Christianity & Paganism

"Asherah Pole" by Dakota O’Leary“Yes, Mr. Goat Foot … In losing you, they were losing their body wisdom, their moon wisdom, their mountain wisdom, they were trading the live wood of the maypole for the dead carpentry of the cross.”

— 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.

Updated 2019

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