Monday, September 04, 2006

Is Paganism A Religion?

My recent post caused a bit of debate on whether the term 'Paganism' can be used to refer to a religion. While looking at other Pagan blogs I realized that Grian at Panthea had posted a response. This is what she had to say about the last post and one of the comments.

After doing some research on the subject of whether the term ‘Paganism’ can be used to describe a religion this is what I found: an article about how Paganism is not a religion, a review of a book that discusses Paganism as a world religion, and this definitions of the word pagan and the prefix, -ism.

Let's define 'Paganism' using the information from the last two links that is pertinent to our goal:

Pagan - a follower of polytheistic religion

-ism - a doctrine/theory/religion; adherence to a system or a class of principles


So, if you put the two together you get:

Paganism - adherence to a system or a class of principles of polytheistic religion


So using this definition, I would have to say that Paganism does fall into the category of a religion. Yes, Paganism has also used as an umbrella term for many Pagan religions but it is not the only use. When it comes to the use of the term, one of the comparisons that I can think of is the use of Christianity. No one is going to argue that it is a religion. When talking about religion, the word Paganism is used in the same way as the word Christianity.

This gets us into the debate of how the word 'Paganism' is used. If you look at the article that says that Paganism is not a religion (link above), the person implies that no one says "I am Paganism" to describe their religion. Well, no one says "I am Christianity" either. That doesn't mean that it is not a religion. A Christian is a follower of Christianity and a Pagan is a follower of Paganism. So when someone says "I am Pagan," they are saying that they are follower of a Pagan religion.

While the debate of whether the term 'Paganism' denotes a religion will probably continue, I will continue to use it as a word that does because it is the way it is defined in the dictionary.

4 comments:

Niobium said...

Quite some time ago I looked up the word "pagan" and the defination was something akin to anyone who believes in a religion other than an Abrahamic one. What that said to me is anyone who isn't Christian, Jewish, or Muslim is a pagan and that's a fair amount of people in the world.

For me I consider myself Pagan, capital P. I certainly see how P/pagan can be an umbrella term like "Christianity." I embrace the term because I don't have specific deity(ies) I worship or rituals I practice. However, I can see how I'm getting more specific as time goes on and I'm sure my self-imposed label will change with it. I certainly see Witch (capital W) on the near horizon.

Penguin said...

I am all for Pagan/Paganism being classified as a religious umbrella...like Christianity. Perhaps that will help those who are not part of the Pagan umbrella to understand Wicca, Druidism, Heathenism - look at them like Protestants, Lutherns, and Methodists being Christians.

Did that make sense?

peppylady said...

I never new the different between a relgion and occult.
As far as I can see if a person don't agree or understand your beliefs then they put it under the class of occult or paganism.

Bernulf said...

First, I'd like to continue with your use of the dictionary...defining Paganism is a first step, defining religion is the next step. When looking at that definition, it's quite easy to see where Paganism qualifies. I have stretched that definition in the past to also include science...but I do that only in specific arguments that really have no bearing on this one. The only hard part about using the dictionary here is that the definition is likely coming from someone who is not Pagan. Looking further into this brings me to my second point, as Webster's also defines Pagan as Heathen.

Here is where I should point out that using Paganism as an umbrella term to include Heathenry is a little tricky...many modern-day Heathens do not consider Heathenry to be contained within that umbrella, viewing it instead as a separate religion; although from what I understand of Heathenry in Europe, the lines might be a little more blurred. I would imagine that Buddhists also do not consider their religion to be Pagan, but rather Buddhist.

My question would be how to define Paganism without mentioning any other religion? To me, that would help solve any debates about its religious status.