This is another interview with a Pagan friend. This time, I have chosen my fellow anime blogger Sweetpea. I’ve known her for the last three years, and feel that, as Christians, we should respect and be knowledgable about other religions.
1. How did you become a pagan?
While my family is Christian, my parents weren’t church-going and felt it was important to let us experience various religions as we encountered them. My aunt, however, helped raise us, and she was/is Pagan, and since my mother didn’t really disagree with most of her beliefs, she taught me hers. And then I started delving into other (completely different from what my aunt taught me) versions of Paganism when one of my friends declared herself Pagan, and I became curious. I already believed a lot of the things that these books talked about, and had more than a few spiritual experiences that made me think about the world differently, so it was a natural jump.
2. Can you explain why you decided to give Christianity a try despite not believing in Jesus?
It was because I was at a point in my life where I wanted to know what else was out there, and since Christianity is the biggest religion in the world I thought I should give it a chance. I felt isolated in my community and among many of my friends because I wasn’t Christian, was in a very Christian community (and a lot of the students at the university were Christian), and wanted to try and feel a sense of community and fellowship. So I wanted to believe and tried my hardest. It just… didn’t work out in the end.
3. Does it bother you that you know Christians who find their religion more fulfilling than you did?
No. People believe what they believe. If I had believed as deeply as them, then I would have converted on the spot and still be Christian. I have a religion that’s just as fulfilling.
4. I’ve heard that many pagans have developed hostile attitudes toward Christians. Why do you not share this attitude?
This isn’t really true. Most Pagans do interact with Christians, both nice and not so nice, on a regular basis, and know that there as many diverse reactions and personalities as in any religion out there. It’s the same with me – I’ve met the crazies and the Jesus-esque Christians. You believe what you believe, and I have no right to say whether you’re right or wrong, since I can’t pull God out of hat and ask Him (or them, in my case) what the truth of the matter is.
5. What are some of the things you like about Christianity?
I like the message of peace and love. I think Jesus was very enlightened with a lot of what he said, and agree with a good amount of it.
6. What is your biggest peeve with Christians?
When Christians act as though they’re the only religion that has a right to worship. For instance, last November, a friend came on ranting about how the White House wasn’t putting up Christmas trees and only doing Holiday Trees. This wasn’t true, obviously, but the first thought that came into my mind was that they were acknowledging other religions existed. I don’t feel repressed because there isn’t a Solstice Tree at the White House, and firmly believe in the separation of Church and State. But it was nice to think that the government would acknowledge that there are multiple religions that happen to have celebrations around that time of year and that we all have a right to be acknowledged.
7. Let’s discuss your personal pantheon. Why do you mix gods from different pantheons instead of focusing on just one specific group?
To clarify to your readers, I consider myself an eclectic Pagan. This means that I personally don’t worship any one set of Gods. Instead I take traditions and Gods that work for me on a spiritual level – not because they’re convenient, but because I have prayed and feel that they are right – and mix them together. I mix gods because there isn’t a religion that covers all the things I feel I need to pray for. I feel better praying to Athena for courage and protection, and for learning and writing, I go to Thoth. There are many Pagans out there that will stick to one, singular pantheon, though.
8. How do you pray to these deities?
I do some research into what they symbolize and what their symbols were, and see if there are any records of different rituals that they had. I then modify them for my own lifestyle. For instance, to pray to Athena I will print off a picture of a deer from the internet – they were sacred to her – and place that on my altar (simply a space in my closet that holds two electric candles, a mirror, and a cloth of any color that I feel is appropriate for the seasons and ritual), and pray.
9. What advice would you give to any Christians who wish to interact with pagans?
Don’t immediately attempt to convert or act like we’re about to sacrifice your children. We’re really not into either of those things. We like to be respected for our beliefs and in turn we will totally respect yours. Besides, if you get to attempt to convert, then it’s only fair we get an attempt back.
10. What do you think is the worst misconception about paganism?
That we’re Satan-worshippers and sacrifice creatures/people. We don’t. Unless whoever you’re talking to defines themself as a Satanist (in which case they’re not Pagan) then we’re not worshipping anything really recognizable as Satan. There are only about 5 Pagan religions that ever sacrificed people, and none of them do it today.
11. You’ve told me that you have a problem with the hypocrisy that is in Christianity. But isn’t hypocrisy sort of a defining trait of humanity in general, regardless of religion (or lack of it)?
Christians often use their religion to paint themselves as moral paragons – automatically better than anyone else simply because they believe what they believe, even if they are hypocrites. This is what bothers me rather than the hypocrisy, because I know all people are hypocrites of some sort or another. Doubly so when they use this to get into positions of power. Most other religions acknowledge they’re just as fallible as everyone else, so it’s easier to stand behind the followers when they fail.
12. Do you have a favorite bible verse?
1 John 4:16 – “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
13. What do you think about the fact that Christians have actually adapted several pagan traditions and even their holidays, like turning Saturnalia into Christmas?
It’s happened multiple times over multiple religions. Quite often it’s hard to tell when one religion ends and another begins. Christian traditions are being co-opted into other ones as we speak, like in Japan where it’s considered akin to Valentine’s Day. Saturnalia isn’t the only Pagan tradition that got co-opted into Christmas, even, since there were many relgions that had solstice celebrations.
14. Is there anything else you think should be added?
There are a lot of things I apply to my faith that aren’t universal to Pagans, but from my encounters and talking with other Pagans, I know that as diverse as we are, we all enjoy letting people know what we are really like and how we really worship. There aren’t any false fronts to what we show and tell people. So if you know any Pagans, don’t feel afraid of going up and being curious about their personal faith.