What is Neopaganism?
Question: "What is Neopaganism?"
Answer: Neopaganism / Neo-Paganism (literally, “new paganism” or “revived paganism”) is an umbrella term, covering a widely varied set of spiritual practices typically adapted from pre-Christian or anti-Christian religions. Neopaganism includes various forms of New Age belief, Wicca, versions of Greek and Roman polytheism, and Celtic druidism. Prior to the 1960s, these types of beliefs were overwhelmingly underground and seen as countercultural. Changing attitudes toward counterculture and a growing hostility to Christianity have allowed Neopaganism to expand, particularly when blended with other religious concepts.
Though it draws inspiration from ancient history, Neopaganism generally assumes a worldview that is very modern, if not postmodern. The “gods” and “goddesses” of these systems are not necessarily seen as literal beings. Dogma is generally shunned in favor of relativism and have-it-your-way spirituality. Some neo-pagans take such things seriously on their own merits, holding a sincere belief in whatever truths they claim. Others are motivated by a spiteful distaste for Western, Christian, or traditional attitudes.
Because there are so many flavors of Neopaganism, it is impossible to give a single description of belief that can be applied fairly across the board. The few concepts that nearly all neo-pagan systems have in common actually result in a less coherent, more diverse collection of views. Among these themes are relativism, inclusivism, and the rejection of creeds.
Neopaganism is overwhelmingly relativistic, claiming that truth is subject to each person’s individual reality. This allows for a personally customized approach to spiritual and moral matters. However, relativism also conflicts with a basic principle of logic, the law of non-contradiction. Two neo-pagans might have opposite views on whether or not the Greek god Athena literally exists without seeing this as a problem. However, logically, one of these two must be incorrect. The same problem applies to moral and ethical claims.
Inclusivism is another common theme of neo-pagan religions. Inclusivism is the principle that virtually all religious interpretations are equally valid. Of course, this inclusive attitude is not typically extended toward monotheistic views such as Christianity. Monotheism, in fact, is frequently seen in Neopaganism as one of the few—or the only—unacceptable approach to spirituality. In theory, Neopaganism is “polytheistic,” although not all practitioners believe in the same set of deities, or any deity at all. As with relativism, inclusivism leads to a problem of contradiction. Completely opposite moral and spiritual ideas cannot both be equally true.
The rejection of creeds or any formal, binding description of belief and practice is known as anti-creedalism. Within Neopaganism this is simply the practical consequence of relativism and inclusivism. This approach shuns the idea of a “correct” set of beliefs. As a result, even neo-pagans of nominally identical faiths might have completely different opinions on how to live, think, or discuss those concepts. In keeping with its countercultural and anti-Christian themes, Neopaganism rejects fixed creeds.
In turning from the one true God to a god or gods of their own making, the neo-pagans attempt to fill their spiritual longing with vanity, the way ancient Athens was filled with idols (Acts 17:16). And, like the ancient Athenians, they need to be introduced to the One they would call “the Unknown God” (Acts 17:23).
Recommended Resource: Either/Or: The Gospel or Neopaganism by Eerdmans Publishing
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