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Christianity and Paganism

In response to this post in Gods and Radicals.

It is misguided to found any argument about the future of a spiritual tradition upon the success of political figures in corrupting Christianity.

All gods wish for their followers to worship only them, because it is through the acts of their followers that they are invested in the world. That investment long predates humanity – there were Neanderthal gods, and before them gods of mice and gods of dinosaurs. The problem facing humanity was to create a human god in the context of billions of years of predecessors. That is the project of monotheism – to create a god that manifests and supports the expression of humanity’s unique talents.

Now perhaps the essence of humanity’s talent is political organization, but I see it differently. Looking at our evolutionary success, I would argue that humanity is a manifestation of intelligence. For the original adherents (not those indoctrinated in service to the priests, which is a problem in any tradition), the attractive proposition of Christianity was that the divinity served humanity. Christianity is the original humanism – it is to assert that the human god should be a god of love, and serve all equally, without regard to station or industrial skill.

Obviously this is a reasonable proposition, and the power of the Church in the Roman world came not because of the allegiances that joined the interests of emperors and priests. Rather, it was because in the Roman context of utilitarian worship, the Church followed Christ’s edict of charity. The Church, though oppressed, took care of the orphans and widows, the sick and poor, and organized their gratitude to the service of others. When the Empire collapsed, the Church assumed control because they were the administrative and organizational backbone of Roman society.

I see paganism as a political act on the spiritual plane. Humanity, having succeeded in propagating the tyranny of utilitarianism through the application of intelligence, is confronting the fact that it is destroying the fundament of its own existence. It needs to think about all of those forgotten gods. It needs to infect them with rational understanding, and engage them in expression of mutual support. In other words, Humanity needs to join in loving the world, rather than just itself.

This is a difficult pivot. Our religions are still infected by expressions of our physical vulnerability: as an illustration, the vulnerability of a child whose cave is invaded by the saber-tooth cat while father and mother are away. Many people still live in circumstances of vulnerability, although the predators are no longer other species, but rather politically powerful people.

Jesus preached that the meek will inherit the earth. As a reaction against abusive political structures, I see paganism as furthering that goal.

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