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PostPosted: 21 Jan 2008, 13:19 
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Just How Old ARE We, Anyway?

Author: Talitha Dragonfly
Posted: January 20th. 2008


Neo-Pagans. We're new. We're not new. We're as ancient as humanity itself. We're recent newcomers. We're preserving the Old Religion. We've invented a New Religion. We're celebrating original traditions. We're staggering silly neophytes reinventing how the world views the Divine.

Which of these statements is true?

Heck, quite honestly I don't care.

I love what I do, and that's all that really matters.

As we explore the question of our supposed birthday, let's consider a brief definition of "Pagan." Generally speaking, one who is a Pagan is considered to be a person who is not a Christian, Jew, or Muslim (dictionary.com) or a follower of a polytheistic religion (Mirriam-Webster).

Of the major three, Judaism is the oldest. How old is Judaism, then? If you mean when the Jews received the Torah by Moses, then it is about 3300 years old. Of course, this religion has gone through some major revisions since the time of Moses, especially after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Just pick up a copy of the Hebrew Bible, start reading from the beginning in Genesis, and look for how things were done differently than they are today.

So Paganism, it can safely be suggested, is at least older than 3300 years old.

Hinduism has a long and checkered history of at least 6000 years, and is arguably the oldest living religion in the world. Technically this religion fits the official definition of Paganism in that it is not Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, and that it is a polytheistic belief system. But do Hindus truly consider themselves to be Pagan?

I would like to pepper in another relevant fact into the mix.

Since the advent of writing, there has never been a single religion uniformly practiced across Western Europe before Christianity.

Many modern sources refer to Wicca as the "Old Religion", a religion that survived in secret in Europe through the Christian period. Frequently, the age of this "Old Religion" is stretched to impossible proportions. Some people quite ridiculously claim unbroken ties from the Neolithic period. The late Dr. Margaret Murray traces Witchcraft's origins all the way back to Paleolithic times.

This is silly! No single culture has ever survived this long. Cultures migrate and eventually merge with each other, and their spiritual beliefs merge with them. Cultures eventually die out, and when this happens, their religions generally follow suit.

During the Neolithic and Paleolithic time periods, no written language existed. Although oral traditions are often extremely important, nothing beats the power of the written word to preserve the integrity of a tradition. And even against all odds, if a tradition did survive without the help of writing, we would have no way of knowing it.

...

Let's just admit to ourselves with a firmly clear and honest voice that we are reclaiming some of the ancient mysteries but with a thoroughly modern twist. We are taking religion to its logical next step in a way that suits the times and the needs of those who would approach the Divine with love and inspiration, and hopefully honesty and humbleness and gratitude, in our hearts.

Let's get off our bogus high horses and just BE.

There is no shame in this honesty. There is no need for explanation. There is no need for legitimization. It is what it is.

And that's perfectly okay by me.

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PostPosted: 21 Jan 2008, 13:23 
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While I might take some offense at the dating she attributes to Hinduism (which is NOT the same as Brahmanism before it, and we can't say for certain that it's even linked to the religion of the Indus Culture before that) and Judeaism (not written down until ~7th century BC, so how long was the oral tradion there?), I do like her closing sentiment. While legitimization is an important social facet of a religion, for those for whom it 'feels right', is it necessary?

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PostPosted: 21 Jan 2008, 20:54 
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[quote47="Hex"] While legitimization is an important social facet of a religion, for those for whom it 'feels right', is it necessary?[/quote47] It isn't from my perspective, but it depends a lot about perspective. Personally I don't care so much for religion as religious practices, so to my mind it's just a matter of whether or not a practice works. Taking Christianity for instance, it would matter a lot to the Christian who is caught up in the power struggle for religious truth. The person who is concerned with the superiority of their religion, etc. From the perspective of whether or not the teachings of Jesus for instance, bring what they claim to offer, it doesn't really matter. Thinking from the top of my head, Jesus promised peace that passes all understanding, he said that the kingdom of god is within you. If by following his teachings you are able to find perfect peace and whatever you think is implied by the kingdom of god, then it doesn't much matter whether or not the world sees your religion as legitimate. So, to me, since the results of practices are what I'm interested in, it doesn't matter at all. It's very important to others however, who are practicing faith and hoping for a big reward in the end, and in the mean time working as missionaries or leaders or soldiers to bring the "one truth" to mankind in the name of the lord.


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