Thursday, December 10, 2009

Everyone Already Knows What Paganism Is

It seems fair to infer from that universality, however, some set of broadly shared religious ideas and practices ... to put it in other words, the thing so arrogantly called Paganism, being in fact all the many hundreds of the Empire's religions save one, must really have shared certain widespread characteristics.
[Paganism in the Roman Empire by Ramsay MacMullen, p. xii]
Starting early in the 4th century AD a religious conflict unfolded in the Roman world between the followers of a new religious movement that declared theirs to be the one and only true faith and, well, everyone else.

Modern day Christians are the spiritual heirs of those who seized control of the Roman state apparatus and used that power to impose their belief in one and only one God on others by force and violence. Modern day Pagans are the spiritual heirs of those who actively resisted this process of coercive Christianization and who stubbornly persisted in worshiping their old, tolerant Gods and following their old, traditional ways.

The Roman world at the time, by the way, was not "European". The bulk of the Roman population, and the bulk of Rome's wealth, was in it's Asiatic and African provinces.
If long passage of time lends validity to religious observances, we ought to keep faith with so many centuries, we ought to follow our forefathers who followed their forefathers and were blessed in so doing.... let me continue to practice my ancient ceremonies, for I do not regret them. Let me live in my own way, for I am free.
[Symmachus (c.340 - c.402 AD)]