The Impact of Paganism on the American Culture, Past, Present, and Future
Author: Under A Pagan Moon
Paganism has played, and will continue to play, a positive, and growing role in the American culture.
There are many misconceptions about Paganism, and it’s role in the American culture. In this essay I will present a fair amount of factual information supporting the afore-mentioned statement. Among the facts of this essay you will find that the men who put America and the American government together were more Pagan in thinking than they were Christian. You will see that major American monuments are modeled largely after temples built to Pagan gods, and you will learn that Paganism is more common than one might anticipate.
America, land of the free, and home of the brave. The greatest country in the world. A place where people can be whatever they choose to be, a place where a person can be successful no matter what their background or current status in life is. A country based at its very roots in the Judeo-Christian religion.
Or is it?
Most Americans believe that the people who founded America were strong Christians, and that America would not be the country it is today without a Christian based history.
This belief is based on many things, including the words imprinted on money, and the word God in patriotic songs and pledges. Why does this word God have to refer to the Christian god?
There is proof almost on every corner of America that leads one to believe that this country was actually founded more on a Pagan belief system rather than a Christian one.
Before we discuss the effects of Paganism on America, let’s learn about the Pagan belief system, and the history of Paganism.
Paganism is a peaceful, nature based religion, with many of the same ethics and morals as Christianity. Paganism is the oldest belief system in the world. From the times of cave men, to the inception of Christianity, to the persecutions, all the way up to present day.
All religions and all groups of people have been mainly a “Pagan people” at some time in their history. This includes Greeks, Romans, Native Americans, and basically all ethnic groups and nationalities.
According to the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, the first and oldest book of the Bible, (the basis of Christianity), Genesis, was written around 1445 B.C. (Slick, 1996) Paganism, is so old, no one can actually put any kind of date on it.
There is proof of Pagans everywhere. One can see depictions of various gods etched into cave walls, as well as, statues and monuments in great, old cities like Rome and Egypt.
If paganism were older than Christianity, logically, one would see evidence of this in Christianity. Pagans and Christians share many of the same methods for communicating with their respective Deities.
For example, it is widely known that Pagans would gather in groups to worship. They would dance, sing, light candles, burn incense, perform ancient rituals, and speak to the gods through chanting or playing instruments.
Many Christians can be found to do many of these same acts when worshipping their god. The main difference in these practices is the fact that most Pagans prefer to worship outside, as Paganism is a nature based religion, whereas Christians generally have a church to enter for worship.
Now that we understand the practices of Pagans and Christians, which are almost identical, let’s look at the beliefs and morals of the two religions.
There are very large differences in the beliefs of Pagans and Christians. The main differences are rooted in the belief of what happens after we die and the consequences of our actions in this life.
Most Pagans believe in the theories of reincarnation and karma. The reincarnation theory basically states that after our bodies die, our souls continue on to born again into a physical body again and again.
The karma theory is the belief that whatever actions of thoughts we have, be they negative or positive, have a direct effect on our current physical world. Put simply, if we project a positive energy, or strive to create a positive environment, then positive things will happen in our lives and in our souls. The same thinking would also apply to negative thoughts or actions.
Most Pagans also celebrate the changing of the seasons and hold nature to be instrumental in worship and communicating with the gods. Christians, in turn, believe in a concept of one lifetime wherein a person must believe in the “Son of God” and live by a strict moral code.
If a person does those things, they will be allowed into Heaven, the home of God, to live in everlasting happiness with Him. If a person, any person, not just a Christian, does not adhere strictly to the Christian belief system, that person will be denied eternal bliss and will spend all eternity in Hell with Satan, the creator of all things evil and sworn enemy of God.
Most Christians are also taught that all other religions are false and that Paganism is a form of Satanism, which is the worship of the enemy of God, Satan.
In researching Paganism, one will find that the morals and ethics of Pagans are actually much like that of Christians, and nothing like Satanists.
Pagans and Christians believe that humans in general should be treated with respect and love, to harm no one, and to treat others the same way you would want to be treated. Both religions hold certain days as holy and perform ceremonies and rituals on those days to celebrate their god/gods. Both believe in moderation and respect of nature.
Now that we understand the beliefs and history of Christianity and Paganism, let’s discuss how Paganism is deeply rooted in the American culture.
Let’s start at the beginning of America. The first inhabitants of America were the Native Americans. These people were absolutely a pagan people. The worshipped many gods, and the changing of the seasons and nature.
The next inhabitants of America were European colonists. They came to America to be free of religious persecution. In most cases this persecution was coming from Christians.
“…These early European-Americans eventually succumbed to the government of Great Britain. The religious-right propagandists like to put emphasis on this period of American history because, indeed, these first European-Americans did live under Christian rule and it makes it seem as if these first colonists established the government of the United States. They did not.” (Jim, 2005)
Although these early colonists would eventually bow to Christianity, Paganism would not stay hidden for long.
The government system that the colonists, now calling themselves Americans, set-up is what set America apart from the Monarchy system which most of the colonists came from, and which they desperately wanted to avoid. The Monarchy system is one of kings and queens where religion, now mostly Christian, also plays a large part in government due to the fact that most believers in Monarchy believe the king or queen to be direct descendants of the divinity.
“The most influential American colonists rebelled against Great Britain and their taxes, institutional churches, and desired to form an independent government free from religion and Monarchies.
On July 4, 1776, The Declaration of Independence (written by a deist) announced their independence to the world.” Thomas Jefferson, a scientist, clearly believed that nature was God. He once wrote, “”Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight.”
Even in the Declaration of Independence he wrote, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
Thomas Paine also helped lead the way in separating church from state and questioning the Christian and Monarchist beliefs.
The Constitution itself barely mentions religion, quite on purpose. (Jim, 2005) With all this being true, how can it be truthfully said that America is a Christian based country?
Even the monuments in Washington D.C. replicate buildings or monuments to pagan gods. The Washington Monument being an Egyptian obelisk, as well as many of the buildings is designed after the Greek Parthenon and the Roman Pantheon, buildings specifically built for the worship of Pagan gods.
There are statues of Pagan gods littered across courthouses and monuments all over the United States. Even the graves of many of the founding fathers of America are decorated with Pagan symbols and bare no crucifixes, crosses, or any mention of Christianity. (Jim, 2005)
Even some of the holidays that Americans celebrate today are derived from Pagan holidays or seasonal celebrations. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and New Years, were all Pagan, seasonal, traditions long before the advent of Christianity; the holidays were just known by different names.
There are over one billion reported Christians living in the world today. Most Americans are professed Christians. One of the main duties of a good Christian is to spread the word. This is not so in Paganism.
Christians have persecuted the Pagans for decades. They have “gone into hiding” let’s say. So Christianity continues to spread throughout the world and throughout America. It continues to be the most prevalent religion in the world.
Paganism is, as we have learned, a very old religion. It also happens to be a quite private one now, due to the harsh treatment of Pagans during the advent of Christianity. There are many Pagans across the world, though, many more than will ever be known due to the fact that most the people that are yet undiscovered must be Pagan in their beliefs.
Pagans are also becoming more open with their beliefs in America. When Gerald Gardener came to America and publicly published his beliefs and started teaching Paganism again, the floodgates were opened.
The future looks very good for Pagans in America. In America, people are free to belief whatever they want. We can worship whom we choose and worship how we choose as long as we are not infringing on any one else’s rights. It is not this way in all countries. Even Pagans in Africa were forced to accept the colonial view of Christianity. (Levernier, 2002)
Because of this freedom Americans enjoy, Pagans in America continue to become a rising force in the American culture. There are even laws in place to protect the rights of pagans specifically. Even the U.S. Military chaplain’s manual gives instruction to the military chaplain as to how they would assist a soldier in worship. (A Handbook for Chaplains, pgs 231-236)
In the future, one can expect to see more and more Pagans expressing their opinions, and even moving into American government. There are hundreds, even thousands of Pagan churches across America, and even some Pagan schools. There are Pagan organizations for kids and adults, much like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.
In conclusion, you can see now, how America was founded more on Pagan beliefs than Christian ones. From the Native Americans, to the founding fathers, to the documents and monuments that are part of America’s creation and history, to the children being taught by Pagan parents today, America has always been a Pagan country, and always will be. This can be seen in history, and in the tombs of our forefathers, also in the up rising of Paganism in America today.
As more and more Pagans are revealing themselves and teaching others the Old Ways, there will be an a growing opportunity for Pagans to reclaim the American government and promote a real change in American thinking.
Working Reference List:
The United States: A Country founded on Paganism By Pagan Jim, March 2005
United States Army, US Army Chaplain’s Manual, Excerpt from the U.S. Army’s Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains (pgs 231-236)
Wheatley’s ON BEING BROUGHT FROM AFRICA TO AMERICA,
By: Levernier, James A. Explicator, Fall81, Vol. 40 Issue 1, p25, 2p