The Truth about Contemporary Pagan Religion

Wiccan, Druid, Heathen, Hindu… the list of Pagan traditions is indeed a lengthy one. Contemporary Pagans do not follow a specific creed, nor as a general rule do we subscribe to any one particular doctrine. It is mainly for this reason that fundamentalists from the so called “organized” religions marginalize our faith, often to the point where our diverse traditions are publically ridiculed to the extent of persecution. It is a sad fact that many Pagans continue to be shunned, isolated and ostracized due to the fear that our faith will somehow corrupt the rest of civilized society.

Despite the lack of a formal creed, Pagan religious philosophy tends to be fundamentally identical even though our respective traditions may seem disparate indeed. The most ignorant assumption anyone can make is that Pagans are evil simply because we do not worship a transcendent Deity (including the concept of Satan, the existence of which we categorically discard as false). Most Pagans view our Gods as immanent in nature, neither good nor evil,  fully encompassing and manifesting within the material world. Simply stated, we believe that the realm of the spiritual fully permeates physical reality.

We do not personally follow the doctrine of others for one very important reason – we believe our individual experiences provide a greater and more comprehensive understanding of the spiritual universe than any written text could possibly impart. Given this approach, it is hardly surprising that all contemporary Pagans insist on acceptance and respect toward a multitude of spiritual paths; any other perspective would be inherently self-defeating.

We believe in the principal behind the statement “As above, So below”, for what occurs in the spiritual realm is directly reflected in the material world. We see ourselves as inextricably linked to the Gods, our very existence being itself an emanation of divinity. Our individual consciousness is inseparable from the Divine and we are intimately connected, not only to each other but with the natural world as well.

It is important to recognize that while individual Pagans honor many different Gods and we conduct our personal rituals and the worship of those Gods in different ways, we nonetheless share the same fundamental truths. We are one religious community with many separate traditions and we honor each other accordingly.

 

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About William Knox

Rev. William Knox is the founder and current Chancellor of the Contemporary Pagan Alliance. Ordained in 1995 as an interfaith minister, he serves as senior priest at the Sanctuary of Light in Ravenswood,WV. and is an invested brother in the Shanddite Order of Pagan Secular Monks.
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29 Responses to The Truth about Contemporary Pagan Religion

  1. Please forgive my ignorance of neo-pagan beliefs – that includes any offense you may take towards my use of “neo” :).

    For my own edification, would you mind clarifying something? Certain portions of the above post sounds similar to pantheism, but then you mention the worship of deities later. Would you personally associate yourself as more of a pantheist, or do you believe in deities as well?

    • William says:

      I see you noticed I go to great lengths to avoid using the term neo-pagan 🙂 The term doesn’t actually bother me personally but many Pagans find the label to be painfully academic at best. I do however believe in making a clear distinction between modern Pagan practices and the specific religions of the ancients.

      As far as how I classify my personal beliefs, I am a panentheist, meaning that I find the presence of Deity to be immanent but I also conceive of the Divine Consciousness as simultaneously separate from creation as a unified whole. I tend to approach the Gods this way: if we assume that the Divine is infinite, any practical definition that we can conceive of will be inherently limited and therefore at least partially inaccurate. I do not think it possible to know the entire truth about Deity, only individual truth based on personal experience.

      • I did notice, and you’re right, it’s academic. 🙂

        I thought you would associate yourself with pantheism though. I would agree that clarifying such a question, especially considering your concept of Deity – to use your title – becomes problematic given the nature of such an entity. At any rate, thanks for taking the time to explain it to me, and I hope I didn’t overstep my bounds.

    • William says:

      You didn’t overstep at all. I do in fact closely associate with pantheism as I believe that Nature and the God/dess are one and the same. That said, I choose to define myself as a panentheist due to my belief that the Divine Consciousness is also greater than the universe. Generally speaking most pantheists do not make this distinction but I find myself in agreement with Cartesian Dualism as I perceive the consciousness as being separate and distinct from the physical body. Does that help to clarify my previous answer?

      • It certainly does. Thank you!

        To give you an idea of why I’m curious, I emphasize in Roman antiquarian history, but as you may be aware, studying one subject leads to many others. I have a great interest in comparative religion and philosophy, so it’s always nice to speak directly with people who affiliate themselves with Christianity, Paganism, Atheism, etc. Although our beliefs differ greatly – I’m an atheist – I think it’s important to foster positive relationships with people to better understand where they are coming from. We may not agree on everything – indeed, in many cases we may not agree on most things – but that doesn’t mean we should be at odds with one another.

        Many thanks, again.

  2. alesiablogs says:

    Hi There,
    Thank you for recently checking out my blog. It is an honor to me to have you following my take on life. I will be definitely cking yours out. Alesia

  3. Lumina says:

    Hear hear! I might actually print this out for my mum when I come out of the “broom closet” hehe thanks for sharing 🙂
    Blessings and light

    • William says:

      You’re quite welcome. I think it’s important to counter the misconception that we Pagans don’t believe in “God” simply because we do not subscribe to the Abrahamic viewpoint. Bright Blessings.

  4. William, I actually find your faith super interesting. It’s appealing to me because it seems much simpler than my own. In my philosophy class today we were talking about how a lot of Christian “ceremonial” practices actually seem kind of pointless in that they don’t actually seem to bring us any closer to God. My teacher was saying that maybe if some of these practices hinder us from forming a relationship with God we should abandon them. I’m not totally sure how I feel about it yet, but it was interesting.

    • William says:

      Hmm. Not knowing which practices you were discussing in your class I am hesitant to comment, preferring to avoid making incorrect assumptions. My basic opinion on correct spiritual practice seems to be similar to your professor’s, in that I usually counsel people to keep what works and ignore what doesn’t. In my opinion, all philosophy, religious or otherwise, has a tendency to appear deceptively simple on the surface but invariably becomes increasingly more complex with deeper study. You may find this amusing – most Pagans who have studied for a while generally hold a view counter to yours and consider Christianity to be the easier religion. It was good to hear from you again.

      • Sorry I never followed up here. I’m in finals mode at this point (1 project left). I think what my professor may have been talking about was Catholic ceremonial stuff (he kind of doesn’t like Catholics), meaning we all stand up, sit down and kneel at the same time, etc in church, it’s “mandatory” to go to confession; things like that. While I think it’s good to have community based worship from time to time (Jesus said “where 2 or more are gathered in my name, I am with them”), I also think that it’s more important to have a relationship with Christ, which is obviously a more individual thing. I went to a worship service on Sunday at my school, and it was really nice and simple. A bunch of us went into the chapel that was dark except for some candles at the front, and the chapel band just played a bunch of Christmas songs and they had a slideshow with the lyrics so we could all sing along. I like that kind of thing way better than church.

  5. daoinelibra says:

    Just wanted to say thank you for following my blog, William 🙂
    I agree with so much of what you say in this post. It is the first of yours that I have read and I am going to read many more. I found this very moving. It’s pretty difficult to come out to people about what I believe because a lot of people seem to think my beliefs are evil, though I never intend harm on another person or intentionally disrespect them. I know that I am far from alone in this, but it’s good to hear somebody else address these issues.

    • William says:

      Those who believe you are evil in some way do not understand the true nature of your faith, nor do they wish to do so. Such individuals have little to no respect for religions other than their own and in my experience are generally obsessed with converting others to their narrow perspective to the exclusion of all else. We Pagans share a personal and deeply spiritual relationship with the Divine – there are times when I wonder if fundamentalists oppose our religion so vehemently because they envy that relationship. Thank you for your comment and Bright Blessings to you )O(

  6. Thanks William, for stopping by my blog and more importantly letting me know. I did enjoy reading your account of Paganism. Very refreshing and I would not have read it except for you letting me know it was here. I am no Pagan but the tenets of Paganism, as described by you, are quite familiar to me. I also have a fondness for the sensibilities of Pantheism but I practice no religion. I make no scholarly effort preferring to find my way by simply accepting it must be where I am. That of course exposes me to what is here and I know a little about many things. All things being a part of just one whole I think this approach of looking at the forest, instead of the tree, brings the greatest spiritual reward. Of course that is just me and the secret is revealed anywhere a person looks for it. Thanks again.

  7. Hi William, just passin thru, the topic here is quiet a big subject and i will be responding to it shortly, but i thank you for your views and i hope we can exchange thoughts over the time ahead. one love RootsDaniel

  8. Raed Hmadi says:

    As a member of the Wiccan Community, I have read and studied pagan religions and communities, yet I was not able to experience them in real life due to the very low number of pagans in my region or country. I have to thank you for this post that clearly defines what pagans are, and what differentiates them from other religions. In fact, I am interested in the expansion of pagan beliefs through music. As much as I know, the symphonic metal band “Within Temptation” is one of the few bands over the globe that support the pagans case. Do you know any other bands? And personally, do you think it is a good thing to spread and publicize such beliefs through music?

    • William says:

      Gwydion Pendderwen is a fairly well-known Pagan musician from the 1970s. His first album, “Songs for the Old Religion”, is a fantastic jumping off point for anyone researching Pagan music. If you are looking for Pagan rock music specifically, I would recommend Sharon Knight’s group Pandemonaeon as one of the foremost bands whose music flows from Pagan beliefs. Ms. Knight is a Contemporary Pagan composer of great skill. Locally, I am also a fan of David Wood, from Ohio. His most recent release, entitled “Hecate”, is extremely moving.

      As to my personal belief, I feel that music as an art form should be cherished for many reasons, not the least of which is its ability to give our reverence for the Divine a powerful voice, one that resonates deeply within many despite our different theological perspectives. To illustrate this point, I am certainly not a Christian but I find myself spiritually moved by many Christian songs, particularly during the Yule season. Although, as many Pagans do, I firmly believe proselytizing to be a practice which we should avoid, I do not believe Pagan musicians have such intent when they compose from the heart. I recognize the positive effects of sharing our reverence for our God(s) through music and ultimately, we should never have to fear publically honoring our faith. Thank you for your comment and Bright Blessings to you.

      • Raed Hmadi says:

        I totally agree with all what you have said! And for sure I am going to listen to all the artists you mentioned. Music is my life and it means a lot to me, especially when it is related to Wicca or paganism. May the Gods bless you and keep you safe. Blessed be )O(

      • William Knox says:

        If you have the ability to listen to internet radio, you may enjoy the Pagan Radio Network. They play a good variety of contemporary Pagan music 🙂

  9. KWax says:

    I’m just finding my way and this blog was very insightful. Thank you!

  10. Sounded like a pretty good post to me. 🙂 Pretty straight-forward about the kinds of people we are, our beliefs, etc. 😀

    • William Knox says:

      Thank you. The number of non-pagans continuing to spread misconceptions about our religion without fully understanding the true nature of Contemporary Paganism seems to be increasing despite our best efforts. It is my hope that providing a factual summary of the general beliefs shared by a majority of modern Pagans will provide much needed clarity to our detractors.

      • I can get behind that and completely understand. I think it’s good you are doing this. I try to do similar on the occasion since I dislike people allowing their ignorance to sow discord and dissension about what they hardly understand or care to understand.

  11. I love the sentence: “We do not personally follow the doctrine of others for one very important reason – we believe our individual experiences provide a greater and more comprehensive understanding of the spiritual universe than any written text could possibly impart.” Hear, hear! I am in total agreement. Thanks for your blog!

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