Book Review: Paganism; An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions

I have been intending to read this book for some years now, but time and circumstance have always seemed to be working against me. But thanks to one of the members of our newly emerging local group, I’ve finally read it. 

First, I’m glad this book was written. Whatever nitpick I have with it, I can easily see the value it has for a great many Pagans and Wiccans. It really does speak to more than just the new apostate or angsty teen.

Now for some nitpicking. While the authors try really, really hard to not be Wiccan specific, it reads to me as Wiccan specific (are the authors Wiccan?). They mention Asatru a few times, but I did get the feeling they didn’t have more than a passing familiarity with the religion. And while a couple other movements and religions got a head nod, there really wasn’t a decent explaination of these religions. I feel that, as book that purports to be introducing you to earth-centric religions, there should be a bit more about said religions.

And the earth-centered claim; in efforts to define the broad stroke that is Paganism, I feel that “earth-centered” makes claims that really shouldn’t be made. I wouldn’t consider many of the Recon religions to be earth-centered, even if there is a strong focus on the natural world. I feel like our interpretations of older religious and cultural practices in regards to nature are a bit colored by Transcendental Naturalist philosophy, in that to become intune with the Divine, we must elevate nature above civilization and industry. Especially with Recon religions, the environmental impact of civilization in the pre-industrial era was not readily apparent or widespread like it is today. So the thinking that society and civic structure need exist wholely separate from the natural world, I don’t believe, was a concern to those pre-industrialist Pagans.

I was a bit saddened by the fact that an entire chapter was devoted to the Satan arguments. I wish Paganism would stop using what it isn’t to define itself. And if Satan really isn’t part of your Pagan journey, quit giving the arguments credence. Dead horse, dead horse. 

Some of the visualizations and exercises were helpful to me, some came across as a bit corny. I feel like there is too much put into creating simplified metaphors, when we should instead present people the challenge of abstract thinking and assisting them in rising to the challenge.

I felt like the last couple chapters of the book were pretty fantastic, especially on knowing yourself and the determination of ethics. These were chapters I was glad to see in a book about Paganism, because it challenged the basis for all religious institutions.

All in all, a handy and easy read. I would recommend it to people who weren’t really interested in the meat of Paganism, but we’re open and receptive to the alternative viewpoints of others. Not really for anyone currently looking at developing a Pagan spiritual path or for those actively against religions other than their own. Instead of an introduction to earth-centered religions, I feel that I read a book that would be more aptly titled “Paganism; An Introduction to Alternative Spiritual Beliefs”.