What makes a religion pagan exactly?


#1

Are they any religions that have no founder and are restricted to a certain area? (Hinduism, Shinto)

Are they all the non-Abrahamic faiths?

How is Wicca pagan?


#2

I’d say Pagan ways are characterized by several theological points:

1: They understand the divine as having multiple personal manifestations, including those beings called ‘gods’, but often including ancestral and non-deific spirits as well.
2: They understand the divine as being intimately connected to the natural world, through natural features such as sun and moon, mountains, rivers,etc, and also through human artistic inspiration - images, holy objects, etc.
3: They understand human nature to be a whole and holy part of the divine spirit, and understand human effort to play a vital part in the relationship between humanity and the divine.

These points are certainly part of most non-abrahamic religions. In many cases, traditional paganisms have been specific to one tribe or nation - Voudoun to the Yorubas, Shinto to Japan. “Hinduism”, a family of related paths, once stretched from indonesia through india all the way into afghanistan, though islam has eaten away at its territory. Hinduism is a recent expression of the indo-european traditional religion, the ancient root of traditional paths from india through persia, greece, rome and northern europe.

Wicca is an effort to construct a Pagan religion useful for modern, cosmopolitan people. It has all the above characteristics of Pagan theology, but it is a system one enters consciously, not through being born into a specific tribe. In western countries we no longer make a spiritual matter of our nationality - we understand religions as a matter of personal choice. Neopagan religions are open to all who decide the ways are for them - not dependent on ethnicity.

Ian


#3

Of course, Shinto, Hinduism, and perhaps the African religions, would not answer to the label “paganism”.:smiley:


#4

Surely not - the term has too much of the connotation of insult, thanks to the usage by various imperialist religions such as Christianity and Islam.

Only the western Neopagan religions are generally willing to use the term Pagan (capital P).

However there is some scholastic tendency in the west to use the term to refer to the complex of theological notions I listed. I recommend Michael York’s “Pagan Theology; Paganism as a World Religion” for a look at that.
Ian


#5

Its been awhile since I’ve studied on this but I think there are differences between being heathen and pagan as well. Heathen tend toward ancestral worship and belief in nature spirits (Shinto, early Celt and Pict religions).

Pagan religions on the other hand believe in definant divine beings who are responsible for the creation and maintenance of the universe and man (ancient Greeks, Egyptians etc.) These often have elaborate, ritualized and aristocratic worship and complex cosmologies. They are often memic mankind in moral and emotional scope. Pagan cosmologies seem to want to interpret the world around them in human terms.

I remember reading something awhile back about how that the Church actually viewed Heathen religions as superior to pagan religions. This may have had something to do with the fact that most heathen systems usually include an omnipotent but unknowable Creator. As such it was assumed that heathen at least understood there was a God even if they didnt understand Him. Also their systems were more more humble in nature. Heathens don’t describe the world in human terms they try to understand how humans are to interact with the world around them.

Also I could be wrong but I don’t think that Hindu is considered technically “pagan”. The Hindu believe in a central all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present god-head. While their interpretation of that God-head takes a marked turn from the Christian outlook I think that technically this keeps them from being considered pagan.


#6

I always thought that Pagan was a place, a kingdom in Burma.

See this Wiki,

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pagan%2C_Myanmar


#7

Pagan is a term with no clear meaning. Even people who identify their faith as pagan/Pagan do not agree on which elements make it pagan.

The tendency does seem toward a polytheistic belief, but there are strong debates on that as well.

the most general use of the term is any religion that is not one of the big 5, Judaism, Hindu, Buddhism, Christian, Islam.

from there…people are still duking it out.


#8

I would understand it to be “a person who would not identify himself or herself a Christian, Muslim, or Jew.”

I would be a pagan, in this sense.


#9

Since the word “religion” means to bind to God, any belief system that does not bind to God is pagan.


#10

Much like the word “imperialist” has a connotation of insult. :slight_smile:


#11

By your definition, any belief system that does not bind to God is not a religion. :wink:


#12

Yup.


#13

The the phrase “pagan religion” is an oxymoron.


#14

yup


#15

All the word “pagan” really means is of and pertaining to the country or country folk.
It’s kind of a derogatory term really, calling someone a pagan is calling them an unsophisticated rube.
Everything else associated with the word has been added on over the years.
It’s evolved into one of those words that means what you want it to.


#16

I just learned something new!

Thank you, RLT.


#17

Its been awhile since I’ve studied on this but I think there are differences between being heathen and pagan as well. Heathen tend toward ancestral worship and belief in nature spirits (Shinto, early Celt and Pict religions).

Heathen and pagan mean precisely the same thing. both are from roots meaning ‘of the countryside’ - heathen is from germanic roots, pagan from latin.

Shinto and Celtic religions both had/have definite specific deities, such as Amaterasu, the Shinto Sun Goddess.

**These often have elaborate, ritualized and aristocratic worship and complex cosmologies. **

As does Shinto, and, functionally, all tribal religion, such as that of the Navaho or central Asian ‘Shamanic’ tribes.

**This may have had something to do with the fact that most heathen systems usually include an omnipotent but unknowable Creator. **

Some Pagan religions have the idea of a single ‘first cause’ but really no non-monotheistic religions contain the idea of a single personal deity who created all things. No heathen religions have the idea of a single omnipotent being.

Heathens don’t describe the world in human terms they try to understand how humans are to interact with the world around them.

Likewise ancient Greek Paganism.

**The Hindu believe in a central all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present god-head. **

Though this all-mind type godhead is in no way a ‘person’, and bears no resemblance to the idea of ‘God’ in monotheist scripture.

Pagan and heathen mean the same thing.
Ian


#18

Ask the average person, on a scale of 1-10, how bad is being a pagan (a believer in more than one god)?

I am sure few would say it’s the crime of the century. Yet, when we read the Torah cover to cover, few crimes come across as so repugnant or heinous in the eyes of God.

This sentiment is surely the source for why Jews, no matter how secular, will stubbornly ascribe to God’s unity, even if they don’t believe in Him. You’ve no doubt heard the old joke about the little Jewish boy who comes home from school proclaiming his new knowledge about three gods. His father, upon hearing the news, hollers, “There are not three gods. There is only one God, and we don’t believe in Him!”

This sort of national schizophrenia leads to one of my favorite questions: which is worse, to be an ethical pagan or an unethical monotheist?

and the rest of the story:

aish.com/torahportion/baars/Pagans_Among_Us.asp


#19

Any religions that professes many gods. That there is more than one God.

Wiccan are pagans. Christians, Jews, and Muslims are not.


#20

According to your quote, if one is a pagan it is so s/he can be unethical. :wink:

I believe an unethical monotheist is less skillful (worse). To be unethical requires intent and action that results in harm to oneself or to another. One God, Two Gods, No Gods, being unethical is always unskillful.


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