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What Pagans can learn from Christianity The Jesus myth can still be potent for non-believers

Spain's Festival of the Pine on December 30 (David Ramos/Getty Images)

Spain's Festival of the Pine on December 30 (David Ramos/Getty Images)


December 25, 2023   11 mins

“I do not know much about gods,” wrote T.S. Eliot in The Dry Salvages, “but I think that the river is a strong brown god.” Eliot was a devout Anglican, but he lived at a time when classical education and a self-confidence long since vanished from today’s Christianity still gave Christian thinkers and creative minds room to allow Pagan religious metaphors free play in their work.

The same ease that allowed him and his Christian contemporaries to move at will between Pagan and Christian religious visions was just as common in the nascent Pagan scene of the time. Eliot’s contemporary Dion Fortune, whose writings played a central role in the birth of modern Pagan spirituality, also wrote a work of Christian devotional literature — Mystical Meditations on the Collects — without sensing, or being accused of, the least inconsistency. To Fortune, and in a different sense to Eliot as well, Christianity and Paganism were simply different ways of talking about spiritual realities and relationships that could not be reduced to a single symbolic formula.

Those times are unhappily long past. During the second half of the 20th century, most Christian denominations in the Western world responded to the re-emergence of Pagan religion by reviving centuries-old stereotypes of devil worship or, at best, restricting their efforts at interreligious dialogue to a narrow circle of “world religions” hedged in by definitions that exclude today’s reborn Pagan faiths. Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine an Anglican poet anywhere this side of heresy wielding Pagan religious metaphors with Eliot’s aplomb. The same narrowing of options can be found on the other side of the newly raised barrier, for that matter; Pagan writers nowadays are far more likely to craft extended diatribes about the misbehaviour of Christian churches in the past than to explore, as Dion Fortune did, the interpenetration of Pagan and Christian religious experience.

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It’s anyone’s guess when, or whether, this sorry state of affairs will end. Still, there are exceptions to the generalisations just made. Some Christians have made serious efforts to grasp the nature of Pagan religious consciousness, just as some Pagans have tried to understand Christianity as a valid religious expression that doesn’t happen to be theirs. There are also those who feel called to a faith that blends Pagan and Christian traditions, and despite the hostility such ventures too often receive, their number is growing. From such initiatives, with luck and the blessing of the gods, a wider context of mutual tolerance and acceptance may someday arise.

My own background places me in a complex relationship to this hope. I am a Pagan even in the strictest Christian sense of the word; that is, I have not been baptised, nor have I ever belonged to a Christian church of any kind. I grew up in a comfortably secular milieu in one of the least religious parts of the United States; among the families on the block where I lived for much of my childhood, for example, only one went to church on Sundays.

When Christianity finally came to my attention, it was by way of the strident evangelical revival that swept over America in the late Seventies. Instead, like much of my generation, I explored other paths — atheism, Asian religions, a handful of the new religious movements — before finding my spiritual home; in my case this was on the far end of the religious spectrum, in that branch of the alternative spiritual scene that embraces the name and draws on the inspiration of the ancient Druids.

The modern Druid movement has a complex and quirky history of its own, reaching back to the 18th century, when it evolved out of a collision between liberal Anglicanism, nature worship, and fragments of Celtic tradition. It inherits from its origins a distrust of dogmatism that has made it a haven for eccentrics and a nightmare for would-be systematisers. Even so simple a question as the number of deities Druids worship — one, two, many, none — finds nearly as many answers as there are Druids. At the core of most visions of the contemporary Druid way, though, lies a sense that living nature is the least murky expression of the divine accessible to human beings. We may not agree about much else, but the shorthand creed drafted by one Druid tradition wins almost universal assent: “Nature is good.”

This apparent platitude has depths that may not appear to a casual glance. It’s not a statement of fact, since nature routinely violates most conventional human ideas of goodness. Rather, it’s the first postulate in a system of values. By taking living nature as our basic measure of the good, the qualities expressed by nature — wholeness, flow, spontaneity, elegance, and the like — become core values that can be expressed in the life of each Druid. Equally, the central role of nature in Druid thought makes symbols and imagery derived from nature equally central in contemporary Druid myth, ritual and practice.

This may appear worlds apart from Christianity in its modern forms. In the hands of an almost forgotten tradition of 19th-century Pagan thought, however, it forms an unexpected bridge crossing the chasm that now separates the religious visions of Paganism and Christianity.

Very few of today’s Pagans, and even fewer contemporary Christians, have ever heard of the redoubtable Welsh author and Druid Owen Morgan. In his day, though, Morgan — Archdruid Morien of Pontypridd, to use his religious title — was a prominent figure on the far end of British spirituality, with a substantial following in Great Britain and the United States. Those who like to imagine the Victorian era as a glacial landscape of conformity and sexual repression should stay far away from Morgan’s writings, and especially his 1887 textbook of Druid philosophy and theology, The Light in Britannia, which argued that Christianity was a Pagan fertility cult.

Morgan himself did not put the matter quite so baldly. He argued, rather, that the core of all true religion was the worship of the life force; that the most prominent emblems of the life force — in the macrocosm, Sun and Earth; in the microcosm, the male and female genitals — were the foundation of all religious symbolism, in Pagan as well as Christian traditions; and that Christianity was simply a restatement of the old Pagan gnosis of fertility and new life. He considered himself a good Christian as well as a Druid, and saw nothing inappropriate in attending church regularly. For him, after all, the church was a stone representation of the vagina of the Earth goddess, its portal facing east to welcome the virile and penetrating rays of the rising Sun: the Bride of Christ, in another symbolism, eagerly awaiting her heavenly bridegroom.

Ideas such as these were far from unique to Morgan, or for that matter to the Druidry of his time. Behind his book lay more than a century of pioneering explorations of the origins of human religion, and the rise of two major schools of thought — one arguing for an astrological and seasonal origin to religion and myth, the other tracing all religion and myth back to what was primly called “the worship of the generative powers” — that many alternative thinkers of his time were trying to reconcile. Some of these had already taken the final, daring step of including Christianity in their syntheses, though none ever quite managed to equal Morgan’s flair or his genius for deadpan humour. Despite this, Morgan’s own cultural impact has gone surprisingly unnoticed. You can read any number of histories of the rise of modern Neopaganism, for example, and never learn that The Light in Britannia was the first modern expression of a fertility religion that places a single god, a single goddess, and their sexual relationship at the centre of its spiritual vision — a pattern that became popular after its publication, and eventually took definitive form with Gerald Gardner’s invention of Wicca.

The broader tradition of seasonal and sexual religious interpretation has had a little more visibility in recent times, not least because it helped shape important works of scholarship such as James Frazer’s The Golden Bough and T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Still, such interpretations have been unfashionable in scholarly circles for some decades now. This is unfortunate, for however overblown some of the old analyses may have been — and Morgan’s were among the most colourful, it must be admitted — they capture a crucial factor in ancient Pagan religions that is also amply present in the origins of Christianity.

The “strong brown god” in Eliot’s The Dry Salvages, for instance, offers a useful starting place. To any Pagan in ancient times, Eliot’s recognition was so obvious that it scarcely required mentioning. Of course, rivers were deities — gods to the ancient Greeks, for example, and goddesses to the ancient Celts. Other natural phenomena were equally full of divinity. An ancient Greek who wanted to comment on wet weather would as likely as not say “Zeus is raining”.

Whatever else Zeus was in classical Greek religion, in other words, he was always, in part, the sky as a conscious and potent divine being. Poseidon was similarly the ocean, Demeter the fertile earth, Aphrodite sexuality in all its forms, Pan the raw unhuman presence of wilderness, and so on. Even through the elegant literary constructions of late classical myth, it’s not difficult to see each god and goddess as a distinct force of nature with its own power to shape the weaving of the fabric of human life.

The same principle applies in a different way to a class of beings the Greeks carefully distinguished from the gods — the heroes or demigods, who were born of loves between a god or goddess and a mortal. Each of these embodied one of the realms where the human and natural worlds fused into unity. The twelve labours of Heracles, for instance, echo precisely the seasonal movement of the Sun through the signs of the Zodiac as reflected in the agricultural cycle — compare Heracles’s labours to the tasks of the Greek farmer as outlined, say, in Hesiod’s Works and Days, and it’s not too hard to make sense of the myth.

There was, of course, another god whose cult thrived in the late classical world, and the parallels linking the myth of Jesus with the seasonal cycle of agriculture are at least as precise as those that can be traced in the myth of Heracles. Just as Heracles had his 12 labours, for instance, Jesus had his 12 disciples, whose connection with the signs of the zodiac has been a commonplace of Christian symbolism for many centuries.

Yet the mythic narratives that surround Jesus have the greater richness one would expect from the classical Levant, where fertility deities who die and rise again had been a commonplace of Pagan religious thought for thousands of years before the rise of ancient Greece. It’s for this reason that Jesus is paired throughout his myth with his alter ego John the Baptist. The two mirror each other seasonally; Jesus is born at the winter solstice and dies in the spring, the harvest time in the eastern Mediterranean, suspended above the earth like the ripe grain on the stalk; John is born at the summer solstice and dies in the autumn, the planting time, beheaded in a prison beneath the earth, like the seed that goes to its burial behind the ploughshare’s iron blade. “He must increase,” John says of Jesus, “while I must decrease.”

Evidence for this interpretation of Christian myth is abundant in the Bible and other early Christian sources. Jesus’s traditional birthplace is in Bethlehem, for example, a town whose name literally means “house of bread” in Hebrew, and the central act of traditional Christian ritual centres on eating the bread that is Jesus’s body and drinking the wine that is his blood. (John has no similar ritual attributed to him, since one does not eat the seed corn or the rootstock of the grapevine.) “I have come that they might have life,” Jesus says in the Bible, “and that they might have it more abundantly.” Any other fertility deity could have said as much, and it’s only the intellectual distance that separates us from the context of early Christianity that makes so many people nowadays think that the “life” Jesus spoke of is a spiritual abstraction.

Christianity, it must be remembered, had its birth in the bustling spiritual marketplace of the classical Mediterranean world, where religious metaphors of this sort were commonplaces of contemporary thought. The mystery religions, which offered salvation to those who sought union with a god or a goddess through rituals of initiation and communion, were among the most powerful religious forces of the time, and nearly all of them focused on exactly this kind of agricultural symbolism. Thus it’s hardly a leap to suggest, as so many scholars of myth have suggested, that the precise parallels between Christianity and the other mystery religions, and the rich agricultural symbolism of Christianity itself, show that the original Christian faith may well have been something not far from what Owen Morgan claimed it to be: a mystery cult venerating the life force in nature, expressed through a rich mythic symbolism, that became associated through a complex historical process with the events of the life and death of an otherwise obscure Jewish religious reformer.

The relationship between the mythic role assigned to Jesus and the sparse historical traces left by his life is a challenging issue for many modern versions of Christianity. Some theologies refuse to draw any distinction between myth and history — if the Bible says that Jesus rose into heaven, according to these interpretations, then that’s what happened, and if television reporters had been there, they could have filmed it for the five o’clock news. Others draw a distinction between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith”, though data on the former is so sparse that it can be, and has been, redefined to fit any of a dizzying assortment of modern agendas. Still others have come to reject the idea that a historical Jesus existed in the first place.

If Christianity was originally a mystery cult focused on the life force, though, these confusions evaporate. Whatever historical reality might have formed the kernel around which the Jesus myth emerged — and in all probability no one will ever know what that reality was — the spiritual meaning of the myth is not dependent on that reality. In Morgan’s sense, there is no question as to the factual nature of the resurrection of Jesus, since it takes place in every sunrise and in the sprouting of every seed. The historical figure around which the myth coalesced is simply not that important; there was doubtless some dimly remembered historical figure at the root of the myth of Heracles, too.

The claim that Christianity’s dying and resurrected god was a historical person who lived in the very recent past, rather than a wholly mythic figure, played an important role historically in giving the new-born Christian church an edge over its competitors. When the fall of Rome dragged the classical world to ruin, however, the elegant mythic metaphors that had made Christianity the most successful of the Pagan mystery religions were reinterpreted in blindly literal terms. Later on, in the Reformation and afterward, these metaphors lost the last of their original meaning, and were transformed into bloodless ideologies completely detached from the seasonal and vegetative context that once gave them their power.

Nowadays, the obscure historical figure of Jesus lies in the distant past, and attempts to force a literal meaning out of those narratives have long since crossed over into absurdity. The widespread modern notion of the Rapture, in which believing Christians will soon be beamed up to heaven by some miraculous equivalent of Star Trek’s transporter beams, is a troubling case in point. It’s a lightly disguised fantasy of mass suicide — when someone tells their children that Grandma has gone to heaven to be with Jesus, most people understand what that means — and its popularity suggests that the conflict between overly literal interpretations of Christianity’s exuberant seasonal myths and the awkward solidity of a world that refuses to fit those interpretations may finally have become too great for many Christians to bear.

Efforts to reconnect Christianity with its origins as a mystery religion of life and fertility have been going on for more than two centuries now, and might have succeeded in revitalising the old myths and rituals, except for one detail: Nearly all these attempts aimed at discrediting Christianity as just another Pagan fertility cult, and therefore unworthy of respect. It took a believer in a different Pagan fertility cult, Owen Morgan, to realise that the equation could be worked the other way. He saw, as a handful of visionaries since his time have seen, that the ancient worship of the life force is a potent and valid spiritual option in its own right, and that Christian ritual and symbols can readily carry this primal constellation of meanings.

It is only fair to say that many other interpretations of Christianity are possible; many people will find some other way of approach to the Christian faith more relevant to their own spiritual lives, and many others will find no need to approach the Christian faith at all. Central to the old Paganism was the realisation that different people are called to worship different deities, and the corresponding sense that each person has the right and the duty to pursue his or her own religious path within a context of respect and toleration for the deities of others. Still, for those who feel drawn to the rituals and symbolism of Christianity, the vision of Jesus as an image of the ever-returning life force, and of Christianity as a mystery cult that need not conflict with a wider reverence for the divine presence in the world, may offer unexpected possibilities.

***

A version of this essay appeared in Beyond the Narratives: Essays on Occultism and the Future (Aeon Books),


John Michael Greer is the author of over thirty books. He served twelve years as Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America.


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Simon Neale
Simon Neale
4 months ago

Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine an Anglican poet anywhere this side of heresy wielding Pagan religious metaphors with Eliot’s aplomb.

That’s to do with the paucity of poetic ability and the rarity of poets within a dwindling church, rather than a narrow adherence to Anglican doctrine. As a close-up non-believing observer of the Anglican Church in its homeland (my wife is a senior clergywoman in the C of E) it’s fairly obvious that you can believe almost anything and remain Anglican.
You could deny the virgin birth, claim that God is a mental projection of our inner goodness with no objective reality, extol the virtues of mindfulness and yoga, and invite imams to take part in your services. No big deal.
The only thing that would get you into serious trouble would be to say something that might be construed as racist, homophobic, islamophobic, or transphobic. And you would need to take care if you thought that Anthropogenic Global Warming was unproven, or you were keen on Brexit.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

I don’t want to bash Anglicans because I do believe there are genuine Christians in the Church but…I don’t see how a Church attached to the State can ever escape the State’s objectives. State objectives have nothing to do with Christ’s teachings unless one were to infer that the State itself is a function of Divine Right. So a State Church is going to be guided by something like the Hegelian Arc where History progresses through the State.

jane baker
JB
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

“Genuine Christians” sorry but I’ve lived long enough to know how dodgy a concept that is. We’re all human,too human,give us all a break will ya,whether we be Muslims who get pissed,Vegans who treat themselves to a bacon sandwich once a month (chortle, chortle) or Free Love advocates who diss YOU as a w***e. Can ya hear me Mary Perry,how about you Kerz Morgan.We are human,all too human. Nobody s perfect.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Genuine Christians does not refer to sinless people. It refers to people that actually believe in the Bible. Not people that see Jesus as the God of “Self-Love and Spiritual Affirmation.”

I’d love to understand anything of what you said above.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

You’re an atheist with a clergywoman wife? It’s hard to imagine how you do that.

jane baker
JB
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Shut your eyes and think of England. Maybe Love overrides ideology. Anyway media friendly vicars never mention Jesus. I’m thinking of the Dr Who one,the real life Vicar of Dibley one,and the ex 80s pop star one. Never ever heard the name Jesus come from their mouths.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Easy! There are lots of us!

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Lots of clergy are secret members of the Sea of Faith network,if that’s still about. When you belong to a church and especially if you run it,you shouldn’t have to check in your brain at the door and revert to being six years old for an hour.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
4 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Why on earth would they keep it secret? It’s considered old hat by most theologians, but nothing to be secretive about. When my wife was training, Don Cupitt (very elderly) would make occasional appearances.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Jane, you could inspire an entire generation to go back to church. Please become an Anti-Christian public figure and I would recommend you spend the majority of your time speaking about the intellectual superiority of Anti-Christians.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Funnily enough, years ago when I was invited to the local church to discuss confirmation, which I refused, the vicar suggested that it was not actually necessary to believe in what one was confirming. As an aside, does the Anglican church really believe in the virgin birth, an idea that arose from mistranslation of a Hebrew Bible prophecy, or is it just part of the ‘high church’ revival?
Regarding Church being guided by the State’s objectives (T Bone) it works both ways. Approximately a third of schools in England are ‘faith schools’ including ‘Church of England schools’, and there are also 27 bishops in the UK upper house of Parliament. There is still a statute requiring a daily ‘act of worship’ in schools though it is not always observed.
These are absurdities in the modern world, as well as an open invitation to less benign faiths to demand influence, and they certainly do not consider God to be a projection of personal inner goodness. Conversely, it is understandable that the AC is loosening up (alpha, gay marriage etc) to maintain some kind of influence outside its (I hope) precarious statutory privilege. I look forward to the first female Archbishop of Canterbury. There can still be a place for unpolitical and disinterested persons of influence on ethical matters.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
4 months ago

It would take longer than this essay to point out all the things wrong with it, so let’s just confine ourselves to this passage:
Central to the old Paganism was the realisation that different people are called to worship different deities, and the corresponding sense that each person has the right and the duty to pursue his or her own religious path within a context of respect and toleration for the deities of others.
None of that is true: ancient peoples did not follow some unified “Paganism”, and therefore no “realization” could be central to it; ancient pagans, in the main, did not practice henotheism (venerating one god while acknowledging the existence of others), but instead practiced a kind of transactional polytheism, wherein the worshiper visited the temple of Poseidon before going on a long sea voyage, the temple of Aphrodite when seeking help in matters of love, or the temple of Isis after being turned into a donkey; and it was precisely because they refused to worship the gods of the Romans that the Christians were persecuted by the Roman authorities, because worship of the gods was emphatically not a private act but a public one, which the failure to perform, even by the individual, could result in catastrophic consequences for the entire community.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago

I think you’re mistaken to critique the essay in that way, and have misinterpreted the essence of it. No doubt you have your own reasons for doing so, but there’s a profundity that you appear to have entirely missed in what the writer has extrapolated, bringing together the “life force” principle and seeking to reinterpret it for our age, which is no different from any other age as far as being human, and conscious and engaged with the world as any previous age.

Those who object to the merging, or submerging even, of the Christian tradition into a more ancient spiritual sense of being alive in the world will also miss out on the richness that such a synthesis brings forth.

I’ve argued many times in these pages that spirituality precedes religion – religion in the sense of an organising principle the writer cites – and his breadth and depth of exploring that, including more modern adherents, deserves to be taken in the right spirit. To do so, if applied more generally, would bring an end to the ceaseless and senseless religious conflicts that continue to fracture our world.

Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Murray
N Satori
N Satori
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

And I have argued in these pages (but not ceaselessly – ceaselessly is very much your beat Murray) that religion must deliver the supernatural goods if it is to be any more than just a take-it-or-leave-it belief system honouring a believe-it-or-not deity.
Spirituality? What is that? Is it, perhaps, just some inner sense that one is personally in touch with the creator? Such a thing may be more appealing to the intellectually inclined than mere outward ritual. For those of an intellectual bent a belief their personal spiritual depth comes as standard.
For those of a more superficial nature a belief in a god or gods is surely pursued in the hope of attracting good fortune. People pray because they believe that the world is governed by a supernatural entity who can be persuaded to consider granting favours if one does the right thing. On personal note: some years ago I worked for a Muslim employer who was convinced that his regular attendance at Friday prayers in the local mosque would bring good fortune to his business. In spite of his devotion to god the business went bankrupt.

George Stone
George Stone
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I worked for a jewish employer who once said that when we made money god was smiling on us.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

So very, many people believe that. So the opposite is then true. How childish.

George Stone
George Stone
3 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

What do you mean???? What do so many believe??

George Stone
George Stone
3 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

I did not mean the comment to demean Jewish people, on the contrary, I am an admirer of the Jewish diaspora. But, that was a comment that I was a witness to. I mentioned that in response to the comment of the Muslim employer and Friday prayers. Everyone follows the money, including relgions.

Steve Murray
LL
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

If you have to ask, there’s no point in trying to explain. I wouldn’t anyway, since your continued use of the last name (no need to use any name, actually) completely excludes you from the normal bounds of civil discourse.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Oh, come on you two. That’s the problem with religion it’s divisive.

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

No. People are divisive.

Clare Knight
CK
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

Well said also. I don’t think you and Steve are that far apart, are you?

George Stone
George Stone
3 months ago
Reply to  N Satori

I disagree with the statement that those of an intellectual bent have an innate sense of spiritual depth. I would have thought that most intellectuals are non-believers and that the hoi polloi pay lip service to religion.
,

Ida March
Ida March
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

You said, “Those who object to the merging, or submerging even, of the Christian tradition into a more ancient spiritual sense of being alive in the world will also miss out on the richness that such a synthesis brings forth.”
Does that richness include human sacrifice which a number of Pagan deities were very fond of?
This is the dark side of the Pagan belief system – children sacrificed to Moloch. Something which modern Pagans don’t seem to acknowledge.

Clare Knight
CK
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

But it’s in the past.

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

Scary,scary,let’s cut more trees down and erect nice polite tower blocks.

P Branagan
PB
P Branagan
3 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

For Pete’s sake, the entire Christian belief system revolves around blood sacrifice – the crucifixion of Jesus.

Simon S
Simon S
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I think you both make fair points. I find the writer’s characterisation of “Paganism” with a capital P idiosyncratic and entertaining but fundamentally unspiritual and therefore unsatisfactory. He does not speak to the ineffability at the heart of spiritual experience (which of course can exist entirely independently of religion). Jesus spoke in paradoxes to induce inner awakening. The Catholic Church built an edifice of power around its version of his life and teachings of which he would have approved as little as he did the Sadducees and Pharisees.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

So very well said, Steve. Thank you for being so succinct.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago

‘The Golden Ass’ is a far better read than say the New Testament.
It should be a mandatory text for all religious education in our schools.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
4 months ago

The best religious education is none.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

Precisely!

Benedict Waterson
BW
Benedict Waterson
4 months ago

Re-read the last paragraph

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 months ago

The last paragraph suggests that mutually ideas can both/all be true! Not possible!

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago

Boring,who cares,life is beautiful.

Ida March
Ida March
4 months ago

Pagan gods like Moloch of the ancient near east and Pachamama of the Incas demanded child sacrifice. The gods of the Aztecs weren’t so fussy. Any human sacrifice would do. How do Christians, or anyone else for that matter, reconcile with that?
Christ sacrificed himself. Pagan deities require humans to be sacrificed to them. There’s your irreconcilable difference between Paganism and Christianity.
Pagans rarely accept or acknowledge this aspect of their spiritual tradition.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ida March
George Stone
George Stone
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

Most of Christianity is based on paganism. Bread and wine – cult of Osiris.

Ida March
Ida March
4 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

So Pagans like to think. But Pagans don’t have exclusive rights to bread and wine.
Christianity rejected the Pagan horror of human sacrifice. That’s a difference that means something.
Modern Pagans always sidestep this issue.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ida March
Terry M
TM
Terry M
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

It’s not that pagansown them, but that these common elements are used because they have relevance for most people.

Jane Awdry
Jane Awdry
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

Except isn’t Christianity itself built entirely upon the story of a sacrifice of not only a human, but of the very embodiment of its deity? A sacrifice which is celebrated every year as having been made especially to save humankind.
As promises go, it hasn’t delivered particularly well, has it?

Ida March
Ida March
3 months ago
Reply to  Jane Awdry

No modern Pagan is prepared to address the subject of Pagan human sacrifice without reference to the sins of Christians.
Now, can you address the subject Pagan human sacrifice without ‘whataboutery’.
Unless you want to keep proving my point.
Modern Pagans need to address the dark side of their spirituality.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

Also, Christians breathe air and drink water which is a clear sign of cultural appropriation from Pagan culture.

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

The Holy Family is Isis,Osiris and Horus. And nothing wrong with that. A young mother and new born baby is,even in real life,the most Holy and Reverence inducing of things we see. Even if not all the time. The most beautiful image of the young family is innate to our human hearts.

Last edited 4 months ago by jane baker
Dumetrius
Dumetrius
4 months ago
Reply to  George Stone

No it isn’t. Do fish eat Jesus p***s, like Osiris? Does Osiris walk around and interact with others after his ‘revival’ ? No.

It’s only possible to argue similarities between the two myths by ignoring massive, clunking differences.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago

I would like to understand the difference between Paganism, Postmodernism, Intersectionality and Multicultural Relativism.  None believe in a Supreme Deity and all believe that no set of beliefs is superior to any other.  Paganism appears to just believe in a set of multicultural metaphors on a very deep level.

Christianity can not merge with another religion, otherwise its Pagan.  Marxism is a form of Paganism.  It’s an not an economic theory but a theory of “Human Emancipation” from the Prison of Being. Its combination of Hermeticism (Alchemy) and Gnosticism (Heretical Christianity).  That’s why it produces things like Liberation Theology and Postcolonial Theory which seem like Christianity but without the personal labour of being held accountable by God.

jane baker
JB
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  T Bone

So many words. Just go for a walk,plant a rose bush.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

I see the Druids have arrived.

Ida March
Ida March
4 months ago

Didn’t the Druids engage in human sacrifice?
Would the modern Druids care to comment?
Or do they prefer to avert their eyes?
And by the way, nature doesn’t care about you.

Last edited 4 months ago by Ida March
laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

Of course, Christians throughout history have been infamous for burning and beheading, drowning and dismembering an untold number of people in the service of their god. The victims were called heretics. Read about the Cathars (or the Jews) and weep.
But the author doesn’t seem interested in competition between religions. And he’s clear that modern Druids are not directly descended from the originals.

Ida March
Ida March
4 months ago

Human beings throughout history have been infamous for all the ghastly activities you describe, including Pagans. Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul cost the lives of 2 million people. Julius Caesar was a Pagan.
The Christian God does not demand human sacrifice. Only Pagan deities do that.
Modern Pagans refuse to acknowledge the dark side of their spiritual tradition.

Charles Stanhope
CS
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

What about all those thousands burnt by the Catholic Inquisition(s) and the thousands more so-called ‘witches’ hanged and burnt by Protestant nutters?
In the UK, to be precise Scotland, the last ‘witch’ was burnt alive circa 1723 in Dornoch. She was stripped, smeared with tar, placed in barrel and incinerated. Her screams could be heard in Findhorn, across the Moray Firth.
At least Caesar gave us ‘The Gallic Wars’, a literary masterpiece, unmatched by any other ‘Commander’ with the exception of Thucydides.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

Many masterpieces emerged out of the Internecine Christian War Era (circa 1500-1650), including Paradise Lost* and all the plays of Shakespeare.
I “begin” to suspect that you’re the kind of old fellow that doesn’t value what he knows unless very few others know it. Perhaps you should spend some of your remaining time engaging with common knowledge that you don’t have, or have disregarded as not recondite enough to show off.
You talk as if pagan cultures don’t have a huge body count.
*1667. Can we make it 1500-1690?

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ Mac
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

What an obtuse reply!
Besides surely nearly everyone knows their Caesar! Even Thucydides is not that niche.
Perhaps it is you who should spend your remaining decades doing a little reading?

Incidentally most of human history is one huge “body count”, pagan or not.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

A little reading? Haha!
Since the body count is so general: Why pretend that it is so one-sided?
I respect your learning Mr. Stanhope, but I don’t worship it.
I’ve read dozens of good books that you haven’t, and so have you.

Ida March
Ida March
3 months ago

Keep proving my point.
You won’t address the subject of Pagan human sacrifice. Your only response is a ‘what the Christians did’.
Can any modern Pagan address the subject of human sacrifice as practiced by Pagans.
No. You/they can’t, or refuse to.
Modern Pagans are fakes.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs
3 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

Ida, it’s beautiful to watch them prove your point so eloquently.

jane baker
JB
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Ida March

Nor does God. And that’s ok.

Nanda Kishor das
Nanda Kishor das
4 months ago

“It’s only the intellectual distance that separates us from the context of early Christianity that makes so many people nowadays think that the “life” Jesus spoke of is a spiritual abstraction.“

The author seems to have failed to grasp – or willingly overlooked so he can better make his point, it’s always hard to tell with this Greer fellow – the concept of Eternal Life, and one of the main things that sets apart Paganism and actual Religions: the belief in a Kingdom beyond this world, and a clear demarcation between flesh and spirit. Many devout Christians from different times in History – as well as Hindus, Muslims, Jews… – would happily grant that this physical world is populated, and to a certain extent governed, by personal deities or demigods. But they would also recognise God as the almighty ruler of a higher, spiritual and immaterial realm; a world which is superior to this one, and so has prevalence and authority over it. A pagan god may provide rain or successful crops, but not awaken within His worshiper an awareness of their transcendent, eternal nature beyond the duality of this finite world.

Andrew D
Andrew D
4 months ago

‘Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine an Anglican poet anywhere this side of heresy wielding Pagan religious metaphors with Eliot’s aplomb‘. 

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Agreed, although Malcolm Guite is quite good, and can we still count R.S.Thomas?

Last edited 4 months ago by Simon Neale
Andrew D
Andrew D
4 months ago
Reply to  Simon Neale

Not Thomas I think (b. 1913). Thank you for introducing me to Guite, will explore further

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
4 months ago

Saul of Tarsus was turning ancient Judaism into a pagan fertility cult? Was that why his preaching only produced riots in the synagogues?
It cannot be overemphasised that faith in Jesus began among Jews. The Twelve and all their associates were thoroughly Jewish. Christianity did not begin in the ‘marketplace’ of ancient religions.
The Twelve agree with Paul that they will preach only to the circumcision. In doing do, they were following their Master’s instruction. That the focus of these men was entirely Jewish can be seen in the incident where James – Jesus’s brother, no less – sends instruction that the Jewish followers should stop associating with the foreign converts (Gal. 2:12), emulating considerably the insistence of most of his fellows that they should not preach to the foreigners either (1 Thes. 2:16). James’s argument was evidently very persuasive and is likely to have revolved around continued adherence to the law, given his veneration of the same.
Jesus was critical of foreign religion and emphasised the primacy and sole efficacy of his own faith (Matt.vi.7; John iv.22). There is nothing in what He says that supports the belief that all religions lead to God. Nor is there any indication in these statements that Jesus would have been interested in interfaith dialogue. Jesus praises the faith of the centurion and the woman in Sidon. But faith in what? Clearly not in the gods Mars or Baal.
When Jesus meets the woman from Sidon, what are they both discussing (Matt.xv.22-28)? It isn’t religion. It isn’t whether she is a good person or religious, and thus deserving of help, or a bad person who didn’t. In what Jesus says to her He is setting out the terms of the Covenant. 
In His carefully chosen example drawn from everyday life, in this case dinner table etiquette, He is inviting the woman to endorse those terms. These are that she is not one of the ‘children’ and that any help she is given is not on terms of equality with them.  
What advantage comes of it if all religions worship the same God? As the Apostle James observed, even the worst of beings can believe in one God but that doesn’t make the prospects for them any better (Jas.ii.19).
In the Hebrew Bible, the Jews are always insistent that their God is a living God. This is best illustrated in the account of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (Isa.xxxvii). Sennacherib, the Assyrian king, sends an contemptuous missive to the Jewish King, Hezekiah, inviting him to surrender.
This letter was a coarse and insolent assertion that Israel’s God was a deceiver. Not that he was a nonentity; that was not the pagan autocrat’s line of thought. Jehovah was in his eyes a god, one of the miscellaneous pantheon of the nations. They had gone down before the Assyrian cohorts, arrayed in purple and gold, and so would the God of small and feeble Judah.
Let’s not overlook the tremendous trial of faith involved in such words spoken at that time. It was as if the army of Imperial Germany were deployed against Portugal. In inventiveness and culture, as well as in military strength, Assyria far outmatched Judah.
Hezekiah takes the scroll which he has just read and lays in on the altar in the Temple so that his God can read what the pagan autocrat is saying about Him.
Hezekiah owns that the facts of the letter are true. The Assyrian has indeed destroyed the nations and burned their gods. But he repudiates the inference. These gods are no gods at all (as Paul was to write centuries later, “What accord has Christ with Belial?”). Now let Jehovah deign to show Himself what he is, “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art God, even thou only.” Thou only. No trip to the shopping mall of religions.
The trying letter we may receive. For Christians, the example of Hezekiah is to take the book that has troubled their faith; the anxious phenomena of Church, of State, of the World, of Family, which come before their mind’s eye like threatening letters from the powers of darkness; and spread them out, as Hezekiah did with the scroll, before Him who understands how the meet them. God the invisible Jesus. Jesus the visible God.
Christianity isn’t a religion. It is a Person.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

Your post is not a solid case. It is a Rant.
“Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” Matthew 15:27
“Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you” 21:31

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
3 months ago

It is a person who is Jewish! Christianity is Jewish!

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
4 months ago

This is frustrating. I read CS Lewis and the more I go into it the more it seems that Lewis and the Inklings, saw Christianity as the culmination of millenia of Pagan myths where gods were sacrificed, and demanded sacrifices, for their tribe to the climax of the one God who took His place in history as the God of all people demanding no sacrifice because He was the sacrifice.

More than that, based on some hints I believe the Inklings were white magicians and were active in WW2. The frustration is that I get hints of this – like this essay and the idea of Deep England but it’s elusive. Any idea what I should read next?

Last edited 4 months ago by Helen Nevitt
Vicki Robinson
Vicki Robinson
4 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Owen Barfield — known as the last inkling — is worth a look. He examined the evolution of human consciousness through language and the changing meaning of words. Mark Vernon uses his ideas to examine how Hebrews and Greeks underwent shifts in consciousness that prepared the way for Jesus’ approach.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
4 months ago
Reply to  Vicki Robinson

Thank you, I will, but is he heavy going? Lewis is easy to read, but more complex than you think. I read The Abolition of Man it made sense and I thought I understood it, until I tried to explain it to someone. I’ve had to reread it, but I don’t think that’s a hardship, everyone should read it I think, or every sixth former.
I will give Barfield a go, I’ve heard of him, he and Lewis wrote to each other a lot, I think I’ve heard. I’ve never read the letters.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
4 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Barfield is not always a straightforward read, hence my book as a way in. Do have a look here – https://www.markvernon.com/consciousness

Helen Nevitt
HN
Helen Nevitt
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

Thank you Mark, that will be some New Year reading for me.

T Bone
T Bone
4 months ago
Reply to  Vicki Robinson

At what point is an analysis a synthetic simulation so far from the original text of the New Testament that it can’t be taken seriously?

At some point, we’re piling on one’s opinion of an opinion of an opinion of metaphors and then trying to speculate on how pre-biblical history may have affected the guy (Jesus) at the center of the text.

It’s fine to do that if you enjoy it but the idea that any of that analysis debunks the Bible is intellectually invalid.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
4 months ago
Reply to  Vicki Robinson

Barfield is not always an essy read, hence my book as a way in. Do have a look here – https://www.markvernon.com/consciousness

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

I’ve just followed the link. Looks interesting for someone who is where I am atm – and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. Why is Barfield not better known?

Citizen Diversity
Citizen Diversity
4 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

You are thinking about Lewis’s novel, That Hideous Strength. In that story, there are a group of Christians and – importantly – one sceptic and atheist who holds an honoured position, who, with the aid of Merlin, combat a totalitarian power. Lewis completed the story in 1943.
Oh, for a Deep England before the dawn of time! England, like all countries, Lewis describes as one of the spurs of Aslan’s high mountain.
Lewis has Aslan tell Lucy that all find what they truly seek. If someone wants to find reasons not to believe in Christianity, they will find them. If another wants to find reasons to believe, they will find those as well. If someone wants to find reasons that Christianity is pagan fertility cult or whatever else they want, they can find those too.
If the Narnia stories are about Christianity, why do they feature figures from classical myth, such as fauns, dryads and even the god of drunken revelry and sexual abandon, Bacchus. Was Lewis making the claim that Christianity is a pagan fertility cult? In including Bacchus in a story with children, was Lewis a secret paedophile?
Lewis puts what he thought the purpose of these classical myths was into the musings of his Christian hero, Ransom (Perelandra, pp 254-55). These figures from classical religions were intended to convey ‘gleams of celestial truth and beauty’ to the human race. However, falling on a fallen world, they became ‘filth and imbecility’.
Very largely, Lewis puts fauns and dryads into his Narnia stories to use them as he thought they should have been used in the pagan myths and religions.
It’s easy to misunderstand Lewis. Prolific examples can be found in The Lion’s World by Rowan Williams and From Spare Oom to War Drobe by Katherine Langrish.
Katherine Langrish as a nine-year-old girl misunderstands Narnia, but in a good way. She thinks that it is a place of continual adventures and writes herself into her own stories about it (Aslan would find her a dear one, a sister-hero like Lucy, a lioness). However, the Unicorn explains to Jill that what happens in the children’s adventures cannot be taken to represent what Narnia as a whole is usually like (The Last Battle, pp 110-111).
Another misunderstanding, one that is a superlative example of groupthink and its intellectual inertia, is that Lewis banished Susan from Narnia for wanting to wear lipstick and nylons.
In fact, Susan grows up to believe the claim of the Green Witch: there is no world but mine. The measure for growing up that the Witch sets the children is to think that Narnia is a childish game, something unworthy of an adult. 
The Witch, inviting the children to grow up: “Are you not ashamed of such toys…put away such childish tricks.”  
Susan (as an adult), mocking her siblings: “Fancy your still thinking of all those funny games we used to play when we were children.” 
But the belief that Susan was banished has been repeated so often that everyone has stopped thinking. How easy it is to be convinced by the idea of Susan’s Sin of ‘just wanting to grow up’. It has been repeated so often (thrum, thrum, thrum) as if something or someone were trying to stop us receiving the kingdom of Narnia like a child.  
No act of banishment takes place in respect of Susan. She isn’t cut off from Aslan. Aslan is present in our world too, as he tells Lucy.
Lewis thought that the pagan myths and religions were intended to be good dreams, dreams of dying and reborn gods, and of light overcoming darkness, that became reality with Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnation of the living God – King, God and Sacrifice, as the carol for this time of year reminds us.

Helen Nevitt
HN
Helen Nevitt
4 months ago

According to A N Wilson Lewis had other tastes, I think, not a paedophile. The thing about Bacchus makes sense to me and is part of the Pagan thing. Pleasure is good, stories are good, adventures are goodand wine is good if – and they say it in the book (Prince Caspian I think from memory – ‘all the same, I’m glad Aslan’s here’. It’s the edge of chaos idea, I think. That’s part of the reason I’ve got this Pagan idea. Paganism isn’t the enemy of Christianity – it’s a major path to Christianity.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
4 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

And I totally agree about Susan. Her sin with the lipstick and nylons and invitations is that her obsession makes her stay at a silly stage of life, but nothing worse.
An interesting response, I’ve had to read it a few times, there’s a lot in it. That Hideous Strength, leaving aside some dated language is a bit close for comfort to me.

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

Jesus and The Goddess by Freke & Gandy.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago

The druid abides! I have to at least grudgingly respect someone who has the nerve to wear the hood in his photo and put Archdruid in his byline.
The genuine depths of every religion, or private spiritual practice, contain some acknowledgement of mystery and transcendence, not a pointless attempt to demystify existence according to Special Insight, nor to explain all Mystery and Presence away.
The truer parts also converge around love, service to fellow beings, and sacrifice. (Yes, these are very general claims but I believe they do have some general validity).
Mr. Greer’s article is self-aware and searching, mostly in a good way, especially the first two-thirds or so. The concluding paragraphs are peppered with weird overreach. For example: The fertility cult stuff just doesn’t fit with the modesty, even asceticism of many early Christians, nor the anti-hedonism of Jesus of Nazareth himself.
This claim, of a familiar sort, also annoys me: “a rich mythic symbolism, that became associated through a complex historical process with the events of the life and death of an otherwise obscure Jewish religious reformer”. His words and life story endured because of their intrinsic power. This trick of intended minimization could apply to just about any foundational teacher: “Gautama Siddhartha, who would otherwise have remained an obscure forest ascetic…”. Sure, if he hadn’t had the transcendent vision under the bodhi tree, or hadn’t spread his message, or hadn’t set a living example of enduring power for decades thereafter (died about 80). But he did, and that’s not some obscure side note.
You can remove all the supernatural or otherworldly claims from the extant words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth and Gautama Siddhartha and still have teachings and lived human models of great real-world power. That is the central reason that generations of followers have preserved and passed along the words and biographies of these teachers–often at great peril or deadly cost–and it is the main reason that individuals continue to find life-changing inspiration therein, often apart from any institutional structures or social pressures. Not because of some erotic or symbolic longing or any conspiratorial power grab. Not mainly.
“For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation is possible” -Franz Werfel
”God bless us, everyone!” -Tiny Tim

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ Mac
G M
GM
G M
4 months ago

While he makes some good pounts he also mises the essence of Christianity.
Jesus, Christianity, and tne resurrection is a life-altering experience and gives a moral framework to live one’s life.
Chrstianity has stood he test of time and ha given us the free rich civilisation that we now enjoy.

Gregory Toews
Gregory Toews
4 months ago

“move at will between pagan and christian religions” is something like me moving at will between pro-slavery and anti-slavery. How we love our cognitive dissonance. Or do we hate it? Who cares, there’s nothing.

Terry M
Terry M
4 months ago

Nature is neither good nor evil, it merely is. Anything supernatural is nonsense. Being ‘ethical’ means making the world the one you’d want to live in – hence, do unto others… Religions are recipes to accomplish that, decorated with lots of dogma and rituals. Jesus is a fine example.

Andrew D
Andrew D
4 months ago
Reply to  Terry M

‘Do unto others’. Where does that come from? Er, religion

jane baker
JB
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

Which is why whenever I encounter other people I swear at them,spit in disgust,sometimes display a threatening attitude of incipient physical violence toward them,exclude them and spread untrue stories about their sexual depravity. Yes,do unto others as they do unto you. Think about it.
Luckily for me I don’t. Which is why I’m at liberty and (mostly) enjoying life,as one of THEM put it outright “were going to get you locked up”.
“Some are born for Sweet Delight,some are born for Endless Night”.

Terry M
Terry M
4 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not as they do.

Not religion, just ethics.

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  Terry M

I do. Life’s easier if you’re not born weird looking.Except it’s not!

AC Harper
AC Harper
4 months ago

In the UK we have the opportunity to complete self assessment tax returns, we are obliged to sort our rubbish into several bins before putting them out for collection on the proper day, we can apply for passports and driving licenses on line, and if you ever have the misfortune to fall foul of some automated process (doctors’ appointments, appliance maintenance, delivery snafus) you end up sorting it out yourself.
So ‘rolling your own’ spirituality or religion is just part of modern life. Heaven knows (!) those who are meant to intercede with god or gods on our behalf aren’t very reliable.

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

I’ve never had one of this mystery cheques in the post from an unknown benefactor on the very morning I was going to be evicted for rent arrears.
And in order to get to Paris,city of world Dreams and fantastic contradictory total Dump,I had to BUY MY OWN TICKET. So I got there.
Asomeone brought up with the stern it’s a ideology that being at all proactive shows you don’t trust God thus you must passively allow God to provide,but Hell he doesnt provide Trips To Paris which are more of a necessity IMO and in Wildes opinion too,I find this idea of waiting for God To Put It In Your Life bad. I’m too impatient and it can be a cover for laziness. It wasn’t in my family.

Last edited 4 months ago by jane baker
UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
4 months ago

Christianity, it must be remembered, had its birth in the bustling spiritual marketplace of the classical Mediterranean world

In Acts 17 when Paul, who is largely called to reach the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-9) is in Athens (a city described as full of idols i.e. very ‘open minded’ to inter religious ideas), he points to the UNKNOWN GOD worshiped in ignorance and explains “So having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now proclaiming to mankind that all people everywhere are to repent, because He has set a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all people by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31) i.e. he rejects every represented god and presents something new! So what is this new teaching? He is a Jew (a Pharisee of Pharisees, in fact) so, he is explaining the central theme of the Old Testament (a coming Messiah) from the vantage point that he has come and so what that meant to them (and us).

Acts is the start of Paul’s ministry so, let’s jump to the end of his life to see if old age has made him more tolerant and accepting of diverging spiritual views and even incorporated them… Background: in prison, under Emperor Nero (used burning carcasses of Christian human torches to lit his garden parties) and facing execution. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8. No more tolerant than Acts 17!

There are also those who feel called to a faith that blends Pagan and Christian traditions, and despite the hostility such ventures too often receive, their number is growing.

I agree! Surprised? I’m not. “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4

Viewing Jesus from a mythical viewpoint will lead you further FROM understanding Christianity, nullifying the aim of the title…

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Focus on the supernatural, otherworldly, or symbolic aspects of the Gospels also leads many self-professed, even very sincere Christians into a faith that may honor Jesus with the lips or intellect, but scarcely reach the heart or the hand.

Shrunken Genepool
Shrunken Genepool
4 months ago

Modern pagans are either post-Christians or potential Nazis. What they are not is pre-Christian pagans – whatever costumes and manners they adopt. They can never recapture a tribal, place-based sensibility – not whilst living in a modern state, and a sulphuric individualizing mobile modern economy of individuals. Not possible. And not really desirable. Every time they refer to human rights, they channel Christ. Every time they defend liberal norms of governance – they channel Christ. And the most absurd group of all, are those ‘inclusive pagans’ who marry a pantomime of Norse, Celtic, Saxon tropes to ultra-liberal notions of gender fluidity, and ‘families of choice’ and choice/self actualization of an individual self …and non-traditional forms of ‘childcentered’ parenting…. All sociological and historical nonsense of the highest degree.
Those who would truly reject modern individualism still can’t re-invent the kind of unconscious participating consciousness of pre-moderns tribal societies…..As OWEN Barfield wrote, the only thing harder than learning to ride a bike, is unlearning how to ride a bike. You can’t unlearn modernity. Those who reject liberal individualism and the premise of Imago Dei – they are left or right wing nazis who will worship the state and accelerate a kind of monstrous industrial modernity …..But they are moderns. Greer is a modern. He’s not and can’t be a pagan. It’s meaningless

Last edited 3 months ago by Shrunken Genepool
Timothy Baker
Timothy Baker
4 months ago

I understood that the Druids did not have a written Holy Book and did not leave behind any knowledge about their beliefs and rituals. The people who gather at Stonehenge at the summer solstice are probably celebrating the exact opposite of what the builders intended. I find it even more strange that some morris sides have invented quasi-religious rituals such as ‘dancing down the sun’ at the midsummer solstice. I even know of ‘pagan drummer’ who adorn their clothes with pentangles and again have invented rituals, but when questioned on their beliefs claim that the sole point of getting together is purely social and an excuse for a few beers. Despite this, they all seem to take themselves very seriously.

George Stone
George Stone
3 months ago
Reply to  Timothy Baker

The people at Stonehenge are engaging in fantasy.I think that it has been shown to be linked to the winter solstice, as has Christianity. We all find a way to socialise and pass on our genes.

Iris C
Iris C
4 months ago

A belief in God’s existence. I feel spiritually connected and can see HIS existence in the natural world but, for me, the words used in church services have no relevance nowadays.

John Solomon
JS
John Solomon
4 months ago

An archdruid.
An American.
An American archdruid.
Tell me, why do I not care what this person has to say on any subject whatsoever?

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Enjoyable read anyway.

AJ Mac
AM
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

Prejudice?

John Solomon
John Solomon
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Possibly : but not all prejudice is unjustified. The word ‘druid’ would have been enough on its own (wearing a teatowel on your head and pretending to follow a pre-christian, barely documented/fabricated/recently reinvented belief system does not inspire confidence) and although I have a fair number of American friends (they are open, friendly, generous people) the nation (if a generalistion is permitted) can be easily seduced by enthusisams – I recall a quote from someone respectable, years ago to the effect that you can be having a sensible conversation with an American, and they will suddenly announce that their cat is undergoing psychotherapy. Mind you, that is a harmless delusion, but it would be a bit of a red flag!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

As a Canada-born American dual citizen (forgive the identity statement), I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. I balked at the druidical act too, though less so now that this is at least his third published article here.
You even calmed my hyper-reactive American emotions by announcing that you have some American friends who present exceptions, at least in some measure, to your fair enough rules about us. I’ll just point out something that will not be news to you: Even well-warranted prejudices and accurate stereotypes have a failure rate. In a nation of 330 million, even .3% inaccuracy is about a million people.
Still, the muckraking American original HL Mencken (1880-1956) was definitely not far off when he quipped: “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”.

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ Mac
John Solomon
JS
John Solomon
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

It is always dangerous to generalise about national characteristics, but you tempt me to take a step further. I have often found that, individually, people are charming, but in groups are quite awful. My individual American friends are lovely, and I am often humbled by their generous nature (which is very unlike my own, ‘old world’ cynical nature.)
Equally, as a Scot, I value and am proud of my national heritage and characteristics, but I avoid groups of (particularly expat) Scots like the plague. Perhaps the rule of thumb is that individually people are OK, but in groups they sink to the lowest common denominator.
Perhaps there is the seed of a PhD thesis in thar idea!

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  John Solomon

My father’s side came to Nova Scotia about 1840, from the Outer Hebrides, Isle of Berneray. So I have a built-in, if distant sympathy.
Mobs are more easily recognizable when you don’t belong to said mob. Allowing for the fact that Americans are–in some ways–especially dumb: I’m quite sure individual Scots are stupider when they collect into a mob or “thought gang” too. It’s not some American “exception”.
“O wad some Power the giftie gie us / To see oursels as ithers see us! / It wad frae mony a blunder free us, / An’ foolish notion: / What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us, / An’ ev’n devotion!”
Merry Christmas.

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ Mac
jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I thought Sam Goldwyn said that! Maybe he did as well. I’ve heard that someone said “life is what happens when you’re planning other things” before John Lennon said it.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”– (Doubtful Attribution)

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ Mac
Scott Burson
Scott Burson
4 months ago

Thanks for this — I’ll definitely check out Dion Fortune and Owen Morgan!

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
3 months ago

One attempt to justify belief in God is to argue that God is good by definition and is the definition of ‘the good’. If evil appears to stalk the world, or to descend randomly on the innocent, it simply shows God’s purpose is beyond our understanding. The author sees a parallel with ‘Nature is good’, careful to qualify it as a first postulate.
Really, Nature is neither good nor bad but it is all we have to begin with. We then add on ethical principles, and corollaries that are good by definition. A further principle, not strictly ethical, can be that Nature gets the benefit of the doubt, and anything that goes against Nature cannot be let pass unexamined. I’m sure readers can think of many examples.
Turning to Christianity, a lecture I saw on Youtube showed a chart where each of dozens of Christian sub-cults was displayed as a disc whose colour represented its broad affiliation and size the number of adherents. Presented with that, one has to ask what they have in common.
I am not alone in pointing out (including in Medium) the schism between the followers of the Law, which included Jesus according to Matthew’s gospel and his brother James, and those who would follow Paul in relying on revelation and faith. How many who call themselves Christian today would condemn a divorced woman for remarrying? It is not even possible to ‘believe in the Bible’, in the words of one commentor, because it is not only a mixture of stories, but the Christian stories are mutually inconsistent.
Doubtless the author is right that many more interpretations of Christianity are possible that have yet to be thought of. However, whether it makes sense to tie ‘spirituality’ to a semi-mythical constantly reinvented personage, and/or to ‘worship’ anything at all, needs to be seriously questioned. Maybe humans do need such an anchor, but if there is an historical Jesus, as far as records can be trusted, then he should be left as such.
Having an historical person coexist with a shining mythical, and sometimes sectarian, figure might have been unavoidable in the ages before universal education and communication, as was believing a river to be a deity (the example given) in even earlier and more precarious times, but there is no excuse for it now. We must take responsibility for our beliefs and actions even if we are not entirely in control of them.

James McKay
James McKay
3 months ago

Isn’t Jehovah himself just a pagan (sic) god, the Baal of the Hebrews, gone rogue? I think anyone who cares enough about the cults of the Lord God the Holy One of Israel to construct a rival set of cults in their image and make pretend comparisons between the two is burdened by more Christian baggage than they may be comfortable admitting.

jane baker
jane baker
4 months ago

This is wonderful and so true to how I FEEL about my “FAITH” which is “pick + mix” as that churchman said one time but just as I can’t listen to one radio station all day,or only enjoy one kind of music,so I can’t tolerate the bad,stupid aspects of every religion that maybe get tacked on to the good aspects. I have read Freke + Gandys book and the idea that Jesus is the central figure in a Sacred Drama of a Judaized version of the extremely popular at the time Mystery Religions (St Paul references them),makes sense to me.
The transformation scene at the end of the stage musical Beauty and The Beast comes to my mind – and not with disrespect. My idea is that fifty or so years later people,new people wanted to know more about this Jesus God who was also a human so some of them knocked up a biography. They asked around,they tried to set it in a historical context,they tried to set it in a geographical context. People always do that – this is the REAL Doone Valley,this is where Robin Hood actually lived,this is the real cottage where Betsy Trotwood lived. We do that,us people. Last I love how this writer said “Nature is Good” but that doesn’t stop it also being horrific. Thats how I see God. We have had at least two centuries now of God being changed from an awesome frightening entity into a nicey-nicey milksop that people will say ” a God who causes hurricanes and hates gays” I can’t adhere to such a God. I want a pink,fluffy God who lurves everybody”.
My own life experience has taught me that God Is A Bit Of A b*****d,which I now think is,far from disrespecting God actually treating him with the awe and respect of antiquity.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
4 months ago
Reply to  jane baker

I think that fear of the Lord, called the “beginning of wisdom” (but not its culmination) in Proverbs, is meant to be closer to awe and reverence than fearfulness, But of course awe includes some fear too. I wouldn’t use your exact term but I agree that God is not just a “Nice Guy”. In books such as Genesis, Exodus, and Job, YHWH is presented “in man’s own image” for good and ill: he is often wrathful or capricious, even jealous. His ways are also rightly described as mysterious and inscrutable to mankind.
Jesus of Nazareth was not simply a nice guy: neither as soft and meek, or judgmental and detached, as some want to believe. He was passionate, compassionate, inspired, and strong-willed, to put it mildly. I don’t use the expression anymore, but I used to say that Jesus a “loudmouth badass”. I still think there’s some truth in that, as part of his life story.