A religion that is not a religion
What It Is
Have you ever heard the saying ‘ask ten different people and get ten different answers’? Well that is what will happen when you ask people to define Paganism. It’s true nature has become distorted over the years to the point that it is not easily defined in any shape or form. There are some agreed upon facts though:
- The term Pagan is from the Latin term ‘paganus,’ an adjective originally meaning ‘rural,’ ‘rustic,’ or ‘of the country.’ As a noun, paganus was used to mean ‘country dweller’ or ‘villager.’ In colloquial use, it could mean much the same as calling someone today a ‘bumpkin’ or ‘hillbilly.’
- Paganism is a term which, from a Western perspective, has come to connote a broad set of spiritual or cultic practices or beliefs of any folk religion, of historical and contemporary polytheistic religions in particular.
- Paganism has been previously defined broadly, to encompass many or most of the faith traditions outside the Abrahamic monotheistic group of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. If the Dharmic religions are included, then 50 percent of the worlds religions would be considered pagan.
That’s about as close to the ‘right answer’ as you’ll get. With Paganism there really is no ‘right answer,’ only the truth that goes with all other things: all people are different and they will all see it in a different way. Even Christians will define their faith differently, having a holy book doesn’t change the fact they will all interpret it in their own way.
Now, in the ‘modern world,’ many people would define Paganism as being any religion that shares one or more of the following:
- A belief in multiple deities; be they male, female, or any other form.
- A revival of ancient or ancestral beliefs.
- Animism and a belief in spirits.
- A belief in the soul.
- A sense of equality or brotherhood with other living things.
- A belief that your actions will return to you in kind.
- An observance of the cycles of nature.
Consensus does not make it the norm though; and this page is not about trying to define Paganism, but rather to talk about my personal religion and faith as I see it.
What It Is Not
Many people have a problem with my views on this because, while I list the standard answers, I also list the ones that most people don’t want to hear. Many people like to generalize and try to be something their not because they think it makes them more important… it doesn’t.
- NOT all Satan worshipers; even though Satanism does fall under the category of Paganism.
- NOT a cult: many of the religions under the Paganism category are the fastest growing religions in the world.
- NOT all ‘green-skinned, cackling, fly on brooms, out to kill you’ people: just ordinary people that could be sitting next to you on the bus or at work.
- NOT all about sacrifices or hurting others: while Paganism does cover lots of different religions which feature lots of different practices, many of them do not involve or encourage anything that could potentially hurt another living creature.
- NOT about sex and dancing around a fire naked: while some people may practice their religion this way, that does not mean the whole of Paganism does.
- NOT all about spells and magic powers: that is part of the craft of Witches and NOT a religion. This also goes into my not so standard list of answers…
I am sure there are more I could list, but you get the idea.
The not so standard answers:
- NOT Wicca!! Wicca is a new-age feminist religion under the Paganism category. While Wiccans can call themselves Pagan, not all Pagans can call themselves Wiccan. Paganism is many different religions and no one religion can lay claim to the title.
- NOT Druidic or Celtic! While the origins of some of the Pagan religions have come from that region, not all of them have. Shinto (a religion from Japan) is in the Paganism category and they are certainly not Celtic.
- NOT all ‘nature based, worship the Goddess, new age’ religions! Wicca is that kind of religion, sure, but Paganism includes all sorts of different religions from Shinto to the religions of the Australian aboriginals.
- NOT Witchcraft!!! Witchcraft is A CRAFT NOT A RELIGION!!! It incorporates all sorts of other crafts as well (such as astrology and herbology) and, while it may be associated with many Paganism religions, it is not synonymous with any.
- NOT a religion in its own right! Paganism is a name given to a category of different religions, much like the term monotheistic. It is more a type of faith rather than the faith itself.
I might be missing a few, but that works for now.
Paganism is different religions that all have different types of faiths and practices. It can not be defined by any one of them.
Why I Am
For me, it was the right choice because I was never one to follow any strict rules on how my faith ‘must’ be applied in order for it to ‘count.’ I always felt that just having faith was the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how you practice or who you pray to, just that you have faith in something.
I have also always believed that there must be a balance in all things to keep everything from falling apart. I do not believe that there can be only one god who is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful because that does not balance out. Without balance we can not appreciate nor understand our opposites: Man/woman, light/dark, good/evil, hope/fear, night/day, etc. Without hate we would never understand what love really was, we would never be able to appreciate it.
This belief in balance is something I hold very close to me and think about with everything that goes on in my life. It helps when dealing with hard times because I know, somehow and someway, things will get better. It’s a belief similar to karma but on a much larger scale; I do not just see myself, I see myself in this huge universe of people and emotions and experiences. Yes what I do, good and bad, will affect me later in life, but it will also affect everything and everyone around me. It is a belief in the balance in everything, not just me. I could be doing something that balances out someone else’s deeds; there is no way to know how my actions effect the grand scheme of things.
My faith resides in this belief of balance rather than any particular deities or any certain way of practicing religion. And, while I do practice witchcraft, remember, that is my craft not my religion. I am best described as an Agnostic Pagan. I am someone who chooses not to try and define what the higher power is and yet I still believe there is… something. I believe that the characteristics of this higher power should be balanced but I choose to reserve the finer details (such as who or what it will be or what they want from me) for when we meet. I simply live my life in a way that I feel will be looked upon by anyone, higher power or not, as good, humble, and generous.