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Showing posts with the label #Pagans

“Spiritual… but not religious.”

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SPIRITUAL'spɪ.rɪtʃ(.əw).əladjective. Dealing with immaterial things in the human spirit or soul.2. Dealing with religion.[Spirituality 'spɪr.ɪt.ʃəw.æl.ə.dinoun.]Many pagans like to describe themselves as spiritual. ’Cause they are: They believe in immaterial things, like the soul. Might even believe in other spirits; or God, whom they correctly recognize is spirit; Jn 4.24 or a spiritual afterlife. Or not: They only believe in spiritual forces, like good vibes or positivity, bad vibes or negativity, which can affect not just ourselves, but everyone around us.Christians call ourselves spiritual too, ’cause we are. We have the Holy Spirit, who’s hopefully working on us—if we let him. We’re taught to pursue spirit, not flesh.Ro 8.5-6 We believe in God and angels and unclean spirits (like the devil) and that we’re part spirit. For the most part, we believe in the supernatural too.Now, you can tell a pagan all this: “You’re spiritual? So’m I.” But there’s still a dividing line whic…

Pagans and heathens and nonchristians; oh my!

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PAGAN'peɪ.gənadjective. Holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions. A non-Christian.2. A neopagan: Adherent of a recent religious movement which incorporates beliefs or rituals from pre-Christian Europe and North America.[Paganism 'peɪ.gən.ɪz.əmnoun.]HEATHEN'hi.ðənadjective. Pagan.2. Uncultured, inappropriate.Pagan is a Christian word, from the Latin paganus, meaning one who lives in the country, as opposed to one who lives in the city. Ancient Christians figured we live in the “city of God,” his kingdom… and pagans live outside, so let’s invite them in. It was their shorthand way of saying nonchristian. It’s mine too.I know; a number of people have appropriated the word to mean their religions. The neopagan movement started in the mid-1800s, when British and American mystics started to revive occult religion; and once again in the 1960s and ’70s, when nature religions did likewise. These would be the maguses, practitioners of magick (with a -k)…

Why do pagans celebrate a Christian holiday?

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Every year, on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, my city has a Christmas festival. The local newspaper started it and sponsors it.I like to joke it begins with the pagan stuff. Once the sun is mostly down (and this time of year it sets around 4:45 PM) the community gathers round the 60-foot tree, the local Air Force band plays a few songs, the mayor says a few things, the people are led in a few secular carols about jingle bells, silver bells, reindeer, and Santa Claus. Who makes an appearance, and the tree gets lit.That done, the city’s Christians take over. Downtown is full of tent-canopied booths, nearly all of ’em set up by local churches. We give out cookies, cocoa, cider, and other treats. Our choirs sing. Open-air Christmas pageants are performed. The churches handle cleanup too.“What’s with all the Christians?” a friend commented years ago. “It’s our holiday,” I reminded him.I find it a pretty drastic contrast. My family does too. Most years they skip the newspaper’s opening fes…

Nontheists and prayer.

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Whenever you talk prayer with a nontheist or antichrist, they’re gonna scoff at you because they’re entirely sure you’re praying to no one.You only imagine you’re praying to someone, they insist. You only think God answered your prayers, but it’s just coincidence; or you’re selectively reinterpreting “signs” from nature and claiming they’re God-things. You’re only pretending that’s God’s voice in your head talking back to you; it’s really your own. You want so bad for God to be real, for prayer to be valid, for Christianity to be true, you’ve psyched yourself into everything. But it’s pure self-delusion.Yeah, sometimes I talk with some people, so I’ve heard their condescending explanations before. They’d probably work on me… if there was no such thing as confirmation. Test the bloody spirits! 1Jn 4.1See, when I think God’s told me something, I don’t just run with it. I’m patient. I double-check. ’Cause we’re supposed to double-check. Not double-checking is how Christians wind up doing…

Pagans and prayer.

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Back in my teenage years I attended a government meeting. Which, as is customary in the United States, they opened with prayer. Bible Belt residents presume people only do this in their states, but I live in California; we do it here too.Thing is, the Constitution’s first amendment forbids our Congress from recognizing an official religion, and the 14th amendment extends this to state and local governments. So any prayers can’t exclusively be Christian prayers, made in Jesus's name. Something I regularly gotta remind my conservative friends about, ’cause they talk about bringing prayer back into public schools, but have never thought about what sort of praying is gonna happen when just anybody gets to lead prayer. I guarantee you they really don’t want pagan schoolteachers demonstrating prayer for their kids! But there’s no way to legally limit school prayers to the sort of Christians they approve of… which sadly means things are best left the way they are.This prayer I heard befo…

We’re not the only ones who do grace, y’know.

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Scott Hoezee told this story in his 1996 book The Riddle of Grace.The story is told that, many years ago, a conference was convened to discuss the study of comparative religions. Theologians and experts from various fields of religious studies gathered from all over the world to tackle certain knotty questions relating to Christianity and its similarities or dissimilarities to other faiths. One particularly interesting seminary was held to determine whether there was anything unique about the Christian faith. A number of Christianity’s features were put on the table for discussion. Was it the incarnation? No; other religions also had various versions of the gods coming down in human form. Might it be the resurrection? No, various versions of the dead rising again were found in other faiths as well.On and on the discussion went without any resolution in sight. At some point, after the debate had been underway for a time, C.S. Lewis wandered in late. Taking his seat, he asked a colleagu…

“The fool says there’s no God around.”

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Psalm 14.1, 53.1.The New Living Translation renders Psalm 14.1 and 53.1 exactly the same:Psalm 14.1, 53.1 NLTOnly fools say in their hearts,“There is no God.”They are corrupt, and their actions are evil;not one of them does good!It’s because Psalms 14 and 53 are actually the same psalm. David ben Jesse wrote it five centuries before Psalms got put together—and Psalms is actually made of five different psalters. The first book Ps 1-41 had it, and so did the second Ps 42-72 —so yep, it’s in there twice. For fun, you can compare the two psalms for the differences which slipped into the psalm over time. It’s kinda like different hymnals which have alternate verses to your favorite hymns. (“Amazing Grace,” fr’instance, is a bit different from the way John Newton originally wrote it.)Differences the NLT actually muted. ’Cause it translated two different words as “actions.” Psalm 14.1 has עֲלִילָ֗ה/alilá, “a doing,” and Psalm 53.1 has עָ֝֗וֶל/avél, “an immoral deed.” The NLT’s translators w…

“Pre-Christians” and religious bigotry.

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About 25 years ago, my pastor talked about how he was no longer gonna refer to pagans as “non-Christians.” (He never did refer to them as pagans. That’s a practice which varies from church to church. Anyway.) From now on he was gonna call them “pre-Christians.” Because, he explained, he was gonna hope in favor of them becoming Christian eventually. It’s based on optimism.It also addresses a rather common problem we find in Christendom, particularly in the Bible Belt. It’s a certain degree of negativity Christians can have towards pagans. Bluntly, it’s religious bigotry: The attitude that if you’ve not chosen Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must be sinful, stupid, or otherwise morally or mentally deficient.My pastor explained none of this thinking is proper, nor even correct. Pagans are simply people who’ve not chosen Jesus yet. He hopes they yet will.And Christians have no leg to stand on when it comes to religious bigotry. God loves the world, Jn 3.16 which includes all the pagans in …

Pagans and theology.

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People who aren’t Christian regularly critique Christianity: What we believe, what our churches teach, how we practice. I regularly lump ’em into three categories:Antichrists who offer no constructive criticism, and don’t care whether their complaints are valid or not: They just wanna bash Christians.The clueless, who overheard the antichrists’ complaints and think they’re valid. They honestly don’t know any better.Those with valid complaints, who take us to task when we truly are inconsistent or hypocritical.There’s not a lot we can do with the antichrists, much as Christian apologists might foolishly try. (Pearls before pigs, guys. Mt 7.6) The clueless can be reasoned with, but when they’re not merely clueless but downright anti-Christianity, shake the dust off and leave them be.But the valid critics must be taken seriously. Because they’re right. We Christians do teach one thing and do another. We preach forgiveness and grace and mercy when it comes to evangelism… then we turn roun…

Secret Christians.

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Most of the time, this particular teaching of Jesus has the effect of getting Christians to quit waffling and publicly declare themselves Christian. ’Cause Jesus doesn’t want secret followers.Matthew 10.32-33 KWL32“So everyone who agrees with me before people: I’ll also agree with them before my heavenly Father.33But those who disown me before people: I’ll also disown them before my heavenly Father.”Though y’might notice there were secret Christians in Jesus’s day. Nicodemus of Jerusalem and Joseph of Arimathea were two rather obvious followers… but give ’em credit; they did out themselves by entombing Jesus. Jn 19.38-42 We don’t have Jesus’s comments about them, but since they rather publicly got involved “before people” when push came to shove, I seriously doubt Jesus is gonna disown either of them at the End.Thing is, there are a number of people who secretly, privately, personally believe in Jesus. But they don’t have the balls to step forward and publicly say so. Maybe they’ll sa…

Pagan and proud.

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Whenever I share Jesus with pagans, I run into two types: The open-minded and the closed-minded. Either pagans who are curious and have tons of questions; or pagans who wanna tell me about Jesus, ’cause they already know it all.The open-minded are fun. I may not get them to believe, or convince them to set foot in a church, but that’s okay: There’s still room for the Holy Spirit to work on ’em. There’s still hope. Whereas the closed-minded are depressing. They suck all the fun out of the conversation. They dismiss or mock what we consider important, and don’t care how insulting and condescending they come across. When Jesus compared them to swine, Mt 7.6 you can see why that analogy has become so popular.Why are they like that? Pride.Like I said, they already know it all. They think they have God all figured out. Or at least they have God figured out better than we Christians do. Sometimes they grew up Christian, so they actually do know a few things. Sometimes they didn’t, but they r…

Pantheism: God is everything, and everything is God.

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On those who believe God is the universe.Pantheist /'pæn.θi.ɪst/ adj. Identifies God as the universe, or recognizes the universe as a manifestation of God. 2. Identifies all gods as forms, manifestations, avatars, or persons of the One God.[Pantheism /'pæn.θi.ɪz.əm/ n.]Popular culture believes Hinduism to consist of the worship of thousands of gods. That’s not quite accurate. Hindus themselves tell me that they tend to worship maybe one or two gods themselves… but the “thousands of gods,” as westerners call ’em, are really just different faces of the One God.So they’re monotheist?Still not quite accurate. It’s not that there’s one God with thousands of faces. It’s that God consists of every face. Everything is God. God is the universe.Whenever you meet a pagan who talks about “the universe,” and speaks of the universe as if it has an intelligence—“The universe wants me to do such-and-so,” or “The universe is sending me a message”—that’s the mindset we’re talking about. “The un…

These godless kids these days.

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Little bit of griping about the younger generation… and now it’s in the bible.Psalm 14Amárnavál belibó/“The fool said at heart” (Latin Dixit insipiens) is by David, and we number it at 14.Commentators figure it’s a lament: David, or Wisdom (i.e. the Holy Spirit) mourns the fact kids these days don’t follow God anymore. Not like “our righteous group,” Ps 14.5 the dor/“age group” (KJV “generation”) David’s in, which he deems more devout than the younger set. Back in his day people followed God, took his side, knew where their help came from, and expected God to rescue ’em yet again. In comparison, this generation is hopeless, nihilistic, cynical, faithless, and godless.Basically, the same lament every generation has about the next one. Well, with one exception: The people from this generation, who gang up with the previous generation about their peers and successors. That’s a phenomena I’ve seen quite often lately. My parents are “baby boomers,” I’m in what marketers call “generation X,…

Losing your faith when you go to school.

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More accurately, being the pagans you always secretly were.In my town, today’s the first day of school. I have friends in other parts of the United States who say, “You start school in August? You’re nuts.” I look at it from an educator’s point of view: The shorter the summer vacation, the less chance there is for the kids to forget everything before we get ’em back in the classrooms. Plus most of the parents do not mind at all.Colleges and universities are also starting up this time of year. Along with that comes a common worry Christians have: They worry their good Christian kids will go away to school, and gradually ditch their Christianity.It’s hardly a new worry. It’s been around since the very first Christians sent their kids to the ancient version of university, the academy. It’s been around since the first universities slid away from the goals of their Christian founders, and became secular.Since I grew up Fundamentalist, I got to hear their version of that worry. Fundies susp…

When pagans die.

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Have they no hope? Well, let’s not rule that out.Yeah, this is gonna be a bummer of an article. Sorry. It needs saying.When Christians die, it’s sad. ’Cause we’re never gonna see those people again in this lifetime. We often say, “We’ll see ’em in heaven,” and that’s true—though not quite as pop-culture Christianity imagines it. We’ll see them in the kingdom of heaven. Once Jesus returns to establish that kingdom, we Christians are all getting resurrected, and they’ll be back, better than before. As will we. That’s our hope.But it’s not pagans’ hope.The Latin word paganus meant someone from the country, and therefore not from the city. Christians adopted it to refer to people who don’t live in the city of God, or civilians who aren’t in the Lord’s army. By definition a pagan isn’t in the kingdom. Not going to heaven. They’re outside—and outside isn’t good.So when pagans die, it’s a profound loss. Not only are we not seeing them again, we’re likely not seeing them in the age to come. B…

Theists and deists: The ways people believe in God.

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Most pagans do believe in God, y’know.THEIST'θi.ɪstadjective. Believes in the existence of God or gods.2. Believes in one God, a personal being, the universe’s creator, who interacts with its creation.[Theistic θi'ɪst.ɪkadjective, theism 'θi.ɪz.əmnoun]DEIST'di.ɪstadjective, noun. Believes God exists, specifically as a creator who doesn’t supernaturally intervene in his universe.[Deistic 'di.ɪs.tɪkadj., deism 'di.ɪz.əmn.]If you believe in gods, you’re a theist. People tend to bunch theists into different classifications, depending on how many gods they believe in, and how. Both religious and irreligious people (and the Christian term for the non-religious is “pagan”) alike fall into these slots:MONOTHEIST: Just the One God, thanks.POLYTHEIST: Multiple gods. Sometimes two, a good and bad god, in a dualistic system. Sometimes three, among heretic Christians who really misunderstand the trinity. Sometimes a whole pantheon.HENOTHEIST: Multiple gods, but they only de…

Antichrists: When pagans wanna see Christianity gone.

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Sometimes they’re against all religion. Sometimes just us.Antichrist /'æn.tɪ.kraɪst/ adj. Against Christ: Those who object to him or his authority, refuse to recognize him, and counter others who do.2. Rejects the orthodox Christian view of Jesus of Nazareth: Insists Jesus isn’t Christ, isn’t divine, isn’t human, isn’t historical.3. Claims they, not Jesus of Nazareth, are Christ. (See #4; the beast is presumed to be such a person.)4. [uppercase] The beast Rv 13.7 or man of lawlessness; 2Ti 2.3 an End Times figure who attempts to deceive and rule the world, whom Christ Jesus defeats at his return.[Antichristian /æn.tɪ'krɪs.tʃən/, antichristlike /æn.tɪ'kraɪst.lɪk/ adj.]You noticed four definitions of antichrist up there. The most common usage in our culture—both popular culture and Christian culture—is the fourth, the uppercase-A Antichrist, the beast of Revelation 13.It might surprise you to know the beast is never called an antichrist in the scriptures. Seriously. Christia…

Nontheism: When pagans don’t believe in God.

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Most people believe in God. Now let’s discuss the tiny minority who don’t.Nontheist /'nɑn.θi.ɪst/ adj., n. Believes no such thing as God, gods, a universal spirit, a universal intelligence, nor a supernatural higher power, exists. (A catchall term for atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, and others who are skeptical of God and religion.)[Nontheism /'nɑn.θi.ɪz.əm/ n.]Y’know, for the first couple centuries of Christianity, we Christians were called atheist.See, the Greco-Roman pagans believed in gods. Lots of gods. Not just the all the gods, titans, demigods, and demons in the Greco-Roman pantheon: They accepted the gods of other pantheons too. They didn’t presume they knew them all, so whenever they encountered an unfamiliar god, they’d accept it. Sometimes they added it to their pantheon, as we can tell by the fact they had multiple gods of war (Ares, Athena, Enyo, Polemos), the sun (Apollo, Helios, Hyperion), and the moon (Achelois, Artemis, Selene, Phoebe). Other times they fi…

Isn’t God gonna save everybody?

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God definitely wants to. Therefore some Christians insist in the end, he will.UNIVERSALIST /ju.nə'vər.səl.əst/ adj. Believing all humanity will (eventually) be saved.I’ve mentioned before how pagans believe good people go to heaven, and bad people to hell. I should mention there’s a minority among them who believe there is no hell. Nope, not even for genocidal maniacs. Everybody goes to the same afterlife, and if you’re a westerner that’d be heaven. There might be some karmic consequences; you might find yourself in the suckier part of heaven. But considering it’s heaven, it’s not bad.Y’see, these folks figure God is love. Don’t we Christians teach that? Why yes we do. 1Jn 4.8 And God loves everyone—“for God so loved the world” Jn 3.16 and all that. So why would a loving God throw people in hell? Especially for something as minor as not believing in him?—which most of the time is really an honest mistake. Doesn’t sound very loving of God to toss someone into hell just because they…

Betting on God.

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PASCAL’S WAGERpə'skælz 'weɪ.dʒərnoun. Argument that it’s best to presume God exists: The possibility of hell outweighs any advantage of believing otherwise.My first exposure to Pascal was actually PASCAL. (I lived in San Jose in the late 1970s, so as you can guess, my middle school had the best computers.) I knew PASCAL was named after Blaise Pascal (1623–62), a French mathematician and statistician. I didn’t know he was also a Catholic philosopher who came up with a popular apologetic argument. Goes like yea:Let us then examine this point, and say, “God is, or he is not.” But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up. What will you wager? According to reason, you can do neither the one thing nor the other; according to reason, you can defend neither of the propositions.Do not, then, reprove for error those who…