… from my last post.
So as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I have been looking at Paganism. Not exactly unexplored territory for me, but I haven’t discussed it on this blog. Years and years ago, when I was a whiney teenager (as opposed to a whiney adult), I was absolutely enthralled by Wicca. After about a year (sound familiar?) I realized it wasn’t for me and resigned myself to agnosticism. I never expected to look back… but here we are.
Now, let me clarify: I don’t plan to convert to Wicca. I still don’t think its right for me. But Paganism and Wicca are not actually the same thing, although the terms are often used as if they are. Wicca is a tradition-based religion, with its own moral code, deities, mythology, dogma, etc. Paganism (at least as the term is used these days) is kind of an umbrella term referring loosely to nature-oriented, typically polytheistic, quasi-historically/mythologically-based belief systems. Often, but not always, Goddess-worship is involved, and the feminine is honored. So, Wicca could also be called Paganism, but not all Pagans are Wiccans. Some Pagan traditions are very, very modern (although some claim grand and ancient origins – often with little actual historical backup) and some are Reconstructionist, as in they try to reconstruct the practices and worldview of pre-modern religions, with varying degrees of genuine scholarship. Some Pagan traditions only have one follower: the practitioner who creates their own tradition.
Thats right! Many Pagans create their own tradition, usually sharing a lot in common with Wicca and other Pagan faiths, borrowing bits from religions and cultures as they see fit. These are usually referred to as Eclectic traditions. And I really like the word “eclectic”. So, inspired by a recent list by Candice, here is a list of things I might fit into a self-created belief system:
1) Panentheism; One God who is part of and yet transcends everything. The very deepest core of us, every one of us, IS God, so God is never far away and we are never truly alone. Sometimes our various human frailties obscure our divinity even from ourselves, make it harder to find, but it will always be there.
2) Agnosticism (the above is my personal theory, but it’s only a theory. At the end of the day, I can’t prove anything); There is more about God and the universe than any of us can possibly fully understand… but that doesn’t mean we stop trying! And even if we get really, really good at trying, we can’t assume we have the only right answer. Also, I don’t believe God has a gender or a human face, but I also don’t think its wrong to anthropomorphize our idea of God as way of reaching God, as long as we realize that WE are creating that image, and God is not limited to that one idea.
3) Nature is God/God’s creation; Nature is a gift to us, to itself, to everything, and should be respected. Seeing God in the multiplicity of nature is just as valid as seeing God as the ultimate father figure. Humanity is part of nature, and therefore what we do is, by definition, natural. That doesn’t mean its good! But neither is a volcano if you’re standing on it. Humans have a responsibility to measure the consequences of modernity, but modernity is not inherently evil. (e.i., I likes my internet, vaccinations, toilet paper, deodorant, etc.). I don’t think we should keep raping the Earth, but I don’t think becoming cave-people is really viable either.
4) I was born this way and God makes no mistakes; yes, I totally just quoted Lady Gaga. Nothing about my body is evil, dirty, wrong or otherwise inferior. It is a little overweight, but that’s on me. The fact that it has boobs and bleeds on a schedule is not a moral failing. It would not be better or worse if it had been a male body – it just is. Naked, clothed, sore from work, play, or lovin’: my body is yet another gift and nothing can make it “unclean” (except maybe actual dirt, I guess, but that washes off).
5) Life is for living; I don’t believe my existence will end here, but I don’t think that means I should spend this life focusing all my energy on the next one, which I really can’t know anything about (but have I do have theories). Finding meaning in the mundane is just as important as finding it in grand spiritual quests, and probably more practical too! And thats really what I want: To wake up everyday and feel God as I go about my daily life. I want God to be as welcome in my kitchen as on a pristine mountaintop or an ornate temple.
Ok, this is not nearly long enough, and its pretty vague. Its a preliminary list, ok?
I like lists.
Anyway, I kind of like the idea of a custom-built religion, and Paganism still offers the sense of a framework, even if its a very, VERY tenuous one. Plus, I’m not required to abandon what I’ve learned about Islam. Some Pagans even cover their heads/hair for religious reasons! There is a lot of common ground there in the rituals too. And while I don’t think any particular ritual carries God’s stamp of approval, I do think they are important.
On a semi-unrelated note: my work schedule will soon be changing and I will actually be able to start attending a church! Yay! I am torn between the local UU Fellowship and local Society of Friends Meeting House. There’s a lot to like about the Quakers. I’m thinking of trying out both and just sticking with the one that feels right, or simply rotating if they both are great.