I recently had a stimulating conversation with a Christian who wanted to understand animism. What is animism? Is there a God? What does that look like? How can I relate to Jesus from an animist perspective? She basically wanted to know if she could be a Christian animist.
It was illuminating to me to see the areas of disconnection and concern. I want to share because I think it can help those who grew up with a Judeo-Christian background to rule it in or out as a spiritual path. It can also help to create connections between Christians and animists.
Keep in mind that I am not speaking as the spokesperson for animism. There are many different ways that this is experienced – even within Pan Society. Feel free to adapt it.
Do Animists Believe in God?
Yes. No. Maybe. The existence of God is not of central concern in animism. Everything is sacred. It doesn’t matter to us our practitioners believe in God or not. It’s more about recognizing the sacredness in everything.
What is God?
Most of life makes sense. Nature has logic. If you have the eyes to see it, we see the cycles in Nature and how things are inter-related.
However, some things are inexplicable. And there are things that we are powerless against and we need help. For that, we have the God or the gods. We appeal to the gods in times of uncertainty and when we need help. We reach out to something bigger than us to help support us. The gods help us to keep our sense of belonging and order when we lose all reason to keep the faith. When we don’t understand things, we can let go of our need to control or know by assigning them to the will of the gods.
Is Ancestor Worship Like Worshiping Idols or Gods?
“Ancestor worship” is not an accurate term. “Ancestor veneration” is better. This describes the practice of remembering and honoring our roots. It’s a way to acknowledge that we came from the spirit world and will return there. We are still connected to those in our family line. This allows them to watch out for us. It’s reciprocal.
Do Demons or the Devil Exist?
If the devil is an evil force who compels you to do bad things so he can steal your soul, no. That doesn’t exist. I don’t know about demons. There are many things that are unexplained. Perhaps. Perhaps fairies, aliens, leprechauns, ghosts, the thin man, pixies, brownies, kelpies, werewolves, and gryphons exist.
Is There Sin in Animism?
No. Sin is “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” We are responsible for our actions, but we don’t tend to see things as moral vs. immoral. We also don’t tend to see some things as divine law. Nature has a flow that makes things work well. We can choose to go against it, but when you feel connected to everything, you feel the impact of going against it because you’re moving against yourself. So we tend not to.
Not having sin doesn’t give us a “pass.” We still have to deal with the repercussions of our mistakes.
Do Heaven and Hell Exist?
I think most animists either take a “no” stance on this or an “I don’t know. I will deal with my earthly life while I am in the flesh and my spiritual life when I am in spirit.”
Many animists have a relationship with the spirit world through their ancestors, so it tends to not be a scary place. Most of us see it as a transition to a different way of being that is quite natural. So there is a great deal of trust in life and in death.
Is There a Confession?
The Sacrament of Penance is the process by which people confess their sins to a priest to have them forgiven by God. We don’t have sins, so there is no need to confess. We do have purification rituals. These can be done alone or in community. Menstruation is a woman’s natural monthly cleansing process. Purification is also done before rituals, when returning to the community after military battle, when coming in contact with the spirit realm, after birth, after handling the dead, before burial, or at any time that “pollution” has occurred.
What Happens to “Bad” People?
The ideas of modern animism are based in the a belief of complementary duality. This means that light needs dark. Masculine and feminine are inseparable partners. Yin always flows with Yang. So there is no battle between good and evil. We aren’t stamping out wickedness to reach a place of everlasting Light. It doesn’t exist in this realm.
So when “bad” people die, they transition just like everyone else. That might seem unfair, but nobody get a pass. When a soul takes on the role of “bad guy,” they have to bear the pain of separation from the whole. It can be hard to find their way back into the Light.
Can I Still Believe in Jesus and Be an Animist?
There are many animist Christians. Some animist communities are influenced by Christian missionaries. Christian teachings filter into their beliefs and practices. Some Christians adopt animism and create an intermingling of ideas in that way.
Everyone is welcome at Pan Society. There is room for diversity of thought and practices.
Are you a Christian animist? What about just an animist? Do you have different thoughts? Questions? Put them in the comments so that we can see other perspectives. There is a lot of room for other thoughts on these questions.