“When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” – Romans 1:21-25
Pagans in Utah stepped out of the broom closet, so to speak, earlier this month to declare their existence and to dispel misinformation about paganism and witchcraft. “A lot of the misinformation is that witches are evil, that witches are green, that witches are ugly, that witches sacrifice children or eat babies or whatever the case may be, that there is worship of Satan, things of that nature,” said pagan entrepreneur Rita Morgan, whose store Crone’s Hollow in South Salt Lake not only sells ritual supplies but serves as a meeting place for local covens.
The pagan festival of Samhain (“Sawin”) was celebrated by the Celts as the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter, halfway between the summer and winter solstices on about October 31st. With bonfires and (rumored) human sacrifice to shy off the dead, the holiday was considered a day in which the door opened between this world and the next, and the dead walked among the living. Other historical efforts to protect oneself from evil spirits involved dressing in costume and lighting carved-out turnips or beets.
In our civilized, scientific culture, we tend to think of paganism as something distant, lost in the world of developing nations. In those places, ignorant medicine men seek to chase off disease through spiritual rituals when they would find better results with a tub of bleach water and penicillin. The word “pagan” often brings to mind half-clothed natives dancing around the missionary in the pot, human sacrifice, and barbarism in general.
However, today there is a form of popular paganism that looks surprisingly modern and has followers among intellectuals. While Judeo-Christian morality is increasingly seen as outdated and ‘puritanical’ in our Western World, the human need for spiritual fulfillment has not disappeared. Instead, updated forms of the old pagan religions are spreading once again. Neo-Paganism embraces a wide variety of religious traditions, including Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, Shamanism, and neo-Native American beliefs, mixing a variety of the ancient pagan beliefs about nature and the universe, fitting them to modern society. College professors, screenplay writers and the leaders of many ecological movements have delved into modern Paganism, and their ideas come home to us through our college students and our children’s movies.
Many people dive into Paganism innocently – out of a desire to find out more about God and the spiritual. They love nature, or they are weary of dry, boring church services. Many do not know the Bible well enough to recognize red flags, and a large number of people consider themselves “Christian” pagans. It is important that we recognize when Neo-Pagan beliefs come in conflict with Biblical Christianity and not confuse being “spiritual” with being led by the Holy Spirit. With a better understanding, we can help prepare our families to deal with the lure of modern Paganism.
What Do Pagans Believe?
Paganism in general, no matter which local flavor, is characterized by reverence for nature and usually involves a number of gods, goddesses, or spirits. Shamanism, Druidism, and the local religions of hundreds of cultures can all be considered pagan. The most prevalent form of modern Paganism is Wicca, or witchcraft, which is an occult form of Paganism that includes casting spells and seeking ‘hidden knowledge’.
Modern Paganism is a religion that reveres Nature as divine. Pagans see every plant, animal, man and woman as part of that divinity. Unlike the God of the Bible, who is separate from and greater than His creation, the natural world itself is considered divine and holy. While the God of the Bible created us in His image, the god and goddess are made in our image – in the image of created things.
To the Pagan, the divine is both female and male, so that Pagans worship both the goddess and the god; loving, wise figures who are seen as completely equal. There are also other lesser gods and goddesses called pantheons. Since Nature is seen as female – Mother Earth or Gaia – the goddess tends to be emphasized. She is seen as our mother, the creator and sustainer of life. Since she is responsible for all living things, the other creatures on our planet are seen as our brothers and sisters. For this reason, Pagans are highly environmentally conscious people – sometimes to the extreme.
Pagan rituals and celebrations follow the cycle of life through the year – birth, maturity, aging and death, spring, summer, autumn and winter – in a continual, never-ending cycle. Even the universe is in a continual cycle. When this world ends, another will begin. The God of the Bible calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev 1:8). However, Pagans deny any beginning or end, but see a constant cycle of death and rebirth. For this reason, they tend to affirm some form of reincarnation.
Sex and nudity are seen as part of nature, and Pagans have no qualms about sexual activity outside of marriage. In fact, Pagans have much in common with the ancient fertility religions and the high place worship that was done in groves of trees thousands of years ago (Ezek 6:13, Jer 3:6). In that respect, it is interesting that on May 1 Pagans celebrate Beltain, the marriage of the goddess and god, when the god becomes Oak King.
Pagans do not believe in sin or Satan. They are often upset when they are seen as Satanists or satanic, since Satan does not enter into their worldview. Rather, they accept concepts of karma and positive and negative energy. They have no rules or guidebook and no leader. Each pagan follows his or her own spiritual path. The single solid rule of Paganism is: “If it harms none, do what you will.” They seek to do ‘good’ according to their individual understanding of good, to help their communities and take care of the environment and create positive energy. They are responsible to themselves alone, and have their own values and ethics.
Paganism offers spirituality without any rules or regulations, and connection with the spiritual world without requiring submission to the will of the one true God. Paganism teaches that the individual is god, free to choose his or her own path, his or her own boundaries for morality. This is very appealing to those wanting to throw off what they see as oppressive patriarchal religions in favor of the more ‘compassionate’ female goddess of Paganism. It has had a great deal of influence in the intellectual world, as well as among teenagers. Teens who love nature anyway, and who don’t want to be told what to do, find Paganism an attractive form of religion.
Unfortunately, while Pagans see their religion as harmless and good for the environment and community, they do not know the spiritual forces that are truly at work behind it (Eph. 6:12, 1 John 4:1-3). Denying the problem of sin is self-deceptive and dangerous (1 John:1:8). And by denying sin, Pagans reject their need for a Savior. Whether or not Pagans believe in Satan has no bearing on the reality of his existence and his ability to influence their lives. Paul warns that even Satan can be transformed to look like an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). A good con artist never looks like a con. Instead, he offers you what you want, in a most appealing package, so that when you buy into his lie and accept what he offers, he can pillage you and strip you bare.
God wants us to seek Him with all our hearts, and He said we would find Him when we do so (Deut 4:29, Jer 29:13). We need to make sure that our seeking Him is according to truth, and the Bible is God’s Word to us, His own revelation of who He is. We must always be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who “received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily” to make sure the things they were being taught were so.