In the History Channel’s surprisingly successful series, Vikings, there is a scene where Ragnar’s brother Rollo is baptized.

Rollo is baptized for pragmatic reasons much to the amusement of his fellow Vikings who know Rollo has no intention of abandoning the old gods or Viking ways.

The scene reminded me of a historical event known as the Edict of Milan. The Edict of Milan proclaimed religious tolerance for all religions in the Roman Empire in 313 A.D. The edict followed Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Whatever Constantine’s reasons for his conversion (he was only baptized on his death-bed) his conversion stopped the persecutions of Christians and led to the overall Christianizing of the Roman Empire.

See Bruce Shelley’s article on the subject here. The Emperor’s New Religion

Bust of Constantine the Great. revered as St. Constantine among Orthodox Christians.

Bust of Constantine the Great. revered as St. Constantine among Orthodox Christians.

Almost over night people who had been happily pagans “converted” to Christianity. Eventually, the Christianizing extended into Scandinavia and by 1000 A.D. Norway, Denmark and Sweden (homelands to the Vikings) were nominally Christian.

While some were no doubt sincere many more had no intention, like Rollo, of giving up the old gods nor of giving up their old ways. In my estimation Christianity was a layer of something new over something the very old of paganism for Europe as a whole.

The medieval Catholic Church was not unaware of the reality of the situation and at various times accommodated paganism (such as Celtic Samhain or Halloween that became All Saints Day) or worked to eradicate it usually through political means but at times through genuine missionary endeavors.

It’s with all the above in mind that I read World Magazine’s article, Going Pagan.

Going Pagan documents the Church of England’s proposal for attracting the young and unchurched to a “pagan church” with Christian content with the Anglican Church.

The article gives some detail as to what the church would look like. It amounts to a hodge-podge of just about everything from New Age to the old Celtic rituals at Stonehenge. The emphasis is on some sort of spirituality and the goal is really to get some young Britons to join the Anglican Church in a context they can live with.

The reason for the apparent compromise is how Britons self-identify themselves these days.

A recent poll shows that only 25% of young Britons unequivocally affirm a belief in God. This is to be compared with the 38% who said they did not believe in God or any other higher spiritual power (in other words practical atheists).

Furthermore, the number of self-identified pagans more than doubled between 2001 and 2011. Census data in the UK reveals that paganism is the 7th largest religious group in the UK.

Modern day Druid, Celtic priest. Recognized in Britain as clergy.

Modern day Druid, Celtic priest. Recognized in Britain as clergy.

On one hand I think the Church of England’s idea is silly. By choosing to stand for everything they stand for nothing. It’s no wonder that so many Britons see Christianity as a cultural tradition at best rather than a vibrant biblical faith.

On the other hand I rather commend the honesty of the atheists and self-identified pagans many of whom were no doubt baptized into the Church of England as babies. At least they are thinking there should be some sort of meaning behind the label they choose to identify with.

Below are two related videos. In general, paganism and atheism in Europe is on the rise. The first video is from a Viking/Slav festival. The Vikings raided extensively in the Slavic lands of Russia and Poland. The video does not necessarily promote paganism but does celebrate a time in history when the old gods were just as much in evidence as the new Christian God.

The second video appears to be a bit overt about paganism. I believe the language is Polish. I have no idea what they are singing about but I surmise it is some sort of love song that dates back to pagan times. It’s rather a catchy tune I think and the group’s name appears to be Percival Schuttenbach which is a bit confusing since “Schuttenbach” is clearly German. “Schuttenbach is the name of a gnome character in a Polish saga.