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Paganism, the new-old religions

Have you heard of the new Paganism?

The word “Pagan” is the name for the religions that came before Christianity, mostly in the Roman Empire and Northern Europe. The old Norse gods, like Odin and Thor are popular in fiction today; in comics, cartoons, and movies.

The old religions died when large numbers of people converted to Christianity, many centuries ago. The expansion of Christianity happened in the Roman Empire until the Western Empire collapsed, shortly after the year 500.

After that, missionaries continued to travel and preach in areas that had never been part of the Empire. Saint Patrick preached in Ireland, and two monks, Cyril and Methodius, expanded Greek Christianity into Eastern Europe. They founded the Eastern Orthodox religion, mostly among Slavic people.

The world changed when the missionaries travelled.

Now, two changes are happening: The number of active Christians is falling in Europe, and New Paganism is growing. Some people claim a reverse trend is happening, we are going back to where we started.

This will change the way we live.

Social values and beliefs have been dominated by Christian thinking, for almost twenty centuries. Western culture, which dominates the world, came from Europe and Judeo-Christian cultures. Other beliefs have very different ways of organizing society, and solving problems.

One example of the clash in values is the battle about abortion. The leading force in the fight against abortion is probably the Roman Catholic Church and pro-abortion thinking fit comfortably with neo-pagan thinking. We also have radical new thinking about sexual orientation and gender. The two sides, Christian and Pagan, have different ways of dealing with these changes.

So, our world is changing, and many of us won’t like what happens next. If we have traditional Christian values, the new world will not make us happy.

Or are we missing something?

Catholic Saints and Pagan Gods – Synonym

In the history of Europe, there were two large groups of Christians; Catholics and Protestants. Protestants, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, accused the Roman Catholic Church of compromising with the pagans.

The Roman Catholic Church didn’t replace Paganism, it merged with the old religion. That allowed pagans to join the new religion, without a dramatic conversion experience.

European cathedrals are beautiful religious buildings, with statues of Christian Saints. People would go into a cathedral and pray to statues of saints.

Before the Christians, people went into large temples, and prayed to statues of their gods. Both religions looked the same, except the statues had different names.

I know Christians today who will not participate in Halloween, and some African Christians will not put up a Christmas tree. It reminds them of a shrine to a pagan god.

This is an old argument, but it brings up a new question. How can Paganism revive, if it never died?

The answer is, the new Paganism is breaking free from historical Christianity, as the number of those Christians collapses. Medieval Christianity is not popular in modern times and a social compact is dying.

Those beautiful cathedrals are mostly popular with tourists.

I remember, when I was a young man, I travelled with a friend, the way people used to travel. We bought backpacks and railway passes for Europe. It was an interesting trip. In Paris, we visited Notre Dame Cathedral, with other noisy tourists.

While we gawked, a few people sat on the benches, near the front of the church. It occurred to me, that those people were worshipers. The people near the front were praying, and tourists like me were the barbarian invaders at the back.

Some Sociologists say that six percent of us can become convinced and loud, and we can dominate society. The majority then compromises to avoid trouble. Outspoken Christians, like the reformers Luther and Calvin, were the six percent and they dramatically impacted Europe.

For the original followers of Jesus, there was no compromise. They were the six percent:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 2: 1 and 2)

Dead … Alive: There is no compromise or accommodation in those words.

As the new Paganism rebounds, we could also see a rebound in the original form of Christianity. We may be experiencing a religious divorce. This will force each of us to honestly choose.

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