Similarities with Paganism?

So. I was asked in another thread about older Catholic women coming to an “age of enlightenment” and beginning to pray to a goddess. I don’t know anything about that specifically, but my friends (Christian and otherwise) and I have discussed the Catholic-Pagan connection before, and I do think it’s an interesting comparison.

Disclaimer: I do know that Protestants have, in the past, accused Catholics of being somehow less Christian precisely because of these similarities. I don’t want to poke at sore points, but please do understand that I’m coming at it from a different perspective. As a Pagan, I actually feel more of a kinship with Catholics than other Christians because of certain shared beliefs and practices. I approve. And while I know that some people will probably get offended at me for pointing it out regardless of how I preface it, please know that my intent isn’t to be offensive.

Point A: Catholics, unlike other Christians, venerate a mother-figure. Mary isn’t named as a Goddess, but she is revered and prayed to. And yes, Pagans worship a Goddess, but it goes beyond that. It shows a respect for the feminine, and a recognition of balance between feminine and masculine in divinity, that is missing from other denominations of Christianity. (It’s also worth noting that, among Pagan traditions that recognize both a God and a Goddess, She is often the consort of the God, but just as often She is His mother.)

Point B: Many Pagans are polytheistic, but what that means is rarely straightforward. Often, it refers to a God (or Goddess, or both) who wears many faces and names for different people and different purposes, all of whom are ultimately the same Deity. Another variation is a God/dess who is the Supreme Creator but doesn’t actually interact directly with humanity, and a host of lesser deities who serve as intermediaries. Compare with the Catholic saints and angels.

Point C: Ritual. I heard a Wiccan once compare magic to “prayer with props.” Now, I’m not saying for sure that I agree with that assessment, but I do believe that ritual is something that’s very important to the human psyche. We worship with ritual, whether that be song or chant or incense or candles or fancy vestments or whatever, not because God needs it, but because we need it. It’s a shortcut for our brains to bring us to the worshipful, reverent state necessary to commune with the Divine. Many, many Protestant churches have tried to do away with ritual as much as possible, and I think that’s detrimental to the understanding of the sacredness of worship. Catholic churches, even progressive ones, still (by and large) include some form of stylized ritual.

I could go on, but my intent isn’t to give a lecture; it’s to toss out an observation and get feedback. So. Feedback? Agreement, disagreement, questions, counterarguments, further examples?


Mary is not venerated as a Goddess in Catholicism. I am sure you know this but I just want to make this clear for any other readers. There is a difference between the Hyperdulia offered to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Latria offered to God alone.

Saints are not looked upon in any way as some kind of pantheon of lesser gods. Again, a difference between latria and dulia. Nor do we see them as aspects of God.

Ritual. I’ll give you that. We really don’t like anything better than a good ritual, that carries spiritual significance, rather than empty ritual created merely to fill a requirement.

Oh, I totally know! I’m not saying that either Mary or the saints or angels are viewed as gods in their own right, but they do fill the same role (from what I understand) in Catholicism as the Goddess and lesser aspects of Deity (respectively) do in Paganism. Hence the parallels. I know it’s not a precise comparison (otherwise it wouldn’t be two separate religions), but the similarities are, in a way, close enough for government work…

If that is the case (I am not sure which type of paganism you are referring to so I will assume primitive, early paganism rather than armchair witchcraft) then I would think (though could be wrong) that these parallels were a foreshadowing of what was to come (i.e the Catholic faith), after all, the Jews had everything they needed to prep themselves, the Gentiles might have needed a little help too.

Sorry. I’m not following you here. What role do the lesser apsects of deity play in paganism?

Also, I think it’s kind of a big leap to go from Mary, who is honored but still a creation of God, to a goddess.

I could see where one could attempt to make connections on the surface (as those who claim Catholicism is a pagan religion based on such “similarities”), but these distinctions are quite important.

The devil is in the details, maybe? :wink:


Also I think it a misunderstanding to say we “pray” to the Blessed Virgin. We do not pray to her as we do to God. I think it would be more accurate to say we ask her to pray for us, or even with us.

I think that many of the “similarities” are in the common language used by early Christians and by 1st century pagans. I am reading a book about the life of St Paul. While he was an educated jew, he grew up in a distinctly hellenistic culture, Tarsus. He saw the pagan rituals all around him. So when he wrote letters to christian churches in communities with large pagan population, he often used a vocabulary that they would recognize. The prime example of this his urging for them to “put on Christ” as a pagan would put on a mantle of their god/goddess. Just my two cents worth her. This is not to imply that by putting on Christ, catholics are doing a pagan ritual. It is that St Paul is saying instead of putting on the mantle of say Aphrodite we turn away from that and wear our christianity in public. Ah, I don’t know if this really makes sense to anyone else.

All religions are trying to work toward something. Agreed. But Catholics are in a relationship with the Heavenly Father Through Jesus Christ and are working within and not toward God. We have God, were not trying to get to God. Again all false religions in the world are trying to get to a God or a Goddess. Jesus came to us, born of the virgin Mary. It’s simple we all sin, The wages of sin is death. The soul that sins dies and goes to hell. God loved the world and sent Jesus to die in our place. True there are simularities, because Satan tries to mock the things of God. He tries to immatate them. Christians are children of God through Jesus. Satan hates God, so he decieves the world and raises up false religions that resemble the truth to lead people astry. Please cry to to God and ask Him if what I am telling is the truth. Your very soul depends on it.

Just remeber Satan always tries to immatate the work of God to decieve the world. We know we are right not because we are prideful, but because we have the Holy Spirit. God Bless

Actually, no.
Pagan gods are not creators as is the Christian god. In the Greek, Norse, and in at least one Egyptian “creation” myth the world comes into existence all by itself (just like the modern scientific view) and the gods came much later. All those myths start with nothing - the Greek called it Chaos, the Norse/Germans Ginungagap, the Egyptians Nun, and today we call it quantum foam.

Thanks for the info. Wow, so all these gods just showed up. Interesting. I’m definitely not well versed in paganism.

So, the Christian God, who always was, is, and ever shall be, will never be on par with his creation, or better, we will never be on par with Him. Thus, Mary is nowhere near a goddess. The most we can hope for (and rejoice in!) is to become holy like Him, which, by the merits of Jesus, gives us a share in His divinity, but never makes us gods.:thumbsup:

A good book that addresses this is Donna Steichen’s Prodigal Daughters. As Mrs. Steichen points out, such women (sadly including some religious sisters and nuns) are hardly “enlightened”, but, rather, have given themselves over to unsound doctrine and practices.

One of the things difficult in discussing Neo-paganism and comparing it with Christianity is for Christians “God” is above and beyond any recognition they’re willing to give the Pagan Dieties.

I have Wiccan friends and we’ve discussed these ideas in depth at times…for a Friend it has to do with “speaking to that of God” within them to find a commonality to even begin discussing faith matters.

That Goddess worship was wide spread and prevelant in early Christian times is no big surprise. Isis worship and Diana worship had huge followings. When Christianity began spreading it was a natural occurance for many of those of Pagan belief to find some solace in Mary…a “goddess” substitute. Mary became a larger than life “image” in Ephesus…where Diana the Earth Mother had her temple…“Great is Diana of the Ephesians.” from Acts was the call…that Christianity could “shift” goddess worship to Mary veneration is no great surprise. It had adopted many of the pagan holidays as it’s own giving them “Christian” meanings and ideas…Christianity adapted…accomodated…adopted some pagan imagery that made “converting” to Christianity much much easier…many pagan temples changed to Christian church buildings and pagan “gods” became Christian “saints”…sometimes the mythology became blurred in the transition.

For modern Pagans the Christian God is thought of in similar terms as their own Gods and Goddesses…not more powerful…not more eternal…not “more” anything…it tends to be Christians who make the distinction between them…so much that any comparison is usually lost on Christians…who sometimes cannot even fathom that their God to some is no different than the Pagan Gods and Goddesses…just known by a different name and the story told by different myths.

IMO, that’s an excellent insight, and explains the connection Catholicism has with paganism. IMO, Catholicism is universal, and draws all light and truth contained in world religious practices to its expression, while leaving behind what is not truth. The best evidence that we have in Scripture of how Catholicism both connects and elevates Judaism with Paganism is the Nativity scene. In the Nativity scene, Jesus is revealed supernaturally first to the shepards, who represent the Jewish preservation of the truth and the oversight of behavior through the keeping of the Jewish law, and then discovered by the pagans through their methods of hearing God, when the sign of the King of the Jews is revealed in the sky.

Both religious perspectives, being presented with Christ, are elevated to a more perfect revelation of God if Christ is seen and accepted for who He is. In this way, Catholicism supersedes both.

There are Pagans in Catholicism - often women religious or former religious. Certain sorts of feminism - not all - favour “Goddess”-worship :eek: Again, some Catholics have a devotion to the BVM which is more zealous than well-informed, & tips over into superstition & paganism :frowning:

Neither of these is what the CC has in mind in its attitude to the BVM - even if (as is possible) the veneration of the BVM has made it easier for some to become more or less pagan in mind. The three groups need to be distinguished - otherwise, different people may mean different things in discussing paganism.

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