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. Unknown

    As long as they don't force their beliefs down my throat, I'm good with it

    October 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  2. Latuf Tak

    What took so long? We believe in immaculate conception, based on "blind faith" – why not Druidism?

    October 3, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  3. Roy

    @CNN: Pentecostalism*

    October 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  4. Privacy

    I really wish that people would keep their mental and "spiritual" orgasms to themselves... why are the religious so drawn to doing this stuff in public?

    October 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  5. Gnome

    I'm a gnome.

    October 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  6. Gnome

    I'm a gnome!

    October 3, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  7. Catie

    Oh my goodness. Some of these posts are hysterical.
    Gumby, you are so angry. Sad

    October 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  8. Margaret

    People, hemp is a plant, not a tree.

    October 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
  9. Muneef

    Just do not understand how a man supposed to prove the existence of God? Other than seeing how perfect the creation is that proves that this only could have been done by a creator only and not by mere chance. The second proof is what has God landed to us by the Holy Book miracles which is found out every day by science that only proves that this Holy Book is of God and that God exist and that is enough for us to believe but for some they would want to see God? Well ok you will see him on the judgment day but then it would be to late no turning back to correct things and thoughts?

    October 3, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Muneef: Congratulations! You are the winner of the daily "Holy Trinity of Appologetics" award! Your post contained an arguement from assumption, (only a creator could have made the universe), a circular argument (the bible is proof that god exists because the bible is the word or god), and then wrapped it up with a condecending threat (judgement day). Your position is weak. Your logic is flawed. If you cannot explain your belief system with logic and evidence, you are allowed to say that it just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You don't need to threaten others who don't share your beliefs. You need to try harder if you want to be taken seriously.

      October 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Eric G.
      Was not threatening at all was saying that this is the only chance where humans have to face God although we are told humans will not be able to see him because of the light he is. The only time that God was asked to show him self it was during the Prophet Moses time after the exudes from Misr. That was when Moses followers insisted on him to show them God in order they believe him, so he went with them to a mountain and spoke to God about the need of his people, so God told him well ok I will land to you only if the mountain was able to hold me, so God only landed his toe on the tip of the mountain which resulted in mountain shaking as in earthquake where all those and Moses had dead because of that the God brought them back to life and told them that he cannot be seen and if a toe of him land on earth it will destroy it and all life on it. Now how or what logic to be used to prove existence of God? OK, maybe those spirituals are very sensitive and capable of feeling existence not like those of material world who want to see and touch to believe?

      October 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Muneef: Well, you said it yourself.... "we are told". I agree that you cannot provide any verifiable evidence to prove the existence of your god. Can you provide any verifiable evidence to prove that the myth you referenced in your post was a factual event? How about evidence to prove any other story in your holy book?

      October 3, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Eric Y.
      When I said we were told I meant by that the Quran and the stories of Prophets.
      The only way for me to convince you that the Quran is the Holy Book of God and therefore God exist if you are serious about finding out and believing is by administrating to you the Quran miracles vs Science discoveries. Agree? Otherwise have no other thing to convince you or what ever I say, you will never be convinced, then that must be because you are not ready for God to accept you? So just beg the Creator God to Guide you and open your ears,eyes,heart and mind for the signs of Guidance. God Bless.

      October 3, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Eric G.  
      Here you are:

      October 3, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Eric G.

      October 3, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Muneef: From one of your links: "Souls that form our conscious and distinguish humans from non-humans, conscious and non-conscious, sleeping and awaking surely exist." This is logically flawed on several levels. First and foremost is the assumption that a soul "surely exists" without providing any evidence to support the theory. Second is another assumption that the soul forms our conscious. The author will need to provide evidence that a soul exists before he can attribute any actions or reactions to it. In other words, you cannot say that a soul does anything until you can prove it exists. You seem to be a person of strong faith. Please believe if it makes you happy and a better person, but please do not try to proclaim your belief as factual unless you can provide evidence to support your theory. Just because you believe it does not make it fact. Thank you for the links, they were very interesting.

      October 3, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Eric G. Well do not know what you are talking about exactly but can explain that the Spirit is some thing the unborn baby would get while still at the first 40 days or more during body formation. But the soul is some thing else it does not come from out side or from God, the soul is created after birth it is the personality of the person out of which he is made as name,environment ,culture and all those together form the personality the I am or the me.so you see the child is born as body and spirit but the soul becomes to be made after birth during life experiences.
      Actually Quran tells us that those who will be punished by God is the Soul mainly since she is the one that gives orders as to being good or bad and the Jihad is to supress and control the soul from becoming astray, the soul locked up in the body either will enjoy being in Hell or in Paradise depending on what she has done ruing her life time while the spirit being innocent from any actions taken by soul and body she after death will return back to God with out being panished or rewarded since she is part of God blown up to us giving us life only but the choice of path to be followed in life is made by the Soul only thereafter instructing body and parts to proceed on her instructions...! Hope my information will suffice your quest?

      October 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  10. taff

    I wondered why the drums have been sounding at night above Abercwmboi for the last week or so. This tax break couldn't have anything to do with a reward for extending the three day Ryder Cup world wide TV coverage to four days by an unusual outpouring of autumn rain? Bet the Welsh Tourist Board is heart-broken at that extra days publicity with Monday's bathed in sunshine grand finale.

    October 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  11. DarkHelmet

    Awesome, now the British army will have battle rez.

    October 3, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  12. DarkHelmet

    Funny, she doesn't look druish.

    October 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  13. Reality

    The legend of Abraham is buried in the myths of the ancients with no exact proofs. The NY Times reviewer of the New Torah for Modern Minds simply bowed to these many legends. Added comments from the review:

    "Equally striking for many readers will be the essay "Biblical Archaeology," by Lee I. Levine, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "There is no reference in Egyptian sources to Israel's sojourn in that country," he writes, "and the evidence that does exist is negligible and indirect." The few indirect pieces of evidence, like the use of Egyptian names, he adds, "are far from adequate to corroborate the historicity of the biblical account."

    Similarly ambiguous, Mr. Levine writes, is the evidence of the conquest and settlement of Canaan, the ancient name for the area including Israel. Excavations showing that Jericho was unwalled and uninhabited, he says, "clearly seem to contradict the violent and complete conquest portrayed in the Book of Joshua." What's more, he says, there is an "almost total absence of archaeological evidence" backing up the Bible's grand descriptions of the Jerusalem of David and Solomon.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "litany of disillusion" about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    October 3, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  14. Satan

    All religions/Churches should be taxed just like any other business. They pay the select upper staff great salaries and are in business for profit, they operate like a business, elect bill, water bill, budget, salaries, vehicle expenses, building expenses, etc. Pastors of larger churches live in nice homes, drive expensive cars and take wonderful vacations all at the expense of the members who freely donate. I worked for a large church as their accountant and quit because I felt they took advantage of the members that lived poorly and donated everything they had to support people they trusted, but these pastors and staff used them just to live great lives and then would preach guilt to get more money. Religion/Churches are very profitable. Don't let them fool you.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  15. LizardMom

    It disturbs me that many of you are allowed to vote. I keep reading the same poor grammar, & spelling, improper use of words, ignorance, bigotry, name-calling, disrespect, and on and on.... Maybe it would be best if we all did our homework before writing anything so incredibly inappropriate.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:12 am |
  16. Anonymous

    Don't believe the "typical CNN propaganda/LIES"...this is nothing more than DEVIL WORSHIPING! These people worships deities??? These people are DEVIL WORSHIPERS. These people are doing a ritual to summon demons and praise their demons...plain and simple.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:07 am |
  17. LizzyB

    Does it really matter if Druidry is recognized as a religion? Our society puts so much emphasise on Christianity but most Christians truly do not understand the religion they practice, and would rather have someone stand in a pulpit and tell them what is considered right and wrong and how they should conduct themselves.
    I believe in God but not the Dogmas associated with religion.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  18. SureWhyNot

    Nature effects us directly everyday. There's no denying the existence of nature and it's easy to measure the effects. But the biggest problem I have with the Bible is that it was selectively assembled by a Roman Emperor and some priests who had an agenda, and the books of the bible were selected to promote that agenda. It loses authority. I do believe the words of Jesus have great value, but the rest of it is claptrap. But this article is about Druidism, not other religions.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  19. solomonlongseer

    Let us not forget history. Such is the problem with things that come across our attention these days, we forget the history of things. Before the modern religions, the basis for understanding this planet, the universe, and our own inner spaces, were the concepts of what is termed Paganism. Every major religion of today remains based within the understandings of natural spirituality, take the concept of Christmas for just one example. While this blog is related to one form of naturalism, the real facts are that every culture has it own forms of Druidism. It was these connections to the nature of things, and to mankind's interactions within these understandings, that generated the knowledge base for everything we now know about anything. This list of understandings is long, from physics to medicine, from geology to the lineage of man and animals on this planet. Naturalism, which is a better term for such understandings such as Druidism, gave us alchemy, it gave us astrology, it gave us medicine. How are these things bad, or evil in their base conceptions?

    Remember that little thing called history. The Inquisition lasted 400 hundred years, the Crusades brought nothing but torch and sword to others in the name of religion, Hinduism brought the keeping of secrets from those not in the religious loop, or deemed not worthy, and now the Muslim faith brings about terror despite it's clear admonitions against such things. All of these are perversions of the faiths their followers are supposed to represent.

    In stark contrast to the horrors of modern religions, Naturalism has no such stain upon its long and treasured histories, in any culture. I have never read of Druidism putting thousands to the Inquisition just for believing in the possibility that the world was not flat, or the arrogance of man thinking himself the center of the universe. I have never read any history of Druidism blowing up innocent women and children for the idiot possibility that God will let them screw virgins in the afterlife, and I have never heard of Druidism, or any of the elder spiritualistic ways, preaching anything but the unity of man and that which the My-Way-or the-Highway religions have the most difficulty conceding, that God is LOVE. Love has become the hardest thing to accomplish on this planet, and that is the main tenet of Druidism, or any of the natural ways. We should perhaps take a lesson.

    October 3, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  20. PR

    Logic of an ignorant
    Einstein> relativity> human missuge of knowledge> Eisntein is bad

    Tree> source of many good things> human build weapons with it> Tree is bad

    Water> essencial for life> people die in it> Water is bad

    The only exception is gun it is good (defends you against others who have gun) LOL

    Haiti no tragedy> US has black president> Haiti has tragedy> Obama is bad

    October 3, 2010 at 11:04 am |
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About this blog

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.