— Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume (1984)
Neo-Paganism is a non-Abrahamic or non-JCI religion. “JCI” refers to the monotheistic, Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Of course there are many religions that are not in the Abrahamic tradition which also are not Neo-Pagan or Pagan, like Hinduism, Shinto, and the African diaspora religions. In spite of this, it is still instructive to contrast Neo-Paganism with Christianity and the other Abrahamic faiths.
Recognizing that Christianity is not a monolith, here are some ways that Neo-Paganism differs from many forms of Christianity:
- Neo-Pagans look to pre-Christian and non-Abrahamic cultures, myths, and religious practices for inspiration.
- Neo-Pagans are not monotheists. They are polytheists, henotheists, pantheists, panentheists, duotheists, animists, and monists.
- Neo-Pagans do not usually see divinity as transcendent. The gods of Neo-Paganism are understood to be immanent, present in or co-extensive with the material world.
- Neo-Pagans honor the diversity of nature and human experience. Neo-Pagans advocate for the equal treatment of all people regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.
- Neo-Pagans eschew dogmatism. They maintain a pragmatic and tentative attitude toward questions of religious truth. They are suspicious of all exclusivist claims to truth and oppose those who deny to others the freedom to believe or practice their religion as they will.
- Neo-Pagans believe that women should share religious power equally. If divinity is conceived as male, then it is also conceived as female.
- Instead of a submission/dominance relationship with the Earth, Neo-Pagans strive for a relationship based on respect and care.
- Neo-Pagans do not have concepts of sin or salvation. These are replaced by concepts of healing and compassion, which results in a body-positive and sex-positive ethic.
- Neo-Pagans do not have a concept of a fall from divine grace. For Neo-Pagans, the primary experience of divinity is one of connection, not alienation.
- Neo-Pagans do not see time as leading linearly to a final apocalypse or apotheosis. Instead, Neo-Pagans emphasize the cyclical nature of time, whether or not this translates into a belief in the literal transmigration of the soul or reincarnation.
- Neo-Pagans do not hold any scripture or book as religiously authoritative, but find inspiration in many religious and non-religious texts.
Some people object to defining Neo-Paganism in contrast to Christianity, pointing to Christo-Paganism or Judeo-inspired Neo-Paganism. While some Neo-Pagans do draw on Christian and Jewish motifs for inspiration, these hybrid faiths remain distinguishable from the Abrahamic faiths for all the reasons outlined above.