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Question to self-indentified Pagans?

For those who are pagans (shamanism, polytheistic, spirtiualism, etc). I know that pagan beliefs are diverse and there are different types of paganism. But they all seem to rely on the belief of gods/goddesses and nature as a living entitity.
So my question to pagans is do you really believe in those things? Most of paganism has been deemed mythology (like zeus and Athena) so why believe in it? Do you have any proof? Also, Norse paganism used to practice slavery and human sacrifices like other pagan religions. Doesn’t that bother you? Btw, I’m Agnostic and I’m trying to see the worldview of people from different religions.
Manga, why don’t you check out my other questions instead of passing judgement? What a way to avoid answering the question.
So this is like a hippie religion. Sort of a ‘new age’ belief.
I guess for me it’s impossible to believe in a religion or “spiritualism” without any empirical evidence. Don’t take this as on attack on pagans but rather an attack on blind faith (which is what I find common all people who believe in a higher power). I just wanted to get the POV of Pagans who are rarely ask questions in this forum.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Shouldn’t you ask Christians, Jews and Muslims the same question.
    Does any religion have any proof that their god actually exists?

  2. Not all us pagans believe in those deities, there are plenty of pantheist and nontheist pagans around.
    While this isn’t true for everyone, I have heard many times from pagans who do believe in the gods and goddesses of the ancients that they believe the individual gods are simply personifications of a certain aspect of a greater deity

  3. Good questions.
    First, “mythology” doesn’t mean fake. All religious stories are mythology. My gods’ stories are myths. So is the story of Jesus. That’s not implying truth or falsity about either.
    Second, just because most people don’t believe in my gods doesn’t mean my gods are real. Most people in the world have never met my husband. Does that imply he isn’t real?
    Third, I have plenty of personal experience as proof of my gods existences. I do not have anything I can present to others as proof…and neither do members of other religions. This is why I have no expectation that others will believe as I do.
    Fourth, Christians used to practice slavery too. Should that ashame modern Christians? I would say no. For that matter, humans participated in all of those things, so should we all be ashamed as humans? Why divide us up by religion on such matters? Slavery, sacrifice, oppression of women, etc are all cultural things. What was acceptable in previous centuries is not acceptable now. I live in the now, not the past.
    Fifth, yes I really do believe that my gods exist. I do not view nature as a living entity, however, and to say that’s a common belief of pagans is is vastly generalizing. I do believe, however, there is a connection between the spiritual and physical worlds.
    Edit: I would definitely not describe my religion as a hippie religion, and I regret that bookstores insist on putting books about my faith in the New Age section. It causes a lot of confusion.

  4. I am an agnostic as well, but I will answer this. My wife is Pagan – yes she does believe in a god and goddess. No, of course they have no proof – that’s why it’s called faith. 😉
    Pagan beliefs were deemed mythology by Christian scholars – do you think they might have had an agenda? I would also classify the major religions of today as mythology – no offense to those who practice them, but if Pagan beliefs are mythology, so are those.
    The Paganism today is not the Paganism of those times – it is based on the Paganism of pre-Christian times but is not practiced the same as those times – no sacrifices of humans or animals.
    Edit: No, I wouldn’t call it a hippie religion – My wife is about as far from a hippie as you could possibly get 😉
    New Age? Somewhat – it seems to be a modern interpretation of old beliefs.
    Edit again: I should also say there are probably as many (if not more) varieties of Paganism as there are of Christianity. So not all Pagans believe in the same way.

  5. I don’t believe the nature is a living entity as we know of one, with sentience, but I do believe in my gods and goddesses. I am a hard polytheist, they are separate, discrete entities, not aspects of a divine.
    Why do people believe in Christ or YHWH? I can give you examples of my life with my feeling my gods in my life and the effects of my ancestors, but those are personal experiences to me and cannot be used as proof. Simply put, my gods are as real to me as anyone else’s is to them. Just because someone else deems it mythology (which all religions have) doesn’t make it any less true. Scathach’s school still stands on the Isle of Skye, and the Catholics thought Brigid real enough that in order to turn her followers they had to make her a saint. That’s proof for me.
    I can’t say about Norse Paganism, but I know Celtic mythology and history. yes, we used to sacrifice people, but the Jews used to sacrifice animals, and with the majority of Celtic human sacrifice, the people were volunteers, glad to have been chosen, because they honestly thought it brought fertility to the land. The other percentage were captives from wartime. Does that make it right? No. Does it bother me? No. Every civilization in history once practised human sacrifice, we no longer do.
    I would not call what I believe a “hippie” religion or a “new age” belief, both my grandmother and great-grandmother practised this way, and taught me, as does the rest of my family, we have records of personal beliefs going back to the 1890s. So it’s not some newfangled thing I make up as I go.

  6. answer: I am a Reconstruction Heathen. We are attempting to reconstruct the religion of the ancestors. I believe the deities are real and separate. I don’t believe the earth or rocks or the ocean are deities – I believe there are deities that oversee those things.
    EVERY culture practice slavery at one point or another – including Native Americans. Early colonists learned the plantation system from the Cherokee Indians. Greece and Rome couldn’t have existed without slaves, Christianity and Islam continued that.
    No, ancient slavery and sacrifice doesn’t bother me. They moved on, just all other cultures. Most have moved past slaughtering others who believe differently (not all though). Most sacrifices of European cultures were criminals or prisoners-of-war. At least a step above executing someone merely because of their sexual orientation.
    I found Heathenism when Christianity didn’t work for me. I explored my cultural roots – American Indian, Celtic/Anglo-Saxon. That led to Heathenism. Eclectic paganism was close but when I found Heathenism, I “came home”. I’ve had interaction with my deities – which isn’t proof of anything.
    No religion can prove itself “true” or “real” – that doesn’t make them anymore real than another.
    # # #
    No, it’s not a hippy religion and not New Age. Very few pagan religions can be described as New Age. Most are either reconstructing religions predating history or are based on beliefs and rituals that predate written history.
    # # # #
    There’s just as much evidence for pagan religions as there is for mainstream religions. In Heathenism we have the lore, place names, the names of the days, writings, rune carvings, statues, etc to show the deities were worshipped, sometimes how they were worshipped.

  7. Perhaps it’s just those with whom you’ve come in contact.. but, there are plenty of different views of gods/goddesses within paganism, including pantheism, panentheism, and atheism.
    Mythology’s root is in the greek word for Truth, so using that as some kind of argument against our beliefs is kind of moot.
    Many ancient cultures employed the use of slaves.. this isn’t specific to paganism, although pagans at one time were the majority belief.
    Christianity is the most recent belief system to employ slaves, and as we’ve seen through history, mankind has grown up and moved away from that. Pagans today don’t practice slavery nor human sacrifice, and some cultures never did have those.. so, it’s not an issue for me.
    My path is right for me and that’s all that matters.
    I can appreciate you wanting to see the world view. It’s always good to do that.

  8. All religion is myth no matter to which one you adhere. People like to take the curent dominant religions and differentiate them from the religious expression of the past. Just because they are prevelant today fails to make them any less a myth. Just because they are a result of literate, or growing literate socities fails to make them any more viable.
    Think about it, humankind has been drawn to the spiritual since the dawn of time. Throughout time, every culture worth its salt has developed a way to explain how they relate to their deities and each other thru their spirituality, and have used their spirituality in their cultural stories.
    Beliveing in Zeus and Athena is equally as valid as believeing in Diana and Cernunous, or Odin and Frigga, or even Jesus and Mary.
    Every religion is myth (no matter how old or new). Every religion is valid no matter how old or new).
    Slavery? People have dominated others in the form of slavery ever since the dawn of socieites. The stron have always prayed on the weak. Often times, however, slavery wasn’t always considered a bad thing. Some societies use slavery as a means for others to survive. We here in the US have a distorted view of slavery. There have been those in socities who literally have nothing but the sweat of their backs as a means to get food, shelter and provisions. Outside of existing as a slave, they would be dead. Not all slaverey is as evil as what we have has here.
    Sacrifices? Many cultures participated in human and animal sacrifices to appease their gods.
    (sorry, couldn’t get spell check to work)

  9. not really. Norse Paganism had nothing to do with the slavery and human sacrifices slavery was done during the raids and THAT was short lived. (Those concepts had nothing to do with their religious beliefs and were added later by those who thought they new the truth. IE The early Christian church.) In actuality the only HUMAN sacrifices were done by the AZTECS. The early church pointed their finger and said this is what was going on so people tended to rather believe than to learn. Kind of like some the Christians who live about now. Also many slaves were welcomed into the Norse culture after a period of time. They were given land to farm and a chance to build a family. A good way to NOT have inbreeding in the society. As for those “Mythical Gods and Goddesses” as you put it, yes, many do believe in them still. The Church declared them to be myths so I guess that the Church was the one who you have to ask. I for one believe in a multifaceted set of deities and the the earth is a living thing. If it were not, how would it sustain life?
    And please don’t call it a new age or hippie religion. It goes back to the pre-Christian era and long before the Jews.

  10. “Hippie religion”.
    *laughs*
    Try telling that to an Asatruar. Believe me, you’ll get a short, sharp education, and it probably won’t be pleasant. “Peace and love, man” are not an integral part of most Pagan faiths.
    “Pagan” is an umbrella term that covers any religion that isn’t one of the “Big Three”. Most Pagans will not identify with the term New Age — some of us view the New Age as a collection of unrelated techniques with no religious context. Also, if you take a look at many New Age beliefs, they bear the unmistakable stamp of Christianity.
    If I didn’t believe that the universe is the living body of the Divine, I wouldn’t be Wiccan. Why belong to a religion if you don’t accept its main tenets?
    And all cultures have nastiness in their past. That’s no reflection on people today, unless they choose to behave in similar ways.

  11. Answer: I’m going to start with your comment about Pagan religions being deemed mythology. This is a VERY common mistake as the two actually are different things. Mythology is the STORIES (which can include moral stories, acts of deities, or stories about the creation of the universe/humanity) . Mythology often forms part of the basis for religion, but is not the same thing. Religion is the day-to-day practice and is often deeply personal and experiential.
    This brings me to my next point, the differences between different types of polytheist. Much of what I will say in the last part of my answer depends on you understanding them. When you are refering to Pagans you will generally find two major types. There are what is termed “hard” polytheists who DO see the Gods/Goddesses as discrete individual beings who oversee different facets of human existance. There is a Goddess who embodies the Earth in SOME, but not all, Pagan religions (the Greeks have Gaia, for instance). The other major grouping of Pagans are what could be termed as “soft” polythiests — this can include a variety of sub-groupings. Soft polytheists can be dualists (God and Goddess — each with many aspect equating to individual Gods and Goddesses), pantheists, and even what could be termed as atheistic/agnostic Pagans who view the Gods/Goddesses as being archetypal.
    I myself am what could be termed a hard polytheist. For me, the Hellenic Gods who I honor, are individual beings. As for my “proof” of their existance, I can offer none except for my own experiences with them. This is not reproducible empirical evidence, but as I was not under the influence of any medication or in another form of suggestible state when they happened, I am satisfied with their authenticity for me.
    Many cultures around the world have in the past practiced slavery, and many have also included human sacrifice. Most Pagans in the modern world acknowledge that slavery is not a good thing and that human sacrifice (unless it is self-sacrifice in time of war to save another’s life) is neither needed or desirable. What has happened in the past is nothing that I can change. What bothers me more than the past institution of slavery is the cultural institutions of sexism and racism in the present — both of which I actively work against.
    On a secondary note, if you were to see me on the street, you would not be able to tell me from the average person around me. I live in a fairly conservative area of the country and have actually been mistaken for a member of one of the more “conservative” Christian denominations by some of my neighbors. This hardly fits the stereotype of “new-agey” as many “new-age” styles of religion are neither conservative or encourage much in the way of scholarship — while in my religion, I have actually faced challenges as to where my opinions fall based on source materials including Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey!!!
    I know that you are trying to see the worldview of people from different religions — please try to not seem so dismissive of minority religions in the future.

  12. There is no proof for any religion.
    And all religion can be deemed mythology.
    Last time I checked, Hellenic (Greek) Paganism/Recon is fast growing and having a revival, so next thing you know there will be temples to Zeus being built. 🙂
    My religion has proven itself to ME. That’s enough proof, for me at least. I don’t really care about people who always need proof. That’s why it’s called FAITH..

  13. Actually, I’m an atheistic pagan. My spiritual philosophy is Taoist. But, I enjoy celebrating the Celtic pagan holidays because they symbolize the continuing cycle and rhythm of life. This makes a lot of sense to be, because I believe in the sacredness of the mundane, of everyday ordinary life.
    But I view deities as being archetypes and symbols, not actual live beings. I also enjoy the elemental symbols as representations of elements of life.

  14. I’m not sure whether I “fit” under your definition of a Pagan or not. I do have a belief of gods/goddesses but your description of nature as a living entity is overly simplistic. I do not rely on the belief of gods/goddesses as part of my spiritual practices, nor do I worship or honor any. I have no problem with mythology, I have no proof, and it doesn’t bother me what people did long ago.
    Obviously, you have read much, and have some knowledge of the world, and you may have even traveled a bit. But beliefs like these are not things that you can learn from books or reading on-line or from debating with others. You will find beliefs like these only through your own experiences.
    You say you are agnostic, which I assume means you are content with the unknown. I was an agnostic well into my mid-twenties but I was never content with not knowing. I kept an open mind and took the opportunities to experience a large range of spiritual practices. I am and will remain a skeptic my entire life, but I experienced things that have turned my views upside-down.
    Young lady, getting opinions from others and debate will not help you in this endeavor. Go out and experience life, and if you look in the right places, you may find something that you cannot explain. And please understand that there are differences between a philosophy and a practice (because both are considered religions).

  15. If you’re asking if I interpret my mythology literally, the answer is a resounding no. I don’t believe that the god is his own father and dies every November, and I don’t believe that we all came from some dude’s eyebrows. Mythology is stories about my deities- I don’t have to take the stories at face value in order to be a hard polytheist.
    What you describe is no different for any other religion. Our mythology is just as likely to be true as the Bible, Koran, or any other religious text out there. The only difference is semantics and how society at large views “Biblical truth” against “Greek mythology”. We are simply breaking a norm by being pagan, which does not detract from the validity of our religion. We believe for the same reasons that anyone believes anything.
    As far as sacrificing… well, we don’t do that anymore now do we? Other religions have had violent histories as well (spanish inquisition, anyone?).
    edit: LOL hippie religion? Tell that to a Heathen Recon. I dare ya.
    But seriously, I wouldn’t consider my faith to be “blind”. I’ve had my own experiences which have led me to believe that my deities are real. I don’t expect everyone to feel the same way I do, and I certainly don’t expect anyone to believe something without some shred of evidence (whether it be empirical or just a feeling).

  16. well, i say that most the answers you got so far are really well thought out. and very good answers from what i’ve seen read.
    my views are my own, they work for me. to me, when i sat down and thought about what religion means to me, and after i watched many people around me i came to think something different of it them i think most do.
    religion is our blanket we slept with as a child that kept us safe and allowed us to sleep at night peacefully. it’s that safety net that keeps us from harm and doing harm to others (if you’re religion teaches that), it’s an explaination for what we dont know and cant prove. that’s to me what religion is.
    that being said, yes i am a pagan, but when i’m asked what and why? it’s because i’ve studied and enjoyed studying religions and faithes of different people. each time i learn something new, if i agree with it, i make it part of my daily pratices, if i dont, then i file it away for a rainy day to think about it and other theories. (i enjoy thinking/learning).
    i’m a pagan, who is zen/eastern thinker/greek pholispher (sp)/old ways practices/nature/christian for abit of flavor.
    how did i come to be this and why do i believe it? because i’ve studied it and made it true for myself (you’d have to have been in that class to get it easier)
    christians used to pratice slavery(alot more recently)…. i do believe the south was and still is a strong area for christians and there are still some of them believe they were right for slavery. (i’ve lived down there for a while and asked just cause i was wondering, a few people told me what’s what and the south was right.)
    it’s doesnt bother me what someone else chooses to do, b/c it’s not me, and i cant change them. i can only change me… and you cant really change the past. i’m happy that you like learning, and ask questions that are nicely phrased and intersting. hope you find the answers that you were looking for. have a good evening

  17. I have been walking the druidic path for most of my life and have some very interesting views on the question you proposed. Firstly, yes there are many different pagan belief systems out there. However mnost of them have polytheism in common. Druidry being no exception there. Druids do indeed see nature as a living entity and are worshipful of it’s wonders.
    1) do I believe in these things? Yes I most certainly do as much as anyone can believe in them. It’s a matter of taking a leap of faith, if you will, and putting yourself out there. Just like christianity, a leap of faith is required. It up to the person doing the leaping which way they want to jump isnt it?
    2) most of paganism has been deemed mythology so why beleive? Firstly, who has deemed it as mythology? It’s a well know fact that history books are written by those who have conquered lands and hanged it’s heroes. So are we to beleive that something is a myth just because someone says it is? We are sentioned beings and are capable of making up our own minds on what is and what isn’t myth. For my point of view, my gods and goddesses are quite real and have greatly blessed me.
    3) do I have any proof? Not in the scientific sense of proof but then again neither do any other religions have scientific proof of their god’s exisitense so that’s sort of a redundant question. My only proof of my gods/goddesses existence is the belief that I have in their existence. That makes them real enough for me.
    4) slavery and human sacrifice? This is a difficult subject here but I’ll give it a go. Slavery was a part of many cultures dating back into antiquity and was practiced by all religions. Most of the history books will tell you that the christian peoples who settled north america were some of the most brutal slave owners ever. Most of the slaves you speak of in the pagan sense were vanquished enemies, not people taken out of their home land by greedy landowners, but the spoils of war taken by victory in battle. Does that bother me? Not in the slightest seeing as if you were to research this further, most of these slaves were actually treated much better than the african slaves were treated by their owners. Human sacrifice was not as widely practiced as most people think. I’m not saying that it wasn’t ever practiced, but for the most part it would be the letting of blood onto the altar more so than the taking of a human life. People were indeed sacrificed to the gods as well but it was usually a willing participant in these sacrifices. Does this bother me? No it doesn’t bother me any more than the fact that at one time, my ancestors swung from the trees and ate anything they could get their grubby little hands on. It’s a matter of keeping the past in perspective. Our past is and will always be a part of who and what we are so why be ashamed or bothered by it?
    I hope this sheds some light on your worldview.

  18. The word Mythology doesn’t mean false stories. It means something akin to stories that explain the religious views of a people. The Bible contains the mythology of Judism and Christianity. Many Christians don’t like to refer to it as mythology, because this sounds like the stories are false, but it is still mythology.
    I don’t think most modern Pagans believe the myths of our ancestors are literally, physically true. I don’t.
    I’m eclectic Pagan, which means I think all religions have some truth in them. I draw upon the beliefs that feel appropriate to me when they suit me. I think all the gods and goddesses (including Christian dieties and saints) exist as sort of archetypal forces and spirit beings. I think that when people believe in and worship a spiritual power, they give substance to that power which in turn makes it more powerful. I believe these powers can be invoked to aid us.
    The creation stories I believe in are the “Big Bang” and evolution. These have some evidence to support that they actually happened. They don’t rule out the involvement of divine powers, however. I believe some intellegence we can call “God” or “Goddess” directed creation, evolution, and still directs our existence. I believe humans have attempted to understand this intellegence throughout our existence on this planet, but we’ve only done so impefectly. Thus no religion is perfectly true, though neither are any completely false.
    Most cultures have practiced slavery and human sacrifice at some time in their history. This doesn’t mean the whole culture and it’s beliefs are worthless. Humans continue to evolve intellectually, socially, and ethically. Modern pagans are no more like their ancient ancestors than modern Chirstians are like theirs.
    Proof in dieties, angels, guardian spirits or spirit guides is always a personal thing. One feels their existence gnostically and experiences their work in one’s life on a personal level. Prayer seems to work, no matter what diety one prays to. Prayer makes one feel better and often preceeds positive changes in one’s life. We can’t prove without a doubt that some diety has responded to our prayers, but it certainly seems as if they do.
    If prayer never worked, people probably would stop praying to their dieties. If the dieties of one religion always responded to the prayers of it’s followers, while the prayers of people from other religions never seemed to work, then we would probably follow only the religion that seemed to be true. Reality doesn’t work this way, however.
    Christians, Jews, Muslems, Budhists, Hindus, and Pagans all experience positive results with prayer. Thus how can anyone say that one religion has been positively proven to be more true than the rest?
    – P.

  19. Most spiritual traditions have both an exoteric and an esoteric side. They are focused primarily on form and essence respectively. The exoteric is the image and personality of the deity. The esoteric aspect can be seen as the qualities that each god or goddess embodies. Pagans tend to range across this spectrum.
    Then again, some pagans are panentheists who see the divine in everything. I look at the metaphysical side of things. For me the Divine is energy. I can describe it in pagan terms or Christian.
    When I invoke love, wisdom, compassion, courage or protection for others it is the same regardless of the names I use. Sharing a set of external symbols aligns the group in ritual.
    Civilization is a very thin veneer. Humanity’s past is not pretty. Sacrifices, and slavery were common in all cultures. But our consciousness has evolved. We value life far more than before. We no longer expose unwanted children. Slavery is considered deplorable on a universal level. So it doesn’t bother me that we were once pretty creepy as a species. At least we’ve grown.

  20. Basically what you are asking is for those of us with faith to prove and justify it. No. You believe or you don’t. You don’t, and I am not going to try to prove my faith to you. If you wish to call beliefs other than your own idea of mainstream religions “mythology”, it’s certainly not going to help you understand any “worldview”. Slavery, sacrifice, and a whole host of other “non-PC” practices have been part of the human experience since nearly day one. I am not bothered. We believe in what we believe in, without proof and without regret.

  21. Yes, I believe in gods and goddesses but probably not in the literalist way that you seem to think one would. I think of the gods as eternal powers that my ancestral culture, the Anglo-Saxon’s perceived in a way that was particular to the context of their culture. Is there a god in a cart pulled by flying goats that cause the thunder as they roll across the sky? Um, no. I don’t think the ancients thought there were either. These things were metaphors. Stories told to help humans communicate with each other and with entities that are worthy of worship but are completely beyond human understanding and conception. We need some way to understand these things if we are to worship them. It is like looking at a map. The map is not the land, the land is too big for you to hold in your mind all at once so you need something to look at in order to conceptualize it.
    My faith as you might consider it, is not blind, it is not even faith. I know the divinities exist through my experiences and interactions with them. For me to say I “believe” or have “faith” in my gods would be like saying I believe in or have faith in the existence of my wife. Of course I believe her to exist because she’s sitting right across the room from me. I have had numerous experiences with the divine and it is clear to me that they exist.
    Often people mistake “empirical evidence” as having being some sort of trump card that disproves the existence of the divine. Science and religion describe two different things. One is rational, one is not. You cannot describe religion in a way that has any intelligible meaning in terms of science and vice versa. It just doesn’t work. To borrow a phrase; using the scientific method to describe religious experience is like dancing about architecture.
    The fact that my ancestors had slaves or sacrificed humans does not bother me in the least. The key is to understand context. Anthropologists term this “temporal arrogance.” We think that we are enlightened and make normative judgements about the actions of the past based on our theories of morality and ethics. When one readjusts their point of view to try to understand why slavery and human sacrifice were done from the ancient’s point of view it makes perfect sense. Besides, our modern cultures are considerably more violent and, dare I say, “barbaric” than ancient cultures ever were. In my mind, modern Western culture (on the whole) is savage in ways that probably have never been seen on the planet.
    The violence of the ancients gets blown out of proportion and sensationalized. Because we are arrogant and just plain in denial about how “unenlightened” we truly are, we deny the inherent and systemic industrialized violence of our culture. Most of the violence of America is exported and we have others do our dirty work for us. You just don’t see it because you aren’t asking yourself the right questions. A recent study by a human rights group uncovered that slavery is as rampant as is it ever was in the history of the world. Those slaves or people working in slave like conditions probably made the clothes you are wearing, the handbag you carry your stuff in and the coffee I drank at breakfast was probably grown on land that was stolen from them by a third world dictator. You are lining the pockets of slavers and probably just don’t realize it. Our barbarism, and inhumanity towers far above the self aware destruction of the northmen.

  22. I am a pantheist. I believe in the Universe, not as an entity, but just as it is. So, if you believe the Universe exists, and is the source and power that keeps everything chugging along…seems like it is it’s own proof.
    Alot of other pagans I know use the myths as metaphors, but don’t believe them as literal truth. It’s like this…there are lots of things we don’t understand about how the Universe/reality operates, and the myths are a way of metaphorically explaining them…in a way that human minds can grasp, but are not intended to be understood as Ultimate truth, they convey a truth, a concept, but are not a news report of exactly how things went down.
    People, of all cultures etc, have ties to human sacrifice, slavery and cannibalism. It’s just the reality of human history and cultures. We’ve moved on. None of us live as our ancestors did 500 or 1000 years ago. We can let our “past” weigh us down or we can learn and move on. Not a single person on earth can claim that their ancestors are all squeaky clean. That’s just reality.
    Now, that being said, there are lots of pagan faiths that believe in and practice magic, commune with spirits, etc. I don’t have supernatural experiences, so I don’t belong to a faith based on them. I don’t really know what to think about them…maybe I just don’t have the “sense” needed to experience those things, maybe I am spirit blind. Because a lot of people, in a lot of cultures over many millenia HAVE had supernatural experiences…so I don’t dismiss it out of hand, just because it hasn’t happened to me.
    Most pagans who work with deities say that the deity called them, sought them out, and they responded. So they don’t believe without a personal “proof” of some sort.

  23. Thanks for the honest question. I think everyone’s been over everything, but I’ll give you my take on it all. I identify as an Eclectic Norse Pagan.
    “But they all seem to rely on the belief of gods/goddesses and nature as a living entitity.”
    Not all rely on the belief of Gods or Goddesses. Some Pagans use the Deities as archetypes to base and live their life by. Similarly, not every Pagan sees nature as a living entity.
    “So my question to pagans is do you really believe in those things?”
    “things”… be more specific? If you’re refering to the Gods and Goddesses, and earth as a living entity, I’d have to say yes. However, my view of the earth is a bit different than most. My Gods create the “spark” within things, in my opinion.
    “Most of paganism has been deemed mythology (like zeus and Athena) so why believe in it?”
    *chuckles*
    The word “Myth” comes from a greek word meaning truth, as well as story. Just about every religious doccument is mythology, even the Bible.
    Why do I believe in it?
    I believe in what I see, what resonates with me, and what makes the most sense to me. Not everyone is called by the Divine. Personally, when the Gods called me I couldn’t help but listen.
    “Do you have any proof?”
    Proof enough for myself. I don’t force my beliefs on anyone else. I mean, sure, I could blame my seeing a few Deities on some strange psycological mishap caused by whatever, but to me, I saw what I saw.
    “Also, Norse paganism used to practice slavery and human sacrifices like other pagan religions. Doesn’t that bother you?”
    No, it doesn’t bother me.
    I can’t name too many older religions who’s followers have not been associated with both in some way with either. Even in America we’ve had Slavery and secular human sacrifices. You have to keep in mind, that in just about every civilization, human sacrifices were of criminals and prisioners of war for the most part. I don’t practice either of these things religiously or secularly, and neither do other’s of my religion. It is something of our past, just as it is of yours. We move on and better ourselves.
    “Btw, I’m Agnostic and I’m trying to see the worldview of people from different religions.”
    Woot. Thanks. I admire that.
    “So this is like a hippie religion. Sort of a ‘new age’ belief.”
    *laughs*
    I may be a little hippie like, but new age just aint my thing. My religion is part of neither.
    “I guess for me it’s impossible to believe in a religion or “spiritualism” without any empirical evidence. Don’t take this as on attack on pagans…”
    No offense taken. I too agree that blind faith is stupid. Sure, I can’t prove the existance of my Deities, but to me they are as real as I myself am real.
    EDIT:
    LOL Prariecrow. =) I should give her a stern talking to then, for assuming I was hippie like =P. But yes, as over active as my imagination is, I’d be hard pressed to see people from my Heathen group as hippie like in any way. I don’t think I need to go much further than to state nearly every single Norse God is either a God of war or been associated with War. Most hippies seem to distance themselves from anything remotely related to war.

  24. In the scientific theory, “Gaia Theory,” indeed science views the earth as a living entity, much like pantheists and animist of old did. The gods exist in our minds, read some Jungian Archetypal Psychology and you’ll see what I mean. They may have existence outside as well, but they certainly exist within us. This inner existence of the gods are what most pagans I know emphasize and live by. You can look about you and observe life. You can observe the variety of life. As variety is an observable fact, so variety should also apply to our spiritualities, if we want to best live in this world, now.
    Now, I do use the names of many Norse Gods, but do not feel a need to explain for my ancestors. They dealt with the world with the scientific information available to them, and I deal with the world with the scientific information available to me. So, I don’t need to condone, nor condemn their acts. They, like us today, did the best with what they have. In the future, who knows what practices we have today that will be considered absolutely barbaric; surgery, circumcision, high school, marriage, who knows? You always have 20/20 looking through the rear-view mirror.
    Just as humans evolve, mentally, so do the gods. This is why there is an “apocalypse” (defined; end of an Age) in many religions. Many religion’s founders realized there would be a time when their religion would have to step aside for a New religion, or many new religious and spiritual ideas to take root. As our understanding of the universe evolve, so too do the gods, or at least how we know them.
    Finally, on the premise of your question, in the variety that is the earth, the multiverse and neopaganism, we do not feel a need to proseletize nor evangelize. These concepts are anethema to us if anything is. You should observe the universe how your mind is built to observe it… take in the facts your brain discerns, and make of them what you will. Don’t follow paganism if it doesn’t make sense to you. No religion is for everyone, no philosophy is for everyone, no job is for everyone. If everyone was a bus driver, who’d build the buses? and where would they ride to?

  25. Well, who deemed it myth? The Christians? Like thier track record on reality is great? No it doesn’t bother me that THEY think it’s all hocus. Atheist think ALL religions are hocus so they bother me less.
    I do not worship nature or see it as a divine being. It’s a side effect of the divine, not the divine itself. I am a polytheist, not an animist. We practice ancestor worship, not nature worship.
    And for the record, myth is based on the Greek word “truth”. So deem it myth all you want.
    Norse paganism practiced human sacrifice and slavery? Huh. So did Christianity. Jesus was a human sacrifice. Jews used to practice animal sacrifice. All the Western world practiced slavery at one time, even Europe and the especially the Middle and Far East. It wasn’t based on RELIGION. It was based on CULTURE. At one time slavery was accepted. So it was practiced. It no longer is accepted. So it’s not. Like I said, it had nothing to do with religion.
    As a Norse Heathen with in-laws that I loathe and despise no it doesn’t bother me that we used to practice human sacrifice. There are days I wish we still did.
    To explain the worldview of the Norse you have to study. I can not answer it in one answer on yahoo. There was a “method to the madness” so to speak you would have to understand an entire pre-Christian culture and the CONTEXT behind the sacrifices.
    I am not a hippie. I am a 28 year old stay at home mom with three kids who drives a *gasp* SUV that I wouldn’t give up under the threat of death. My agnostic mother MAKES me recycle because I don’t and I live in Old Navy and Gap. Not very hippie. And New Age is a bunch of nonsense.
    edit: *curtsies to prarie* why thank you. We do tend to give our strong opinion. 😉

  26. Does the Earth exist? Pagans worship the Earth as well as a variety of other beings including the Universe as a whole (Pantheism). The Universe obviously exists, i.e., it is empirically demonstrable.
    I get the impression that the bigger issue is not whether a particular deity exists (some are beyond the range of empirical science but so are thoughts and ideas…can you tell me how much an idea weighs? No? Do you deny the existence of ideas?) but whether he, she or it conforms to your concept of deity.
    The fact is that people worship whatever and whoever they wish. Therefore, concepts of deity vary in terms of culture and time period. You may not choose to worship a tree, for instance, but some one else might. It might not make sense to you but a. you cannot deny the tree’s existence and b. you cannot deny another person’s right to worship who and what they choose.
    I have sense that agnostics and atheists are uncomfortable with deity in the prevalent model of our culture. The Judeo-Christian model is of Supreme Being, Creator, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Loving…but cannot explain all the suffering and death in the world.
    Pagans tend to view theology mytho-poeically. A particular deity either governs an aspect of nature or human experience (be it love or war or anything else) and/or is immediately identifiable with those things. War obviously exists. Love obviously exists. You may not be comfortable worshipping love or war, but you cannot deny someone else’s right to do so.
    There is also a growing cosmological theology in which the whole is worshipped (pantheism). If you worship the whole, you worship all the parts of the whole…and again, in the physical universe, you have a whole lot of empirically demonstrable stuff.
    As to mythology, please do not confuse Pagan orientation toward it with Christian orientation toward sacred scripture. We view it as parable not literal. This doesn’t make it untrue. It teaches various lessons as does all wisdom literature. Granted, some of it was designed to explain complex realities of life to a pre-scientific world, but even those people probably understood that these were merely tales trying to explain something.
    As to the issue of sacrifice, yes, it bothers me, but I’m not inclined to deny it. It is historical fact. We don’t do it today, because we do not have the rationale of people living there and then. We still offer the gods food and drink, but that’s symbolic of our commitment to them. They give us life. We share things with them that have life-giving principles like bread and wine.
    Why do agnostics and atheists fear the possibility of deity? There seems to be a real anxiety over the subject.

  27. Well I don’t see nature as a living entity but rather a shedload of living entities.
    If you didn’t believe in any of it then you’d be an atheist rather than a pagan technically although many pagans treat deities as physchological archetypes or as representations of natural phenomena rather than gods, which is fine too. Mythology isn’t a word I have problems with, I KNOW it’s mythology but maybe I understand the word differently, as others already explained myth sort of means truth.
    It’s true that the Norse practiced slavery, so did the Greeks, the Romans, the Hun and rather famously the Egyptians. basically EVERYONE practiced slavery, however slaves in the Norse world were quite well treated and even permitted to earn money on the side to buy their own freedom unlike slaves in other cultures. The Spartans famously kept slaves but their slaves were the ordinary folks who happened to not be soldiers and therefore didn’t spend their every waking moment training for war (someone had to do the farming after all). Slavery hasn’t gone away either, we just choose to call it by a more palletable name and discuise it.
    Human sacrifice is an often distorted concept too, most sacrificed people in Europe were criminals, prisoners of war or failed kings, there was almost always a reason other than simple devotion to a particular deity.
    Empirical evidence is irrelevant to spiritual persuits although most reconstructionists rely on significant historical and archeological evidence before we’ll accept anything related to our beliefs.
    I admire your attempt to percieve the worldviews of others but I suspect that like most normal human beings you will filter those worldviews through you own worldview which will inevitably scew your perceptions (which it already has with some of your presuppositions in your question). This isn’t your fault though, just thought I’d point it out.

  28. It is MY belief that these gods and goddesses exist, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I don’t wish to prove anything to anyone. Deity (the belief in them) is a personal faith and it makes no difference if the entire world disagrees.
    Great question and even greater answers guys…

  29. My religion is not based on mythology, it is based on
    deductive reasoning and direct personal experience
    with the divine. Our view is panentheistic, in that we
    believe that deity is a seperate force outside of the
    universe (the creator) but that She is also alive and
    living within us (and other creatures). We respect
    nature as the gift of the Goddess but we do not
    worship the earth itself.
    My opinion as to why She created us, and what our
    purpose is, is to evolve up to a point where we can
    provide some companionship to Her and serve Her
    more directly. I feel we are not doing a very good job
    of that, and we may wind up ruining the planet if we
    don’t wake up and get on the ball pretty soon.
    Jeanie

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