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October 2nd, 2010
03:47 PM ET

Britain recognizes Druidry as religion for first time, gives it charitable status

CNN's Phil Gast filed this report:

Britain recognized Druidry, an ancient belief that worships deities that take different forms in nature, as a religion for the first time and gave it charitable status on Saturday.

"There is a sufficient belief in a supreme being or entity to constitute a religion for the purposes of charity law," declared the Charity Commission for England and Wales in response to the Druid Network's application.

The decision will give the neo-pagan religion, known for its cloaked worshippers at Stonehenge (above, in 1999) and other sites, tax advantages and is expected to lead to broader acceptance.

"This has been a long hard struggle taking over five years to complete," said the Druid Network, which is based in England, in a statement on its website.

In some ways, Druidry in Britain is catching up to Druids and other neo-pagans in the United States, which already provides tax-exempt status for religious groups, said Marty Laubach, Associate Professor of Sociology at Marshall University.

The British commission noted that Druidry "is animistic and based on a belief that everything has a spiritual dimension." It also said that the religion recognizes deities within nature and conducts worship ceremonies.

The Druid Network, which has about 350 members, sought charitable status for "the advancement of religion for public benefit and no other purpose," the commission said in its ruling.

Druidry has no asserted dogma, the network said in its application. It added that members associate their gods with the moon, fertility, rain, love and other forces.

Druids were members of the learned class among ancient Celts, acting as priests, judges and teachers. They performed human and animal sacrifices and worshiped in forests in western Europe, Britain and Ireland.

Neo-pagan groups are growing in the United States, the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found.

Such groups include Druids and Wiccans, along with voodoo and other belief systems, Laubach said.

"It's a quintessentially American religion in that it is a highly individualistic religion," Laubach said of neo-paganism.

Marshall, in Huntington, West Virginia, allows students to miss classes to observe pagan and other religious holidays.

Neo-pagans seek to communicate with spirits, but witchcraft is not Satanic because its believers don't recognize the Satan of Christianity, Judaism or Islam, Laubach said.

Many people look at Satanic worshippers and neo-pagans "as a bunch of people dancing in the forest" without realizing the distinction, said Douglas E. Cowan, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

"We often tend to be demonized," said Laubach, a member of the neo-pagan movement, indicating Britain's decision is a "form of legitimacy."

Neo-pagans tend to be sensitive to the environment, with many rituals held outside, said Cowan and Laubach.

"They realize we are part of a living system," said Cowan.

"There is a huge festival movement," Laubach added. "The earth is the mother that supports us."

Britain's Druid Network says public misconceptions about some of its practices persist.

"While sacrifice is a core notion within most spiritual traditions, within Druidry it is confused by historical accounts of the killing of both human and animal victims," the network said in its application to the British commission. "No such practice is deemed acceptable within modern Druidry."

"What is sacrificed within the tradition today," the application says, "is that which we value most highly in life and hold to with most passion: time, security, certainty, comfort, convenience, ignorance and the like."

Modern pagans may not be as restrictive on issues such as sex as other religions "but [their] groups evolve social controls," Cowan said.

"You've got people bringing their kids to events," he said.

Cowan said it's not clear if the growth of Druidry - which he calls nowhere near as influential as the rapid growth of Christian Pentacostalism and Islam - is the rekindling or reinvention of the faith.

Regardless, Druids in Britain, unlike their North American counterparts, don't feel as marginalized by mainstream Christianity, he said.

"They have done the most to bridge the gap between Christian and non-Christian groups in Britain," Cowan said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Druids • Europe • Paganism • United Kingdom

soundoff (829 Responses)
  1. fireybuddha

    any one individual or group of individuals thinking they "know" the mind of god is as laughable as an ant thinking it understands the theory of relativity.

    not.

    October 2, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • shecky

      disproving god as a totality is easy. here's what you do. you say 'god +1 =? oh .... more than god, yeah. so if 'god' isnt in fact 'all' then why should you place 100% of your belief in him/her/it? his/her/its lack of completeness shows not only a flaw, but an ignorance. ignorance is not intelligence. theism says god is intelligent. i question whether god even 'is'. his/her/it's lack of answer is answer enough for this human. move onto something relevant, that you can effect a change on, that you can improve.

      October 2, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  2. Robert

    Ask not what your druid can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your druid.

    October 2, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  3. mar live

    hey romans lets go back to the dark ages where your priests can tell us the world is flat,the earth is the center everything,and if we question you we can be pureified.

    October 2, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  4. Guest

    "Funny, she doesn't look Druish."

    October 2, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  5. Raven

    This Question is for Shecky "Common sense assumes knowledge of repeatable observable reality."

    Let me ask, what to you believe. Do you believe in a God? God's? The Spirit Realm
    Let me know plain and simple
    I'm a Christian. What do you believe?
    [rayf]

    October 2, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
    • shecky

      a belief in what you call 'plain and simple' is 'reductionist' to the extreme 🙂

      October 2, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  6. MathIsUniversal

    I say why not. There are people out there who believe that if you don't worship a zombie the right way, you have to spend eternity in some kind of bad theme park. How is that less stupid than worshiping tree spirits? Remember, the only difference between a religion and a cult is success. A religion is a cult that was successful in drawing in large numbers of members and thus enjoys certain legal benefits.

    October 2, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  7. cardinal diddler

    How nice. They worship rocks. And trees. The rest of us just worship money.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
    • CatholicAvenger

      Money has poisoned humanity

      October 2, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  8. pederastpope

    How nice. They worship trees. And rocks.

    The rest of society worships money.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
    • shecky

      worshiping money is considered evil in theistic religion.

      October 2, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  9. The_Mick

    "Britain recognized Druidry, an ancient belief system that believes nature is its supreme being, as a religion for the first time and gave it charitable status on Saturday." Druidry WAS a belief system in ancient times. The modern so-called "Druidry" is a nearly completely fabricated religion with virtually NOTHING ancient about it because we know very little of what the ancient religion actually practiced except for some by-the-way type comments in the writings of Julius Caesar and others. These neo-pagans are simply borrowing the name Druids and dressing up in Hollywood-style ancient costumes that most like would not be recognized by the real ancients.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • shecky

      there is nothing fabricated about a belief in nature. it is quite provably repeatable, and observable.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Would those nascent Christian of the 1st century recognize the Mega-Churches of today? Would they view the Catholic Church as it is as kin to their own beliefs? I suspect that those who style themselves as Druids today expend far more effort to learn what little is known about their spiritual ancestors than do modern Christians.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
    • shecky

      i also have it on good authority that the 'costumes' are warm in windy weather, which is also a feature of nature. whether ancient humans would recognize them is irrelevant. ancient humans would also not recognize a suit and tie.

      October 2, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
    • shecky

      accusing another religion of borrowing thought borders on heresy, no matter which aspect of their dress you are considering. theism promotes certain thoughts as free to believe in, the individuals involved in theism did not originate these thoughts. this is a facet of borrowing.

      October 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • shecky

      off the cuff remarks by Julius Ceasar are at lest contemporary to the druids of history, yours are not.

      October 2, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Steve

      The article isn't talking about a belief in nature. It's talking about a fabricated modern religion. Mick is right.

      October 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
    • shecky

      @ Steve
      feel free to define 'Fabricated' as I am certain it will not affect anyone who reads and believes in that 100% factual compilation known as The Holy Bible

      October 2, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
    • shecky

      i am having a very difficult time relating the word fabricated to the word nature. nature is at its core, quite self eveident.

      October 2, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • shecky

      'fabricated' on the other hand relates very easily to other descriptive words such as monetary economy, accepted theistic religion, establishment, non-compliance, and (if you ask congress) retarded.

      October 2, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  10. Collin Co

    I want you to get a picture of this in your head: For His returning we watch and we pray. Come let us sing a song a song declaring we belong to JESUS. He's all we need. Lift up a heart of praise, sing now with voices raised. We will be ready the dawn of that day. We'll join with all the redeemed because Satan is vanquished and Jesus is KING !!

    October 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • shecky

      so if jesus is 'king' this must mean he is genetically descended from that other king guy in the sky? i know kings gain their power through genetic similarity to their forbears.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  11. Kannan

    This is renaissance for Hinduism. Revival of polytheistic religions is needed in today's world to suppress the nonsense of Aggressive monotheistic belief.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • shecky

      your statement is beneficial in some regards. applying a significance value to belief is important. belief is, when judged by common sense, less significant than provable fact.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
  12. Ruspanic

    Druids? AWESOME.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  13. Yzma

    Can't be any worse – and certainly it's less destructive – than other religions.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
    • shecky

      less destructive could be applied to the sliding scale of 'good' deeds. or negatively 'evil' deeds lol, which do you prefer.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  14. yay

    Yay for the British!

    October 2, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
  15. Mike

    The nice men in white coats will take to to a nice calm place, just relax.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  16. GJ

    Next we will be worshipping the SNOWMAN and that will be a recognized religion as well.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  17. Mike

    Seems logical. Why not? It is no more or less plausible than any other religion or set of myth based beliefs.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  18. fanta

    And some of those druid numbskulls are still in power.....no wonder Britain is now regarded like a third World Country !

    October 2, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  19. Raven

    I was introduced to witchcraft by my mother at the age of 10. We, the coven, practiced Gardenarian Wicca. When I gave my
    life to Jesus Christ at the age of 16, I finally could think for myself. It's hard to completely explain my experience in witchcraft
    here in this forum. But I can tell you that Lucifer is not the horned, forked tail image of Hollywood. The Bible describes him as
    The Anointed, The Angel of Light and the Son of the Dawn. Think about it. Eve was not tempted with something evil. She
    was tempted with a good thing that God created. Lucifer also quoted correct scripture when he tempted Jesus in the desert.
    Lucifer's greatest tools is deception, pride, disobedience. Lucifer didn't come to establish a religion and neither did Jesus.
    What matters to both of them is souls. Listen, you need to understand that Lucifer doesn't just use overtly evil things to tempt
    you. All he want's is the human race to deny Jesus Christ the Son of God. Why do you think that Christianity and it's linage
    are more often attacked. It's common sense. [former 2nd degree witch – Ray F]

    October 2, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
    • shecky

      @ Raven "The Bible describes him as
      The Anointed, The Angel of Light and the Son of the Dawn. Think about it. Eve was not tempted with something evil. She
      was tempted with a good thing that God created. Lucifer also quoted correct scripture when he tempted Jesus in the desert.
      Lucifer's greatest tools is deception, pride, disobedience. Lucifer didn't come to establish a religion and neither did Jesus.
      What matters to both of them is souls. Listen, you need to understand that Lucifer doesn't just use overtly evil things to tempt
      you. All he want's is the human race to deny Jesus Christ the Son of God. Why do you think that Christianity and it's linage
      are more often attacked. It's common sense. [former 2nd degree witch – Ray F]"
      okay, i follow your dialogue. what i do not follow is how your figure pride is not equal on both satan and jesus' side, in your description. neither side is willing to observe a third point of view, this seems in my estimation to be due to pride.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
    • shecky

      common sense assumes knowledge of repeatable observable reality. you do not portray this repeatable observable quality. satanists are persecuted perhaps more than christians are, even though they are fewer in total number.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:42 pm |
    • shecky

      @ raven i apologize for the fact the pure good does not exists at any location in our observable realm. i am trying to bring our observable realm into a less 'evil' state, through common sense. common sense dictates that all states are measured on a sliding scale, and that scale extends into infinity, pure evil or good do not, under 'common sense' rules exist.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
    • Raven

      Your still not understanding. It's exactly what Lucifer what's you to contemplate. Maybe there is a third way or a forth way. Or
      maybe this present existence is all a dream. The whole idea behind Lucifer is to contemplate, "If you eat you shall not surly die,
      for God knows that if you do you will be as God's." Lucifer want's us to reason with our God given privileged of free will and to
      use it against us. Like how the terrorist are using our freedoms in the US against us. Am i making sense. The whole idea is for
      you to deny Christ. That's it. Lucifer doesn't even care if you go to church, just don't believe. [rayf]

      October 2, 2010 at 9:48 pm |
    • Raven

      "Common sense assumes knowledge of repeatable observable reality."

      Let me ask, what to you believe. Do you believe in a God? God's? The Spirit Realm
      Let me know plain and simple
      I'm a Christian. What do you believe?

      October 2, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  20. Steve

    The Druids were part of a pre-literate society. These people are social rejects playing Dungeons-and-Dragons and seeking a peer group.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:12 pm |
    • shecky

      you are ignorant of reality. none of these individuals have ever asked to accompany me on a D&D mission, nor have i found any evidence that they have neglected to invite me along on theirs.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
    • shecky

      also, i encourage you to state one complete english sentance that is completely objective that does not include any subjective referent. you may do this to myself, no one else will look, promise.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • Steve

      "The Druids were part of a pre-literate society." Missed that, did you? Information about them is second-hand and uncertain. In popular lore they are associated with social power, MAGIC (power), and the mystery of the unknown (secret power). All things that disenfranchised people seek. It's a rebel yell with distinct tones of holier-than-thou. Modern Druidism, Wicca, other neo-pagan movements, and even Satanism, all draw on a similar social vein within similar social groups. They all say, "that's not how it is today". In other words, they are making it up. Fantasy role playing.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
    • Jonny

      Druids couldn't write so they couldn't have any meaningful beliefs or values? Contemporary Druids, by identifying with these people, are therefore socially maladjusted? Interesting theory...

      October 3, 2010 at 3:45 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.