Paganism: A World Religion

Paganism has taken its place as a “world religion”.  There now are over 1 million Pagans in the United States, over 100,000 in the U.K., Canada, and Australia, and many more spread throughout the non-English speaking part of the world — as evidenced by the myriad nationalities of the signatories of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”.

While most contemporary Pagan denominations are relatively new, dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, they are rooted in the pagan faiths of antiquity. There are Pagan churches, temples and sanctuaries all over the world, many of which are established as legally-recognized churches with tax-exempt status. Many Pagans participate in the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS), which is a part of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Pagans serve in the leadership of numerous ecumenical and interfaith organizations, including the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. There is a Pagan seminary, Cherry Hill Seminary, and an academic peer-reviewed journal of Pagan Studies, The Pomegranate. There are several Pan-Pagan umbrella organizations, like the Pagan Federation, Circle Sanctuary, and Covenant of the Goddess, which serve to educate the public and to protect the rights of Pagans in the workplace, in prisons, and in the community in general.

Contemporary Paganism is often called a “nature religion”. According to one religious studies scholar, Michael York, a nature religion is one which has “a this-worldly focus and deep reverence for the earth as something sacred and something to be cherished.” Many contemporary Pagan traditions and groups explicitly style themselves as “nature religions” or “earth religions”, and many individual Pagans describe their spirituality as “nature-centered” or “earth-centered”. Many individual Pagans and Pagan groups have been and continue to be leaders in environmental activism.

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