It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
And what about you? I haven't seen you in church recently.
It's because I'm a neopagan, Father.
So after this amusing introduction, which is friend-of-a-friend story that I've heard from my buddy who had lots of such stories, I'll say some thoughts on the issue of neo-Paganism. Part of it comes from observations I made at TVT's Pagan Thread, I hope you don't mind, but if you tell me I'm wrong you know where my problem came from.
So. Neo-Pagans. There's a couple of problems I got with them. In general, they can be divided into two categories: reconstructionists - who they are is self-evident - and the group formed by Wiccans and other who don't fit the first category. So, these are my problems:
a) Loonies. Here I'd like to mention the weird ideas that surface among the second group. I mean, I expect a religion to be kinda, you know, serious. Most that can't fall upon several centuries of history, at least have the modesty to claim divine inspiration. These are religions that can't even honestly claim they weren't made up. I'm fine if one sees it as a "way of life" or some other guiding philosophy, but religion implies some kind of revealed truth about the supernatural.
There's also the issue of politics. Some - I think feminists are the most known for that - have taken to this sort of religions as some kind of counterpart of established religions they see as patriarchal, opressive, or whateverelse. Again, if your religion is engineered with some political or cultural objective in mind, then I can't really think of it as the real deal. I could cut some slack if it was an off-shoot of already-existing religion like how the Imperial Cult was added to Roman religion, but it's not the case here. And it's even worse when they get into bad history, which I'll come to later.
b) Loonies again. I mean, most religious people have the modesty not to claim they have actual, literal two-way conversations with their deities, plus a passing deity from a friendly pantheon throwing in two cents of their own. Recons seem to be more at fault here. Just think of it, what would you think of a Christian who came along and told you he had a conversation with an angel this morning? Yeah. Not to mention the fact that, for all their claims that gods from one pantheon can pay a visit to a worshipper of another, I haven't heard of anyone who was visited by a deity from some less-known pantheon, like Scythian. It's always the cool ones, like Celtic and Nordic, stealing the spotlight.
c) Bad history. The first group is on-off about this issue. Most Wiccans, for example, have no problem admitting their religion actually isn't miraculously surviving beliefs of Neolithic Europe. But others, they aren't that nice. I think some of that feminist sort I spoke above are guilty here, forming romantic constructs of peaceful matriarchal societies conquered by the evil Indo-Europeans. (which I guess is some weird sort of "white guilt"? I dunno.) Now, scientists have differing views, but the problem is to not mix history with romantic ideas and politics.
Recons are the other sort. By definition, they're supposed to be reconstructing old Pagan traditions of Europe/wherever. But the problem is, it does not mix well with belief. A religion like Christianity can always fall upon the line of defense that they just "got some details wrong", but still believe in the same eternal God. Recons, they cannot. They worship the reconstructed deity from a given point in time, it'd be like a historical reenactor claiming he's reconstructing the entire Middle Ages when he's obviously doing the War of the Roses. Pantheons evolved all the time, mixed with each other, and splitted. Are Odin, Wotan and Woden the same, or three? How about Tiwaz, is he Tyr, some deity that evolved into Tyr over several centuries, or something else?
Not to mention what I've already said, that there's always new research. Take Slavic recons. Is the god Rod the real ruler of the gods, if he's now held to have never existed in the form they worship him as? Or should Svantevith still be worshipped, if he was a regional deity of the Rani tribe wrongly assumed to be a major Slavic god? And then, there come even further theories: if Thor, Perun, Zeus and a couple of others are all descendants of proto-Indo-European Perkwunos, does it mean they're all the same, that the old god split into a couple newer ones, or that the original is real while others were made up? And in that case, does it mean a hypothetical PIE recon should diss the others for inventing new ones when the real deal's still there? Or how about that: there's a theory that initially, religion was just about vague worship of the Sun or sky, deities coming later along with cultural development. What of it, should a recon go back to sky or opt for something else. Stuff like that.
In short, there's a whole can of worms in there.
(I put it in Philosophy, am I doing it right?)