I'm sure many of you who read this blog know my own feelings on Christianity. I'm not a believer, and never really was. I went to a Church of England primary school, where lots of hymns and Bible talk was the staple of my younger years, and even then, once I honestly started thinking about it, I found myself doubting alot of what was said. I read about the history of it on occasion, we of course covered it in PSRE in secondary school, but I really didn't think about it much more beyond that until I started my Religious Philosophy Course at A Level.
Or rather, a little before. Seeing as I was going to be doing this class, I decided to purchase Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, as a sort of supplementary piece to what I would learn in class. As you can imagine, Nietzsche was a pretty hefty read, especially when you're a 16 year old. But I enjoyed it, and I especially enjoyed his highly outrageous writing style and prose, which unfortunately I can only dream of replicating.
But those classes and my reading did help me consider my position on the world's largest faith more carefully and in depth. We touched on Aquinas, who is still one of my favourite Christian thinkers ever. We considered the various theodicies, the problem of evil, Natural Law theory, challenges from Humanism, Marxism etc and even touched on some of the more unusual topics, like the Ontological Argument and Liberation Theology. It also probably helped that I had two teachers who were quite...well, Existentialist I suppose. My main teacher was a huge fan of Camus, and the other was an ex-Jesuit, so as you can imagine their views on Christianity were quite interesting.
In short, I got exposed to a lot of Christian thought, varying quite widely. And I have a level of appreciation for the complexity of some Christian philosophy, its political and social views nonwithstanding. And while I am in every sense something the worldwide Christian community would probably look down on (a learned unbeliever, who has been exposed to Christianity constantly, yet still rejects it) I still have Christian friends, enjoy talking about theology and philosophy with them and in short get on well with many Christians in my personal life.
Of course, that is not always the case. As the recent Channel 4 documentary has shown, even the UK is not free from Christian fundamentalists, who want nothing less than a democratic theocracy. When I studied extremism at University, one of the areas I specialized in was research on the US "Patriot" movement, whose blend of racist Christian Identity beliefs and conspiracy theorism about a Satanic/Communist New World Order has moved them to violence against minorities and the Federal Government. On a lesser level, you have the Christian Reconstructionist Movement, and the broader Religious Right, who have steadily infiltrated the Grand Old Party. In Africa, you frequently have fighting between 'Christian' and 'Islamic' tribal groups in places like Uganda. And groups like the Vatican deny birth control via political pressure on Third World countries, contributing to overpopulation and the spread of deadly diseases like AIDS.
But I distinguish between such groups. Where I know the name of such groups, I give them. I describe them so people are aware I am not conflating such people with the entirety of Christianity, much in the same way I am not conflating Islamic extremists with the majority of Muslims when talking about Islamic terrorism, for example. To do anything less is intellectually dishonest. I am well aware that Christianity has had both positive and negative impacts on society, and I base my evaluations on which groups try to do the least harm and most good, not on the religious label they are using and little else.
Which is why threads like this annoy the shit out of me.
The big difference between Paganism and Christianity?
I knew this was going to be ugly when I saw the title, and I wasn't disappointed. Now, to be fair, the original poster I like. The original poster talks abit about meeting a Christian and says
Whilst he believes that God created us and remains seperate from our Universe, I believe that God/Goddess did create us, but embedded themselves in the Earth; Supporting the Pagan view that the whole Earth is sacred and represents God!
So its a Pantheistic worldview. Which is fair enough. Most mainstream Christians are not Pantheistic, except certain Gnostics and other small sects, although there is an undertone of Pantheism in some Jewish thought (especially Spinoza). Nothing wrong there, just a difference in philosophical outlook. I think both are wrong, so I can hardly condemn on that basis alone.
But predictably, the thread does go downhill from there. Starting with Ladybug1258:
The one steady characteristic that remains obvious as the difference between Christians and Pagans is tolerance.
Which you are immediately going to disprove, I can just tell...
"the one true god" smacks of snobbery in my opinion. How can anyone be so vain or narrowminded to believe that his god is the "only right" god or the "one true path" toward heaven. Which begs the next question...is there a heaven?
So do you not believe your religion is the only true religion? Interesting. I know the Romans seemed to subordinate religion to market forces, at least during the Republic (where temples from every faith seemed to line Rome's streets) but generally people who follow their religion tend to believe its true. Much in the same way people who follow a political ideology tend to think its best for their country. What next, are you going to condemn cats for hunting mice?
The bible thumpers annoy me with their "holier than thou" preachiness. I'm no scholar and know nothing by heart from what is said in the bible or what was done in ancient times except other ancient civilizations(Toltec, Aztec, Mayan etc.), so I won't even try to recite verbatim anything that speaks of pagans being right or christians being right.
Facts are for other people! Think with your gut!
There is a greater strength in everything, we just don't always acknowledge it as we should or as often as we should. We are a tolerant group who will always have a difficult time agreeing with those who feel they are superior in their faith, but with those very words, they belittle themselves in hopes of greater dominion over others, much like a cult. We can truly rejoice in our pagan life style! Ours is one of joy in fellow man and the world around us is appreciative for our gentle touch.
Tolerant...except when it comes to Christians? And Christianity is a cult? Fuck you. Yeah, I said it. I get annoyed when Fundies call Paganism a cult, so I don't see why you should get a free ride, you narrow-minded little bigot. You're using your faith to belittle Christians, you bloody hypocrite.
Fortuately, ChildofBast points out some factual inaccuracies, but strangely doesn't seem to take Ladybug to task for her obviously hateful comments:
Eh... yes and no. While I think Pagans are more likely to be tolerant, it isn't always the case. And speaking for myself, I can actually be quite intolerant when it comes to Pagans clinging to erroneous facts.
Indeed. The Order, for example, included many Odinists, and weren't even tolerant of people with different colour skin. Oh, and they did things like assassinate prominent Jewish personalities and spread crackpot conspiracy theories about the New World Order. Not exactly a model of interfaith dialogue, to say the least.
Daibanjo unfortunately interrupts a good few comments with some idiocy:
Pagans do not believe in a Judgement day. There may be Karma or cause and effect following our actions but no big courthouse in the sky when you die.
So...is Rangarok just one big joke? Or aren't those who follow the Norse gods real Pagans? This annoys me almost as much as the Christian stuff. Apparently its OK to use your beliefs and then apply them to the entire Pagan community, in the verbal equiavalent to indiscriminate aerial bombardment. If people want to talk about their own or their faith's beliefs, then fine, but they should not try and apply that to everyone else who could concievably be called a Pagan. The arrogant presumptiveness of being able to speak on the behalf of several faiths is extraordinary.
Pagans do not believe in eternal damnation; You have to face the consequences of your actions but you don't get locked up in hell for eternity.
Again, severely lacking in knowledge. Even a first year Classics student knows that Tartarus is the place where the punishsment fits the crime. Hell, Ixion was put there forever simply for wanting to get it on with Hera, which is incredibly hypocritical when you consider the cheating nature of Zeus. Again, see above about blanket statements.
Pagans do not believe in a god of evil; There is no Satan capable of horrors and the things movies are made out of. There may be those who follow a path of chaos and those who see destruction and decay as part of life. But evil in the christian sense of the word is not part of the pagan path.
So, again, the Titans and Giants and Set and all the other obviously evil deities of various Pagan pantheons clearly don't count. Right? Right.
Pagans do not view god in a purely masculine form; pagans frequently see and honor the goddess.
Some Pagans may do. Those who honour male deities for example. I am quite partial to they mythological Hermes myself, though I mostly enjoy reading about him stealing Apollo's flock (I have something of a soft spot for rogues and thieves). Now let us assume I took that a few step further and decided to worship Hermes, for whatever reason. Would I still be a Pagan?
And what of those Christians who saw God as neither male or female, but the ineffable Ultimate? This view is pretty popular in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but its mostly accepted elsewhere too. Except in Fundamentalist circles, but we all know Fundamentalists are scared of women anyway, so they don't really count. Equally, the Alchemists often portrayed God as a hermaphrodite, embodying both the male and female principles. I belive the Holy Spirit is sometimes considered more feminine, but I'd have to check more on that. And many anthropologists (as well as fundamentalist Protestants) have noted the importance of the Virgin Mary in Catholic imagery and symbolism.
Personal View; If my God were to appear before me, we would greet each other as friends. If jesus were real and he came back to earth, the christians would crucify him all over again
What? All of them? Seriously, another big fuck you to yourself. Even the parable of the Grand Iniquistor, one of the most chilling and thoughtful of The Brothers Karamazov, potrays those who would kill Jesus as the politicized Vatican at the time of the Inquisition. The ugly implication here is of course that all Christians are violent hypocrites. Very hateful.
Cheddarsox restores sanity with a thoughtful post about the social views of NeoPaganists as opposed to theological views, and the difficulty of drawing dividing lines, which I mostly agree with...
And then Fireyone ruins it again with this:
The biggest difference in my opinion is that the way the christian religions are set up, there is no direct link to god. The way to God must be through a church, a sacrament or a priest whereas in paganism God, Goddess is everywhere, in leaves and trees and most importantly, within.
How many times do have to say it: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IS NOT ALL OF CHRISTIANITY.
Has the message got through yet? Mormons for example believe God talks to each of them as individuals. Sorry, trying to imply Christians are less spiritual is just another nasty little Pagan tactic to belittle their faith.
Most modern Christians are what I call "Contract Christians." The crucial point for them is not following the teachings of Christ, (which are for the most part very Pagan), it is pledging allegiance to Christ, much in the same way a Knight would pledge fealty to a feudal Lord or a King. Moral behaviour is considered secondary, since even the most vile sin is forgivable by this contract. In other words, if Hitler accepted Jesus at the last moment, sincerely, he would be in Heaven alongside all the other Christians.
Funnily enough, I've been reading The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer recently, and what he describes here has nothing to do with the religion and reads more like the Follwer sub-variant of the Authoritarian Personality Type. These people are tied to convention, regardless of what it is and where it comes from, so long as it has traditional authority. So these people would be Muslims in the Middle East, Hindus in India or Communists in the Soviet Union. The problem isn't with the Christian, its with the personality mindset and the culture in which they live. If Wicca became the majority religion of the USA tomorrow, many Wiccans would fall into this category.
Also, unforgivable sins do exist. Eternal Sin can be traced back to the Bible itself:
Truly I say unto you, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter: but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin: because they say, ‘He has an unclean spirit’.
(Book of Mark 3:28-29)
Oh, and Godwin's Law, motherfucker. Have you ever heard of it?
LostSheep does a brilliant parody of many of the bigoted posters there by saying:
One difference is that paganism is all-embracing, dogma free, and welcoming of difference, whereas Christianity is monolithic and imposes rigid rules of dogma, and no one is allowed to deviate from the official line in the slightest, and everyone believes every word of the official sacred text without question. And what's more, exactly the same rules and dogma applies to every single one, whichever of the hundreds of different denominations or sects they may belong to.
... that seems to be what a lot of Pagans believe, anyway, it seems.
A round of applause for this gentleman, please.
Thrysos then brings down the tone of the thread again:
Oh, let's not forget the Christian concept of Original Sin, and all the joy THAT's brought.
Whereas I think most Pagans embrace, shall we say, the idea of Original Grace.
Also, any being who demands to be appeased with a human sacrifice would be considered a Demon by most Witches. Christians worship this same being as a God.
Remind me how Augustine's view of humanity differ's from Thucydides, or Machiavelli, two of the most Pagan* thinkers with books still being published. The idea of man being driven by his base nature is hardly exclusive to Christianity, and in fact was in part the basis of Robert Kaplan's excellent Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos. Much of Realist thinking in international politics draws from Machiavelli and Thucydides in particular, whose view of human nature is even more pessimistic and negative then that given by original sin.
*I am aware that Machiavelli was not strictly speaking a Pagan. However he took his cues from the pre-Christian world and expressed a theory of political thought that was more in touch with that than Christian ideas about virtue.
Protestantism in particular is much kinder, usually defining original sin as:
a predisposition or tendency toward sin, which does not assign actual guilt to anyone. This tendency towards sin is referred to as a "sin nature." Under this view, it would be possible, but unlikely, for a person to resist the temptation to sin and live a sinless life free from guilt.
Sounds to me like another way of saying "people screw up, no-one's perfect."
I don't think I even need to go into the nastiness of the last statement. Zeus put people in Tartarus to suffer for all eternity for trying to fool around with his wife. And there are equivalent stories of punishment from all Pagan pantheons. They're as every bit as "demonic" as the genocidal maniac of the Old Testament, but of course Thrysos' partisan nature wont let him admit that.
Daibanjo is back again, with another very nasty statement:
But I do take your point, Thyrsos. The notion of original sin has been used as a way of frightening the faithful into submission and as a means of convincing them that all who do not accept that they are sinners, even when they have done nothing wrong, are less worthy than those who worship christ.
One of the modern results of that is that Mahatma Ghandi is going to hell but the guy who blows up a family planning clinic is going to heaven.
For the first part, see my comments above on Original Sin.
As for the seond...well, we all know, Christians all cheer on those who blow up abortion clinics, right? Anyone who blew up an abortion clinic is not only a murderer, but also guilty of Presumption, an unforgivable or Eternal Sin. Sorry, but almost all Christians would condemn such a man and say he's going to hell. Not to mention people who do such things are an extremist fringe element who are widely reviled by mainstream Christianity. What next, are we going to hold up Bin Laden as an example of mainstream Islam, you hateful little prick?
Zephyrstorm tries to act reasonable, but comes across as little more than an apologist for the Pagan bigots in the thread:
some of us have been injured by the actions of some Christians, and sometimes that shows in our speech, and in our feelings about Christianity.
There are some very hateful things done in the name of Christianity by people who have the ears of other Christians that seem to have the rubber stamp of approval from some factions of Christianity.
Which of course is why its perfectly OK to condemn all Christians for the actions of a few. Collective guilt and punishment, fuck yeah!
To be fair, those same factions of Christianity have broad-brushed other religions repeatedly, sometimes to the extent of ruining lives.
So its OK to do the same back to them, is it?
I think, considering some of the troubles that some parts of the Pagan community and other non-Christians have suffered, simply for believing what they do, that a certain amount of angst and anger is, at times, justified. On the other hand, I also believe that sometimes we, on both sides, adopt a persecution complex that is, frankly, often undeserved.
Uh huh. And does this justification extend to sectarian hatred as shown in the thread? Not just towards Christians who may have actually done them harm, but an entire belief system held by 2 billion people worldwide?
KarriMorgan adds some more idiocy to the mix:
Though there are intolerant pagans as well, you dont find many witches or shamans that go door-to door and wave outlets in other peoples faces, saying "You are a sinner, and you are wrong!"
No, they hide in their basements and bitch about evil Christians out to destroy them, and pick on innocent members of that faith, should they be foolish enough to show their face, going by reading MysticWicks.
Interestingly, I haven't had a single Christian try to convert me for years. I had a leaflet shoved under my door, inviting me to a meeting, about 8 months back, but that's about all. My local Christians are also often outside the nightclub on Friday's, selling lovely toasted cheese and ham sandwiches for 50 pence a slice. I even tried to tell one she could try her sales pitch on me (she was pretty cute, so I didn't mind talking to her at all), and all she said was the money would go to charity and it would help get rid of my spare change. Can't say fairer than that.
Anyway, less anecdotes, more righteous indignation and exposure of hypocrisy.
I have always had a grudge towards christianity, not because they believe in their god, but because they expect everyone else to as well.
Religion is a memetic virus, to riff on Dawkin's terminology. Blaming a religion for trying to spread is, again, like blaming a cat for chasing mice. Very few religions have prohibitions against spreading the word, and those that do tend to end up with few followers. Its not just a coincidence Christianity and Islam are the world's largest religions. You have to think in evolutionary terms about things like this.
My best friend was a mormon, and she begged me with her to attend one of their meetings. It was so frustrating, because I wanted to argue, but I just kept my mouth shut. They kept on about how their church was the only church in the entire world that had all the facts! That we other people were going to hell, for not having their faith.
Again, sales pitch and memetic virus. See above.
My frustration goes, why cannot people accept that religion is a private matter? You choose what to believe, and I dont get in your way! It is okay to ask, why you believe what you do, but how can anyone say that other peoples faith is fake? They claim that they want to save our souls, but my soul is my own to save! And I am the only one that can determine if it needs saving, as long as I dont break the law, hurt anyone or in any other way act inappropriate towards other human beings.
Freedom of speech presumably means the freedom to prosleytise and the freedom to question, even condemn other's beliefs. Sorry, but once we start banning people from saying things in case they hurt other people's feelings, we go down a very dark path. You censorous little twit.
I dont dare to say that the way I see the world is the absolute truth!
Well, except when you condemn Christianity, where you seem to radiate clarity in the belief of your statements.
Thats probably why I have more respect for the general pagan, because we dont need a church to believe, we dont need anyone to dictate us about what to believe. If in doubt, we ask, we seek guidance and support, but we dont throw ourselves down for a god that wish to rule us.
Yes, yes, Pagans are so much more spiritual and superior because they don't rely on churches...whereas your God is totally different because they love and respect you and even though you know next to nothing about their mythology or history you are sure they have your best interests at heart, and besides, a coven isn't really a church anyway...yawn, change the record already.
And when speaking of tolerance, how many Wiccans/pagans/Shamans/ similar do you see thrashing gay people in puclic? Or transvestites? And if they do, I have never seen them tie their personal opinions to their faith! For eksample, someone can say, I dont get bisexual people, I dont think they really exists. And that is okay! Their opinions are their own, and they are fully entitled to express them!
Actually, I know of several Neo-Pagan groups which have hateful attitudes towards gays and lesbians. I'm saving much of that material for another day, but here is an example of this sort of thinking:
"What people have to remember is that Wicca; man and woman, God and Goddess is a fertility cult - a heterosexual fertility cult."
- Wiccan author Keith Morgan, interviewed at Autumn Link-Up '89
Sounds sort of like the equally bigoted "its Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" nonsense, doesn't it?
Lol... So we might not be all tolerant, but at least we dont trash our fellow human beings in public as often. Nor do we do the mission thing, and recruit people, or claim to be all knowing. Even our books of Shadow are different. Being our "holy book" that says a lot!
Oh, so because you don't do it as much as Christianity, its OK? So, like, if I murder less people than Ted Bundy, that would be cool with you too? Yeah? Awesome.
What I tried to say was, we are pagans because we made the choice, we had a longing, we had a journey (some of us are still at the beginning), and it is hard work. Some turn christian because some guy in a suit had the right leaflet and the person was going through a rough time.
Yes, every Pagan is a freethinking individual who was in no way targeted for recruitment whatsoever whereas most Christians are mindless automatons. You unimaginative, self-opinionated idiot.
I am totally okay with christian people as individuals, it is their spirit of judgement, and of "sharing" that I dont agree with!
SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE CHRISTIANS? BUT WOULD YOU LET YOUR DAUGHTER MARRY ONE? I HAVE PROPERTY PRICES TO CONSIDER, AFTER ALL!
Fortunately, the thread seems to end there. Another day, another load of hateful Christian bashing with half-hearted resistance to this attitude. Well, its a good thing someone is willing to call these people out, isn't it?
And thank goodness there was no Burning Times nonsense this time around.