Article by: ED Johnston
I grew up in a house that didn’t have religion. I was taught that religious people were unintelligent and lacked reason. Religion was bad. All religion. And to have religious belief was to lessen yourself. My mother resented that she had been forced into religion as a child and as such she inadvertently forced her children into atheism. You can imagine how hard it was for me at about age ten when I started to question the existence of God. I knew of Christianity from kids at school and I was curious about it. I would write in my diary as if I was talking to God directly because I didn’t know what else to do.
In my teens, I started to ask my friends about their family and religious paths. I started to have Saturday night sleepovers at friends’ houses so that I could go to church with the family on Sundays. I went to many different churches and even participated in a youth group for a while, but I still didn’t find what I was looking for.
“…I started to ask my friends about their family and religious paths. I started to have Saturday night sleepovers at friends’ houses so that I could go to church with the family on Sundays.”
I was at a crucial stage where I was questioning the big questions like, is there a God? I was also questioning my gender, and my sexual orientation. It was a scary and confusing time and most of the churches I was attending professed that people, like me, were going to hell. Unsatisfied with these messages, I decided that Christianity was definitely not for me. I stopped attending church activities and went on with my life without having really learned anything about the specific teachings of the Bible or the various beliefs of the different Christian churches I had attended.
It was in my last year of high school that I was introduced to Paganism. I soon discovered that this was a faith that did not discriminate based on my non-linear sexual orientation, rather – that it was a gift of the goddess and that all acts of pleasure where in her name. It was no longer shameful to be questioning my gender or sexual orientation, nor sinful to question aspects of faith. I felt empowered to explore and decide where on the various spectrum’s I was happiest. This path taught me that I was a good and beautiful person – just like all of nature. I was hooked! My journey with Paganism is ever-evolving and ever-growing. My household is truly a Pagan one.
Christianity is everywhere in North America; this, easily observed by someone never having lived in a Christian household. Generally, many people grow-up in houses that have a little bit of Christian influence. Even if your family didn’t go to church, you likely celebrated all the big holidays and you knew how they connected to the story of Jesus. You probably knew who Cain and Abel were and their origin.
Christian stories and references make it into our teaching of children, even if they never go to church. But my house didn’t. So when pop culture makes biblical references, I wouldn’t “get” them. It is through pop culture that I have learned the bible stories. Even today, I will be watching a movie that references something Christian-like, but I don’t understand the context of it or why it might be funny. My spouse grew up in the opposite atmosphere. She was raised in a Christian household that actively taught their children their faith. Gratefully, I now turn to her and ask the meaning behind specific references. No longer do I have to feel like an outsider in many religious-based ‘inside jokes’.
“No longer do I have to feel like an outsider in many religious-based ‘inside jokes’.”
I don’t think that most people realize just how much Christianity has leaked into our popular culture. Particularly media from the US. But when you are raised in a very secular household, you notice it. You tend to feel left out.
Some stories that Pagans use have leaked into pop culture as well. We all know about Pandora’s Box, but how many people actually know the classical Greek myth? And with mega comic book characters like Thor and Wonder Woman (aka the Goddess “Diana”), or Disney’s movie version of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians, there is more mythology leaking into our pop culture. It seems Christian kids are beginning to learn versions of Pagan stories, just as I had learned about the Christian stories.
“It seems Christian kids are beginning to learn versions of Pagan stories, just as I had learned about the Christian stories.”
However, we all know that the re-telling of stories through fictional books, movies, and TV shows means that they will be (in some way) altered. Sometimes the myths change very little, and sometimes the narratives are nearly unrecognizable from the original tellings. This is why I believe it is important that children in our community learn the classical, traditional Pagan stories – not only from the amazing books written by Riordian or the fun comic books and movies by DC and Marvel, but also from more historical texts.
Undoubtedly, many children won’t have the attention span (nor reached such an advanced scholastic reading level) to sit, read, and comprehend the translation of The Eddas themselves.
Fun solutions could be implemented instead, like:
- Have parents/caregivers read the classical stories and retell them at bedtime in their own language – just as our ancestors did
- Retell and share the stories during holiday celebrations, maybe even establish a family tradition with some stories (similar to that of reading “The Nativity Story” at Christmastime)
Making such an effort to share important stories assures that our children will grow-up knowing our Pagan classical stories, just as Christian kids grow up learning theirs. Perhaps one day it will be our children explaining the reference to a Pagan story depicted in a movie to their Christian friend or spouse?
There is often a focus on balance in Paganism, and I hope to bring that balance to my household. My future children will be raised with bedtime stories about Zeus, Thor, Bast, Hecate, and many other Gods and Goddesses – from many pantheons. They will also hear the stories of Jesus and all the players in the Bible that I, admittedly, know nothing about. This is an exciting prospect, as we will learn and experience the stories together, in return – gaining a better understanding of our Christian family and neighbours’ traditions, not to mention all of the random references that are depicted in the entertainment we consume.