Pagans seventh largest religion in the UK

Beltane celebration            Pagan pride picnic

Credit: Pagan Nature Celebrations               Credit: Pagan Pride Picnic 2009: Nottingham

According to the 2011 UK census Pagans represented the seventh most popular religious faith according to a report in an article in the Chronicle live. While total numbers of respondents were not stated in the article it did report that 1802 people did identify themselves as Pagan in the North East.

The trouble with this story is the difficulty of identifying what constitutes a ‘Pagan’. Of the 1802 people in the North East who stated they were Pagan 456 ( 26%) identified themselves as Wiccan. However, the actual paths of other Pagan faiths was not identified. The report described Paganism as ” according to the Pagan Federation, the term covers a vast number of traditions or “paths” whose central idea is that there is a divine force inherent in nature. Pagans celebrate events such as the summer and winter solstice by gathering before sunrise in gardens, forests, hilltops or beaches for organized rituals or their own personal reflection.” While giving a very nebulous idea that we are somehow in-tune with nature the description fails to identify any true religious principles other than our belief in a divine connection with nature.

From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall. There are quite a few spiritual sects which serve to fall under the Pagan definition, but that variability leads to confusion when interacting with non-Pagans. To their credit the Pagan Federation of the UK does try to define and explain Pagans and Paganism on their webpage. The one sentence statement is: “A follower of a polytheistic or pantheistic nature-worshipping religion.” Further on the same page it states that Paganism is “the ancestral religion of the whole of humanity. This ancient  religious outlook remains active throughout much of the world today, both  in complex civilisations such as Japan and India, and in less complex  tribal societies world-wide. It was the outlook of the European religions  of classical antiquity – Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome – as well as of their “barbarian” neighbours on the northern fringes, and its European form is re-emerging into explicit awareness in the modern West  as the articulation of urgent contemporary religious priorities.”

The issue with these types of depictions are that they do not address the areas of concern for those who are concerned about our beliefs. Questions like: do you have a moral code of non-violence and piety, why is nature so important within your religion, and how does your religious beliefs teach regarding interaction with other non-Pagan faiths? Could it be that a general discussion of Paganism cannot formulate such central answers to these questions, as has been accomplished for other mainstream religions?

Simply a question, however is Paganism too inclusive? Could it be that our quest to encompass those religions who are nature-centric and do not fall under the umbrella of the major faiths causing isolation and removal from acceptance? Especially in this day and age of sound bytes and definitive statements to explain somewhat complex ideas is Paganism serving to be one of its worst enemies?

Link to the Chronicle live story: http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/pagans-demand-greater-respect-revealed-3658870

Link to the Pagan federation page on introduction to Paganism: http://paganfed.org/paganism.shtml

Until next time,

Garrettlonewolfe

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3 thoughts on “Pagans seventh largest religion in the UK

  1. From my standpoint one of our great assets as a set of religious beliefs is also our downfall.

    I have to agree. Knowing a Pagan has very little bearing on knowing Paganism. I have often encouraged people to learn more outside of their own path, that they might be better informed to represent Pagans as a group, as well as an individual.

    1. Absolutely correct Druweid, and speaking for myself I do not know as much about other Pagan beliefs as I probably should. However, is there a set of core-values that can be agreed upon which would fairly speak to an inclusive depiction of Pagans? It is established by those groups I have investigated that Pagans: believe in a nature-centric spirituality, believe in a feministic devine entity (either inclusively or inidivudally), and believe in more than one divine entity.

      But this speaks to define the divine component, however when it comes to how we practice our faith and what principles found our moral compass the details become a bit sketchy. Could we, in fact, agree in Karma- or is there an accepted Pagan system which denies it? Would it be correct in saying that Pagans believe in reincarnation? Do most/all Pgans believe in a version of “harm none, do what you will”?

      In considering the statements and concern of non-Pagans about our belief system these are the things that may change the hearts and minds of moderate skeptics.

      1. Without a doubt, Pagans do share a set of core values which serves to unite and define us. And yes, some form of a Karmic and “harm none” philosophies are certainly practiced by each one. Reincarnation varies a little bit; I’ve known many who believe we move on to the spirit world, Summerland, and perhaps even further on. Very few, however, would outright deny the possibility of reincarnation.

        Non-pagans, especially moderate skeptics, are a tad more difficult. It is they who would point out that one person practices one form of Karmic Law, while another practices a different form. To them, it represents an inconsistency, not the unification that it should.

        I’ve spent many years trying to win the hearts and minds of skeptics, and have found that they are less interested in philosophies, and more interested in how (and how well) adherents practice those philosophies. And most of us know at least one bad example who inevitably becomes exploited.

        But for me, the one thing that has always stood out, as far as being a positive influence to critics, was simply being able to discuss Paganism on an intellectual or academic level. Nothing has beat having someone say “Wow, it sounds like you’re talking about a real religion,” and replying in calm but perfect straight-face and dead-pan fashion: “I am.”

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