Real pagans cannot hate monotheism

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As thought experiment I tried to reconstruct the Golden Dawn ritual with the Christianity removed. I got a few minutes into the process and realised it was totally pointless. The rituals had very successfully created a pagan ritual which could be interpreted in a Christian or pagan way depending on who was doing it.

It is really common amongst pagan communities to slag off the monotheist religions – Christianity, Jewish and Islam.  Normally this is a soft target because paganism is often a rebellion against the childhood religion, which is often monotheist, or a psychological projection of a father figure on a male god.

Lately I have been reading an academic book Pagan Monotheism in Late Antiquity by Polymnia Athanassiadi, which turns a lot of this hatred on its head. Athanassiadi shows how while the pagans had many gods they tended towards a monotheism which was remarkably similar to the Christian and Jewish religions. By the second century, the three religions looked remarkably similar.

All had a supreme god which created the world and then left the running of it to lesser beings. The pagans said these were gods and daemons; Christians said they were angels and saints (and later demons); and Jews said angels (and to a lesser extent demons).

The idea that Christians were better because they were monotheist and the pagans were polytheist was basically a successful Christian propaganda exercise which was never really countered until the 20th century.

Early Christians and Jews admitted that doctrinally there were other Gods, because the bible was full of references to them. They just believed that their god was superior. Later they would say that these pagan gods were demons, but in Late Antiquity that was a bit of a stretch.

All this explains why in Rome in the first and second century it was common for “pagans” to adopt have Christian and Jewish religious symbols in their altars. Cynics have said that they were hedging their bets, but the reality is that they felt free to worship those similar pantheons alongside their own.

Some of this was because of the eclectic nature of pagan religion. The Hellenes, which broadly covered the Romans and Greeks and all they conquered, saw all religions as aspects of their own. So Amon in Egypt was Jupiter as was YHVH of the Jews (although some Romans thought they worshipped Saturn). Jesus could be Osiris, Adonis, Antonis or any number of redemptive gods just as he was worshipped by the Christians. Rome was full of these cults and they only ever fell foul of the Hellene authorities if they advocated illegal acts.

So, a modern Hellene to be truly authentic, has to see Christianity as another expression of their own religion. They don’t need to follow it, but equally they can’t hate it without disconnecting themselves from their own religion. How can you claim to follow Aphrodite but hate the Magdalene; dedicate yourself to Isis but think the Marians are silly; Be excited by Set the God of the Deserts but say that Muslims follow a religion of hate?

In Antiquity, pagan writers moaned that Christianity had taken the best bits of their own religion and merged it into their own. They are not difficult to spot and not even the protestant and catholic counter-reformations thought to remove these pagan elements which had become the cornerstone of their religion.

So what if Christians, Jews, or Muslims think that their God is the only one. There were some pagans who thought their god was the “right one” too. But the reality is all gods are the same – it makes no difference you call it IAO, Jupiter, Zeus, YHVH or Allah they are all the same thing.

The similarities can be seen when we start to play with the religious texts to change just the names of the gods or symbols that identify which religion they belong.

The earth is Zeus, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.
Who may ascend the mountain of Olympus?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in evil daemons
or make a false oath.
They will receive blessing from Zeus
and vindication from Zeus Sotar.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, God of Homer
Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
Zeus strong and mighty,
Zeus mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
Zeus Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

————–
Awaken to me Imperishable God
All seeing Lord
You make the course of my life radiant
You weigh me down with good things
You purify me with your law
Give me your hand and show me as one in need
You created the Earth and Bones and all flesh
All spirit and established the sea and suspended the heavens
You separated the light from the darkness
You are the supreme God who lawfully administers all things
With your winds bring me to the harbour of piety
Eternal, God of Gods, Lord of the Angels
Invariable Lord of the Ages
Hear my psalm

The first one is a Psalm of David with a few words changed that turn it into a prayer to Zeus The second one is a pagan prayer to Zeus which has been changed to a Christian/Jewish psalm. If you can’t spot the difference without knowing either prayer you might get my point. I chose them because they already say similar things.

But really if a pagan sees their fellow monotheists as essentially expressing similar systems, there is no conflict. Sure they might hate us, but really that is their problem not an issue we have with them or their god, or system.

One thought on “Real pagans cannot hate monotheism

  1. From the lecture on purification of the soul: “In true religion there is no sect. Therefore take heed that thou blas­pheme not the name by which another knoweth his God for if thou doest this thing in Jupiter, thou wilt blaspheme YHVH; and in Osiris YEHESHUAH.”

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