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Featured [Pagans] My issues with ‘Paganism’

Discussion in 'Same Faith Debates' started by Mauricius Modestus, Mar 15, 2017.

  1. Mauricius Modestus

    Mauricius Modestus God-Fearer
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    Peace and Blessings to one and all! To introduce myself a bit, I identify as an Eclectic. Unfortunately, I do have a problem, seen? PAGANISM. This is my problem, in a word. To be more specific, there are a two complications I have with Paganism:

    #1) The biased and (otherwise) vague definition used by many Neo-Pagans:

    I speak of this definition: ‘any non-Abrahamic religion’.

    Yeeeeeeeaaaaah....this one is so nonsensical and problematic that it's funny. There are plenty of religions that are non-Abrahamic but yet, are not Pagan. Zoroastrianism? Non-Abrahamic, not Pagan. Jainism? Non-Abrahamic, but still not Pagan. Confucianism? Non-Abrahamic, again NOT PAGAN. Sikhism? Non-Abrahamic, NOT PAGAN.
    Buddhism? Non-Abrahamic, but again, still NOT PAGAN.

    Need I say more? This definition constitutes just plain foolishness.

    If I may suggest a more coherent definition,

    Paganism: “a diverse array of specific ethnic and indigenous religions (living or dead), as well as folk traditions, differentiated from those religions which are culturally universal.”

    I believe that the proposed definition above is not only more coherent (which is necessary in establishing a solid identity as a community of religions), but it's far more accurate historically due to the fact that ancient people groups had defined their religious traditions culturally or ethnically, or in terms of which tribe they belonged to.

    (Yoruba religion, Ewe religion, Zulu religion, Celtic religion, Slavic religion, Chinese folk religion, Hinduism, Shinto, Cherokee religion, Navajo religion, etc.)



    #2) The tendency of many Neo-Pagans to define Paganism as being absolutely immiscible with Abrahamic religions:

    Well, that, I suppose, is a product of their own prejudices, their own negative experiences. I'm not trivializing any person's experiences, positive or negative. However, to state the above in any sort of absolutist sense, IS to downplay, to deliberately ignore more positive experiences with Abrahamic religions (specifically, the Christian religion). Additionally, such statements (especially since they come from, for the most part, white Neo-Pagans) run the effect of invalidating the very real forms of Christianity and, indeed, other religions as practiced by so many ethnic groups of people around the world. This, to me, constitutes a subtle act of racism. (I guess traditional African religions and Indigenous American religions must not count as ‘Pagan’...)


    There have been throughout history, and are today, forms of religions that mix Pagan beliefs and practices with Christianity (especially, Roman Catholicism). Some examples are:

    #1) African Diasporic Religions: Santería, Candomblé and Umbanda in Brazil, Haitian Vodou, Dominican Vúdu, Puerto Rican Sanse, and so many others.

    #2) Indigenous American-derived religions, such as the Native American Church (which mixes Native American and Protestant beliefs and practices) in the United States, and the Mexican cult of La Santa Muerte (a mixture of Roman Catholicism and Aztec religion).

    #3) Systems of Folk Magic in the United States which are INSEPERABLY Christian-influenced, such as Hoodoo in the South and Pennsylvania Dutch Pow-Wow.

    So, understanding all of this, it's most certainly NOT the case that Pagan religions and Christianity are not miscible. Not at all.

    If you've read this, I thank you. If you felt insulted, I humbly apologize. Peace and Blessings, again.
     
    #1 Mauricius Modestus, Mar 15, 2017
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017
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  2. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    @Emerson Coltrane - have you reviewed Rule 10 recently? This sounds like a debate topic, and debating is not permitted in DIR areas. I would suggest moving it to Same Faith Debates and marking it as [Pagans] to outline which groups may participate in the debate. Alternatively, it can just go in General Debates and anyone can tear it apart.
     
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  3. Mauricius Modestus

    Mauricius Modestus God-Fearer
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    Q, my thread wasn't meant to be a debate topic, but I suppose if it can be misconstrued as such, it's better to be safe and relocate it.
     
  4. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    I'll wait until it's moved to weigh in on it.
     
  5. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    Thank you. I'm not sure it's fair to say it'd be a misconstruction to see this as a debate topic. You're criticizing something about Paganism or the Pagan community - that's naturally going to lead to debate. Plus, I have a hard time believing you're unaware of the many debates (sometimes heated) that have been had about defining who is and is not Pagan. Or that you haven't encountered the many debates (frequently heated) relating to the issue of syncretism between polytheistic and monotheistic religions.

    At any rate, personally? I never use the "not Abrahamic" definition for Paganism. Maybe for paganism, but not Paganism. I have always found it useless, and I can't say I see folks within the Pagan demographic using it that way anymore. In the sense that your definition isn't completely useless it's an improvement, but not how I would frame it. As for the second piece, I don't do that either. But I do recognize Paganisms are distinct from the Abrahamic monotheistic religions and that if you combine the two, you no longer have Paganism and you no longer have the monotheistic religion - you have something else entirely called a syncretic religion. It's it's own thing and distinctive.
     
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  6. Mauricius Modestus

    Mauricius Modestus God-Fearer
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    I understand your concern, Q. I don't wish to cause a big stir with anything I've posted. I'm not trying to criticize people. I just wanted to express my own thoughts with it. And yes, I'm more than aware of the heated debates that occur. I just try to stay away from them....

    Secondly, the only reason I considered myself a ‘Christian’ is because of my family, and the fact that I was baptized one. Honestly, I more of an Eclectic than strictly a Christian.


    This is true. Absolutely. I didn't mean to generalize other Pagans. All in all, I only wanted to raise my own concerns with identifying as a ‘Pagan’. The two issues addressed in the original post were two things I often thought about in choosing it. How do I define it? Which paths are included under the Pagan umbrella? How can I, if possible, reconcile my Eclectic Paganism to the Christianity I was brought up with? Again, Q, I don't have any issue with other Pagans or with Paganism. I'm just trying to make sense of all of it.
     
  7. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    The trouble with having a non-authoritarian, non-dogmatic religious system is that nobody gets to dictate this answer. Essentially it's self-identification, and that's it. That said, that doesn't mean the community will accept such self-identification (or that some particular individual will). I have some clear things I look for when assessing it, but those differ from others. I've largely dropped the P-word in part because it's untenable. Druidry is at least definable, particularly since I'm affiliated with a specific order that has a particular flavor to it.
     
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  8. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    This isn't as common as you might think. By-and-large, "Paganism" is culturally self-defined as a modern religion based upon pre-Christian cultural beliefs of Europe. All the book sections regarding it, and many websites such as The Pagan Federation focus on beliefs from Greek, Roman, Celtic, Germanic/Scandinavian, and Slavic cultures.

    Occasionally you will see inclusion of Egyptian polytheism, as well as Eastern and indigenous American influences, but by-and-large these are not considered Paganism. Why? Because those groups themselves do not identify as Pagan. Some, such as Asetians (a branch of Kemeticism) are actively against the term.

    So where do they find entrance? Mostly through Modern Wicca, or as it would more properly be called "Eclectic Witchcraft", or even Neo-Wicca - as it differs greatly from traditional Wicca. Deities such as Isis have historical worship all throughout Europe, and Neo-Wicca tends to pull from various sources and cultures as fits the practitioner. It does present an identity problem for the rest of us, and I've met some who don't even consider Neo-Wicca to be a solid part of Paganism.

    Well, probably because they are. The Abrahamic religions are on record as being very xenophobic. Their god says not to worship any other gods. Their doctrine says there are no other gods. Various religions taking Pagan elements (e.g. Catholicism) is not the same as two religions becoming one. Catholics don't worship Brighid by turning her into Saint Brigid the nun, after all. I couldn't say why or how the religions in your example #1 blend their indigenous beliefs with Christianity, but I do know that they are not considered within the "umbrella" of Paganism. Neither are indigenous American beliefs, and what they practice - even the Great Spirit - is far separated from their traditional beliefs. They essentially have taken Christianity and given it a cultural face.

    Lastly saying that Paganism and Abrahamic faiths are immiscible is not racist. Let's not even go down that road.

    A system of mysticism doesn't really make for religious syncretism. If a person "draws a circle" are they Wiccan? Or are they a Kabbalist mystic? Do they "call the corners" to elements and winds, or archangels and saints? Do they do this to honor many gods in a communal effort, or one god who jealously guards the whole thing?
     
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  9. Mauricius Modestus

    Mauricius Modestus God-Fearer
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    I have seen that definition used a lot, RP. I just didn't understand, because I've seen so many others.

    Understood, RP. Though, I would try to be fair to Abrahamic religions, not all of which, nor all of their followers, are xenophobic.

    Actually, ‘racist’ I used to call attention to the overall neglect of Traditional African and Indigenous American religions by-and-large by some white folks within the Modern Pagan community. They will say that those traditions don't count as being ‘pagan’, but will incorporate practices from those traditions. I don't consider it fair, too much.



    Hoodoo is the by-product of West African traditions, Christianity, Native American traditions, and European forms of magic. This doesn’t count as syncretic to you? I wouldn't be sure about calling the corners or circle-casting, though.
     
  10. The Emperor of Mankind

    The Emperor of Mankind Currently the galaxy's spookiest paraplegic

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    This is the definition most Neo-Pagans have grown up with as most will have come from societies where Christianity has at least significant influence - where the term 'pagan' is spelt with a small p more often than not.


    While there is a degree of syncretism between Paganism and religions hostile towards it, there is also a need to define ourselves by what we are not otherwise saying what Paganism is will be so open ended that religions like Islam, Christianity or Buddhism could be squeezed in if you argue the right way - which in my opinion is asinine.
     
  11. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    Well, really there's only the two. The Eurocentric definition and the "everything not-Christian" definition.

    The people? Certainly not. But the systems themselves by their very nature are, even Judaism.

    Well, that's syncretism. I don't really see it as racist, especially if/when the Pagans in question have indigenous American or African ancestry. To say that those cultures aren't Paganism doesn't mean that a Pagan cannot learn from or use them. That's the thing about Paganism; our gods don't really tell us that we can't do that. Saying that they're not a part of Paganism isn't some horrible thing; we're not a "saved" people, or having any special revelation.

    Also to relegate this to something that "white folks" do is, in essence, racist itself. To wit, there are black Pagans that borrow from non-Pagan cultures just as much.

    It certainly is, but those are practices. Practices - even magic - cross cultural lines far easier than spiritual and theistic beliefs.
     
  12. Mauricius Modestus

    Mauricius Modestus God-Fearer
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    I can see that being the case, Scots. I understand now.

    I do agree with you that it is important for a religious community to clarify what it is not as well as what it is.
     
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  13. Mauricius Modestus

    Mauricius Modestus God-Fearer
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    Understood, RP. Actually, I think the first definition makes more sense, because you have eclectic Pagans, who do tend to borrow from non-European religious traditions.

    I'd be willing to debate this in the debate section.


    Understood. Thank you for taking the time to explain this, RP.


    I'm not saying there's anything inherently wrong with borrowing from Non-European cultures, as long as those cultures, those people are not denigrated in the process. Black Pagans do this to, but they are typically not the ones claiming that African religions or Native American religions are inherently not Pagan. One of the ways that the word ‘pagan’ itself was used to belittle many cultures (with very similar beliefs and practices) all around the world.


    I agree. Although, there are various cases involving beliefs found in one culture being very similar to or exactly the same as those found in another, and syncretism being the result.
     
  14. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist Veteran Member

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    I guess to sum up my reply as a pagan (not a Pagan) is when I first heard there was a difference between Paganism and paganism. Maybe neo- pagans haven't got the red flag about the P-Cap Rule.

    I actually agree with some of the definitions of neo-pagans in your OP, though.

    1. For example, with the "pre-christian is pagan" it makes sense only because the Church gave the name pagan to people who did not identify as such. People who are Pagan today back then were called pagan-a derogatory label rather than a title of identity- by the Church (and still are given names in different ways as we speak).

    I actually don't like the word pagan for that very reason. It's like using the N* word, taking the R off for "formal" purposes, and saying one identifies as such all because one is African American.

    2. The second one, I don't understand what you mean about "imiscible" so don't know how to comment.

    If someone is Pagan, I'd assume they'd say: I'm Druid. I'm Asatru. I'm Wiccan. I'm (I don't know... whatever). It's like saying that I'm a human being rather than referring to myself by name.

    I think that is what many neo pagans genuinely may have problems with and it's not just them but many Americans in general. It's identifying culturally with the religions and practices we take up. Most religions pagan, Pagan, and not are cultural based. When one is eclectic or solitary (my bias) it tears a part the meaning of having a community-focused worldview (collectivist vs individualist for example). America is the only country I know that separates people from spirituality and religion. But one thing we can do to stop this is that if someone identifies as pagan, Pagan, Neopagan, or whatever, treat them how they want to be identified.

    I dont see anything morally wrong with how paganism is defined as prechristian and native traditions of a given geographical area. It's a broad term. If a Pagan wants less broadness or more clarity, using the culturally and religious appropriate term to their religion would help take the word pagan away and replace it with actual religions under that name regardless if they are European or not.
     
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  15. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    Really only the Wiccans, and as noted they're somewhat of the turbulent faction due to that. The problem with Paganism being defined as "everything not-Christian" is
    1. The religions often included in that (Hindu, Kemetic, Iriquois, etc) don't identify as Pagan.
    2. The term becomes so broad that it is essentially useless.
    Sometimes they are. There's a black Pagan in a local group that I'm with who, while she's primarily a Celtic Pagan, includes non-Pagan Kemetic influences and recognizes them as such.

    Yes, I know. Though in it's origin, it was merely used to describe a non-Roman. Still, that's what was, not what is and is becoming. Did you know that in it's origins, "Christian" was actually an insult?
     
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  16. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    Oh dear! My tally must be quite off, because my list of observed definitions for "Paganism" and "paganism" number quite a bit more than two. :sweat:

    I can't say I've encountered many contemporary Pagans using a Eurocentric definition unless they are Eurocentric themselves. It doesn't seem an accurate framing to me, based on perspectives I've seen within the community itself and the works I've read by scholars studying our movement. Contemporary Pagans draw inspiration from a multitude of animistic/polytheistic traditions regardless of geography. Focusing on some particular geography or culture is a choice, not a requirement (as far as I have observed).
     
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  17. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    Well with "pagan" I can understand, yes; I was referring more to Paganism.

    I know I've said this elsewhere, but to me it's more coming from what groups themselves identify as. A Pagan might worship Isis, do Hindu Yoga, weave dreamcatchers and apply Buddhist philosophies... but neither Kemeticism, Hinduism, indigenous American or Buddhist organizations identify as Pagan.
    Those who do are Asatru, Rodnovery, Hellenism, Stregheria, Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, Suomenusko, etc. All European groups.
     
  18. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    I was referring to both. Can probably list at least half a dozen definitions for Paganism (referencing religion).


    Hmm. Where did you get the impression that OBOD was European? It's an international organization that requires adherence to no particular cultural lineage.

    Oh noes, I'm not Pagan now! I failed the European test! Meh, whatever... :p
     
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  19. Mauricius Modestus

    Mauricius Modestus God-Fearer
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    Wait, wait, wait....I suppose there's only one question left from me. What is the difference between lowercase p ‘pagan’ and the uppercase P ‘Pagan?
     
  20. The Ragin Pagan

    The Ragin Pagan A.K.A. The Kilted Heathen

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    I'm unfamiliar with those. What are they?

    When my wife was looking in to it, the source material seemed to be primarily Celtic. Is that not the case?


    Well, if you ask me, "pagan" is the way Evangelicals use it - non-Christian. "Pagan" is the adherents of modern religions that consider themselves Pagan.
     
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