But they don’t listen to me. Would they talk back if I believed in tree spirits? Animism is the opposite of atheism. “Animism encompasses the belief that there is no separation between the spiritual and physical world., and that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in animals, plants, and all living things as well as rocks, mountains, rivers, and other geographical features.” www.earthenvesseljournal.com/issue/Kent/Shamanism.html

Animism used to be found primarily in isolated cultures, but the times they are a changin’. “Just as atheism seems to be expanding, so is animism spreading. In 1999, according to a survey sponsored by the Covenant of the Goddess, there were about 600,000 initiated Witches in America and therefore probably about 6,000,000 practicing Pagans…”www.patheos.com/blogs/aidankelly/2012/06/why-wicca-is-a-major-world-religion

Modern day Pagans may seem to be harmless wearing scary t-shirts, but how might their beliefs affect our culture? “Wiccans live by one central rule called The Rede, which says, ‘Harm no one, do what you will.’ In other words, witches are free to do whatever seems right to them as long as they avoid harming others.” Www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/hidden-traps-of-wicca

Key issues that draw people in are caring for the earth, respect for women, and having no absolutes – no rights and wrongs. Most of us are fine with caring for the earth and respecting women. But where might the lack of absolutes lead? We like to think that all humans have a built-in sense of right and wrong.

How has that moral sense worked in animistic cultures? A Waorani (Auca) Indian in Ecuador might shoot another man because he wants to marry the man’s wife, but shooting of snakes is forbidden because the snake will come back to get you. “In the Kisii district of Kenya five old people were dragged out of their homes and burned alive. They were believed to be witches.” The Economist” June 20,2009, p46 The Masai justify stealing another man’s cows because God gave all cows to the Masai.

“An anthropologist recently visited the Bora people and started criticizing the Christian missionaries… ‘Christianity is for the white man,’ the anthropologist said. ‘You people should go back to your old religion and your old ways.’

An indignant Bora church leader, remembering the old days, eyed the anthropologist. “Yes, and if we did, you’d be the first one in the pot.” John Maust, Copyright 1995, “Christianity Today”

Atheists like to think that science will protect us from false beliefs and harmful behavior. How did that work for the ancient Mayans?

“To the Maya, science and religion were one and the same. The Maya developed an impressive system of mathematics and astronomy, which was intimately related to religious rituals. Their mathematical achievements included positional notation and the use of zero; in astronomy, they accurate calculated a solar year, compiled precise tables of the positions for the Moon and Venus, and were able to predict solar eclipses.

Until the mid-20th century, scholars believed the Maya to be a peaceful, stargazing people, fully absorbed in their religion and astronomy and not violent like their neighboring civilizations to the north.

But since then, nearly all of the Mayan hieroglyphic writings have been deciphered, and a much different picture has emerged…human sacrifice seems to have been a central Mayan religious practice. It was believed to encourage fertility, demonstrate piety, and propitiate the gods.

At important ceremonies, the sacrificial victim was held down at the top of a pyramid or raised platform while a priest made an incision below the rib cage and ripped out the heart with his hands. The heart was then burned in order to nourish the gods.

It was not only the captives who suffered for the sake of the gods: the Mayan aristocracy themselves, as mediators between the gods and their people, underwent ritual bloodletting and self-torture. The higher one’s position, the more blood was expected. Blood was drawn by jabbing spines through the ear or penis, or by drawing a thorn-studded cord through the tongue; it was then spattered on paper or otherwise collected as an offering to the gods. http://www.religionfacts.com/mayan-religion

But we would never do these things, right? Well, the tongue piercings which doctors say are risky. Maybe the ancient Jews knew something more scientific than the Mayas – body piercing can make you sick. If you want to study witchcraft there are several U.S. Colleges now offering courses.


2 thoughts on “I Talk to the Trees

  1. And how many tens of thousands of people have been burned as witches by self-identified Christians because these “witches” didn’t believe in the missionary dogma that was being shoved down their throats. It’s not unlikely that more people have been murdered during the past 1900 years because they refused to convert to Christianity than have been murdered in the name of any other religion. Does that make Christianity inherently evil? Of course not — at least not if its a form of Christianity that teaches tolerance toward others who are different, per the story of The Good Samaritan. Only a miniscule fraction of self-identified Christians have truly practiced such a Christianity rooted in love since the religion began spreading — for there are passages in the New Testament that became the official cannon of Christianity (based on the Roman authorities’ declaration in 351 as to which scriptures were deemed acceptable), which t teach the diametrical opposite of tolerance, such as The Gospel According to John, which wasn’t even composed until AT LEAST 70 years after the purported date of Jesus’ death. If Christianity were judged by the behavior of its adherents throughout history, it would fair far worse than animism in general (not that anyone can make any accurate ethical generalizations about such a heterogeneous and multi-cultural phenomenon as animism, which is such a broad descriptor that doesn’t help much as a religious category).

  2. Anthony, I was overwhelmed by how difficult this essay was to write. I at first assumed that animism in the western world was dead. But then I realized there is a revival in Wicca and Druids etc. Is Animism inherently evil? Is Christianity inherently evil? The Christian answer is that we are all inherently evil, yet we also have a sense of right and wrong. We love and care for others. I do not agree that the New Testament promoted hatred or killing of those who did not follow Christ, quite the opposite. I also think that the takeover of the church by Constantine was a horrible destruction and perversion of what Jesus taught. I hope to write more about that once I get past the brief summaries of various religions’ affect on culture.

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