Pagans

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In our effort to increase awareness of Pagan and Neo-Pagan issues and foster a more accurate world-view of the beliefs and practices of Paganism and Neo-Paganism, New Age Web Works has created this area as an open platform to present and explore these issues from every prospective.

Listed below are some books and links to assist you.  Pagans do not

"recruit" outsiders into their midst by promising a heaven or threat-

ening a hell... those practices, obviously based in fear, only spawn

misunderstanding.  Pagans (generally) practice what is often

referred to as "Earth Religions"

 

 

 

 In the not-too-distant past, pagan witches and mystics were burned at the stake, and some of our greatest teachers were ridiculed, rebuked and even crucified!  Thus, in the late middle ages, when the ruling political forces in Europe, came into major conflict with the powerful religious leaders of those times, Politics and Religion became "friends", and both were corrupted. The formation of This United States of America had (at the time) as much to do with religious freedoms as political. The "outcasts" of the time were those who believed in the "Earth Religions", as they were thought to possess magical powers. Those that were not burned and jailed were forced underground to practice their beliefs, and those teachings, coupled with other Ancient Mystery Schools beliefs (such as Masonic teachings) fall within the spectrum of these once illegal and feared practices. Interestingly, the majority of our "Founding Fathers" were secretly practicing Masons, and that symbology still exists on our paper currency today.   These practices and beliefs cause harm to no one, and the concepts behind the terms Pagan and Neo-Pagans are, in fact, older than mainstream religions and the political power systems on the planet today.  If there is one common behavior of all Pagans and neo-Pagans, it is NOT to follow a personal belief system simply because it is convenient to the King, or the Pope, or the Potentate, or even your mom and dad... it is to follow a belief system that is meaningful to our lives, ... so, we do tend to be a rather rebellious lot!

  This Pagan area is an OPEN CENTER of communication and sharing.  A place where both we as Pagans and we as People can come together and experience our similarities rather than emphasize our differences. There are as many paths to The One as there are human beings, and NO ONE possesses the "Only True Answers". We hope this information will allow you to better explore your own truths.

  As Pagans and Neo-Pagans, some common ground we all share (to some degree) are;

1. Pagans practice a variety of positive life affirming faiths that are dedicated to healing the people of the Earth as well as the Earth herself.  As such, we do not advocate or condone any acts that victimize others, including those proscribed by law. We absolutely condemn the practices of child abuse, sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse that do harm to the bodies, minds or spirits of individuals. 
 

  Witches do not believe in Satan!2. Pagans do not acknowledge, believe in, or worship a "Satan" or "Devil". These are Old Testament Christian symbols that have been connected in many ways to Pagans and New-Pagans out of fear and misunderstanding. Pagans do not practice "Black Magick," or desecrate any person, place or thing.

3.  Pagans do not proselytize. No-one will try to convince you to become a pagan.

We have simply created this Web platform to provide you with what we believe to be our truth in the hopes that it will correct some of the erroneous misperceptions about our type of religion.  We encourage you to search these pages and possibly it will help you validate your own path.

  You'll find that this web site will contain a very "generalized" introduction to Paganism that (hopefully) will answer most of your questions as openly and honestly as possible.  We also hope to create a roadmap of sorts which you might use to explore those things that are most interesting to you and your needs. We will not push a particular path or tradition, but if we can help point you in a direction of sincere interest and real understanding, then we have done our job...

  A job that we ask you to help us with...  To the left are our specific content areas.   It is in this area that we are constantly looking for help in writing organizing, and presenting "unbiased" information and important issues.  Please review these areas and if your spirit is willing, let us know in which areas you would like to help!!!

Wiccan Principals of Belief

  

The Council of American Witches has defined the Wiccan belief system as such:

1. We practice Rites to attune ourselves with the natural rhythm of life forces marked by the Phases of the Moon and the Seasonal Quarters and Cross Quarters.

2. We recognize that our intelligence gives us a unique responsibilty toward our enviroment. We seek to live in harmony with Nature, in ecological balance oferring fulfillment to life and conciousness with an evolutionary concept.

3. We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that is apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary, it is sometimes called "supernatural", but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all.

4. We concieve of the Creative Power in the Universe as manifesting through polarity-as masculine and feminine-and that this same Creative Power lives in all people, and functions through the interaction of the masculine and the feminine. We value neither above the other, knowing each to be supporting of the other. We value Sex as pleasure, as the symbol and embodiment of life, and as one of the sources of energies used in magical practice and religious worship.

5. We recognize both outer worlds and inner, or psychological, worlds-sometimes known as the Spiritual World, the Collective Unconcious, the Inner Planes, etc.-and we see in the interaction of these two dimensions the basis for paranormal and magical excerscises. We neglect neither dimension for the other, seeing both as necessary for our fulfillment.

6. We do not recognize any authoritarian hierarchy, but do honor those who teach, respect those who share greater knowledge and wisdom, and acknowledge those who have courageously given of themselves in leadership.

7. We see religion, magick, and wisdom-in-living as being united in the way one views the world and lives within it-a worldview and philosophy-of-life which we identify as Witchcraft, the Wiccan Way.

8. Calling oneself "Witch" does not make a witch-but neither does heridity itself, or the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations. A Witch seeks to control the forces within him/herself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well, without harm to others, and in harmony with Nature.

9. We acknowledge that it is the affirmation and fulfillment of life, in a continuation of evolution and development of consciousness, that gives meaning to the Universe we know, and to our personal role within it.

10. Our only animosity toward Christianity, or toward any other religion or philosophy-of-life, is to the extent that its institutions have claimed to be "the only way" and have sought to deny freedom to others and to surpress other ways of religious practice and belief.

11. As Witches, we are not threatned by debates on the history of the Craft, the origins of various aspects of different traditions. We are concerned with our present, and our future.

12. We do not accept the concept of "absolute evil", nor do we worship any entity known as "Satan" or "The Devil" as defined by the Christian tradition. We do not seek power through the suffering of others, nor do we accept the concept that personal benefit can only be derived by denial to another.

13. We acknowledge that we seek within Nature for that which is contributory to our health and well-being.

Origin of the term:

There is general agreement that the word "Pagan" comes from the Latin word "paganus." Unfortunately, there is no consensus on the precise meaning of the word in the fifth century CE and before. There are three main interpretations. 16 None has won general acceptance:

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Most modern Pagan sources interpret the word to have meant "rustic,"  "hick," or "country bumpkin" -- a pejorative term. The implication was that Christians used the term to ridicule country folk who tenaciously held on to what the Christians considered old-fashioned, outmoded Pagan beliefs. Those in the country were much slower in adopting the new religion of Christianity than were the city folks. They still followed the Greek state religion, Roman state religion, Mithraism, various mystery religions, etc., long after those in urban areas had converted.

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Some believe that in the early Roman Empire, "paganus" came to mean "civilian" as opposed to "military." Christians often called themselves "miles Christi" (Soldiers of Christ). The non-Christians became "pagani" -- non-soldiers or civilians. No denigration would be implied.

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C. Mohrmann suggests that the general meaning was any "outsider," -- a neutral term -- and that the other meanings, "civilian" and "hick," were merely specialized uses of the term. 17

By the third century CE, its meaning evolved to include all non-Christians. Eventually, it became an evil term that implied the possibility of Satan worship. The latter two meanings are still in widespread use today.

There is no generally accepted, single, current definition for the word "Pagan." The word is among the terms that the newsgroup alt.usage.english, calls "skunk words." They have varied meanings to different people. The field of religion is rife with such words. consider: Christian, cult, hell, heaven, occult, Paganism, pluralism, salvation, Witch, Witchcraft, Unitarian Universalist, Voodoo, etc. Each has so many meanings that they often cause misunderstandings wherever they are used. Unfortunately, most people do not know this, and naturally assume that the meaning that they have been taught is universally accepted. A reader must often look at the context in which the word is used in order to guess at the intent of the writer.

We recognize that many Wiccans, Neopagans, and others regularly use the terms "Pagan" and "Paganism" to describe themselves. Everyone should be free to continue whatever definitions that they wish. However, the possibility of major confusion exists -- particularly if one is talking to a general audience. When addressing non-Wiccans or non-Neopagans, it is important that the term:

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Be carefully defined in advance, or that

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Its meaning is clearly understandable from the text's context.

Otherwise, the speaker or writer will be referring to one group of people, while the listeners or readers will assume that other groups are being referred to.

 

Seven definitions of "Pagan:"

First meaning: Pagans consist of Wiccans and other Neopagans:

We recommend that this should be the primary definition of "Pagan," for the simple reason that many Wiccans and other Neopagans embrace the term for themselves. "Paganism" in this sense refers to a range of spiritual paths which are Earth centered -- involving their members living in harmony with the Earth and observing its cycles. These are often Neopagan religions based on the deities, symbols, practices, seasonal days of celebration and other surviving components of ancient religions, which had been long suppressed. For example:

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The Druidic religion is based on the faith and practices of the ancient Celtic professional class;

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Followers of Asatru adhere to the ancient, pre-Christian Norse religion;

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Wiccans trace their roots back to the pre-Celtic era in Europe.

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Other Neo-pagans follow ancient Roman, Greek, Egyptian and other traditions.

Some typical quotations which demonstrate this meaning of "Pagan" are:

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"Witchcraft, or Wicca, is considered part of the occult, but has little relationship to Satanism. Wicca is pagan (pre-Christian, as opposed to anti-Christian) and is currently gaining popularity." 1

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"Witches do not worship the devil...Witches are more interested in magical arts and the divinity of nature...Wiccans are considered pagans because they worship several nature gods instead of a single god." 2

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"The World Christian Encyclopedia estimates 6 million Americans profess to be witches and engage in practices like these. They are a sub-group of over 10 million persons the encyclopedia says call themselves pagans, who practice "primitive" religions such as Druidism, Odin worship and Native American shamanism." 3

In this sense, "Pagan" refers to a group of religious traditions, and should be capitalized, as Christianity, Islam and Judaism are.

Second meaning: Pagans are people to hate:

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Religious and social conservatives sometimes use "Pagan" as a general purpose "snarl" word to refer to cultures or religions that are very different from the speaker's. There is no general consensus as to meaning. It can be seen directed at any religious or cultural group that the speaker hates. Some examples:

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Dr. John Patrick,  professor at the University of Ottawa, Canada was discussing at a conference the number of abortions performed worldwide. He said: "Gods and goddesses are beginning to re-inhabit the Western world. Infant sacrifice -– there are 52 million a year. It is paganism.4

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Dr. Richard Swenson, director of the Future Health Study Center. said at the same conference: "We went into post-Christian and neopaganism very quickly...We want the culture to change, we want some spiritual sanity, but we need to understand that this is a pluralistic and even neopaganist society." 4

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Jerry Falwell appeared as a guest on Pat Robertson's "700 Club" program on 2001-SEP-13. He said that God became sufficiently angry at America that he engineered the terrorist attack on New York City and Washington-- presumably to send Americans a message. He said: "I really believe that the Pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians ...all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.' " Pat Robertson responded: "Well, I totally concur...15 [We have asked Falwell's office via repeated Emails to tell us exactly to whom he was referring with the word "Pagans." They declined to respond.] More details.

Third meaning: Pagans are ancient polytheists:

The term "Pagan" is sometimes used to refer to ancient polytheistic religions. The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines "pagan" as: "belonging to a religion which worships many gods, especially one which existed before the main world religions." 18

The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) contains many references to the societies surrounding the Israelites -- Babylonians, Canaanites, Philistines, etc. These are commonly referred to as Pagans:

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There are allegations that these societies engaged in human sacrifices:

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II Kings 3:26-27: "...the king of Moab...took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall."

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Psalms 106:37-38: "Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood."

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Their altars were often referred to as "high places:"

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II Kings 16:4: "And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree."

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Surrounding tribes were viewed as committing idolatry by worshiping golden images of animals:

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II Kings 17:16: "And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal."

Some current examples of this usage are:

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Referring to sun wheels and obelisks: "...These symbols of pagan sun worship were associated with Baal worship, or Baalim, which is strongly condemned in scripture. So why are they so prevalent in the Roman Catholic Church, if they are associated with paganism and apostasy?" An anti-Catholic essay on a conservative Protestant Christian web site. 5

 

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Ancient faiths of ancient Celtic, Egypt, Greece, Norse, Rome, and other cultures are frequently referred to as Pagan religions. Even though many of these religions had strict social and sexual behavioral codes, their followers are often portrayed as hedonist and immoral:

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1 Peter 4:3: "For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries."

Fourth meaning: Pagans follow Aboriginal religions:

Paganism is occasionally used to refer to animistic, spirits-and-essences filled belief systems. These are based upon direct perception of the forces of nature and usually involves the use of idols, talismans and taboos in order to convey respect for these forces and beings. Many native, aboriginal religions fit this definition.

Fifth meaning: Pagans are non-Abrahamics:

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A rare use of "Pagan" is to describe a person who does not follow an Abrahamic religion. That is, their faith does not recognize Abraham as a patriarch. The individual is neither Christian, Muslim, Baha'i nor Jew. This includes Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Humanists, Taoists, etc. About 45% of the people of the world are Pagans, by this definition.

Sixth meaning: Pagans don't belong to any of the main religions of the world:

The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary gives an alternate definition of the word  "pagan" as: "relating to religious beliefs that do not belong to any of the main religions of the world" 18 This definition is rather vague, because it does not describe how a "main religion of the world" is defined. If it is any religion with more than, say, 1% of the world's population (i.e. 60 million members, then: Aboriginal religions, Atheism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism would be non-pagan, whereas Judaism, Sikhism, Confucianism, the Baha'i World Faith, Wicca, Zoroastrianism etc. would be pagan. I doubt that many members of the latter religions would be happy with their classification.

Seventh meaning: Pagans are Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, etc:

The term "Pagan" was widely used by Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, etc. to refer to themselves. The word was also used by others to describe these groups. The usage dropped after the rise of Neopaganism in the middle of the 20th century, and is rarely seen today.

 

 

How common are the various meanings of "Pagan"?

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On the Internet itself: Wiccans and other Neopagans have made extensive use of the Internet; they probably have more web pages per capita than followers of any other religion. Using the search string "Pagan," the Google search engine found about 459,000 hits on the Internet. 6 We found that:

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The first 14 hits all referred to Wicca or another Neopagan religion.

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24 of the first 27 hits referred to a Neopagan faith tradition.

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In conservative Christian search engines: We used the same search string on Goshen. It is perhaps the largest conservative Christian search engine. 7 It found ten web sites which referred to Paganism. Some were broken links; others had no apparent references to Pagans. But others did:

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Five referred to ancient polytheistic religions, such as the faiths of Babylonians, Celts, Romans, etc. during biblical times and in the early history of Christianity:

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An anti-Roman Catholic essay which described the use of sun wheels and obelisks of ancient Pagan religions within Roman Catholicism. 5

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One condemned Christmas' practices as "merely variations of the ceremonies invented by the corrupt pagans of yesterday." It refers to the Christian concept of the Trinity as deriving from "Pagan Babylon." "The religion of pagan Babylon did not disappear...it was passed on down, to 'Mystery Babylon,'...[the] mother of abominations of the earth." 8

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One promotes Christian observance of Halloween: "...someone is bound to ask why we allow our children to act out a ritual rooted in pagan and satanic beliefs..." 9

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One referred to the Pagan cultures surrounding the early Christian movement. 10

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Another anti-Roman Catholic essay discusses Jesus' mother Mary. It notes that the titles "Mother of God" and "Queen of Heaven" came from Pagan cultures that surrounded the early Christian movements. It says that the concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary is also Pagan, being derived from the worship of "Ashtoroth, also known as Isis, Diana, Venus, Vesta, Samariums, Istarte and Helen...". 

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One probably refers to Neopagans: The author writes that "all belief systems except atheism, paganism and satanism have had their roots from certain scriptures..." 12 Presumably, the author is not referring to ancient polytheistic religions because various cultures from Babylon to Rome had religious writings. He might possibly be referring to  Aboriginal religions, which typically use an oral tradition.

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Examples:

To show the wide variety of meanings attributed to the word "Paganism," we will create a context file below. It will consist of quotations from various news sources in which the term is used. We started this list on 2000-OCT-25, and only have two entries to date:

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Paganism = secularization + New Age religion, + politically liberal thinking + others: 
According to U.S. Newswire:
The National Clergy Council and Operation Save Our Nation have scheduled for 2000-OCT-28 a "Jericho March" of 100 religious "intercessors" around Capitol Hill and the White House. President of the Council, the Rev. Rob Schenck said: "The concept behind this Jericho March is to 'tear down' the walls of the new 'Washington Paganism' -- the secularization, New Ageism and postmodern amoralism -- epitomized in the Clinton-Gore Administration, in the morally weak leadership in the Congress, and in the liberal members of the Supreme Court." 

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Paganism = ancient polytheists: According to John Silber writing in the Boston Herald:
"This opposition [to Christmas trees], then and now, rests on a recognition of the pagan origin of the Christmas tree. Indeed, as columnist Kimberley Strassel has noted in The Wall Street Journal, the Prophet Jeremiah specifically condemned as pagan the practice of cutting down trees, bringing them inside and decorating them." 14

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Paganism = Non-Abrahamics:
According to a Pagan news service:
"Vatican officials have labeled Europe a "Pagan country." The comment was prompted by a statistic from Austria that 43,632 Austrians formally renounced their Roman Catholic affiliation in 1999, whereas only 3,387 joined the Church.

 

Conclusions:

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Most Internet references to Paganism refer to Wiccans and other Neopagans.

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Conservative Christians generally use the term Pagan to refer to ancient Polytheistic religions that adversely affected Christianity.

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Other meanings of "Paganism" appear to be rarely used in contemporary literature.

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Recommendations:

We recommend that the terms "Pagan" and "Paganism" never be used in speech or written form, unless:

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They are precisely defined in advance, or

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A known and homogenous audience is being addressed.

Otherwise mass confusion will occur. Even if it is carefully defined, listeners or readers' interpretation of the text will probably be distorted. They will carry over some of the baggage associated with their own definition of "Pagan." In place of "Pagan," we suggest that you use the actual name of the religious group that you are referring to: (e.g. Animism, Asatru, Buddhism, Druidism, Hinduism, Native American Spirituality, Wicca, etc.) to avoid ambiguity.

The term "Neopagan" has a unique definition and can be used without confusion among those who know its meaning. However, not everyone is aware of what it means.

 

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References:

  1. Rob Tucker, IPCA REPORT (Spring 1989) Volume 2 #1. P. 8 The Institute for the Prevention of Child Abuse, 25 Spadina Rd, Toronto ON M5R 2S9, Canada.
  2. McDowell & Stewart, "THE OCCULT", Here's Life Publishers, (1992) P. 199.
  3. Sharon Rufus, "WHO ARE THE WITCHES?", Fate (1986 AUG), P. 59: quoted by Nelson Price in "NEW AGE, THE OCCULT AND LION COUNTRY", Power Books (1989), P. 98:
  4. From speeches delivered at the Bioethics in the New Millennium conference, Deerfield IL., 2000-JUL-22. Reported by Jordan Lite in "Bioethicists Man the Pulpit," Wired News, at: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/
  5. "Pagan sun worship and Catholicism: The Pagan sun wheel, the obelisk and Baal," Michael Scheifler's Bible Light Home Page, at: http://www.aloha.net/~mikesch/wheel.htm#palm 
  6. The Google search engine has indexed 1.06 billion web pages. See: http://www.google.com/ 
  7. The Goshen search engine appears to be the largest of the conservative Christian search engines. See: 
  8. Steve Hancock, "Who says Christmas is wrong?" at: http://web.wt.net/~darty/xmas.htm
  9. David Keating, "Boo...Who?," at: http://www.osiem.org/community/editorials/boo.htm 
  10. Rev. Paul Howden, "Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, 2000," at: http://www.stlukesrec.org/sermons00/annunc00.html 
  11. Mykel Trahan, "Mary can't save: Exposing the lies behind the 'Queen of Heaven'," at: http://mypage.goplay.com/sgirl/ 
  12. David Rivera, "Controlled by the calendar: The Pagan origins of our major holidays," at: http://members.tripod.com/
  13. Hj. Jalaludeen, "Insight to Religions," at:  http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/2571/
  14. John Silber, "Anti-Christmas stance isn't rooted in fact," Boston Herald, 2000-DEC-28. See: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/
  15. "PFAW President, Ralpy G. Neas, Addresses Divisive Comments by Religious Right Leaders," People for the American Way, at: http://www.pfaw.org/news/press//2001-09-13.320.phtml
  16. James J. O'Donnell, "PAGANUS," Classical Folia 31(1977) 163-69. Online at: http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/
  17. C. Mohrmann, "Encore une fois: paganus," Études sur le latin des chrétiens (Rome, 1958-1965), 3.277-289; orig. pub. in Vigiliae Christianae, 6 (1952), 109-121. Quoted in Ref. 16.
  18. "Definition: pagan," Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary, at: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/