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Pagan and Christian, or paganisms and christianities?

It's been a discussion around the blogs lately about whether the word "pagan" is really a good description of all the people who fall within the description.  It's a word that I refuse to use to self-identify, because it comes with a ton of baggage that has nothing to do with my religion at all, and yet, when someone flips down the list - are you Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, Buddhist, atheist/agnostic, there's not really any choice given.  When someone declares "I don't beleive in pagans", whether that person is too ignorant to know what the word means or simply being intentionally ignorant, my faith is still being included (or would, if they actually knew it existed).

We've had similar discussions here about Christianity - you can pull a handful of Christians at random, and chances are you'll have 2 people in the group who don't agree on a single point aside from a guy named Jesus being a savior.  Pick the right 2, an they'll go so far as to not just disagree, but insist the other one is doing it completely wrong.  Bringing this up upsets some people, because as much as it's obvious there's 30k+ organized denoms of disagreement, plus hundreds of thousands more that are independant congregations unaffiliated with a major denom, nobody wants to be the one to give up the label of Christian.

Coyle did a series of blogs on this, and while I disagree with her second (since it leaves everyone right back where they started, and ignores the working definition of pagan - anyone not Abrahamic, which is applied whether we like it or not), she makes a point in the first - pagan might better be described as paganisms, and Christian as christianities.  Are you a pagan, or are you a practitioner of one of the thousands of permutations of paganisms?  Are you a Christian, or do you practice ond of the many thousands of christianities?

If someone tells you they are a pagan, does that give you any usable information, aside from them not being an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Jew, Christian, Hindu or Muslim?   If someone tells you they are a Christian, does that tell you a single thing about what they think or believe about anything, or simply that they are not atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Jew, pagan, Hindu or Muslim?

Answer Question

Asked by NotPanicking at 7:53 PM on May. 2, 2012 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,174 Credits)
Answers (6)
  • If someone tells me they are Pagan or Christian I don't even stop to consider which sect, I just assume the general direction of Pagans are not Bible thumpers and Christians only believe in one god. There are so many labels, so many different beliefs and practices. They are all fine by me and all have their own beauty IMO.

    Answer by JackieGirl007 at 8:10 PM on May. 2, 2012

  • It's a good question. I am a Christian. Anyone with a preconcieved notion of what that means based on their own experiences will make an assumption about what I'm like, what I think, how I behave. But really, all they should take from that label is that I recognize Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior. That I believe in Father, Son and Holy Ghost. All that other stuff? Well, you'd need more details from me pertaining to the specific denomination, as well as my own personal views, personality, etc.

    I will admit that I am ignorant enough about paganism to be able to make much of an assumption based on the word alone. I would assume you and I would have different faith bases. I would not assume, however, that required my approval or merit anything other than respect for your right to believe as you do or to worship as you would.

    Answer by ldmrmom at 12:10 AM on May. 3, 2012

  • If someone tells me they're a pagan it tells me that they don't believe in the devil/Satan.
    There very spiritual people and it's what they have in their hearts that matter, not worshipping one God.

    Paganism has been around a lot longer than Christianity. Christianity was born from paganism.

    I'm a Christian and I believe in one God and will not sway from my beliefs but I do respect the way pagans believe. I see nothing wrong with it.

    Answer by PMSMom10 at 12:57 AM on May. 3, 2012

  • It depends on if one is talking about individual traditions as a collective categorization of monolithic beliefs, or if one is talking about a polythetic conceptualization of plural beliefs.

    I lean towards the second as the first level of division--there is Paganism and Christianity, and within them, there are many Paganisms and Christianities. I am Pagan *and* I am a practitioner of one of many Paganisms. Its not an either/or thing, but rather a Venn diagram sort of deal.

    Answer by thalassa at 8:41 AM on May. 3, 2012

  • Yes it does. There are some basic assumptions that can be made simply by having an identifying umbrella. For me, I am an extremely proud Pagan, and use the term with enthusiasm. I do not have a "sect" which I belong to, I am simply PAGAN. If someone where to say to me "I am Pagan" I do have a general idea of where they are coming from. Now, I also understand that there is a myriad of beliefs which can come with the umbrella "Pagan" but knowing they are Pagan does give me a jumping off point to understanding their beliefs. And the same goes for one who claims the umbrella of Christian. There are some basics that can usually be assumed even if they may not be 100% correct, they are rarely completely wrong. For example, if someone claims the umbrella Christian, you can usually assume that they have SOME faith in Jesus and/or the Bible. Someone claiming Pagan most likely will not. It IS an identifier, although non-specific.

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 1:03 PM on May. 4, 2012

  • Thalassa I concur!

    Answer by Gabeandcalebsmo at 2:05 AM on May. 6, 2012

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