Response to Artisson’s Conversion Essay

August 13, 2008 at 2:02 am 22 comments

This is a response to Robin Artisson’s Essay- The System and Psychology of Conversion

Go read it before this post. It is an essay about Pagans/Heathens/polytheists who convert back to Christianity or Judaism and the possible factors that make them more likely to convert. First, I have to give Artisson credit for admitting his biases up front. This post ended up being long enough that I will break it into more than one part.

I felt the need to respond to this essay because several of the “risk” factors for conversion that he identifies are ones I fit into.

1. They maintain close friendships with former religious confederates and authorities, or they keep friends and people close to them who hold strongly contradictory religious beliefs

I must confess that I am a graduate of a Lutheran college, thus many of the friends I made there are Christians. I have to add that while I have some good Pagan friends, other former Pagan friends betrayed my trust. Similarity of belief doesn’t necessarily mean someone will make a loyal friend or partner. There are some Pagans who seem to stay within an entirely Pagan social bubble, but I find that rather limiting.

2. They still attend meetings or functions of the former religion– See #8

3. They attempt to speak of “tolerance for all faiths” with every opportunity, focusing on how “tolerant” Pagans have to be of their former faiths

Guilty as charged. We need tolerance to get along in a religiously plural society- however tolerance is different than full acceptance- it really means “live and let live”.

4. They attempt to spread ideas about the “truth of all religions” or espouse a belief that “all religions are teaching the same thing” or “all religions are paths going to the same place”.

I don’t think religions all teach the same thing, though there are certain similarities that can be found. I also think there is some truth in many religions (not all) though that doesn’t mean they’re entirely right.

5. They attack Pagans who refuse to be as tolerant as they are about their former faith, or attack other Pagans who refuse to agree that “all religions are the same” or other such ideas.

I don’t “attack” Pagans or anyone else who disagrees with me, however I do criticize opinions that I see as intolerant or hateful. I call my fellow Pagans on it when they spread false or unfair generalizations about monotheistic religions.

6. They keep the bibles or other scriptures of their former faith, or other faith-based paraphernelia in their homes.

Yes, I have a Bible and other books on Christianity, because I am a student of comparative religion- and there are some positive aspects to it. Some Pagans keep a Bible around to study it so they can better debate with proselytizers. Since traditional polytheistic faiths are so pro-family, Mr. Artisson, you might also want to consider that people have family Bibles, records of baptism, confirmation, weddings, deaths etc. that have historical and sentimental value.

7. They seek to establish their former religion’s basic moral and ethical codes into their new Pagan faith-system, in various ways

I follow an Indo-European system of virtues (much like the Nine Norse Virtues of Asatru) and I don’t seek to water it down with other moral codes.

8. They find or accept romantic partners who are not Pagan, or entrench themselves in a “dual faith relationship where their girlfriend, boyfriend, wife or husband is not Pagan and carry on two separate religious lives, which will almost always degenerate into the acceptance of the mainstream partner’s religion.

I have a non-Pagan (Christian) partner, and I do attend church with him at times, but I don’t consider this having “double religious life”. He attends rituals with me sometimes- and quite frankly neither of us seems to get too much out of each other’s celebrations (I do like the hymns and the sermons often have inspiration that goes across religious boundaries) but we do it as a way to spend time together, learn about each other’s faiths and share something that is important to the partner. By the way, if Artisson is going to be so critical of interfaith dating & marriage, he should go do something to make it easier for Pagans to find each other as romantic partners like create a dating service. In my case, while I live in a large Pagan community, I just happened to find a wonderful partner who wasn’t Pagan, and I accepted that.

9. If they are former Christians, they maintain firm political support for the State of Israel.

My position on Israel is that while the founding of it was an illegitimate seizure of land, now that Israelis have been there for quite some time they need to learn to get along with the Palestinians and share the land and resources fairly.

10. If they are former Christians, they try to include “Jehova” or “Jesus” or “The Christ” as part of their religious practices, claiming that “some Pagans” in the past accepted Christ as another God and prayed to him. They may also try to pray to “angels” or “archangels”, claiming that these things were originally Pagan ideas, or pray to Saints, alongside Pagan Gods.

None of these entities are involved in my spiritual practice.

11. If they are former Christians, they show a very large interest in Christian Gnosticism, spending a considerable amount of time claiming that “real Gnostic Christianity” was cool and open-minded or very deep, and even that Gnosticism was “Goddess worship”, while the “fake Christianity” we see today was the result of evil political manipulations.

Gnosticism is actually rather antithetical to most polytheistic religions, given its attitude that the world and the body are evil, while polytheistic religions view them as basically good.


Entry filed under: Christianity, Ethics, Interfaith, Pagan Communities, Theology. Tags: .

Updating the Blogroll Autism and Spiritual Experience

22 Comments Add your own

  • 1. agmancini  |  August 13, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Yup,, sometime’s Artisson’s only redeeming quality is his admission of bias. I guess at least it’s honest.

    On this one I really disagreed with him and felt like he missed some very important arguments.

    I, personally, am of the opinion that you can get what you want out of any religion, as long as you know what you want. When you don’t know, and suddenly find yourself in a situation where you can do what you want however you want to do it, it becomes too much. In times of uncertainty, people revert back to what is familiar, and might revert back to what they’ve been *told* to want.

    You should write more about interfaith subjects! It would be interesting to read your POV.

  • 2. caelesti  |  August 14, 2008 at 3:21 am

    One thing I highly value is being true to yourself, and if being true to yourself and following your path means changing religions, then so be it. It’s not necessarily a betrayal of the religion you were in, but rather staying in something that doesn’t fit would be betraying yourself.

    Thanks for the encouragement- I write a lot about interfaith & comparative religion- they are major interests of mine.
    I’ve been traveling a lot this summer so I haven’t always been able to update, but now I’m back & bloggin’!

  • 3. Mathew James  |  August 15, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Great post, it was very informative. I think its a must read.

  • 4. Mathew James  |  August 16, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Great post, it was very informative. I think its a must read.

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    Keep up the good work!

  • 6. Copper Stewart  |  September 3, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Artisson’s essay strikes me as a fundamentalist defense of fixed principles, based not in reality but in the false comfort of cultural tradition and moral formulation. As in this passage:

    “Modern Pagan “communities” are very small and normally very weak. The more “neo” a Pagan community is, that is, the more corrupted it is by the postmodern worldview, ideas of universal love and tolerance, ideas of “all Gods being one God”, or ideas of radical liberal social activism, the weaker it will be, and the less it will be able to offer long-term support for Pagan people. Despite the fantasies of most modern Pagans, religion isn’t about “believing whatever you like”; religion must make demands on a person, challenge a person, and give them a code, a way of seeing the world, that sometimes forces them to discipline themselves. Lacking those things, a religion cannot comfort or sustain a person in hard times. ”

    Artisson betrays a profound ignorance of postmodernism, which emphatically does not embrace the values listed (postmodernism, for one thing, is anti-essentialist and argues against all universalisms). I would argue that the comfort Attison seeks is in fact a flight from authentic spirituality, which is found only in freedom and personal authority.

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  • […] 11, 2009 by caelesti By a reader’s request here is an expansion/continuation of the post on Robin Artisson’s Conversion Essay. I’m not sure what all he wants explained but […]

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