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Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience Paperback – February 8, 2001
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Seeking to reconcile Christianity and paganism, diZerega regards both as "unique and valuable" ways of knowing "the Sacred," and he disarmingly grants grievous moral failures in practitioners of both. But what is best about the book is its unwaveringly ameliorative, peacemaking tone. DiZerega, a modern wiccan, first explains the faith that more needs explaining, paganism. Pagan spirituality's distinctive characteristics are pantheism (all that is, is divine) or panentheism (divinity is immanent and transcendent); animism (the divine is manifest in everything); polytheism, which doesn't, however, deny a single source of all being; "the Eternal Present" (spiritual reality is cyclical and mythical); and nondualistic morality (there is no Satan or principle of evil). In discussing these characteristics, diZerega demonstrates that all of them can be found within Christianity, too, which is one reason Christians ought to tolerate paganism. The Christian tenet that powers antipagan feeling is the claim that Christianity is the one true religion (Islam is similarly, and Judaism differently, exclusive), and the great dissipater of antipaganism should be the divine immanence recognized by panentheism and by Christian mystical concepts of indwelling divinity. Besides this main argument, diZerega ponders four particular Christian criticisms of wicca and two wiccan objections to Christianity. This personal and experiential book won't convince those who prefer scholarly and intellectual religious disputation, but they, too, will appreciate its warmth and nobility. Ray Olson
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"* "How can two faiths apparently so dissimilar both be spiritually valid? This small book will answer these questions." - author Gus diZerega"
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Top Customer Reviews
You will find insightful and original discussions of the problem of evil, our relationships to animals and the environment, and the differences between oral and text-based religions.
DiZerga argues convincingly that in its millenia-long campaign to exterminate pagan religions, Christianity lost much of its own teaching about the presence of God in nature. Christianity came to the point of adopting the beliefs of the Gnostics and Manichees that considered anything earthly in the possession of the devil. DiZerga claims, along with an increasing number of other writers, that the lengthy Christian persecution of pagan religions ran God out of the world and gave us the secular world we have today, a world to be dominated and used up instead of revered and honored.
The book shows how pagans prefer natural settings instead of building for their rituals, meditation, contemplation, spirit quests, and divine epiphanies. They do not share beliefs so much as common rituals. The final proof of any belief is one's own personal experience, especially one's direct experience of the divine. DiZerga's description of his own encounters with the divine are powerfully moving.
The book is also a welcome appeal for religious toleration. DiZerga tactfully reserves for later chapters a discussion of forced conversions and the prolonged Christian persecutions of pagan religions. He argues that the source of all this violence was the mistaken belief in the exclusivness and superiority of Christianity. Nothing, he claims, could be more opposed to the teaching of Jesus. Christianity or die: what kind of good news is that?
Many other recent books give a much fuller treatment of Christianity's bloody and extended persecution of pagan religions--such as Jonathan Hirsch's new work on monotheism and polytheism. It is not church bashing to bring to light and discuss the atrocities and crimes against humanity committed by Christian officials for centuries. As DiZerga writes, "By their fruits you shall know them," and the Christian claim to spiritual exclusiveness does not pass the test. DiZerga's fine book will go a long way in promoting a Christian examination of conscience and a revaluation of Christianity's most dangerous doctrines.
If you wish to read this, do so with a critical eye.
DiZerega works very hard to build a common ground of terms and ideas from which interfaith dialogue can emerge. diZerega respects the beliefs of both Christians and Pagans as "unique and valuable" ways of knowing "the Sacred," a view that invites not just tolerance but genuine interest in learning from one another.
Rather than falling back on pseudo-history to explain why Pagans believe as they do, DiZerega uses his Ph.D. in political science and his fifteen years as a Gardnerian to deconstruct Pagan theology and philosophy in ways that make them easily accessible to both Pagans and non Pagans.
The first part of this book discusses the Neo-Pagan worldview. Topics range form perception of time and ethics to conceptions of the divine. I found this section to be highly informative and easy to digest.
The second part of this book, "Christian Criticisms of Wicca," discusses and attempts to answer many of the issues a lot of Christians have about Wicca and other Neo-Pagan religions. DiZerega discusses the nature of suffering and evil, spiritual authority, ethics and morality, clergy, and more. He answers the standard Christian objections with respect and with numerous quotes from the Bible. While this section is unlikely to convince many Fundamentalist Christians that Pagans are not following Satan it is well thought out and would hopefully be well received by a majority of non-Fundamentalist Christians.
The third section of Pagans & Christians addresses the some of issues Pagans often have with Christianity the perception that Christians are intolerant of others. DiZerega explains how most of the objections many Pagans have with Christianity simply aren't supported by the Bible and Christian tradition. In other words, many of the problems Pagans have with Christianity aren't really with the teachings of Christianity in general, but with the teachings of a relatively small number of fundamentalist Christian sects who shout down the larger, open-minded groups.
DiZerega does not pretend to have all the answers, but sets the reader on the path of finding his or her own answers.