Church of Nature in the Woods

Do Pagans Believe in the Concept of Sin?

Sometimes when people come to Paganism from another religion, they find it hard to shed some of the morals of that other belief system. It's not uncommon for people new to a non-Christian path to question whether or not the notion of "sin" is a valid one. Let's look at a couple of different aspects of sin.

First, the definition of "sin" is, according to Websters Dictionary, "a transgression of divine law." It can also be "a reprehensible or regrettable act." However, let's focus on the first definition.

To have the concept of sin in a Pagan belief system, then, one must assume that (a) the Pagan Gods have a set of unified inviolable laws and that (b) they actually care if we break those laws. However, this is not typically the case, because frequently in Pagan religion, the duty of mortals is not to blindly follow the laws of the Gods. Instead, our job is to honour the Gods while accepting responsibility for our own actions. Because of this, many Pagans believe that there is simply no room for the idea of sin within a Pagan theological framework, saying that it is strictly a Christian construct. Others believe that if you violate the rules of the Gods -- whoever they may be --- you are committing a sinful act, whether you call it that or by some other terminology. 

That having been said, let's look at some of the things which are often considered "sinful" by non-Pagan faiths:

Sex outside of marriage: Pagan and Wiccan faiths tend to be pretty accepting of sexuality -- after all, many Pagan belief systems are rooted in fertility religions. The norm among Pagans is to say, "We don't care who you have sex with or how often or in what ways, as long as everyone is a consenting adult and you behave responsibly." Polyamory (see section below) tends to be more accepted by the Pagan community as a whole than it is by non-Pagans.

Homosexuality: Again, most Pagans don't feel it's their business who you're sleeping with. If that person happens to have the same plumbing as you do, it's really not a big deal.

Abortion: This goes back to the notion of personal responsibility. While many Pagans are in favour of a woman's reproductive rights, not all are. However, you'll find that the prevailing attitude among Wiccans and Pagans involves taking responsibility for one's own sexual behaviour, birth control, and any possible results of sexual activity.

Taking the name of God in vain: There are a few , if any, Pagan deities that are concerned about this. It seems to be a uniquely Judeo-Christian problem, and doesn't appear to spill over into Pagan spirituality.

Finally, Christianity includes the notion of a doctrine called "original sin," which states that because of the sins of Adam, all of mankind is doomed to be born in a state of sin, whether they've done bad things or not.

So -- what does that mean, as far as the idea of Pagans and sin? Well, you may come to believe that sin is a Christian construct, and therefore doesn't apply to Pagans. Or you may find that your beliefs include the concept of sin, but worked into a Pagan framework. Ultimately, what matters most is that you find a way to remain true to your own values and ethics.

Pagans and Polyamory

Because Pagans and Wiccans are pretty liberal-minded when it comes to bedroom-related stuff, it's not uncommon to find people in the Pagan community who are part of a Polyamorous relationship. Before we get into the whys and hows, though, let's clear up a few definitions so we're all on the same page:

Polygamy is NOT the same as Polyamory. Polygamy is found in cultures all over the world, but in the Western world it's often linked to fringe religious groups. Most Polygamist groups that receive publicity in North America and the United Kingdom are heterosexual, religious based organizations that promote marriage between an older male and multiple younger females. In these situations, the wives are not permitted to have any sort of sexual relationship with anyone other than their husband, and the man's word is LAW. However, these are not the only kind of Polygamist groups; there are some in which marriages are only made between consenting adults. The second group, in which everyone consents, typically is forced to keep their Polygamous relationships secret, because of fears that they will be lumped in with the fringe groups who prey on underage girls in the name of religion.

Polyamory, on the other hand, is not related to marriage at all, although it's not uncommon to find polyamorous people who have had a commitment ceremony with one or more of their partners. Polyamory means a group of three or more people who have loving and committed relationships with one another. Open communication between all parties prevents anyone from feeling unequal, and both male and female partners make sure that any boundaries are set ahead of time.

Again, Pagans and Wiccans tend to be very open minded and liberal about their sexuality, which is why you may encounter Polyamorous groups at public Pagan events or even within your own Coven or tradition. It's hard to describe a traditional Polyamorous relationship, however, because by its very nature, polyamory is non-traditional. It may consist of members who are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or a combination of all three. Some poly relationships have what they consider the "primary" couple, followed by "secondary" partners. Really, it all depends on how the people involved wish to structure things. Here are a few examples of ways a poly relationship could work:

A. John and Mary are the primary couple. John is straight, but Mary is bisexual. They invite Laura into their life. Laura, who is bisexual, has a relationship with John and a relationship with Mary.

B. John and Mary are the primary couple, and they're both straight. Laura joins them, and she's straight too. She has a sexual relationship with john, but her relationship to Mary is an emotional but non-sexual one.

C. John and Mary are the primary couple, and they're both straight. Mary has a relationship with Scott, and John has a relationship with Scott's wife, Susan. Scott, who is bisexual, has a relationship with Tim, but not with John.

D. Any other combination you can think of.

It's important to recognize that Polyamory is not the same as swinging. In swinging, the primary focus is recreational sex. For Polyamorous groups, the relationships are emotional and loving, as well as sexual. A certain amount of effort is required to keep everyone happy. If you're married, think about how much work you and your spouse have to do to keep each other happy. Now multiply that by the number of people in a Poly relationship -- not only do John and Mary have to work on their relationship, but they each have to work on having a loving relationship with Laura, Scott, Susan, or anyone else who happens to be involved.