For someone who believes that the acceptance of science requires the rejection of magic, full stop, the outcome might look a little different.
     
    #10 Politesse, May 4, 2015
    Last edited: May 4, 2015
  11. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    Yes, I agree. There had to be a way to preserve lore that was transmitted only orally.
     
  12. GoodbyeDave

    GoodbyeDave Well-Known Member

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    Some scientists have a religion, some don't. Who cares? Having a PhD in biology or chemistry doesn't give you an automatic insight into the nature of reality: merely a sound knowledge of some of the phenomena which the natural sciences are designed to study.

    As for the number of scientists claiming to be pagans, only a small percentage of people in the West are pagans, and only a small percentage are professional scientists (let alone renowned ones). A small proportion of a small proportion is very few! In India, 80% of the population are pagan -- i.e. Hindu -- so you'll find a lot of pagan scientists.
     
  13. Cassandra

    Cassandra Active Member

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    Hi Tyho,

    Mythological stories describe reality as we experience it. Nothing changed there. We still have summer and spring, wind and tides, etc. The language used is a symbolic poetic language that connects with the experiences. It uses allegories, likenesses, personalizations as tools

    We should not take personifications the wrong way either. In the Pagan mind everything in Nature has its own consciousness, and similar qualities are found in it as us, as we are part of Nature. We can be hard, and metal can be hard. A strong man can tear things, and the wind can tear things. You can strike and the lightning can strike. The stories tell us the qualities of natural phenomena by creating likenesses with certain kind of people, animals, beings. These stories are still a 100% true if understood with the intelligence of the writers.

    If you take then literal, you do not understand how to read poetic, symbolic texts. Than they become indeed untrue, but only because you treat them as a literal truth. Later religion indeed became untrue because it started to do that. In the Bible the once mythological stories were turned in an unchanging literal truth. The Sun being in the Cross, became a man being crucified. The Sun going down to its lowest point in Winter for tree days and than rising again, became a man literally rising from the death after three days. Venus being seen after the Sun went down and described as Prometheus stealing the light from the Gods, became Lucifer the Angel challenging God. Everything was changed in stories to believed literal.

    Not only that, In later Monotheism these explanations were cast in an unchanging doctrine in a book. They are theories that can not be questioned. Death to people who question them. That is a 100% at odds with Modern science that continuously wants to question literal truth called theories. Modern Science finds that people can not rise from death, can not walk on water, can not move mountains by thought, can not change water in wine etc. If people can not convincingly demonstrate this, it is not considered true. Science rejects the idea that we have to take things on revelation (belief), it uses scientific methods based on observation. These things are at odds with each other.

    So a Neopagan that would believe Thor is a superhuman literally flying in the sky is indeed at odds with science. But if he understands it as a very intelligent symbolic description of the experience of a natural phenomena it does not contradict science. If the Sungod rises his chariot with a golden disk in the morning, that still accurately describes what I observe. But if we take it literal it is not true. But poets in Ancient times well understood that the Sun was not a man. For them it was a whole different class of beings, who had however human-like traits allowing to describe them in stories understood by man.

    Science still uses that instrument. If they say a photon is both a particle and a wave they use things from our world to describe phenomena outside our direct view. When we call something "a black hole" that is likeness too. "dark matter" is also a likeness, curved space is likeness. Our human mind can only understand things by relating them to things we can observe around us. The difference between modern science and Paganism is that Paganism experiences everything as having consciousness, being alive, while modern science tries to describe things in a very mechanical way. That is why science generally will not use likeness with living things. It does sometimes. For instance the Plasma as in the Sun, was called plasma because it did have lifelike qualities reminding of blood plasma.

    All religions that have doctrines have a problem, because science disproves their doctrines. But Nature religions that simply describe Natural events as being experienced in a symbolic poetic language not. Things like Magic are not at odds with science either. Practical Science = Magic. It has always been that way. When I make a potion and that potion helps cure a wound, that is both science and magic. But we can use Natures power without scientifically understanding it. For instance a professor building a quantum computer said, we have really no idea why it works, but I do not need that build a quantum computer, I only have to know how it interacts. Theoretical understanding is not necessary to use things. They do help to predict behavior. But I can bake a cake without understanding the chemical processes. That is magic! In the magic the only thing that counts is that it works. It is not at odds with science unless you start to create explaining theories around it. If you insist that "the devil did it", or that "God caused it" then it becomes at odd with Science

    Paganism is no more at odds with science than art or craft. As Paganism fully accepts Natural phenomena, science is the result of Nature religion. It is Man studying nature. This is different from later religion attributing to things outside of Nature, calling things supernatural. In Paganism there is not supernatural, just the natural. It only uses a different symbolic language than modern science that mostly uses mathematic as symbolic language. But Poetry does not defy science.

    Science is gradually proving Nature religion right in that all in Nature has conscience. For instance Monotheism believes only Man has consciousness, and can experience emotions. All else is just biological machinery made for Man. Only Man is made in the image of God. Science now proves that Animals have the same emotions as man and worry, feel sorrow, feel empathy for others. They even found that bacteria have separate languages to talk to bacteria in general and a dialect to talk to only their own kind. Plants talks to plants and insects, they discovered.

    Monotheist religions create the idea that they are superior by their vast scriptures explaining everything, but those scriptures are actually antiquated science from a time that people still believed that the sky above them was Heaven, where spiritual light beings lived. Astrotheology was the science of the day. If you declare theories as absolute unchanging truths and put them in books that can not be changed, you will be in trouble when science moves on. Pagans never made that mistake. That is why a Pagan holds a mix of personal views and no doctrine. If the Pagan is scientifically schooled his views will reflect that. But he can still celebrate the wonderful event and experience of a solstice. A pagan connects to Nature first and foremost.

    Sure Pagans can hold on to absurd theories, but so can scientists. But both Pagans and scientists can trade them in for better ones because they are not trapped in a doctrine. They do not have to believe anything. Making people literally believe in things that can not be observed and contradict experience, is like raping their minds. You have to literally believe a guy rises from death and then floats to heaven above, from where he sits on a throne and rules the Earth. That wasn't so bad when people did not know what was up there, but in an age of airplanes and satellites it becomes non-sens-ical. So now they pretend their heaven is in another dimension, but it remains asking people to believe in things outside of the range of the senses, and so it remains non-sens-ical. That makes theology fantastical or make-belief.

    Nature Religion is the natural companion for Natural sciences for spiritual people. That is why people like Einstein rejected the personal God, but embraced a pantheistic view as found in Nature Religions. The only way for Monotheist to get along with modern science is to separate science and religion as their theories are colliding. Pagans however can integrate the two.
     
    #13 Cassandra, May 7, 2015
    Last edited: May 7, 2015
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  14. Theweirdtophat

    Theweirdtophat Well-Known Member

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    I think monotheism and science can work. George Washington Carver managed to balance his Christian beliefs with his science. Not to mention he was a mystic and communicated with plants.
     
  15. Cassandra

    Cassandra Active Member

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    Hi Theweirdtophat,

    You are right, on a personal level anything is possible. Most monotheists are not that deep into religion or only have superficial knowledge of what the doctrine is. The church would even forbid them to read the book. That is why active readers of the holy book are the greatest adversaries of free thinking. But you are right, most Hindus eat meat too. But principally the differences can not be overcome:

    Monotheism is a doctrine, an unchangeable truth. Science tries to falsify such truths
    Monotheism bases on revelations. Science bases on objective observation
    Monotheism bases on belief. Science bases on scientific method
    Monotheism uses fallacies as arguments. Science uses rigid logic

    That is why the church actively repressed science until the Muslims threatened to overwhelm Europe. Then they allowed reading people like Aristotle again, but only for practical reasons. The church, being syncretic, is very practical, it is a power system, that adapts to keep her power. If many people become pagan, than they will adopt pagan things too to attract people to their group control system.
     
  16. William Bell

    William Bell New Member

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    Science is, as i understand it, a study of the physical word. Now, neopaganism is a broad and vague term, which does not suggest any obvious structure - there are many new pagan religions. But if a religion sees the universe as a divine creation, then is science not a study of the divine? Just food for thought
     
  17. vaguelyhumanoid

    vaguelyhumanoid Active Member

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    There's no need in polytheistic religions for myths to be physical realities. Only monotheism asks this, because only in monotheism does there have to be a "true religion". Myths are not true - rather they reveal truths. Paganism works on a symbolic, intuitive and conceptual level. Viewed in that light, many pagan myths actually go pretty well with scientific findings. Speaking for myself, I believe that the creation of the universe was entirely natural. Matter of fact, there is no "supernatural" - there is the mystical, and the paranormal, but that's an aspect of nature, which is all-encompassing.
     
  18. Gentoo

    Gentoo The Feisty Penguin

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    No more than any other religious path. Science and religon (it doesn't matter which religion) seek to explain the world around us, they just use different terminology. And as a Pagan Scientist, I have not had a conflict with differing views being "at odds" with each other, as many people seem to think there are.
     
  19. vaguelyhumanoid

    vaguelyhumanoid Active Member

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    Ooh... what kind of pagan are you, and what kind of scientist?

    One interesting way that paganism and science intersect is that recons tend to be very into archaeology and linguistics, kinda by definition.
     
  20. Gentoo

    Gentoo The Feisty Penguin

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    I'm a trained naturalist working in education, and I'm a very environment-centered practicing pagan.
     
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