Does Paganism require a belief in Divinity?

iBrian

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I came across an interesting argument - that Paganism does necessitate a belief in Divinity.

I find this strange - to myself, religious and spiritual systems almost always point to some expression of the Concept of God in some form of other, whether this be in the form of a personal God or gods, or aspects of the universe as a living, even conscious, principle.

Yet I've seen people refer to themselves as "Agnostic Pagans" and even seen reference to "Atheist Witches".

Somehow this doesn't seem to make sense in the traditional definition of Agnostic: "nothing is or can be known of the existence or nature of God".

However, is that too rigid a view, or is spiritual humility indeed a form of Agnosticism?
 
I said:
I came across an interesting argument - that Paganism does necessitate a belief in Divinity.

1) Define Paganism.

2) Define Divinity.

Two intractable problems, I'm afraid. Paganism often refers to nature-based religions, but another definition is "anything that's not Christian/Jewish/Islam". Personally, I would find it hard to reconcile someone who was Wiccan denying divinity in the person of at least the Goddess.. it's sort of central to that set of beliefs, as I understand it. By the second definition, Buddhism is pagan, and the argument about deity there is well covered in other threads. Druids reverence nature, but are the spirits reverenced "divinity?".

Too much thought, too little caffeine...
 
Part of the confusion too is the frequent incorrect assumption that all witches are Wiccans. Wiccans are certainly following an identifiable religious path which is centred on the idea of Divinity (whether monotheistic, duotheistic, or some variety of polytheistic.) Wiccans are just one type of witch, however, and there are plenty of witches who aren't Wiccans.

So I could understand some witches saying they are atheists. And if witches are counted as being pagan (as in the "not Christian/Jewish/Muslim" definition) then it makes sense to say some pagans might be atheists.
 
As a pagan, I see God in two ways :

- the creative force : the force which created the mathematical foundations of the universe and which creates new life
- the balance guardian : a force that maintains balance troughout the universe, present in every atom and energy particle

I do not see God as an entity, but as a combination of superior natural forces. I see it's greatest manifestations, by observing nature, and therefor I see nature and God as one.

This is the way most modern pagans (wiccans excluded) interpret God. The traditional Gods have to be seen merely as ancient heroes or symbols to bring complex scientific issues to the masses. I do not see wicca as a pagan, because it's too much influenced by Christianity and humanism (which is Christianity without the ballast)




I consider my beliefs to be the largest common divider of the traditional Western and Eastern beliefs : Wotanism (or Asatru), Druidism, Buddhism and Shintoism. My beliefs are also related to the teachings of Crowley and LaVey, but they lack the antropocentrism and are somewhat more peaceful.
 
IlluSionS667 said:
As a pagan, I see God in two ways :

- the creative force : the force which created the mathematical foundations of the universe and which creates new life
- the balance guardian : a force that maintains balance troughout the universe, present in every atom and energy particle

I do not see God as an entity, but as a combination of superior natural forces. I see it's greatest manifestations, by observing nature, and therefor I see nature and God as one.

This is the way most modern pagans (wiccans excluded) interpret God. The traditional Gods have to be seen merely as ancient heroes or symbols to bring complex scientific issues to the masses. I do not see wicca as a pagan, because it's too much influenced by Christianity and humanism (which is Christianity without the ballast)

Perhaps that is the way "most modern pagans" you know interpret God. I don't think it's necessarily the majority view, and it isn't the view of the majority of Pagans of my acquaintance. I know an awful lot of modern Pagans who see deity as nothing more than psychological archetype in a rather Jungian sense. I know a lot of Pagans who do see deity as distinct entities. I also know a fair number of "atheist" Pagans, who don't believe in divinity but seem to deal with The Lady and The Lord (tm) as something akin to convenient metaphors. I know monist Pagans. I know animist Pagans. I know adamantly polytheist Pagans. I don't think the existence of spiritual beings precludes accepting some parts of a complex, scientifically based worldview.

To be honest, there is so much that science doesn't know at this point that we can't say for certain whether the spiritual realm exists or not - at least in strictly scientific terms. And yes, every so often, "science" is wrong. It does seem to right itself eventually in at least some fields, but most people can easily point to failed scientific theories. People used to attempt to prove the alleged inferiority of people with different skin colors "scientifically." I have what I experience as personal knowlege of polytheistic deity and spirit, and am not inclined to dismiss such experience entirely, though I do filter for what might be wishful thinking or subconscious fears and desires.

Whether or not you view Wicca as Pagan, the vast majority of Wiccans do, and since they're pretty much the vast majority of modern western Paganism, I think they need to be given a certain credence. Whether or not one agrees with their positions, they're still a part of the debate. I don't believe they can be dismissed quite so easily or blithely as you appear to.

Most modern western paths are influenced by Christianity and/or humanism. 2,000 years is a vast acculturation to fight against or to ignore. This doesn't make them invalid. It doesn't make modern Paganisms automatically 'Not Pagan.' That's rather like saying that all ceremonial magick is Jewish because of the inevitable influence of Qabalism.

But as to Brian's question: no, Paganism per se does not require a believe in divinity. There are too many varieties of Paganism to pin any of them down with a generality.
 
Thanks for the answer, Erynn - some good points raised. The sheer diversity of Pagan beliefs was espeially salient.
 
I believe that NeoPaganism can function as a spiritual movement without resorting to Divinity. NeoPagan people can and do hold a wide spectrum of beliefs. The common thread which runs through the various groups and "isms" of NeoPaganism is the ritual celebration cycle commonly called the Wheel of the Year. The Non Theist Unitarian/Universalist pagans, the Wiccans and some reconstuctions trads can come together and celebrate the Wheel of the Year(if not together then apart). I believe NeoPaganism is a "Spirituality of Experience and Ritual" and not a credo based religion. Neopaganism is about connecting with earth energy and ancient ancestral memories.
 
spiritman51 said:
I believe that NeoPaganism can function as a spiritual movement without resorting to Divinity. NeoPagan people can and do hold a wide spectrum of beliefs. The common thread which runs through the various groups and "isms" of NeoPaganism is the ritual celebration cycle commonly called the Wheel of the Year. The Non Theist Unitarian/Universalist pagans, the Wiccans and some reconstuctions trads can come together and celebrate the Wheel of the Year(if not together then apart). I believe NeoPaganism is a "Spirituality of Experience and Ritual" and not a credo based religion. Neopaganism is about connecting with earth energy and ancient ancestral memories.

While it's true that some NeoPagan paths aren't really theist in essence, there are those that do, by their nature, have a sense of deity and of the existence of actual spiritual entities. The "wheel of the year" in its 8fold manifestation isn't universal, though. Many of the culturally-based Pagan paths have far more than 8 celebrations during a year, and most of those don't fit into the pattern established by Wiccan-based NeoPaganisms.

I don't think we can make any clear generalizationis about "all Pagans" any more than we can make them about "all Christians." In fact, I think we can make fewer generalizations, because at least with Christianity, you're allegedly dealing with Christ. Paganism as a category is largely a modern catchall phrase for a bunch of paths that may have little or nothing in common, and certainly don't center around the worship, respect, or veneration of the same deity figures.

The fact that there *can* be non-theist Pagans is one thing that shows how diverse this category of religions really is.
 
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