Paganism is Different, Part 1: Paganism Empowers You [Stardust, Contemplating]

The main differences between Paganism and many other religions are interrelated, so there’ll be a lot of overlap in this series.  However, many of them link back to this basic difference that Paganism explicitly empowers you, instead of denigrating you (hold on, was that too harsh?  Hold that thought, especially for Part 7, Human Nature).

In Paganism, you are empowered to make your own decisions, to decide what is true and false, to learn from various sources of information, to act to make your world better, be that by spells/rituals, by calling on the help of a deity you choose and you call, by building your own practice based on your needs, etc.

As Pagans, all of this seems obvious, but thinking about it shows how radically different, and revolutionary, this is when it comes to religions, especially today.

Spells & RitualsMagic circle - Wikipedia

Though we may see spells differently than many other Pagans, in nearly all cases it’s still clear that the person doing the spell is taking an active step to change their world.  This is the opposite of Abrahamic prayer, where one is asking for the ruler to make the change (that’s why it’s called  – and even then, often with stuff like “if it is in your plan….” or such.  In fact, as a child, I was taught that the vast majority of Christian prayer was supposed to be “adoration” and “praise” of the ruler, and if more than tiny fraction was petitionary prayer (begging for a change in the world), they one was being too uppity. With Pagans empowered to change the world, a lot of thought and preparation goes into many spells (and their outside actions!), and because there are so many different needs we each have, there are a huge number of different spells, and their effects, which we are aiming to cause by our spells and rituals.

Goddesses, Pantheons, and Gods

Even in only look at the area of worshipping a goddess or god, you are the one to search your feelings to find which deity or deities speak to you, from which pantheon, and then *you* act.  In Paganism, you are in charge of your spirituality, and you are encouraged to build both the beliefs and the practices as fits you.  That’s the opposite of most of the big religions, where the beliefs are set and told to you, where the god you worship is determined already, and even the practices are mostly set by others.   In Paganism, you are encouraged to realize your powerful potential to grow at every turn, starting from a place of having the power to choose all of these yourself.  As we see in so many different areas of life, the power to choose is the most fundamental power of a free person – the very definition of freedom itself – as we recently saw in the removal of a woman’s ownership of her own body with the reversal of Roe v. Wade.  In most religions, you are told in no uncertain terms which god you are to worship, and that’s a non-negotiable point – often with penalties for even saying that other gods exist (more on that later, in Part 4).

Encouraged to Freely Seek KnowledgeKnowledge is Power - YouTube

Personal power, especially today, is a direct result of knowledge and reason. Of course there are plenty of other things that affect power as well, but knowledge can be the golden road out subservience and dependence.  As Pagans, we value knowledge, and are encouraged to seek it out.  Many of the most inquisitive people I know are Pagans, and I don’t think that’s all coincidence.  That even extends to learning about the wide range of deities worshipped by people over the eons – especially that!  Scientific knowledge and learning are also encouraged, which is the opposite of the anti-learning message from the early Christians (as seen throughout the bibles), continued through the middle ages (shown by the Archimedes Palimpsest, among other examples), to Luther’s attacks on reason (Martin Luther said: “Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”), through the repeated attacks on so many branches of science (geology, biology, epidemiology, physics, etc.,) by Christians today and more.  That history is far more than can be put in a simple blog post, and even more than a book, and of course there were plenty of bright spots where the overbearing denigration of free learning was ignored in history.

Entering Paganism

All of this is one of the many reasons why Paganism can be intimidating for some.  After all, in our culture, we are taught that religion dictates to us, not the other way around, and so many new Pagans are feel unsure of how to start, feeling that they don’t have “permission” to just go for it.  That’s why we have a clear page for starting your own practice, and a practice hub filled with different ways to enrich your spirituality.  That’s also something we should be aware of, to remind us to encourage and help new Pagans, knowing that it’s hard to go against a lifetime of the overculture’s teaching of dependence and submission.

It’s one of the many reasons I’m so proud to be a Pagan myself.

Blessed be!

The Author: Jon Cleland Host

Starstuff, Contemplating: We are assemblages of ancient atoms forged in stars – atoms organized by history to the point of consciousness, now able to contemplate this sacred Universe of which we are a tiny, but wondrous, part.

Jon Cleland Host

Dr. Jon Cleland Host is a scientist who earned his PhD in materials science at Northwestern University & has conducted research at Hemlock Semiconductor and Dow Corning since 1997.  He holds eight patents and has authored over three dozen internal scientific papers and eleven papers for peer-reviewed scientific journals, including the journal Nature.  He has taught classes on biology, math, chemistry, physics and general science at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University.  Jon grew up near Pontiac, and has been building a reality-based spirituality for over 30 years, first as a Catholic and now as a Unitarian Universalist, including collaborating with Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow to spread the awe and wonder of the Great Story of our Universe (see, and the blog at  Jon and his wife have four sons, whom they embrace within a Universe-centered, Pagan, family spirituality.  He currently moderates the yahoo group Naturalistic Paganism.

See Starstuff, Contemplating posts.

See all of Dr. Jon Cleland Host’s posts.

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