Archives For Religious Right

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

George W. Bush speaking at a Christian Coalition gathering. (William Philpott/Getty Images)

George W. Bush speaking at a Christian Coalition gathering. (William Philpott/Getty Images)

  • Is the Religious Right finished? Damon Linker argues the case that it is. Quote: “Its decline since 2005 can be traced to numerous causes: The right’s widespread disappointment with the legacy of the Bush years across a range of areas, including fiscal, foreign, and social policy; the shift of the national GOP toward economic libertarianism in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, the election of Barack Obama, the rise of the Tea Party, and the passage of health care reform; and finally, a dramatic and rapid shift in the culture, especially among the young, away from politicized religion and toward the acceptance of gay marriage.” Meanwhile, Forbes says “not so fast” on the end of the Religious Right stuff.
  • Religion News Service reports on the rise of green burials, and how the move makes different religious believers feel more in tune with their faith. “The Green Burial Council has certified nearly 400 providers in 46 states. Some of them have religious orientations. And even some that are not certified consider themselves already green because their faiths have for millennia taken an ecologically friendly approach to death.” It should be noted that there are several Pagans involved in the green burial movement, including Circle Sanctuary’s Circle Cemetery.
  • A mask an American Indian curandero prescribed to a client was seized at the Arizona border due to it being marked with chicken blood and feathers. Quote: “Officers say the mask was deemed suspicious and seized because of the blood and feathers. They say the mask contained materials of a prohibitive nature that have the potential to transmit avian diseases. The mask was turned over to officials in Customs and Border Protection’s agriculture division. It ultimately was incinerated.” The statue looks pretty familiar, don’t you think?
  • The bad news is you might not be psychic, the good news is that your brain might be smarter than you think. Here’s a link to the study the video references.
  • The Guardian is up to bat reviewing Ronald Hutton’s “Pagan Britain.” Quote: “One of the austere pleasures of Pagan Britain lies in its frequent reminders that every age invents its own past, and that ‘it is impossible to determine with any precision the nature of the religious beliefs and rites of the prehistoric British’.” The reviewer, sadly, takes some petty rhetorical swipes at Pagan religions, something Hutton himself would never do.

  • PRI’s The World spotlights Haitian artist Erol Josué, who works to preserve his Vodou faith. Quote: “Last year, he took a government job as head of Haiti’s National Ethnology Office. He’s on a mission to get Haitians to realize that they need to embrace their vodou heritage — whether they agree or not. […] ‘Vodou has never been a religion of conquest,” he says. “We don’t raise awareness to convert people to vodou, but to educate them about the importance of the national identity, the importance of respecting the sites, of respecting the patrimony.'”
  • There were/are plenty of pious pagans, and Christians can learn a lot from them. Quote: “Paganism tends to have a bad name, and surely there is reason for this. At the same time, there is a tradition, especially among Christians, of honoring and imitating the greatness of pagans. For one thing, many pagans were profoundly religious, even pious people. We seriously misjudge at least some of our ancient forebears if we do not see the extent to which their life centered on the divine.”
  • In the UK, sometimes your neighbors will call emergency services if you’re too noisy about the Witchcraft. Quote: “A second call came from Holsworthy in July 2012 from a woman who was ‘convinced that her neighbours are in a witches coven type set up as she sees them night and day running around outside screaming in tongues.’ A third Holsworthy caller rang police in August 2012 accusing a man in Southampton of using witchcraft.” So be cool on the screaming folks, it scares people.
  • Civil rights activist Eliyahu Federman calls the resurgence of exorcisms in the Catholic Church “alarming.” Quote: “The Catholic Church attributes the rise in demonic cases to people dabbling in paganism, Ouija boards and black magic, but my sneaking suspicion is that mental health issues, along with the rise of fiction horror movie fantasies, are a more likely cause. […] Legitimizing exorcisms makes a mockery of religion and poses a threat to society.”
  • OnFaith, once part of The Washington Post, has left the paper, and is now part of FaithStreet. Quote: “We will continue to publish some daily news and opinion pieces from top writers and other folks whose perspectives need to be heard. But we have lots of other ideas, and we hope to get to do all of them in time. Our first new initiative is to publish Weekly Issues—to have one topic per week and publish a mixture of stories, essays, videos, illustrations and more on that topic.” Another competitor in the religion portal world? Will there be Pagans?
  • An international group of Dharma teachers have issued a statement on climate change. Quote: “When we come together to celebrate our love for the natural world and all of the beings that inhabit it, and when we take a stand to counter the forces of craving, aversion, and delusion, we reclaim our own inner stability and strength and live closer to the truth, closer to the Dharma. Together, we can seek to ensure that our descendants and fellow species inherit a livable planet. Individually and collectively, we will be honoring the great legacy of the Dharma and fulfill our heart’s deepest wish to serve and protect all life.”
  • How do you get the “nones” to vote for you? Quote: “The other side of religious nonaffiliation, and what politicians often neglect, is that for spiritual voters the sacred strongly persists. Reading them narrowly as atheists or secularists misses out on the political rewards that come from constituents feeling seen and understood. This sacred is various, but it coheres for many in its resistance to religious enclosure and its support of certain progressive values. Politicians fire up religious blocs through careful attunement to religious values. Better attunement to spiritual values will help inspire spiritual voters.”

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

The Public Religion Research Institute today released the findings from its 2013 Economic Values Survey. While there’s a lot to digest about how Americans feel about economic values, the survey also has a lot to say about religious values, specifically the seemingly inevitable rise of “religious progressives.”

religious_orientation_scale

One-in-five Americans (19 percent) are religious progressives, while 38 percent are religious moderates, 28 percent are religious conservatives, and 15 percent are nonreligious, a new survey finds. The new Economic Values Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Brookings Institution, was used to develop a new religious orientation scale that combines theological, economic and social outlooks in order to paint a new portrait of the American religious landscape. “Our new research shows a complex religious landscape, with religious conservatives holding an advantage over religious progressives in terms of size and homogeneity,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones,CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “However, the percentage of religious conservatives shrinks in each successive generation, with religious progressives outnumbering religious conservatives in the Millennial generation.”

In other words, the days of the “Religious Right” are numbered, at least in terms of demographic and social power. In addition, religious progressives are far more diverse in religious identity than religious conservatives.

Religious progressives are considerably more diverse than religious conservatives. Catholics (29 percent) constitute the largest single group among religious progressives, followed by white mainline Protestants (19 percent), those who are not formally affiliated with a religious tradition but who nevertheless say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives (18 percent), and non-Christian religious Americans such as Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims (13 percent).”

Non-Christian religions, which would include modern Pagans, make up a significant proportion of this coming post-Christian religious progressive reality. Meanwhile, religious conservatives are overwhelmingly dominated by white evangelical Protestants and Catholics. As PRRI pointed out last year, relying almost solely on white conservative Christians is increasingly going to be a losing national strategy for politicians.

“Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) voters in Romney’s coalition are white Christians. By contrast, just over one-third (35%) of voters in Obama’s coalition are white Christians. The foundation of Romney’s base consists primarily of white evangelical Protestants, who constitute 40% of his coalition. Obama’s coalition rests on two very different groups: minority Christians—a group that includes black, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed-race Christians—(31%) and the religiously unaffiliated (25%). Notably, Obama’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of younger voters, while Romney’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of senior voters. For example, 26% of Millennial voters are white Christians, compared to 72% of senior voters.”

In CNN exit polling of the 2012 presidential elections, 74% of non-Christians, and 70% of “nones” voted for Barack Obama. Those are horrible numbers for any candidate tied to conservative Christianity and their political agenda in a society that will eventually see religious progressives in the driver’s seat. As I’ve said before, the demographic playing field is going to keep on shifting in terms of social and political power.

“That doesn’t mean that Democrats automatically win all the time, or that Republicans are always doomed to lose, just that the playing field will never again be like it was in the 1980s or 1990s. The slowly shifting demographics have started to turn a corner, and savvy politicians, no matter what their political orientation, will adapt to these emerging realities. Yes, that means reaching out to racial minorities, and women, and younger voters, but it also means reaching out to the “nones” and the religious “others” instead of banking everything on the evangelical Christian vote (or the Catholic vote for that matter).”

Through the lens of this new data, it looks increasingly like recent social conservative overreach on access to voting, on reproductive health, on immigration policy, are a rear-guard action designed to slow down the demographic clock for a long as possible. For modern Pagans, this data means that we are presented with a future where we could experience ongoing growth and social capital. Our collective challenge is to make sure we are engaging with Millennials, empowering them in our organizations, and making them feel welcome. This is not a time to be idle, we can’t afford to take this generational tide for granted. A more Pagan future starts with the decisions we make right now.

So, it has come down to this. The Republican Party, the unchallenged standard-bearer for conservative Christianity in America since Ronald Reagan was president, seems to be deciding between a sometimes-moderate, formerly pro-choice, Mormon, and an ethics-challenged serial philanderer with unfavorability numbers that would make any politician blanch, in their presidential primaries. The candidates who seemed to bank their support on evangelicals and conservative Christians: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum, have seen their campaigns run out of steam, dismantle in a stream of never-ending gaffes, or slowly fade into the background. It’s enough to make one wonder if the power of conservative Christianity in the United States is waning. Two recent articles at The New Republic debate this very question. The first, from Michael Kazin, argues that we are experiencing the twilight of the Christian Right.

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich

“…contrary to the whims of lazy pundits, the waning of enthusiasm for battling over “social issues” is not due to higher concerns about jobs, the deficit, and the economic future […] Put simply, the Christian Right is getting old. According to the largest and most recent study we have of American religion and politics, by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell, almost twice as many people 18 to 29 confess to no faith at all as adhere to evangelical Protestantism. Young people who have attended college, a growing percentage of the population, are more secular still. Catholicism has held its own only because the Church keeps gathering in newcomers from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, few of whom are likely to show up at a Santorum rally. To their surprise, Putnam and Campbell discovered that conservative preachers infrequently discuss polarizing issues from the pulpit. Sermons about hunger and poverty far outnumber those about homosexuality or abortion. On any given Sunday, just one group of Christians routinely grapples with divisive political issues: black Protestants, the most reliably Democratic constituency of them all.”

Kazin concludes that if conservative Christians “hope to transform our pluralistic, profane culture into a new Jerusalem”, they will have to “find new holy battles to wage.” So are the culture wars essentially over? Are Christian conservatives no longer kingmakers in the Republican Party? Not so fast, says Ed Kilgore, who notes that while the Christian Right has botched attempts to control this election cycle, news of their demise is greatly exaggerated.

“It is true that they have been less conspicuous in this campaign, and less united in candidate preferences. But if they haven’t been able to pull their muscle behind a single candidate, that’s not a sign that they are on the wane—it’s a sign that, as far as the Republican Party is concerned, they have already won. Look at the potential nominees: Unlike 2008, no candidate in the field is pro-choice by any definition. Only Ron Paul seems reluctant to enact a national ban on same-sex marriage. Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum. and Herman Cain have been vocal in fanning the flames of Islamophobia; again, only Paul has bothered to dissent to any significant degree.”

Kilgore points out that the fight over abortion, a key issue for Christian conservatives, is escalating at the state level, not diminishing, and that a younger generation of culture warriors, some more radical than their elders, are just beginning to come into view.” Indeed, if there’s been one new phenomenon this year within Christian Right circles, its been the emergence of controversial neo-Pentecostal spiritual warriors into the mainstream. Journalist and author Jeff Sharlet has long argued against assertions that the Christian Right will fade away after a bad election or two, or because the current crop of leaders are growing old. That they have been a part of our spiritual makeup since the beginning.

“We don’t like to consider the possibility that they are not newcomers to power but returnees, that the revivals that have been sweeping America with generational regularity since its inception are not flare-ups but the natural temperature of the nation. We can’t conceive of the possibility that the dupes, the saps, the fools—the believers—have been with us from the very beginning, that their story about what America once was and should be seems to some great portion of the population more compelling, more just, and more beautiful than the perfunctory processes of secular democracy. Thus we are at a loss to account for this recurring American mood.”

So should we worry about the Religious Right? In so far as they battle against the rights and freedoms of religious minorities, yes, we should. Bad candidates and legislative setbacks don’t erase generations of grassroots organizing from the pulpits, and it would be folly to believe otherwise. Until demographics finally hit that magical tipping point, and conservative Christianity becomes simply one voice among many, vigilance is the watchword. As for Newt Gingrich’s ethical problems, we should never forget that evangelicals love a good forgiven sinner.

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

FaithWorld, Religion Clause, and Religion Dispatches all point to a newly-released poll from Public Religion Research and the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics that compares conservative and progressive/liberal religious activists. While it “contains very little that will surprise anyone”, the poll does starkly display the vast differences in diversity between the politically active religious “left” and “right”. To quote the findings:

“Conservative and progressive religious activists are deeply religious, but have strikingly different religious profiles. In terms of religious affiliation, conservative activists are almost exclusively Christian, whereas progressive activists are more diverse.”

Let’s have a look at the graphs.

I think “strikingly different” is a fair assessment. Not even 1% of conservative activists would admit to being non-Christian, while 2% of progressive activists admit to being in the “other” category (the happy land of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Pagans that exists only in the minds of polling organizations) and an impressively significant 12% labeled themselves as Unitarian-Universalist or mixed-faith.

“Progressive activists are markedly more diverse in terms of religious affiliation. No single faith tradition makes up a majority of progressive religious activists. A plurality (44%) of progressive religious activists identify as Mainline Protestants, one?sixth (17%) are Roman Catholics, and one?tenth are Evangelical Protestants. Twelve percent identify with Unitarian?Universalists, interfaith, or mixed faith groups. Six percent of progressive religious activists are Jewish. Interestingly, 8% of these activists have no formal religious affiliation or identify as formerly affiliated. Two percent identify with other religious traditions.”

So what does it all mean? First it confirms that majority-holding conservative evangelicals (54%), in alliance with conservative Catholics (35%), completely dominate religiously-motivated activism on the right, and the likelihood of non-Christian faiths ever having a significant voice in the current state of right-wing politics is slim-to-nil. Meanwhile, no one group holds a majority within the world of religious progressives, allowing for a far more diverse coalition to exist. This reality has some wide-ranging political implications, it means that as minority religions grow they may be far more likely to vote for a liberal/progressive candidate, even if they disagree on some issues, because the opposition is seen as uniquely hostile to them. Around 74% of modern Pagans voted for Obama in the last election, and I bet that Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims had similarly lopsided polling numbers.

“Among progressive activists, 58% say Obama was their first choice in the Democratic primary, and 93% supported him in the general election … Among progressive activists, 1-in-5 say faith was the most important factor, and 41% report that faith was as important as other factors in deciding who to support in the election.”

Further, while minority faiths are vastly smaller in number compared to evangelicals or Catholics, some polling suggests that people who have a “favorable” opinion of minority faiths are more likely to vote in their interests, creating a sphere of influence that far outstrips their actual population. Conservative activists should see these polling results with some dismay, while they have a dependably large bloc of support amongst conservative evangelicals, the candidates that make them happy can often deeply alienate non-Christians who might otherwise be interested in conservative stances on various issues. As for liberal and progressive organizers, they need to recognize that a large portion of their religious coalition doesn’t identify as Christian, and to stop over-privileging “nice” pseudo-moderate Christians like Jim Wallis and Rick “Purpose Driven Life” Warren up as the voice of a “religious left” that will draw more evangelical voters away from the conservatives. This new poll makes it pretty clear that isn’t about to happen no matter who you get to make an invocation.

Here I go again, breaking my unwritten rule to not blog about anything that loony-fringe “news” site WorldNetDaily has to say about Witches. But sometimes they try so hard to get our attention that you can’t help but say something in response. To wit, their “special” issue of Whistleblower Magazine focusing solely on Witchcraft and the dangers of the occult.

“The real thing – that is, the stunning phenomenon of more and more American housewives, students, professors, and even soldiers self-identifying as “witches” – is the topic of the January edition of WND’s elite monthly Whistleblower magazine … Wicca is intentionally shrouded in mystery, said David Kupelian, managing editor of WorldNetDaily and Whistleblower. ‘But in the news business we prefer sunshine to moonlight, believing it makes a much better disinfectant. This issue of Whistleblower shines a very bright light on New Age, neo-pagan and occult beliefs and practices, and in a way that I believe will generate a lot of ‘aha!’ experiences in our readers.'”


Only the best clip-art for their hard-hitting expose’.

Yes, Wicca is “intentionally shrouded in mystery”, which is why there are hundreds (if not thousands) of books published on the subject that you can find in any mainstream bookstore. Lest anyone start to think this might be a “fair and balanced” view of modern Pagans, the very first article is entitled “The great deception has begun” (where Witches are portrayed as “part of a rebellion against Him and His laws”). They have an “an in-depth and shocking” look at Pagans in the military, and more articles that provide a “mind-boggling” (you can say that again) investigation into this “stunning phenomenon”. These “journalists” are answering the tough questions about Witchcraft!

“…can witches be good? Can they really cast spells that somehow call forth the spirits beyond the world of nature to help them accomplish their will – whether good or evil? Is magic real? Why do witches often perform their ceremonies naked?”

So if you miss the days when Wicca was looked at with fear and suspicion, take a trip back to the “golden years” with the lunatic fringe. Where the Cold War still rages, Christianity has a vise-grip on morality, and religious minorities (not to mention sexual and racial minorities) knew to keep their heads down. I salute the “brave” staff of Whistleblower for exposing this shocking religious movement before is spread across the world, gained legal recognition, and entered the mainstream.

ADDENDUM: An angry Wiccan priest writes a letter to WND.

“Wicca is not such as you have presented. Rather, the religion more closely associated with the mountain of perversity, bigotry, hatred, child molestation by ministers and priests, sexual abuse by the same priests and ministers, and numerous other perversities mentioned daily in news sources across the nation is none other than “Christianity” itself!”

They made it their “letter of the week”.

There hasn’t been a lot of hoopla over the “religious left” lately. Before, during, and immediately after the 2004 elections there was a lot of press coverage and soul-searching about building (or giving voice to) an alternative to the “Religious Right”. Web sites were started, books were sold, and debates were held as to who exactly is included in this political counter-movement. But while religious piety and literacy has certainly become an important issue in the upcoming elections, there really doesn’t seem to be any sort of influential cohesive left-leaning religious coalition that would compare to the influence conservative Christians currently enjoy within the Republican Party.

Now Media Matters (a progressive fact-checking organization) has issued a report to explain why they feel left-leaning religious leaders seem to remain marginalized (despite their best efforts). According to Media Matter’s report, a main culprit is the fact that conservative religious voices dominate newspaper and television coverage.

“Since the media increased their focus on religion and politics after the 2004 election, we decided to examine the period beginning on the day after that election and continuing through the end of 2006. The data demonstrate that conservative religious leaders comprise the overwhelming majority of religious perspectives presented in news coverage. For this time period, we examined print media coverage in major newspapers and televised coverage on the three major networks, three major cable channels, and PBS. We looked at all news stories that included mentions, quotes, or interviews of 20 major religious leaders — 10 conservative religious leaders and 10 progressive religious leaders.”

Conservative religious voices in the mainstream media outnumber progressive voices by nearly three to one according to the study. A figure that, according to Media Matters, doesn’t represent the reality of religious life in America.

“The actual data on religious belief and observance in America illuminates a picture at odds with the media’s representation. According to a 2006 survey by the Center for American Values in Public Life, only 22 percent of Americans are traditionalist in their religious beliefs, whereas a full 50 percent of Americans can be classified as centrist in their religious orientation, 18 percent as modernist, and 10 percent as secular or nonreligious.”

But is this because the press is biased towards conservative religious leaders, or is it simply the religious version of “if it bleeds it leads”? Terry Mattingly, a religious journalist and blogger at Get Religion, claims that the “bad news” of the Religious Right pre-disposed it for a greater piece of the religion-coverage pie.

“The views of the Religious Left represent, for most journalists, the logical, smart, ordinary, positions on the political issues at hand. Journalists cover the bad more than they cover the good, because the bad represents the strange, bizarre, even horrifying, side of life. The Religious Right represents the tacky hordes of fundamentalists from blue zip codes who want to sack Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C.”

From a journalistic point of view, moderate and nuanced reactions to religious matters is about as exciting as “man pets dog”. This is why grandstanding atheists get far more coverage than polite ministers. I would even venture to say this is why modern Paganism gets as much news coverage as it does, at least its different and somewhat controversial. Religion reporter Gary Stern says that if the nascent “religious left” wants to get more coverage they need to learn a lesson or two from their counterparts on the right.

“But liberal leaders can also do a much better job of explaining what they believe. Get to the point. Make your case. Quote from Scripture like conservatives do. Be passionate. Make the media pay attention.”

Or maybe invite some Pagans to your next press-conference, that would surely shake things up a bit (and maybe entice a few more reporters to show up).

Yesterday I wrote about what the mainstream press thought were the top religion stories of 2006, and today I present the first part of my top ten news stories that involve or affect modern Paganism. A ongoing theme this year seems to be legal issues and discrimination, but there were some interesting quirks and stories that fall outside the issue of litigation. 2006 has been an eventful year, and it was difficult narrowing it down to just ten stories, but I think I have picked the ones that had the greatest impact now and for the future. What follows are my picks for the bottom six stories of 2006, the top four will follow tomorrow.

10. The Rachel Bevilacqua custody case. What happens when your religion is used against you? Rachel “Rev. Magdalen” Bevilacqua was barred from all contact with her son after photos of her at an adults-only Subgenius event were submitted by her son’s father as proof that she was an unfit parent. The original judge called Bevilacqua “perverted” and “mentally ill” before stepping down under a growing scrutiny of his actions. The case is still in litigation (for nearly a year now) as the biological father’s lawyers keep trying to delay a final decision on custody. This case is emblematic of the ongoing issues Pagans and other minority religions face in divorce and custody cases. Part of this problem is the fact that many adherents of minority faiths don’t have the money to hire decent lawyers, while often facing the combined wealth of the Christian families on the opposing side.

9. Supreme Court allows entheogenic tea. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court ruled (full opinion, here) that members of O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal may legally import and use the entheogenic tea hoasca. The tea which contains traces of DMT is banned by the Controlled Substances Act. This is seen as a blow to the Bush administration who has been actively fighting this case for years. The court ruled that the government has failed to supply a “compelling interest” to limit the religious practices of the group, Justice Roberts said that the government was taking a “zero tolerance approach.” This is widely seen as a triumph of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and could also open the doors to other religious groups who feel that the ritualized use of entheogenic substances are an important part of their practice.

8. Religious Right tactics backfire in favor of Pagans. We are used to different factions of the Religious Right fighting to put Christianity “back” into schools and other government-funded areas, but this year we witnessed this tactic backfire (at least) twice and the true ramifications of their actions become more clear. First the Brunswick County Board of Education in North Carolina tried to approve a new policy that would allow the disbursement of religious tracts in their schools. But after Llewellyn publications offered to disburse free Pagan books through local groups, the board got cold feet, tabled the vote, and spawned one of my favorite news photos of the year. Then later this year Falwell’s Liberty Counsel threatened an elementary school in Charlottesville with legal action if it didn’t allow two children to distribute Bible-school flyers, the school board fearing legal action started allowing religious material which opened the way for a local Pagan group to advertise their Yule event (much to the chagrin of local Christians). Do you think that since their fingers have been singed they will have learned their lesson?

7. Growing freedoms for Pagans outside America. This year saw all sorts of positive news for Pagans outside of America. Greek Pagans were allowed the right to perform public rituals and legally exist in the Orthodox-dominated country, Romania has officially recognized Witchcraft, and Iceland has increased the number of Asatru priests who can perform legal ceremonies. Meanwhile, a recent examination of census data makes modern Paganism the fastest growing religious category in Australia. It looks like the re-birth of Paganism is growing strong roots just about everywhere it exists.

6. American teens are experimenting with Wicca/Witchcraft in ever-growing numbers. The evangelical polling organization The Barna Group found in three national studies of over 4000 teens that an overwhelming majority of (73%) have participated in “psychic or witchcraft-related activity, beyond mere media exposure or horoscope usage.” This was so remarkable that the organization listed it as one of their most significant findings of the year. It may not be a “phase” either. The recently released Baylor study on American religion found a “surprising level” of paranormal belief and experience amongst adults as well. Figures that could signify a continuing growth of modern Pagan faiths.

5. First imprisoned modern Pagan executed. Michael Lenz, an Asatruar on death row for the killing of a fellow inmate was executed in July of this year. Reporters examined the Asatru faith in and out of prison, and Asatru bloggers tried to explain their theology to a press that seemed to not “get” their religion.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the top 4!