Ancient paganism, modern paganism, and Christianity

Basically, this is a continuation of a discussion from another thread that went a little off-topic:

http://www.historum.com/european-history/41141-paganism-normandy-1940s.html

Oftentimes, the coming of Christianity has been portrayed as marking a complete rupture with the pagan religions of the ancient world. But is this really the case? Too often, we are presented with a picture of ancient paganism as essentially locked into a "Homeric" mold, and see ancient religion as revolving around a set pantheon of often conflicting Deities, each characterized by set attributes and governing specific spheres as defined by a semi-canonical mythology. But ancient religion was more than mythology, and varied strands had combined, by the early centuries A.D., to form a complex tapestry wherein philosophy, mysticism, magic, mythology, ritual and personal revelation all featured as ways toward understanding/coming to know the Divine, and where traditional cults jostled with new and exotic Gods and doctrines.

Platonism, passing through successive stages of development, assumed a particular prominence among the world of educated pagan dialogue, and there was much common ground to be found between Neoplatonism and early Christianity. Was this a matter of mutual influence, or was it simply a convergent response to some common stimulus on the ancient mind? Was the Christian doctrine of the Trinity derived from, or understood within, Neoplatonist ideas of the One and its emanations? Does Christianity represent a break with ancient pagan religion, or is it an evolution of ancient paganism, Jewish in form but Hellenic in spirit?

And what of modern religions claiming to be 'pagan', such as Wicca and the like? How authentic are they? We know that the claim of such religions to be survivals of ancient cults, in an unbroken line of succession, are historically dubious, but do they represent a genuine resurrection of ancient pagan thought within a modern context, or are they something else altogether?
 
Jan 2012
207
I can tell you that the ancient Greek religion, the twelve gods, is being worshipped again today in Greece. Although it is a mixture of conducting ancient ceremonies and generally worshipping almost anything ancient, like the works of philosophers e.t.c. This is a modern version of the ancient religion, and while it is faithful to many things others have been re-invented because there is no knowledge of how they did them in the past, like some special ceremonies e.t.c.

I think that most of the people that go back to the ancient religion are people that do not really believe in Demetra or Ares lets say, some of them choose this because they were dissapointed from the church in Greece, others because they want to worship the way the ancient Greeks did and generally be faithfull to ancient traditions, and others are a combination of these two. Some of course may believe in the twelve gods, i do not know. It is really not clear, and they are several groups with one of them having managed to be recognised by the state as an official religion.

As far as your first points for discussion, i believe that Christianism was indeed the breaking of pagan religions as it is a seperate religion which states that no other God must be worshipped except for the one true God of the old Testament. It is true though that Christian ideas can be also found in ancient writters and philosophers, and sme might say that these were the first seeds for Christianism, a part of a divine plan. Of course there is always the other oppinion that Christiansm was simply based and influenced by these old ideas. There simply is not a definate truth since you will get different oppinions from believers and non believers. But there is something almost certain, there is a connection between Platonic, Socratic and many other people's ideas and Christianism.

While Christianism states that the one true God is the one from the old Testament, here it is where it gets complicated and is a matter of deep theological analysis and a cause for many debates. One might say that it is the same God with other religions too. Here Christianism does not have a definate answer, not to my knowledge at least. So many people will say that indeed the one God of various religions is the same God. It is for Muslims for example and Budhists too. But the difference is at the various details of each religion. So what is right for Bhudists may be wrong for Christianism.

Indeed, theologists and other people from the Christian church will point out that even if it is the same God for Bhuddists there are core differences at the dogma. For example Bhuddism and other eastern religions tend to rely on one's personal powers, the chi or however you may call it, thus pushing God aside and essentially taking him out of the equasion because according to Christianism all power is given by God and only Him. So, the shaolin monks who get their powers from their chi are more self centered in a way and are very different from what Christianism teaches.

And of course all these again are open for debate at the details according to what Jesus said and the interpretations. But the Christian church, and especially the Orthodox church also considers as true what the Saints have teached over the centuries because it considers some of their teachings as God given.

Aside from that Christianism also has a very big difference and important aspect than other religions which might have the same God, humility. While Christianism teaches that a man becomes better through humility, the same cannot be told for other religions, and surely it was not the case in ancient religions.
 

Belloc

Ad Honorem
Mar 2010
5,418
USA
Ahhhh I was wondering what was going to happen to our little discussion Julian. ;)

Unfortunately I'll have to address this one point and continue on later:

While Christianism states that the one true God is the one from the old Testament, here it is where it gets complicated and is a matter of deep theological analysis and a cause for many debates. One might say that it is the same God with other religions too. Here Christianism does not have a definate answer, not to my knowledge at least. So many people will say that indeed the one God of various religions is the same God. It is for Muslims for example and Budhists too. But the difference is at the various details of each religion. So what is right for Bhudists may be wrong for Christianism.
Indeed there is much debate about the relationship between the Christian God and other religions. I find James S. Cutsinger's take on the issue quite intriquing. Cutsinger is an Orthodox Christian btw:
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJWG7tYp75Y]Perennialism and Christianity- Dr. James Cutsinger - YouTube[/ame]
 

ib-issi

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
3,403
just sitting here
So this man is saying i am , is the same entity as the one who is ,he said i am that i am , so is Isis the one who is..is ,
 
Apr 2012
101
nobody is quite sure
And what of modern religions claiming to be 'pagan', such as Wicca and the like? How authentic are they? We know that the claim of such religions to be survivals of ancient cults, in an unbroken line of succession, are historically dubious, but do they represent a genuine resurrection of ancient pagan thought within a modern context, or are they something else altogether?

they are something else altogether, not sinister and should not be described as been cult as there growing in popularity. i believe modern paganism is a attempt to become closer to nature while living in increasingly atheist society.
there historical accuracy is more than likely way off and seems to be a mix of tarot card readers, green peace activists and modern popular culture in some media genres.
the roots of witch firmly installed in the modern period although they wish too and claim to be from a time before Christianity and monotheism in general.
the problem is not much is known about the ancient pagans especially here in europe, where the best knowledge comes from sources such as Julius caesars commentary on the gaul wars.

we can all see elements of the paganism in christianty. such as the sacrement, the 3 figure god head the number 12 with reference to the apostles etc etc.

one interesting difference between the two is the hypercritically structure, paganism in old times and in new is highly divided into sets and subjects with no general head. in contrast to Catholicism where we have the pope.
 

ib-issi

Ad Honorem
Mar 2011
3,403
just sitting here
Maybe one of the biggest differences with pagan religions is that you attempted to contact the god yourself albeit somewhat minor gods, of rain , or rivers , or harvests etc,where as in organised religions like christianity this immediacy is taken away and the pope is supposed to be the one that speaks for god, and even higher than the pope you can only reach the kingdom of god through christ , and are only supposed to worship one God .
 
I can tell you that the ancient Greek religion, the twelve gods, is being worshipped again today in Greece. Although it is a mixture of conducting ancient ceremonies and generally worshipping almost anything ancient, like the works of philosophers e.t.c. This is a modern version of the ancient religion, and while it is faithful to many things others have been re-invented because there is no knowledge of how they did them in the past, like some special ceremonies e.t.c.

I think that most of the people that go back to the ancient religion are people that do not really believe in Demetra or Ares lets say, some of them choose this because they were dissapointed from the church in Greece, others because they want to worship the way the ancient Greeks did and generally be faithfull to ancient traditions, and others are a combination of these two. Some of course may believe in the twelve gods, i do not know. It is really not clear, and they are several groups with one of them having managed to be recognised by the state as an official religion.
I'm glad that you bring up a Greek perspective, Stathis. This is what we in the modern Pagan community call Reconstructionism, which in the Anglosphere has sharply differentiated itself from Wicca and its offspring, and indeed seems to have emerged as a reaction against the dubious historical claims of Wicca. There is much emphasis upon reconstructing specific cultural traditions as accurately as possible, and many Reconstructionists, regarding the primary source material of their chosen tradition as canonical, are excellent and faithful amateur historians. Here in the U.S., Norse/Germanic and Celtic Reconstructionism seem to predominate, but the Hellenic traditions exercise a perennial fascination as well.

The Greek tradition particularly, though, serves to underline some of the potential problems with the Reconstructionist approach - ancient Greek religion had many strands and evolved over centuries, while the Reconstructionist approach seeks to almost capture a snapshot of the ancient religion at a particular point in time - but what point can be claimed to be the authentic Greek tradition? That of the Homeric age? Orphism? The philosophical paganism of the Platonists? The syncretic culture of the Hellenistic period?

I'm curious as to the differences in such an approach between those in English-speaking countries, where Neopaganism always has to contend with the shadow of Wicca, and eastern European countries, for example, where the Wiccan influence has been minimal or non-existent, I'd imagine. Oftentimes Reconstructionist paths in eastern European countries have been explicitly informed by nationalist preoccupations - is this the case in Greece? If so, it would certainly seem that actual belief in the Gods, in such cases, would be minimized as you suggest and what we would really be dealing with would be a sort of 'political religion', not dissimilar to the Ariosophy that emerged on the fringes of German nationalism a century ago

It is true though that Christian ideas can be also found in ancient writters and philosophers, and sme might say that these were the first seeds for Christianism, a part of a divine plan.
This is essentially the view of certain Renaissance figures, who reconciled a fascination with and admiration for Platonism, with their strong devotion to Christianity, by positing that noble pagan men and their ideas prefigured and laid the groundwork for the revelation of the Christian God.
 
Ahhhh I was wondering what was going to happen to our little discussion Julian. ;)
A little late, but there is never time enough in a day, it seems - and this forum and its members, in particular, often make me take a step back and reformulate my positions, so I often end up responding a little slower than I would like, but feel a little more enriched for being forced to do so.




Indeed there is much debate about the relationship between the Christian God and other religions. I find James S. Cutsinger's take on the issue quite intriquing. Cutsinger is an Orthodox Christian btw:
Perennialism and Christianity- Dr. James Cutsinger - YouTube
This is a fascinating conversation, and right up my alley. Though I define myself, for various reasons, as a 'Pagan', the Perennial Philosophy is a constant reference point that connects the specific manifestation of my religious impulse to a larger tradition. Interestingly, it is only through my studies of Neoplatonism and Hinduism that I've come to understand (in so far as anyone can claim to understand) and appreciate the Christian mystery of the Trinity, and to see a mystical and transcendental beauty therein that is to me quite profound.
 
Apr 2012
199
Asatru, the religion of the Germanic peoples, is also being reconstructed. No, they are not Neo-nazis. Anyone who ties white supremacy with Asatru/heathenism is a fool. They essentially believe in what most people know as the Norse pantheon. They were worshipped throughout most of the Germanic world, though.

I'm sure most people already know about this reconstruction anyway, so I'll link to a very well known site. It's not exactly active, though, as it's regarded as a scholarly forum for research and intellectual discussion. Avoid 'fluffy' nonsense if you ever visit.

Asatrulore.org
 
Apr 2012
101
nobody is quite sure
Asatru, the religion of the Germanic peoples, is also being reconstructed. No, they are not Neo-nazis. Anyone who ties white supremacy with Asatru/heathenism is a fool. They essentially believe in what most people know as the Norse pantheon. They were worshipped throughout most of the Germanic world, though.

I'm sure most people already know about this reconstruction anyway, so I'll link to a very well known site. It's not exactly active, though, as it's regarded as a scholarly forum for research and intellectual discussion. Avoid 'fluffy' nonsense if you ever visit.

Asatrulore.org
I knew a asatru once or atleast he claimed to be. he had a replica broad sword and called himself a grand priest dragon or something, the whole conversation was very surreal and ultimately short lived :lol: