Neo-paganism, Neo-satanism or Neo-christianity - What's the Difference?
"Stop looking too far into things and ruining it for the youth. ... Stop casting judgment on symbols.... I am a Satanist, but don't judge me as a Satan worshipper. I have no guilt of what I do. It is Christians who should feel guilt." Jasyn, a visitor to our website
"I believe in
GOD. I go to church, I pray. I love Harry Potter. It's a fun movie, and in NO
way promotes 'evil' witchcraft. That is why the characters are 'good'
characters." Laura, a visitor to our
"I play Dungeons & Dragons, read comic books, watch Star Wars, play video games, and believe in one of God's great mysteries: evolution. I am also a Christian. These things are not mutually exclusive. Stories are a gift He gave us to entertain, explain, and educate. By telling and glorifying something like magic, we don't teach that it is right. We teach that it is fun." Louis, a visitor to our website
"...the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light...." John 3:19
Eighteen-year old Jason is a practicing witch. His Methodist parents don't appreciate his chosen religion, but neither do they interfere with it. They took him to church when he was younger, but Jason wasn't satisfied. Now, years later, he feels "connected" to the mystical forces of the Craft. He still claims to believe "in God and Jesus," but he knows that his beliefs differ from the Christian faith. And he admits that his mystical "energy" has a dark as well as a light side. By working with "dolls like those used in voodoo," he can use this power to hurt as well as heal people.
In the article "Teen witch caught up in spells," Jason shares his thoughts:
"When I was 11, I was just getting into it. I gathered my cousins and instructed them to stand in a circle. I didn't know anything really but I had seen it in a movie called The Craft and I repeated something I heard from it. There was this boy our age who lived next door and I didn't like him much, so I got a needle and made them prick their fingers, smeared the blood on a piece of paper and, in my mind, I visualised him being punished in some way. In the evening, he was out on his bike, he fell off... and cut himself up badly. I stopped because I didn't really want to harm or kill anyone.... Persons who practice witchcraft aren't necessarily evil or dark. It has to do with intent. A person can be either good or bad."
Either good or bad? Just like the Force in Star Wars? It all sounds so familiar to postmodern youth raised on enchanting fantasies and pagan myths. Why not think outside the old box of the Bible and pursue dreams of power and greatness? Why not follow visions that stir passion for seductive mysteries and unconditional power?
Jason's story illustrates a phenomenon that is changing the spiritual climate around the world. After decades of immersion in psycho-social strategies such as "values clarification" and "critical thinking" through the public schools, the new generation has little tolerance for absolute truths and moral values. Young people have learned to rethink their parents' values and justify creating their own evolving values. Immersed in the global media with its hostility toward Christianity and its titillating spiritual alternatives, they have also learned to mix and match suggestions from any number of spiritual sources. Many, like Jason, have rejected Christianity but still claim some of the presumed benefits of believing that "God and Jesus" exist.
Caught up in these
shifting currents and merging values of popular culture, the old
religious divisions are dissolving fast. As the new ethic of tolerance and
unconditional "respect" grinds away at Biblical obstacles to "common ground,"
opposites unite and contrary beliefs melt together into a more popular
synthesis. As a result, we see new forms of "Christianity" rising all around
us -- flexible, evolving models shaped to fit both the global quest for
connectedness and the personal quest for "feel-good" experiences. Naturally, the
same process is also squeezing witchcraft, Buddhism, moderate (not militant)
Islam, and even Satanism into its universal mold.
A modern version of Satanism? That was the aim of two California students who started a "Satanism club" at San Mateo High School. Calling it "The Satanic Thought Society," they planned to study the teachings of Anton LaVey (who founded the Church of Satan) and "the philosophical teachings of alternative religions." Shedding the old dark edges that offend and frighten, they promised to present a new face: no "devil worship," no rituals, no black magic.
"These young men are really interested in the philosophical teachings of alternative religions," explained their principal, Jacqueline McEvoy. It's true. Like neo-pagans, neo-satanists are now mixing and matching diverse customs as they invent their own beliefs. The Church of Satan website illustrates the new synthesis well:
"We live by the Golden Rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’... Christians do not have a patent or trademark on the word, ‘God.’... Many Satanists do not envision an abyss which separates the creator from the created. God is not only in my life, God [not Satan] is my life. Simply put, God IS. ... Satanists generally believe God is diffused through nature and consciously expressed through you!"
This blend of personal pantheism and collective monism has seeped into traditional religions: god is everywhere and in everything. Therefore, all is god, and everything is interconnected. Therefore, all is one. Shirley McLaine proclaimed it, neo-pagans affirm it, and Al Gore (promoted as a faithful Baptist by Christianity Today) described it in his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance:
"The richness and diversity of our religious tradition throughout history is a spiritual resource long ignored by people of faith, who are often afraid to open their minds to teachings first offered outside their own system of belief. But the emergence of a civilization in which knowledge moves freely and almost instantaneously throughout the world has... spurred a renewed investigation of the wisdom distilled by all faiths. This pan-religious perspective may prove especially important where our global civilization's responsibility for the earth is concerned." (See Al Gore's Vision of Global Salvation)
While neo-pagans adapt and redefine Christian terminology, neo-christians seem just as willing to embrace ancient mysticism and popular occult notions. They imagine a permissive God who, like pagan gods through the centuries, is made in the image of man and can be manipulated into doing their will. For Jonathan, who sent us the comment below, the Star Wars series provides the perfect context for change:
"I am 16, and was raised a Christian. I am active in my church, and am close to my Pastor. I am also a fan of entertainment.... In my youth group at church, our guide had us watch... three Star Wars [movies] one afternoon. She wanted us to see the Biblical Truths in them. We discussed how the force represents God in all of us."
Ashamed of the cross and afraid to offend, other neo-christians have renounced the very heart of our faith: Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. Others may not stray quite as far from truth, but they still follow "pied pipers" such as Dr. Peter Senge, Ken Blanchard and other management gurus who train leaders around the world in the collective thinking of General Systems Theory -- an esoteric New Age philosophy that permeates today's global transformation of business, governments, churches and ministries.
Nowhere is the growing hostility against Biblical truth more evident than in the classroom. An assignment from the "Kids" page of the United Religions Initiative (URI) website illustrates the mind-changing tactics that drive the transformation. The "United Religions" works with UNESC0 and its global education system to establish a spiritual form of "unity in diversity." But UNESCO and its supportive partners around the world cannot mold the world into the new spiritual model until they "free" or "unfreeze" its people from their "divisive" and "extremist" old truths. The following assignment models a process that has proven its transforming power:
"For this assignment, students will be writing a paper or story in which they will create their own religion. It should include the major components they have studied, including sacred texts, basic beliefs, holy places and spaces, as well as holidays or festivals. It could also include special passages, symbols, icons, and whatever concept of God or holy guides the religion has.... The possibilities are endless -- their imaginations and your boundaries are the limits.... Another possibility would be for students to make presentations... and answer questions as if they are the leader of the religion."
Aaron, another visitor to our website, didn't learn his values from this URI lesson, yet he demonstrates its natural outcome. After reading our comments about Dungeons and Dragons, he sent us the following message:
"I am a Dungeon Master. I am in the midst of designing a world for my friends to participate in.... I am twenty years old, play D&D every week with my friends, and still believe in God. I come from a very strong Christian background."
Like Tolkien, whose heart was fixed on the mythical world of Nordic paganism, Aaron is fascinated by medieval myths and magical worlds. "I have almost completed my campaign world, more specifically the mythology of the world," he wrote. "I have researched many different mythologies that we as a planet have had. Everything from the primitive Olympian gods to the currently worshiped Buddhist culture in the east." And, like Tolkien, Aaron has designed an alternate world based on "primitive cultures religion." But while he delights in the pagan medieval world, he still clings to his identity as a Christian.
"After all, it is the medieval times, and one filled with magic and such. So, I have many gods, somewhat similar to the Nordic mythology of old. But, because I created these gods, that does not mean that I have lost my way with the Lord. I still am a good Christian and do everything a good Christian should.... I know better than to abandon the Lord, but I have been participating in Dungeons and Dragons for 7 years now."
I sent Aaron this question some time ago: If Jesus said to you, "Come follow Me," would you be willing and able to leave D&D and follow? Or do you imagine that Jesus Christ, our holy God, would happily join in your game about other gods, spirits and magical forces?
Aaron has not yet answered, and I am not surprised. When Christianity is lifted from its Biblical foundation and planted into a pagan setting, the issues of right and wrong fade away. Sin and guilt become meaningless and the cross becomes irrelevant. Human dreams and feelings, not God's word and will, become the guiding light. And the old truths, facts and logic drown in a sea of new values and feel-good beliefs.
Without those unchanging truths, the world has no real standard for discerning right from wrong or for separating God's wisdom from the world's futile philosophies. Instead, today's popular deceptions seem more truthful than truth itself. For those who no longer know and love God's Word, it often seems more noble to unify than to separate those familiar opposites: right and wrong, dark and light, truth and lies, and Christianity and polytheism [many gods]. The Church of Satan summarizes this yin-yang philosophy well:
"Our objective? Closure to this unnatural dichotomy.... Bringing flesh and spirit together. The establishment of a New World Order, free of guilt, self-loathing and shame, where every man and woman is the god of his or her own life."
"The Satanist does not worship evil. We honor ourselves and nature and respect opposition in balance! Evil... is simply a convenient label we slap on those who are politically incorrect. The ascended masters of Eastern Philosophy are the fallen angels of Western Philosophy. One man's ‘demons’ are another man's ‘saints.’ Yes, we inhabit a universe of conflict and duality, but the source of all life is the One, whose center is everywhere...." 
This pathway to oneness -- the dialectic process with its ground rules of empathy, mutual respect, compromise, and unconditional celebration of contrary positions -- was planned by the United Nations half a century ago. Notice the revealing words of Julian Huxley, the first Director General of UNESCO who laid the foundation for the global education agenda in 1946. Then ponder the words of Dr. Brock Chisholm, who did the same for the global mental health agenda:
Julian Huxley: "You may categorize the two philosophies as two super-nationalisms, or as individualism versus collectivism; or as the American versus the Russian way of life, or as capitalism versus communism, or as Christianity versus Marxism. Can these opposites be reconciled -- this antithesis be resolved in a higher synthesis? I believe not only that this can happen, but that, through the inexorable dialectic of evolution, it must happen.... In pursuing this aim, we must eschew dogma - whether it be theological dogma or Marxist dogma.... East and West will not agree on a basis of the future if they merely hurl at each other the fixed ideas of the past. For that is what dogmas are -- the crystallizations of some dominant system of thought.... If we are to achieve progress, we must learn to uncrystalize our dogmas." 
Brock Chisholm: "The only lowest common denominator of all civilizations and the only psychological force capable of producing these perversions is morality, the concept of right and wrong.... We have been very slow to rediscover this truth and to recognize the unnecessary and artificially imposed inferiority, guilt and fear, commonly known as sin, under which we have almost all labored and which produces so much of the social maladjustment and unhappiness in the world. For many generations we have bowed our necks to the yoke of the conviction of sin. We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents...." 
Like a river's deadly undercurrents, such feel-good philosophies have silently seized and seduced the "Christianized" world these last sixty years. As planned, they have shaped the minds of the postmodern generation. Today, such deceptions are the norm among postmodern youth. Biblical Christianity no longer fits, but neo-paganism and neo-christianity both match today's guidelines for group consensus and community oneness.
A key transformative skill is empathy and willingness to enter into the other person's feelings and experience -- no matter how contrary to Biblical truth. Jason (the teen witch quoted earlier) would fit the bill. As he has pointed out, his "gifts or abilities... are in the realm of dreams, premonitions and empathy – the ability to take on how others around him are feeling." He probably doesn't realize that such vicarious experiences prompt both young and old to justify beliefs and actions that earlier had seemed sinful or immoral.
One might think that this all-important empathy and tolerance would be extended to Biblical Christians, but it's not. Today's "open-minded" youth have learned to love the evils that God's Word tells us to shun, but they have little or no tolerance for God's ways. A comment from a visitor named Katie illustrates how this self-satisfying tolerance blends with a rising resentment toward Biblical truth:
"Having just read your comments on Harry Potter, I feel compelled to tell you to seek the attention of a doctor. If you seriously believe all that stuff then I pray for you.... I know that your intent is good, but your opinions are archaic. Your attitude is exactly why people shy away from the church these days. Try to be a little less narrow minded. The bible says a lot of things that are open to many interpretations. I will end this email by saying that you are clearly good people, though very misguided on God's opinion of fun."
How do we answer or resist these crowd-pleasing notions in a world that despises our holy God?
It's not easy, since these beliefs are changing churches as well as our culture. Sometimes it seems that neo-christians show more opposition to Biblical truth than neo-pagans. Could they be ashamed of the gospel? Or embarrassed by the offending truth that our Lord is a God of justice as well as love -- and that He calls some actions right and others wrong? Maybe so. Many letters we receive remind me of this Scripture: "...the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service." John 16:2
As the demand for consensus and unity rises, the consequences for resistance and separation become more painful. As I wrote in an earlier article, "How to Resist the Pull of the Crowd," our battle against compromise is intensifying. Now as always, our victory depends on the source of our strength and the focus of our minds. We cannot resist the world's seductions unless our God-given convictions -- based on His Word -- are stronger than the pressures to conform and the fear of rejection.
If we focus on the cultural distractions all around us rather than on God, we will only drift like rudderless boats with every shifting wind. Popular culture, tantalizing marketing, and changing philosophies will drive our thoughts and wants. As God's Word tells us, we will be "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting...." [Eph 4:14-15] But our Lord is more than willing to provide the needed strength and victory for those who truly seek Him and choose to follow His way.
A practical and victorious battle plan is outlined in Ephesians 6:10-18. Not only does it expose the nature of the forces arrayed against us, it also shows us how to win the battle and to stand firm no matter how persuasive, tempting and tenacious our enemy:
"...we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end...." Ephesians 6:10-18
1. Melissa Wickham, "Teen witch caught up in spells," NationNews, Barbados, at http://www.nationnews.com/289939513043466.php
2. T.S. Mills-Faraudo, "High School Satanism Club Prompts Parental Outrage: Students say lunchtime meetings do not worship Lord of Underworld," San Mateo County Times, September 27, 2002. This story is no longer available at www.sanmateocountytimes.com
3. "Al Gore's Vision of Global Salvation" at www.crossroad.to/articles2/Gore.html
4. "Creating Community... through a New Way of Thinking"
5. "Establishing a Global Spirituality" at www.crossroad.to/Books/BraveNewSchools/4-Global%20Spirituality.html
6. "URI Kids - Activities" at www.uri.org/kids/act_indiv_createrelig.htm
7. "www.churchofsatan.org/faq.html and http://fcos.us//faq.html
8. "UNESCO: Its purpose and Its Philosophy" at www.crossroad.to/Quotes/globalism/julian-huxley.htm
9. "The Re-establishment of Peacetime Society" at www.crossroad.to/Quotes/globalism/chisholm.htm
10. "Brainwashing in America" at www.crossroad.to/articles2/brainwashing.html
11. "How to Resist the Pull of the Crowd" at www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/crowds-2.htm