Is Paganism A Major Religion?

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News has been spreading that Marshall University in West Virginia has added Pagan holidays to its list of excused absences.

“After several controversial requests, the university’s policy regarding absences excused for religious reasons is under review, and the decision has been made to add Pagan holidays to the list of excusable holidays. “Based on the research I’ve done, Paganism is practiced by a group of people large enough for it to be considered a major religion,” Steve Hensley, dean of student affairs, said.”

A host of questions arise from this, the two most important being what qualifications did the modern Paganism movement meet to be classified as a “major religion”, and what list of holidays have been chosen? The basic assumption is that the eight holidays making up the “wheel of the year” are the ones that will be picked, but that will create its own problems as modern Pagan religions that don’t follow (or overlap) with these holidays grow.

To a certain extent, efforts at “normalizing” modern Paganism has leaned heavily on presenting it as a movement with a certain unity in belief and practice. A “real religion” that Christians and other dominant religious groups could understand and accept. But the reality is that modern (or “neo”) Paganism is an umbrella term that includes a vast diversity of distinct religious groups, and this reality will start to cause friction if we don’t encourage a more complex understanding of our faith communities.

Paganism isn’t a “major religion”, its a major religious movement. That may seem like a slight distinction to some, but it will become an increasingly important one in the coming future.