There are myriads of them. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. They are believed seriously by the faithful. Of course I’m talking about religions. Scholars have been inclined to focus on the “big five” or “six” or “seven,” depending on how you count them, but each of those has sects—some with unbelievable numbers of them. Christianity alone has somewhere in the region of 40,000 denominations. I tend to think of them as different religions. A snake handler has very little in common with the Pope, for instance. Celtic Reconstuctionism is a smaller religion, but it has a very clear idea of what it is. The group-written CR FAQ, originally a web document, is a question-and-answer format explanation of this particular set of believers. It’s fascinating to read.
One thing that immediately stands out is that these are very intelligent and deliberate folks. They are scholarly, sincere, and clear about what they’re trying to do. Believing that ancient Celtic religions (for again, there are many) can be reconstructed and refitted for modern use, they learn the languages, read the books, look at the archaeological evidence, and critically engage with other modern religions that borrow from Celtic culture. Indeed, the inauthenticity of some recent religions’ use of Celtic elements led to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism. The CR community is well aware that there are other Celtic revival religions. This particular sect strikes me as among the better informed regarding the origins of their religion. Most modern Christians have some vague idea how their empire got started, but they tend to be weak on the details.
Religions have sometimes been deliberately crafted, going back to antiquity. Zoroastrianism, as far as we can tell, was an attempt by Zarathustra to avoid the pitfalls of indigenous Persian religions. He wanted an ordered, systematic belief system. As measured in years it was certainly successful. It is the world’s oldest continually practiced formal religion. Both eastern and western religious traditions were influenced by it. CR is an attempt to live a Celtic religion as if its development hadn’t been interrupted. Obviously, Christianization of the Celts was a major disruption, but it wasn’t an obliteration. Most religions manage to survive in the colonizing faith. Groups worshipping ancient Greek, Norse, Canaanite, and Celtic gods are thriving. Aware that things have changed, they find value in the pre-Christian religions of their heritage. If CR is anything to go by, they do so inclusively and thoughtfully. And for those who wish to learn more, they leave written records.